07-08-02, 12:22 PM #1
THE ANCIENT LATVIAN RELIGION DIEVTURĪBA
At the outset, some explanatory remarks are in order.
(i) If the ancient Latvians had been asked what their religion is, they would have been baffled by the meaning of the question. Their religion was their way-of-life (dzives zina) and ultimate concerns were not couched in abstract dogmas or analytical cannons. The highest aim of human life was to live in harmony with Nature and other members of society to follow the will of the gods. Personal worth and integrity was expressed in terms of possessing the many Virtues, and there was no need for conceptualizing such religious metaphors as sin, atonement or redemption.1
(ii) This article is meant to be neither apologetic nor condescending. The author assumes the plurality of all religious convictions and considers any system of thoughts, actions and experiences that allow individuals and societies to make sense out of their world, as equally valid and worthy. I do not think it is important how religion is defined, or even if it is defined at all. As we approach the twenty-first century, it is important what system of values individuals and societies possess, not what dogmas they profess. Of course, these considerations did not concern the ancient Latvians. But then again, they were not part of a rich culture on the verge of forced genocide and self-chosen extinction.2
(iii) Dievturība both the name and the systematized Latvian way of looking at the world are twentieth century phenomena. Using the Latvian Dainas3 as their main source of orally transmitted wisdom and traditional values, a group of intellectuals, writers and artists after many meetings and debates decided that instead of synchretizing the ancient Latvian wisdom within the Christian dogma, the uniquely Latvian encounter with the sacred is worthy enough to carve its own destiny.4 Starting with a small group of convinced enthusiasts, the movement gained momentum in the mid-thirties and is very much alive today.
The Latvian language does not have a word for 'to have.' The Latvians say 'to me is.' Utilizing the old Baltic form 'turėti,' Brastinš called a person who holds or possesses Dievs (God) according to the ancient Latvian tradition, a Dievturis. The name has become part of the Latvian language and a Dievturis, following perennial wisdom, is literally a God-keeper or possessor.
(iv) Both the physical and social sciences are undergoing a paradigm shift.5 A paradigm is defined as follows: A constellation of concepts, values, perceptions and practices shared by a community, which forms a particular vision of reality that is the basis of the way the community organizes itself. The Latvian religion, Dievturiba, encompasses such a vision of reality. The community consists of all the God-keepers, past and present.
The Latvian way of viewing the world is not only a historical reality, but a living force consistent with all the criteria of the new paradigm thinking in science. These criteria are:
A. Shift from the parts to the whole. Basically, there are no parts at all. What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships.
B. Shift from objective knowledge to one dependent on the human observer. The understanding of the process of knowledge has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomena.
C. Shift from fundamental laws to a network of relationships. The metaphor of basic building blocks is being replaced by that of an inseparable network.
D. Shift from truth to approximate descriptions. This means that all concepts and theories in science are limited and approximate.
E. Shift from structure to process. The entire web of relationships is intrinsically dynamic.
F. Shift from domination and control of nature to cooperation and non-violence. The patriarchal idea of 'man dominating nature' is transforming into the matriarchal concept of man and woman living/participating in nature.
Implicit in the new paradigm are transformed values and practices religious attitudes and convictions that the late twentieth century Latvian can accept and, at the same time, incorporate the values and symbols of the earlier agricultural societies into the contemporary world paradigm.
(v) Although officially christianized in the thirteenth century, the ancient Latvians did not accept Christianity until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and then only superficially. The main reason for this was the non-acceptance of the indigenous population as equals by the ruling German nobility. The language used in the churches for many centuries was either Latin or German and the Latvians simply could not understand what was being preached from the pulpit. These factors, along with the many punitive acts inflicted by the ruling German landowners, forced the indigenous population to keep their old traditions, deities and basic social structure. The cement for this continuity was the Dainas.6 With their strict metric and tonic structure, the Latvian folk songs helped memorization and prevented unchecked substitution of new words and phrases. Also, for almost 600 years, the Latvian culture was that of the peasant class, subject to forced isolation from the so-called 'higher and more advanced' culture of the German barons.
