Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

Another Flavor of Heathenry: When Perun Comes Calling

I think I have another god I need to consider.  Skadi, Tyr, Loki, Freyja, Freyr, Frau Holle, Odin, and yes, Thor, are all gods and goddesses have had my attention for some time.  But recently, there’s been a shift and I’m starting to learn more about Perun, the Slavic god of Thunder.  And oddly, he feels more familiar to me than Thor.

Who is Perun and Where was he Worshiped?

Perun is the Slavic god of thunder and lightning.  People who lived in Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and other places where the Slavic peoples settled worshiped Perun.  He is obviously a Northern god, who shares a lot of traits with Thor and Odin. He even shares traits with Tyr, being a sky god and a god of laws, thus making him an interesting god to me.

Unlike Thor, Perun is considered head of the Slavic pantheon.  He is a sky god and from what I can tell, he had been the main god for most of the Slavs and the Kievan Rus.

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Is Perun Another Name for Thor?

On first blush, Perun is a lot like Thor.  He wields an axe or a hammer; a goat pulls his chariot.  His hammer or axe returns to him after he has thrown it.  He wields lightning and thunder.  His beard is copper and he is incredibly strong.  Like the Norse and Germanic gods, the Slavs look at the universe as a World Tree.  At the roots is a dragon or serpent which Perun will fight.

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So, looking at Perun, I see a lot of Thor.  But Perun is also a wise god, like Odin.  So he has some differences. Perun’s ax is no surprise either, given the concept of thunderstones. People believed that Neolithic stone axes and flint arrowheads came from the sky and protect them from evil.  So much so that iron age burials often had stone age axes in them to protect the deceased.

Interesting Story About Perun and Veles

Perun’s enemy is a chaos and forest god (who is also the god of the underworld) named Veles.  Veles steals Perun’s cattle, children, or wife in an effort to provoke him. The story goes that Veles hides from Perun and when Perun sees Veles, he throws a thunderbolt.  Only Veles escapes.  Hence the reason lightning strikes seemingly harmless places.

Veles isn’t necessarily an evil god, but he is a chaotic god.  He often shape changes in the form of a bear or a wolf.  In many ways, he resembles Loki of the Norse pantheon. Perun defeats Veles, but since Veles is a god, he does not die (or is reborn) continues his trouble making for Perun.

Interestingly enough, Christians morphed story of the Perun and Veles battle into Michael the Archangel versus Satan to gain converts. They already had the story from the Bible, they just brought more elements of the Perun/Veles story over to make it more familiar.

Perun’s Existence in History

The earliest mention of Perun is in the 6th Century by the Byzantine historian Procopius in his work, De Bellum Gothicum.  We also know that in 998 CE (AD) the ruler, Vladimir the Great of Kiev converted to Christianity and had the entire population of Kiev baptized. Vladimir had the the very statue of Perun he commissioned earlier as a pagan torn down, dragged through the streets, and dumped in the river Dnieper. The statue was not allowed to return to shore until it went past the rapids.

Certainly there were Perun followers after this time, but it seems that with the conversion of Vladimir the Great, Perun’s days being worshiped widespread were numbered.

So, is Perun the Slavic Thor?

My take on Perun is that he and Thor have very much in common. Both are very mighty and strong gods.  Perun has similar symbology to Thor, but has elements of (the good side) of Odin.  Part of me thinks Perun is a form of Thor and Tyr combined.  In this case, it makes perfect sense why Thor and Tyr approached me.  Given that I have Slavic ancestry (as well as Norman, Germanic, and Rus), Perun may be another god I may call upon.

If Perun is Thor, then he is an accessible Thor to me. Seeing a Perun axe with Tyr’s rune clinched it for me.  I think I’m going to have to honor Perun as well as Thor, Tyr, and the Norse gods.

 

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