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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.

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.

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.

 

Choosing a God or Goddess from the Northern Pantheons

Choosing a God or Goddess from the Northern Pantheons

If you’re new to Heathenry (or even if you aren’t), maybe you’re wondering which gods and/or goddesses are your main go-to deities, or (dare I say it?) patron deities. I’ve been reading some blogs about this and I figured, as the Rational Heathen, I’d weigh in on the subject.  As usual, your mileage may vary (YMMV) and any advice I give may not fit your circumstance.

But I Already Have a God/Goddess!

If you’re a newly arrived Heathen, chances are you’ve chosen one of the more media-prominent gods/goddesses such as Odin, Thor, Loki, or Freyja. That’s all well and good, but they aren’t the only ones out there, and they may not fit you.  Also, they’re not a “I’m substituting Odin for the Christian god”-type of gods. Odin isn’t the only creator-god, nor is he entirely benevolent. All the gods have their dark sides, just like human beings. But they also have their good sides, which can be wondrous and amazing when you are on the receiving end.

If you’re a Heathen with some years in Heathenry, you may have found a god/goddess that you like, but maybe are looking for more than one go-to god, or maybe you just don’t feel the fit is right.  After all, there’s a reason why we’re polytheistic, and not monotheistic, right?  All of these are good reasons to explore the pantheon and see if there is another god or goddess whom we can add to our altars.

My Own Experience

Long time readers will know that I didn’t choose becoming a Heathen.  Rather, I got pulled in by Tyr and Thor.  While Tyr is my main god, I have several gods and goddesses I show respect to including Thor, Freyr, Freyja, Skadi, Odin, Zisa, and, oddly enough, Loki.  But they didn’t just show up all at once and talk to me.  No.  As a matter of fact, some, like Skadi, were very cool to me (pun intended). Skadi and I did have a bit of an introductory period.  I had known her years before I became a Heathen, but it is my experience that she doesn’t always come knocking on your door the way other gods and goddesses may do. Freyr did not approach me, either.  I simply opened myself to him.  So, I do have some experience choosing new gods and goddesses.

How Should I Discover a New God/Goddess?

Unless your experience is similar to mine, you’ll probably be charting your own course, so to speak. Finding a new god/goddess may be difficult if you don’t have a god grab you by the scruff of the neck and shout, “You’re Mine!”  (This can be a really disconcerting time in your life, if this does happen.) If you’re looking for a deity, you should first do your homework and find out what you can about each god.  Learn what you can from the myths and Eddas.  Does any one appeal to you in some fashion?

The downside to research is that we don’t know as much about certain gods and goddesses within our pantheon.  Yes, we know quite a bit about the main players, but there’s a lot of guess-and-by-golly when it comes to less-known gods.  Also note that there are some gods who cross over ethnic groups and have different names, but are essentially the same god. Thor comes to mind. He’s Thorr in Norse culture, Thunor in Anglo-Saxon culture, and Donar in German culture. But he’s also Perun in Slavic culture, Perkunas in Baltic culture, and Perendi in Albanian culture. If you’re culturally close to those who worshiped the northern gods, you may want to see if there are gods within your ancestors’ cultures that fit, or seem to resonate with you.

Mediation is immensely helpful in this search. You may hear one or more god or goddess as you practice mindfulness meditation.  In this case, feel free to explore the communication.  You don’t have to choose the god who shows up, but chances are there’s a reason they choose to talk with you while you were receptive.  Be cautious, too, during mediation.  You’re receptive to more than just the gods.  Avoid those that give you bad feelings or harmful requests.  Believe it or not, there are spirits that do take delight on waylaying people.

You’ll have to choose by what feels right.  This isn’t a particularly rational suggestion, but religion is seldom rational in nature. In the end, you must trust you gut-feelings and maybe you’ll get rewarded for your efforts with a UPG or maybe even some communication.

Avoid Popular and Simple Explanations for Deities

I hate to be the party-pooper on this, but the gods aren’t the Marvel heroes. If you’ve been drawn to Heathenism because of the Marvel tropes, that’s okay, but don’t expect Thor, Loki, and Odin to be much like the comic characters.  These are gods who have many dimensions to their personalities, and although we have limited writings about them–many of them colored by Christianity–enough of us have had UPGs to the point where we’ve seen other aspects of the gods.

For example, Freyja isn’t just the goddess of war and sex, (although she is that, too).  She has a very complex role as a goddess.  She takes half the fallen before Odin, thus probably taking the best warriors.  She is a strong goddess who fights, but is still very feminine. She is the goddess of the Seidr, and may be linked to Frigga as the wife of Odin.  She is certainly the most powerful of the goddesses. Your dealings with her may bring certain insights into her personality that you would never find in popular culture.

What About Other Pantheons?

Should you mix and match gods and goddesses from other unrelated pantheons?  What if Freyja and Bast appeal to you?  What if you worship Jupiter, Heimdall, and Wu Xi?  What if you have altars to Christ and Odin? 

Seriously?

Some Heathens will call you out on this as being Wiccan and not Heathen.  They may even give you the sarcastic name of “Wiccatru” for your efforts. Even I am a little taken aback by the mixes. (It’s really not the same as mixing some Eurasian religions with our Norse gods because they’re alike in a lot of ways.) I’m somewhat hesitant to say “yes, you can,” because I don’t have a warm feeling about mixing very different religions.  That being said, if you truly feel the calling between two different gods from two different pantheons, who in the Hel am I to tell you what you should do?

However, some religions by their very nature aren’t up to the task of “Mix-N-Match” gods. Our gods couldn’t care any less who or what you worship, but the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim god isn’t keen on other gods in the playbook. Something about “Thou shall not have other gods before me…” springs to mind here.  While I don’t believe in that god, I do believe that the followers would have something to say about it.  And seeing as the words are in their holy text to not worship any other gods, it seems disingenuous to worship a Judaeo-Christian god and a Norse god.  But again, that’s your business.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas about the gods and how to start your journey into finding a god or goddess you have a special connection with.


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