(vi) The New Encyclopaedia Britannica defines religion as man's relation to that which he regards as holy.7 The 'holy' need not be thought of as supernatural, much less personal. This definition includes religions with or without God-god(s), monotheistic or polytheistic it dissolves the theism/atheism boundary, permitting religions to be operative within the context of scientific reason.
Its critics have labeled Dievturība as pagan, folkloristic and polytheistic. The EB interpretation of religion obviates these criticisms as meaningless. Religions are not inherently and absolutely good or bad they are all functions of some culturally dependent definitional codex.
The rest of this paper will describe "man's relation to that which he regards as holy," as it applies to the Latvian religion Dievturiba. The scope of the description will consist of the traditional categories and functional analyses of any religion: (i) God/god(s), if any (ii) values and codes of conduct (iii) ritual and (iv) ultimate metaphysics (life, death and meaning itself).
The original research of Brastinu Ernests revealed some 4,000 dainas dealing with the subject of Dievs. The conceptualization of Dievs has changed and evolved as it has in most religions. From a once impersonal, ubiquitous force, already centuries before our era, the bright sky became the sky-God. Long before the thirteenth century, continued anthropomorphisation created the complete image of the Latvian Dievs (frequently used is the diminutive form, Dievinš): full of goodness, ever present, ultimate dispenser of all the virtues and representing everything that is (Vedantic Brahman). Such was the conceptualization of Dievs/God that the first missionaries encountered when they set foot on Latvian soil. Due to the factors already cited, Dievs underwent little synchretisation during Latvia's Christian centuries.
Dievs can be interpreted as (i) a unity: all that exists, transforms and remains, (ii) duality: the matter/spirit interface, (iii) trinity: matter, energy and the evolving, unifying and maximizing laws of the Cosmos/Visums and (iv) plurality: all the multifaceted and multifunctional deities of the Latvian Pantheon. According to EB's definition of religion, they are all valid ways of encountering the holy. Dievs is invisible and inaudible, imparting his wisdom padoms to all of creation. The highest gift that Dievs can bestow on man is 'laime' luck, benevolent fate and happiness. For example, one daina relates that:
The skylark sings higher than all other birds;
Dievs' wisdom is higher and beyond this entire world.9
But this bestowal and all other relationships between Dievs and man are personal. There were no institutions or other intermediaries interceding for, or acting on behalf of, the individual seeking the help or counsel of Dievs.10
Since the Latvian religion is not dogmatic, prophetic or revelationary, every individual can choose his own interface with Dievs. Those Latvians needing a creator and ruler have their Dievs. Those who cannot accept something as being created out of nothing also have their Dievs: the eternal, ever changing universe with its inherent laws and punctuated, localized creations. But those not concerned with the big, analytical and 'ultimate truths' also have their Dievs: the personification and highest ideal of all that is good, virtuous, noble and just. Another daina informs us:
Oh, Dievs, what will you do when we all pass away?
Thou hast no father, mother, nor a bride to call your own.
In the dualistic interpretation of Dievs, Māra is the symbol of the world of matter she encompasses all of the material existence. There is considerable controversy among scholars about the synchretic matrix of the Māra/Mary controversy, i.e., who was here first?11 Without doubt, living within the confines of centuries-long, but unaccepted Christianity, some synchretism had to transpire. However, Māra already appears in the Vedas, Upanishads and many other remnants of the ancient Aryan peoples of northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean region. She is the Mother of all mothers (the Latvians have more than sixty of them mentioned in the dainas and folk tales) The Great Mother/Goddess.
We know that matter is in a constant flux and change. Certainly, the ancient Latvians also knew this and personified the many aspects of Nature as the changing manifestations of Māra Earth Mother, Wind Mother, Mother of the Sea, and so forth.
From the approximately 1,700 dainas that mention Māra, we can discern her three main functions: the giver, preserver and finally the taker of life (Veļu Māte). These three aspects of the Great Mother permeate all Indo-European religions and folklore but, in the Latvian, it is noticeably voluminous and present in all the main phases of one's life cycle.12
In the triune interpretation of Dievs, the mediator between Dievs and Māra is the Goddess of Fate, Laime/Laima. Like Dievs, Laime cannot be seen. Being just another aspect of Dievs, she is everywhere. Even though Laime determines a person's unchanbeable destiny at the moment of birth, the individual still has to choose between good and bad within the broad limits prescribed by her decree.
