There are various, we might call them, ‘specializations’ or ‘professions’ of the Slavic spiritual leaders in the sphere of Rodnovery (Slavic Native Faith), determined on the basis of old resources and continuous folklore traditions. Below I described shortly some essential informations that, hopefully, will show you clearly the main differences between the most well-known of such specializations: wołchw, guślarz and żerca.
Important side note: these are the names of those specializations in the Polish language, and they are spelled differently in the other Slavic languages in which they also exist.
Wołchw is a Slavic shaman and a seer/prophet dealing with the spiritual life and magick. They are the first to mediate with the god Weles (Veles). Their main responsibilities include passing down the oral traditions of a community. Recitations, music, dance and often also natural intoxicants putting them into a trance are extremely important during their rituals.
There’s also a female version of the noun: ‘wołchwa’, however in reality this profession is practiced almost exclusively by men. The word wołchw comes from the Eastern Slavic term volkhv that was mentioned in the medieval Primary Chronicle describing the Kievan Rus’.
GUŚLARZ / GUŚLARKA
Guślarz (m) or guślarka (f) is strongly focused on the ‘shamanic’ aspects and on conducting various common rites (for example healing practices or charms). Name of this specialization is derived from a noun gusła that describes primarily those rites during which the souls are being summoned from the outerworld. They are the conductors of the annual rites of dziady when the souls of the ancestors are invited for a feast and paid homage.
ŻERCA / ŻERCZYNI
Żerca, żyrzec (m) or żerczyni (f) is a priest/priestess and a spiritual leader. They lead the sacrificing practices, major divinations and important ceremonies like weddings. They are also responsible for designating dates of the religious festivals. They protect the sacred sites (temples, groves, sacred fires). In the past they were seen as the most elite profession among those mentioned above, and held the most of political power – it was also usually them who advised the rulers. The word żerca is derived from a noun żertwa which means an offering.
Among the contemporary Polish Rodzimowiercy (believers of the Slavic Native Faith) the most commonly revived profession is that of a żerca.