Perun’s Oak – part 4

Boar worship evidence was repeatedly found in multiple archaeological sites. In the burial mounds of the Dnieper region, wild boar tusks amulets are often found. In the Kiev necropolis, they were found both in ordinary and in rich graves.

In 1908, 1975 and 1984 ancient oak trees with boar jaws affixed in them, were elevated from the bottom of Dnieper and Desna rivers. These sacred oak trees are dated from VIII to X century. They confirm a close connection between the cults of the boar and the sacred oak in Slavic mythology. Researchers believe that these sacred oaks with embedded boar tusks were dedicated to the god of thunder and lightning Perun. It was also observed that, as a rule, pagan sanctuaries were located at the intersection of trade routes, before and after especially dangerous and difficult parts of a caravan path (for example, the Dnieper cascades), or at the beginning of the next stage of a long (and often dangerous) journey.

G. Yu. Ivakin «The sacred oak of the pagan Slavs», 1979
K. V. Bolsunovsky «Perun’s oak», 1914
Photo: ancient oak bark with affixed boar jaws in the Kiev History Museum

Perun oak

Perun’s Oak – part 3

Along with the cult of trees, the ancient Slavs also worshiped certain animals, for example, a wild boar. Old Russian chronicles and epic tales repeatedly tell about the wild boar hunts and the festive eating of the boar meat at duke’s feasts. Thus, in 1255, duke Daniel Galitsky “personally killed three of them with a spear” while hunting on boars. Some researchers believe that duke’s feasts were the “echoes” of ancient public sacrifices, culminated in a ritual feast. It is also noted that usually the ritual eating of pork meat fell on Thursday, a day dedicated to the God of Thunder and Lightning.

The ceremonial eating of pork was widespread not only among the Slavs. It is known that during a thunderstorm, the Balts had a custom to take out a leg of ham in the field and address Perun: “Abstain, Perkun, from destroying my field – and I will give you this ham for it.” When the thunderstorm stopped, the ham was eaten as a sacrificial meal.

To be continued…

perun oak

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Perun’s Oak – part 2

Chroniclers of the 12th century talk about the worship of the sacred oaks by the Baltic Slavs in Lubeck and Szczecin. According to the testimony of Cosmas of Prague, the cult of trees in 12th century also remained among the Czech peasants. The gods were worshiped with sacrifices in an oak grove – “the favorite residence of the gods.” The Czech duke Bryachislav was known to be destroying these sacred groves and trees.

The cult of the oak among the Slavs (as well as among the Balts) was associated with the cult of Perun, the god of thunder and lightning. Researchers also point out the common Indo-European nature of the connection between the Thunder God and the Oak – for example, in Ancient Greece and Rome, oaks were dedicated to Zeus and Jupiter, respectively. There is a reference of the “Perun’s Oak” in the letter of the Galician-Volyn duke Lev Danilovich (1302). There is a famous mountain called Perunova Dubrava in Dalmatia. The combination “Perkunas (Perun) Oak” is often found in Baltic sources.

Gustynskaya Chronicle (beginning of the 17th century) describes the customs in Russia on the verge of Christianization (the end of the 10th century). It says that there was an “eternal fire” in the Perun’s shrine, and only oak wood was used for it. Any priest was executed if they neglected the sacred fire.

To be continued…

perun oak