Nearly all mythologies bear traces of the triple goddess of fate, rulers of the past, present and future virgin, mother and crone/destroyer. This female trinity assumes many guises, especially in western religions. There are many traces of her in the Latvian religion.
And finally, in the pluralistic interpretation of Dievs, besides the Latvian trinity of Dievs, Māra and Laime, there is a multitude of mythological and folk-tale figures. These parallel the lesser deities of many other cultures and religions. There is a plethora of sky divinities (Saule, Mēness, Pērkons, Auseklis, Ūšins), agricultural deities (Jumis, Žiedu Māte), cthonic goddesses (Veļu Māte, Kapu Māte) and synchretized Christian saints (Mārtins, Pēteris, Miķelis, and possibly Jānis13). All of these are personalized natural phenomena and processes, reflecting the tendency of the ancient Latvians to personalize and encompass all of nature within the recurring cycles of life. Most of them have families, homesteads, human qualities and serve as the metaphoric mediaries between man and the multiform Dievs.
VALUES AND CODES OF CONDUCT
For the ancient Latvians and the modern-day Dievturi, the meaning and purpose of life is to live in harmony with the repeating rhythms of Nature (this includes all the gods even Dievs himself!) and other members of society. This means that a harmonious life is self-justifying there is no meaning beyond life itself.
The attitude toward life is positive and optimistic (until fairly recently!). One strives for the possession of virtue(s), not the avoidance of sin(s). In fact, the concept of sin is foreign to the dainas.
Life's most basic purpose is to be good. This unwritten imperative implies that if everyone were good, there would be no room for evil or bad luck. All of the virtues guiding one's conduct can be broken down into three categories: (i) the virtues of life and Dievs, (ii) the basic self-ethics or virtues for oneself and (iii) the communal ethics, or the basic virtues as they relate to others.
The two virtues in the first category admonish: Be good! and Be reverential and full of awe for Dievs! The entire code of ethics for the ancient Latvians was positive in tone. One was basically taught what to do and what to be, not what not to do and be.
The four fundamental virtues for self-enhancement and behavior are: Be wise! Be diligent/active! Be beautiful, clean and orderly! and Be cheerful! Wisdom includes the awareness of good things and values, an understanding of goals and purposes. And only wisdom can determine proper behavior toward self, others and Dievs. The virtue of work leads to success both in the mental and material world. Many a daina states that Dievs will not enter a homestead that is not orderly, clean and cheerful.
The last category of virtues are virtues of compatibility: Be full of love! Be easy to live with! Be generous! and Be just! These four virtues provided directives for the Latvians in their interactions with relatives, neighbors, strangers and other clans/nations.
Evil in the Christian sense does not exist as a functional concept. One simply speaks of bad fortune and not living with the dictates of the above virtues. The source of bad things happening is caused by man himself. Nature and the world, including all the calamities, is basically neutral it simply is. Man determines what to do with it, for better or worse.
Typologically, the ancient Latvian religion is an agricultural religion. The movements of the heavenly bodies and the agricultural cycles which they engender determined a set, never-ending, but highly structured spiral of existence. The solstices and equinoxes determined the basic framework for this structure. To these correspond Jāni (summer solstice), Winter festival (winter solstice), Lielā diena/Easter (spring equinox) and the many autumnal harvest festivals (fall equinox).14
Interspersed among these are the many planting, harvest and other communal celebrations. All these cyclical festivities determine sacred times and rituals with appropriate songs, dances, foods and other activities. Dievs and other deities are welcome participants in all of these rituals. It is also characteristic of these festivals that some form of fire and honey mead is always present.
The cosmic clock which determines the rhythms and patterns of the festivities is, of course, the Sun. There are literally thousands of Sun-dainas consoling, advising and providing a role model of the individual to follow. The mythological astral family provides the proper metaphor for the ever-recurring manifestations on earth: birth, growth, fruition and death. Through this metaphor the agricultural religion of the ancient Latvians is at the same time an astral religion as above, so below.
