Rituals Part 3: Our Gifts To The Gods.

In the sacred realm of Slavic religion, the invocation of divine beings within a consecrated space is followed by a reciprocal exchange of gifts. This ancient practice, rooted in the depths of Indo-European spirituality, embodies the principle of “do ut des” or “I give, so that you may give,” where offerings are made by the worshiper to the gods with the expectation of receiving blessings in return.

 

Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s account of the Rus idol worship offers a fascinating glimpse into the intricate tapestry of Slavic ritual. As the boats of the Rus people reach the port, each individual disembarks, bearing a cornucopia of sustenance such as bread, meat, onions, milk, and wine. Guided by their deep faith, they traverse the landscape until they reach a majestic wooden post adorned with a human-like countenance, encircled by an ensemble of diminutive figurines. These effigies find their grounding in the earth through long wooden stakes.

With profound reverence, each worshiper prostrates themselves before the towering idol, uttering earnest words of supplication. They beseech, “Oh my Lord, I have journeyed from distant lands, bearing with me a multitude of young slave girls and a wealth of coveted sable skins…” and so forth, meticulously listing all the precious trade goods they have acquired. They conclude their entreaty with a declaration, “I have brought you this gift.” Then, they carefully place their offerings before the wooden post, offering their heartfelt tribute. With unwavering devotion, they implore, “Grant me the favor of an affluent merchant, one who possesses an abundance of dinars and dirhams, willing to acquire all that I desire without disputing over the price.” Having fulfilled their sacred duty, they take their leave, faith unwavering.

 

Should their endeavors be met with challenges, and their stay in the realm of commerce become protracted, the devotee returns to the sacred site, bearing further offerings. A second, even a third time, they approach the little idols that stand sentinel behind the great idol, acknowledging them as the wives, daughters, and sons of their revered Lord. Bowing low before each diminutive figure, they implore their intercession, their plea resounding in the hallowed space. Utterly humbled, they lay their supplication at the feet of each and every idol, beseeching their divine intervention.

Sometimes, fortune smiles upon the merchant’s path, and the wares find eager buyers. In gratitude for the fulfillment of their needs, the devotee proclaims, “My Lord has graciously satisfied my aspirations, and it is only fitting that I should show my gratitude.” With purposeful intent, they select a number of sheep or cows, honoring their bounty through a sacrificial act. The animals are solemnly slaughtered, and the meat is distributed as gifts among those present, while the remainder is presented to the great idol and its attendant figures. The heads of the sacrificed beasts are reverently placed upon the wooden stakes that punctuate the earth. As darkness descends, the canine companions of the night consume this offering, and the worshiper, their heart brimming with joy, proclaims, “My Lord is content with my devotion and has partaken of the gift I bestowed upon Him.”

 

In this mesmerizing ritual of reverence and reciprocity, the ancient Slavic faithful exemplify their unyielding devotion to their deities. Through the act of giving, they forge a sacred connection, intertwining their mortal existence with the divine. It is within these hallowed transactions, bathed in solemnity and faith, that the essence of Slavic religion is etched upon the tapestry of history, a testament to the enduring power of human spirituality.

Sources:

(1) “The Koleda.” Mythology of All Races, Volume 3: Celtic and Slavic. Jan Machal. Cooper Square Publishers, 1964. pp. 307-309

[2] Russian Primary Chronicle. Translated by Samuel Hazzard Cross. Edited by Olgerd P. Sherbowizt-Wetzor. The Medieval Academy of America, 1953 pp. 77

[3] Chronicle of the Slavs. Helmold. Translated by Francis Joseph Tschan. Columbia University Press, 1935. pp. 218

 

[4] “The Book of Ahmad ibn Fadlan 921-922”. Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North. Translated by Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone. Penguin Classics, 2012. Pp. 47-48