Corresponding to the birth, growth and death in Nature, the Latvians also ordered their lives by the life-cycles of the people themselves. The beginning, middle and end of life the rites of passage were also marked by sacred and festive celebrations: the first related to the birth (name-giving ceremony), the second to the courtship and wedding ritual, and the last to death.
The modern Dievturis has not abandoned these sacred festivals and rites of passage. Many of the age-old, traditional rituals have taken the form of sacred games.15 The nature of the game does not determine its importance or meaningfulness the participants do. And to the Dievturis, the sacred games are important benchmarks for ethnic and cultural renewal a self-chosen commitment to a nation, people, Dievs and life itself. Our last daina:
My countryman! Say the right words, follow the right path!
Then Dievs himself will help you never to go astray.
ULTIMATE METAPHYSICS/MERTAPHYSICS OF THE ULTIMATE
As already inferred earlier, the ancient Latvians did not find justification for the actions of this life in some transcendent, abstract reality beyond this world.16 Life was, and for many of us still is, its own justification. Hence, the ultimate goal is to live in harmony with the micro and macro-environment and other members of society, full of virtue and goodness. And this all occurs within the constraints imposed by Mother Destiny/Laime herself. It is a life of activity and duty to oneself, to others and to Dievs.
The Latvians did not, and still don't, like to express their deepest convictions in complex abstractions and analytical language. Communication with, and interpretation of, reality is metaphoric, couched in the short-verse form of the Dainas.
The ancient Latvians and the Dievturi metaphorically express themselves as being constituted of three parts: the body, soul and velis.17 In this tri-partition of the Self, the physical body returns to Mother Earth/Māra and the soul reunites with the Cosmic Mind/Dievs. Velis, the in-between of body and soul is what we would now call the high-energy body the ultimate matter and energy interface. Traditionally it lingers on after physical death and as condensed high-frequency vibrations may return (in fact, the vibratory force field has never left) to the physical plane. If the language sounds like that taken from modern spiritualism or channeling, then one has only to read some popularized interpretations of the latest theorizing in hard core modern physics.18
As alluded to earlier, the meaning of life for the Dievturi and the ancient Latvians is/was found in living a virtuous, active and dutiful life. There is nothing to be saved from, nothing about which to repent and no sin to expiate. Everyone starts out life being good and determines his own destiny within the constraints of the probabilistic laws of Nature/Laime.
As in any article describing a specific religion, this short discourse has more omissions than specific descriptions of details. Also, since the Latvian religion does not have an unchanging dogma or infallible prophets, the previous description of the religion is only the author's interpretation.
Each culture and the individuals within that culture interpret reality somewhat differently. The Latvians have traditionally been an agricultural society and only recently, alas forcibly, has Latvia been transformed into an industrialized state. With respect to religion, the big question remains: "Can the old values and gods still give guidance and meaning to life as we approach the twenty-first century?"
My affirmative answer to the previous question is to be couched in the new paradigm shift in the physical and social sciences stated in the Introduction, namely:
A. Shift from the parts to the whole . . . The ancient Latvians have always maintained that all phenomena in Nature are intricately dependent on each other and that social interactions cannot be isolated from their physical counterparts in an inseparable web of dynamic relationships.
B. Shift from objective knowledge to one dependent on the human observer. . . This is consistent with the value system and epistemology of the individual. The world and the universe are value-neutral. Ethics and knowledge is situational and all responsibility is thrust upon the individual. Be wise, just, diligent, loving and compassionate!
C. Shift from fundamental laws to a network of relationships . . . The dainas continually stress the awe, enchantment and inexplicable mystery of Existence. Our well-being is not determined by its inherent and immutable absoluteness, but our culturally determined response to it.
D. Shift from truth to approximate description . . . There are no immutable truths and/or absolutes in the Latvian tradition. The physical/spiritual interface is always changing, a function of new discoveries, developments and interpretations of reality. This, for example, prevents the names of the old deities and personified abstractions becoming meaningless words in this changing world. No matter what interpretation is given to all of reality and its laws, the Dievturis calls it Dievs. No matter how 'physical matter' is partitioned in its basic building block nomenclature, we can call it Māra. No matter what the probabilistic force-field laws determining our existence are, we can call it Laime/Destiny, and so forth.
E. Shift from structure to process. . . The old Latvian religion considered the entire world as one living organism, from a blade of grass to the extended astral family. This reflects a modified continuity of animistic beliefs. But this is exactly what the global brain, Gaia, self-organizing universe and universal consciousness theorists are saying.19
F. Shift from domination and control of nature to cooperation and non-violence . . . The entire ethos of the dainas and the ancient Latvian culture emphasizes this dictum. At no other time in the history of the world have we needed more non-violent, matriarchal and caring attitudes toward the world and each other.
The hard-line and fundamentalist Christian will consider the Latvian religion as pagan, pantheistic and polytheistic, and in many respects it is. But to assign a value-judgment in this pluralistic, data base and information age is extremely problematic. Who is to say that the modern scientific age with all its answers has a better paradigm for survival and well-being than the perennial Wisdom and value system in the Sacred Dainas!
* The Dievturi are in the habit of writing their names in the typically Latvian format the last name in the genitive plural, followed by the given name. Janis A. Tupesis received his Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematics education from the University of Wisconsin. He is also a folklorist and an activist in the Dievturi movement, serving as one of the Elders in a Dievturi congregation in Wisconsin. Dr. Tupesis has written many articles in the Latvian press to popularize the ancient Latvian religion, especially in its contemporary interpretation.
1 See, for example, Vaira Vikis-Freibergs' article in Journal of Baltic Studies, Vo. 17 (1986), pp. 104-105. Professor Freibergs is the author of many publications dealing with Latvian religion, folklore and mythology, and is a good, scholarly source of information on the ancient Latvian religion.
2 There are approximately 1,500,000 Latvians in the world today. In occupied Soviet Latvia the ruling nomenclature is forcibly proceeding with the incorporation of all Latvians into one culturally homogenous people (the soviet people!). But the lack of self-determination is not alone responsible for the less than zero population growth. This has been true ever since World War I and a few years back, Soviet Latvia had the world record for the smallest rate of natural population growth.
3 The six volumes of Latviju dainas appeared between 1894 and 1915, all but the first published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. All classification, editing and commentaries was accomplished by Krišjānis Barons a grand total of 217,996 different text versions. Presently the Soviet Latvian Academy of Sciences has approximately 1,250,000 dainas in its Folklore Archives, the largest orally transmitted folksong collection in the world!
4 The main ideologue of the Dievturi movement as a unique Latvian religion was Brastiņu Ernests. He initially tabulated some 5000 dainas that in some form mentioned one of the Latvian divinities, but this was only the beginning. Many books and short articles (all in Latvian) followed. Cerokslis (Rīga, 11932), the initial compendium of Dievturiba in question-and-answer form, has gone through many editions.
5 "The Concept of Paradigm and Paradigm Shift" by Fritjof Capra in REVISION, Summer/Fall (1986), pp. 11-12. The criteria for the new paradigm thinking listed in this paper are taken from prof. Capra's article.
6 The individual authors of these songs are unknown. Most of them seem to have originated between the 13th and 16th centuries, although there are scholars who have claimed the dainas to be as old as the Latvian language itself (Arveds Švābe, the main editor of the Latvian Encyclopedia/Latvju Enciklopēdija (Stockholm, 1950), was one of them). The first collection of religious folk songs, Dieva dziesmas (Songs of God), systematized and annotated by Brastiņu Ernests was published in 1928. This book was followed by Tikumu dziesmas (Songs of Virtue) and Gadskārtu dziesmas (Songs of Festive Seasons). Others were compiled, but their publication was stopped by the Soviet occupation of Latvia in 1940.
7 The Encyclopaedia Britannica definition of religion is found in the fifteenth edition (1986), Vol. IX, p. 1016. A good description of the Latvian religion is found in Vol. XIII, pp. 905-909. Although professor Haralds Biezais discusses Baltic religion, most of the references are to ancient Latvian deities, rituals and customs. There is a definite scarcity of English language publications dealing with the Latvian religion. Four other sources are: Contextualizing the Gospel to Followers of the Latvian Religion Dievturiba by Daina Elberts (part of a dissertation at a theological seminary; pro-Christian and critical of Dievturiba), Latvian Religion (New York, 1968) by Jānis Dārdedzis, Standard Dictionary of Folklore (1972, pp. 606-608) by Jonas Balys and The Balts (London, 1963) by Marija Gimbutas. There are, however, many publications in German and Latvian that deal with the ancient Baltic/Latvian religion. One good German source is Germanische und Baltische Religion (Stuttgart, 1975) by Ake V. Ström and Haralds Biezais.
8 The most comprehensive analysis of Dievs is the doctoral dissertation by Dr. Phil Karlis Polis, Dievs un dvesēle kā religiozs priekšstats aizkristietisko latviešu tradicijas (published in book form in 1962, Lincoln, Neb.).
9 I will attempt only a few translations of the dainas in this paper, mainly because without extensive ethnological and idiomatic annotations, (the translated texts are quite incomprehensible. The largest English-language translation) until a few years ago was Uriah Katzenelenbogen's The Daina: An Anthology of Lithuanian and Latvian Folk Songs (Chicago, 1935). In 1984 a 497 page selection from Barons' collection with line-by-line translations in Russian, German and English was published by the Soviet Latvian Writers' Union, titled Krišjānis Barons, Latvju dainas. Parindenu izlase. This is the best collection of translations so far but, without proper ethnographic enculturation, is again at times incomprehensible. Some scholars and folklorists have claimed that, like some of the Vedas, many of the dainas are not translatable.
10 In modern times the religious matrix has changed for the Latvians still professing the ancient religion. Living in the technological and information age, the once agricultural and mainly rural Latvians have been forced to meet the challenges of the modern world. Along with their Christian brethren outside Soviet Latvia, most Dievturi have organized themselves into draudzes (congregations), thus facilitating the celebration of season feasts, sacred rituals and rites of passage all integral parts in the life of a Dievturis.
11 The core concept of a female Supreme Being/Goddess has been with us for tens of thousands of years. To the pre-Aryan and pre-Semitic ancients, the Goddess was a full-fledged cosmic parent figure who created the universe and its laws, ruler of nature, time, fate, truth, wisdom, justice, birth and death. One of her names was Māra. Many of the fathers of the Christian church strongly opposed the worship of Mary because she was only a composite of the many pre-Mary pagan goddesses. In fact, the Christian figure of Mary was gradually created during the first four centuries of the Christian era from Māra and her many namesakes (Mariamne, Maya, Mari, Kel-Mari, Yamamari and numerous others). For good sources, see Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco, 1983) and Geoffrey Ashe's The Virgin (London, 1976).
12 When the Aryan peoples invaded and settled in the territory that is present Latvia some 4000 years ago, they already encountered a culture that was almost totally matriarchal. We might say that Father Dievs/sky formed a union with Mother Māra/earth and, to this day, the Latvian religion and culture is embedded in this sacred duality. Marija Gimbutas in her The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe (London, 1974) well describes this process.
13 Although Jāņi, the Latvian Midsummer night festival, is definitely of pre-Christian origin, many scholars believe that the name itself is derived from St. John. To counter the popular pagan appeal for the festival, the Christian church proclaimed June 24th as the birthdate of John the Baptist. However, there is some evidence that the name is of pre-Biblical, indo-European origin.
14 The Latvian cycle of eternal return is based on (i) the position of the Sun in the sky, (ii) life, agricultural and fertility cycles and (iii) the concomitant work in the fields and homestead. Jāņis Dārdedzis' Latvian Religion (pp. 40-43) gives a description of the feast days corresponding to these recurring cycles.
15 By a game here is meant any structured, social interactive set of rules to which a society (or portion of) agrees to abide. Among all the games man plays, the religious game is one of the noblest and most awe-inspiring.
16 In Latvian the word for 'world' is 'pasaule', meaning 'under the Sun'. Thus, the Latvian speaks of 'this Sun' and 'that Sun' to differentiate the empirical everyday reality from the one that might exist after the last rite of passage. Where once 'that Sun' was conceptualized as an inevitable reality, for the modern Dievturis it has become more of a change in energy forms within the matter/spirit interface still an unknown state and having only metaphoric reality.
17 This tri-partition is not unique to the Latvians. The Egyptians, Greeks and other ancient cultures had similar nomenclature. In modern consciousness studies these would correspond to the physical, astral and mental energy levels.
18 Perceiving Ordinary Magic (Boulder, 1984) by Jeremy W. Hayward; Quantum Questions (Boulder, 1984), ed. by Ken Wilber; Physics for Poets '(Chicago, 1978) by Robert H. March; and the now classic. The Tao of Physics (Berkeley, 1975) by Fritjof Capra.
19 Two excellent scientific discourses on this topic are Ilya Prigozine's Order Out of Chaos (New York, 1984) and Erich Jantsch's The Self-Organizing Universe (Oxford, 1980).
Am I a "dievturis", do I follow in our beliefs?
Well as you could see or belief system is highlyflexible. It's more like a way of life not beliefs. You have your basic look to the life and our world and this look on the world is our belief system (not religion!) so YES, I'm one from them, but that in any way doesn't mean that I believe in any deities. Our deities are just representations, avatars of the nature and universe.
here mentioned deity Dievs is just one from the many more.
have a look->
Latvian Deities ``
but to be brief and not to look at all the spirits and subdeities here are the main ones
Saule The Sun Goddess
The Giver of Life. She brings Light and Warmth. With her benediction the crops ripen and all are fed.
In Latvian mythologies she is seen racing across the sky in her golden chariot pulled by two fiery steeds, or sailing the sky in her golden boat which sinks into the seas each evening. Saule is Life (daylight) Death (night) and Regeneration (dawn).
The sun is represented by circular motifs with or without rays, multi-petalled flowers, wheels, or circles with a single dot in the center.
Mçness- The Moon God
Brings Light to the Night Sky. He is the Protector of the Night.
Mçness rode the sky wearing starry robes in his silver chariot pulled by gray horses. His disappearance and renewal from New Moon to Full brought well being, light and health. Crops were planted according to his cycles to ensure abundance.
He is fickle in nature as seen by his constant changing for. Originally the consort of Saule, he fell in love with her daughter Austra, who rebuffed his advances, to have her as his own he married the Star Canopy Weaver, but when he look for her among the net of stars, all were there but Austra.
The Moon is represented by crescents, horns and half circles.
Zalktis The Snake Goddess
The Sentinel of the Gods.
The green snake, Zalktis is a regenerative symbol bringing, life, happiness, fertility (to people and to crops) and prosperity. Saule love her best of all and to harm her was a great crime. If a snake is encountered it is an omen of marriage, birth or good fortune.
The Snake is represented by a stylized S. coils, spirals, ropes or waving lines and denotes rebirth.
Pçrkons The Thunder God
The Bringer of Fire.
Pçrkons was the enemy of evil spirits. Sacred oak groves were consecrated in his honour. He was seen with a copper beard and long robes, wielding and axe. His two-wheeled chariot was pulled across the sky by fierce horses.
Pçrkons is represented by oak leaves, acorns, double headed axes and the fire cross.
Laima The Goddess of Destiny
Laima dispensed happiness and determined the length of life to all living creatures. She is beautiful with long flowing golden hair and lives beyond the sky. Laima presides over all births.
Laima is represented by chevrons (stylized or conjoined), feathers and grain images.
Dievs The God of the Shining Sky
The Guardian of the Crops
Dievs was depicted as a handsome man in a robe of silver with matching cap, his clothes adorned with pendants, carrying a sword. He lives beyond the sky and controls human destiny in conjunction with Laima.
He is represented by swords, grain images and as a circle above an inverted chevron.
[The Latvians] worship all of creation... sun, moon, stars, thunder, birds, even four-legged creatures down to the toad. They have their sacred forests, fields and waters in which they do not dare to cut wood, nor work, nor fish.'' - Father Peter of Dunsberg, circa 1400
Latvian paganism, like all other paganism be it Nordic, Indian, or Mayan, springs from fear of the unknown. Because fear of the concrete is preferable to the ambiguous, the ancient Latvians personified phenomena of the cosmos and life into gods and goddesses, mates (mothers), and gari (spirits).
Though the hierarchy of these divinities is rigid in nature, a basic class system exists. At the top of this pyramid one finds one figure, Dievs. Dievs, though being the most powerful of deities in representation of the earth and heavens, does not rule per se. Other divinities, such as Perkons or Saule rule with equal authority, albeit lesser might. The ``power'' of ``might'' of the Pagan Dievs is more one of a patriarch and filial piety.
Dievs does not represent the different aspects of life and the universe. Specific aspects of life and the cosmos are dispersed through the pantheon of gods, goddesses, spirits, and sprites. Though Dievs authority is well-established, the deities of celestial phenomena - the moon, suns, and stars - have significant authority. At the base of the pyramid lie numerous deities encompassing all aspects of human life and environment.
Other factions exist throughout the hierarchy, coming in forms of cults and conglamerates of deities. One is called Dievadeli, meaning `Sons of God.' The similar root Diev- in Dievs and Dievadeli signifies the word `God.' This is only one of the many groups: others include the Sun Cult, Laimes' Cult, Perkons' Cult, etc. Jesuit and Christian missionaries alike in Latvia mistakenly identified these cults as dangerous and mysterious affairs, but they were benign.
However, though the Cults are rather simple in explanation, Dievadeli remain an ambiguous conglamerate for researcherst today. Since Dievs is the Father by definition, including the Cosmos and all parts of Earth, Dievadeli, who are the manifestations of the Earth's aspects and Cosmic phenomena, must be his Sons or subordinates. This is not true. The missionaries interpreted the System from trinity-centric perspective; Dievadeli are simply different facets of the whole. This is simply conjunctive syllogism, which only works in mathematical proofs. Since a unicorn has a horn and a rhinoceros has a horn, a unicorn is not necessarily a rhinoceros.
The gods, like all other pre-Christian gods, had to reside somewhere. Like the Greek (not Roman -- thanks Chandra :-) ) Mt. Olympus, the Latvian gods resided eternally on the Sky Mountain, or Debeskalns. The Dainas and other old Latvian literature describe the complicated system of relationships and lifestyles of the different gods, but scantily. Only through careful corroboration may any sense exist in the marriages, fueds, and relationships between these deities.
And I think that our deities are more like a time capsule, a time capsule of that ancient day way of thinking, way of living of the ancient latvians. How they saw this world. Maybe how we need to see it.
if anybody is interested in our jewlery that is available in canada and the usa
though not all is latvian there, saw some scandinavian and egyptian also
*this thread is composed of several different articles what I could find in english and my own thoughts
07-08-02, 12:36 PM #2
07-08-02, 12:40 PM #3
many pages and articles put together, found by google. can't remember them. is it of a very high importance? I can look down maybe later if you need to.
01-16-03, 05:04 AM #4
Hi- I found this thread and site via googling. I have two questions for Avatar.
1) Why Latvian paganism? I live in north Mississippi and after WWII there were about 600 or so Latvians who emigrated to the Tate County area. Since many were involved in agricultural pursuits, I'm interested in their old traditions in relation to agriculture.
2) Do you have any idea where you found this information online? I've found a few sites but am having difficulty finding things oriented to agriculture and religion.
01-17-03, 03:55 AM #5
01-17-03, 09:07 AM #6
what about sexual rituals? there is no mention of that.
01-17-03, 10:15 AM #7
Originally posted by MSwriter
Hi- I found this thread and site via googling. I have two questions for Avatar.
1) I'm interested in their old traditions in relation to agriculture.
I can tell you about the basic fests and rituals connected with them and agricultural events
but I can't describe you all the traditions simply because there are too many
I have several books in Latvian about different our ancient traditions
2) Do you have any idea where you found this information online? I've found a few sites but am having difficulty finding things oriented to agriculture and religion.