Preface: this is my attempt to answer the recurring questions about resources on the topics of the Polish mythology and ‘paganism’ available in the English language – general informations about the Slavic Native Faith from the territories of Poland. Below you can see a list of books, articles, research papers, etc. that I stumbled across the internet and read online, and also books released in English that I saw being frequently recommended as a good source (those are sadly not that easily available here in Poland for me to verify their content but I saw them being mentioned in many trustworthy sites/by many trustworthy people and hope that they might be helpful for you). Below them, you can see a few basic informations about the modern native Polish (Slavic) movement (Rodnovery, in Polish: Rodzimowierstwo).
I tried to make a list of sources where you can read a bit about the pre-Christian Polish faith (a difficult topic about which most of the informations and resources were lost on the course of Poland’s complicated history), but also focused strongly on topics like the remnants of the ‘paganism’ in the Polish folklore and the related elements of archaeology and history of the early Poland. The list focuses naturally on Poland, which is the main topic of my blog and of my own research, but I included there also a few links to sources about the other related West Slavic peoples, including the extinct tribes of Polabians and Pomeranians who, theoretically speaking, were the closest relatives and neighbours to the early Polish tribes not only geographically but more importantly in the matter of the old pre-Christian beliefs. A bit of an irony: the extinct culture of theirs has nowadays much more of the original resources in the form of the informations written down in the medieval chronicles than the proto-Polish tribes. In a way, the original pre-Christian Polish beliefs are among the most mysterious historical ‘pagan’ religions in Europe simply due to the scarcity of the written historical records.
I’d be also happy to see more recommendations from you in order to keep this list growing and up to date. Please leave a message in the contact form at the bottom of this page, or contact me via lamusdworski [at] gmail.com in case you know of a good resource that’s not listed below yet!
For the resources in the Polish language check my other list: Źródła i polecane książki.
If you’re revisiting this page, check for positions marked as *NEW* – those are my newest ‘discoveries’ added to the list!
MEDIEVAL RESOURCES ABOUT WEST SLAVS (GOOD TO BE AWARE OF):
- Dagome iudex, one of the earliest historical documents relating to Poland that survived only in a form of a summary completed c. 1080 (the original was created in c. 991). It bears huge importance to Polish history, since it provided a general description of the lands belonging to the king Mieszko.
- Book of Roads and Kingdoms, 11th-century geography text by the Andalusian-Arab historian and geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri. It includes valuable excerpts from the travels of Ibrahim ibn Yaqub to the lands ruled by the king Mieszko, and is considered the first reliable description of the early Polish state in the late 10th century.
- Chronicon Thietmari (Thietmar’s Chronicle) is an 11th-century chronicle about Saxon emperors written by Prince-Bishop of Merseburg. It includes some valuable informations about the Slavic tribes east of the Elbe river and the early state of the Polish people. Worth noting is that the empire was running wars against the Polabian Slavs and the Poles, and some desriptions might’ve been tendentious.
- Chronica Slavorum (Chronicle of the Slavs) by Helmold (12-century Saxon historian and priest), describing Slavic tribes the lived in the territories of the modern-day north-east Germany. Similarly to the Thietmar’s Chronicle, some descriptions might’ve been tendentious.
- Fragments of Gesta Danorum by the 13th-century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus. The last three books (14-16) of the chronice, which describe Danish conquests on the south shore of the Baltic Sea and wars against Slavic peoples (the Northern Crusades), are very valuable for the history of West Slavic tribes (Polabian Slavs, Pomeranians) and Slavic paganism. Book 14 contains a unique description of the temple on the island of Rügen. I found a translation of some relevant fragments here.
- Primary Chronicle (also: Tale of Bygone Years) is a chronicle about the history of Kievan Rus’ from about 850 to 1110, considered to be a fundamental source in the interpretation of the history of the Eastern Slavs. It includes valuable mentions about the West Slavic tribes and states, and general descriptions about the Slavic pagan gods.
- Chronica Boemorum (Chronicle of the Czechs) written in 12th century by priest and historian Cosmas of Prague, includes descriptions of the legendary foundation of the Bohemian state and foundation of the Czech Přemyslid dynasty.
- Dalimilova kronika (Chronicle of Dalimil), 14th-century chronicle about the Czech history, compilation of the information from older Czech chronicles written in Latin and the author’s own experiences, it was the first chronicle written in the Old Czech language.
- Asala, Joanne: “Polish Folklore and Myth”, 2001
- Buko, Andrzej: “The Archaeology of Early Medieval Poland. Discoveries – Hypotheses – Interpretations”, 2007 [edit: available here in pdf]
- Chrypinski, Anna: “Polish Customs”, 1979
- Czekanowska, Anna: “Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage – Polish Tradition – Contemporary Trends”, 1990
- Gimbutas, Marija: “The Slavs”, 1971
- Hodorowicz-Knab, Sophie: “Polish Traditions, Customs, and Folklore”, 1993
- Hodorowicz-Knab, Sophie: “Polish Herbs, Flowers & Folk Medicine”, 1995
- Ostling, Michael: “Between the Devil and the Host. Imagining Witchcraft in Early Modern Poland”, 2011
- Phillips, Charles: “Forests of the Vampires: Slavic Myth”, 1999
- Słupecki, Leszek Paweł: “Slavonic Pagan Sanctuaries”, 1994 [edit: available here in pdf]
- Znayenko Myroslava: “The Gods Of The Ancient Slavs”, 1980 [book focuses primarily the Eastern Slavic sources but describes informations from old Polish chronicles as well, available here online]
research papers AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE:
- Banaszkiewicz, Jacek: Slavonic Origines Regni. Hero the Law-Giver and Founder of Monarchy (Introductory Survey of Problems)
- Brzozowska-Krajka, Anna: Coexistence or Conflict? The Problem of Dual Belief in Polish Folklore
- Buko, Andrzej: Medieval archaeology in Poland
- Bylina, Stanisław: The Church and Folk Culture in Late Medieval Poland
- Czop, Dominika: Structure of the universe in the Norse and Slavic beliefs
- Dalewski, Zbigniew: The Public Dimension of Religion in the Piast Monarchy during the Christianisation Period
- Dynda, Jiří: The Three-Headed One at the Crossroad. A Comparative Study of the Slavic God Triglav [PDF]
- Filip, Mariusz: The Political Organization of Mieszko I: The Notion of Tribe in the Research on State Origins
- Gardeła, Leszek: Face Down: The Phenomenon of Prone Burial in Early Medieval Poland
- Gardeła, Leszek: Ludicity among the Slavs. Games and pastimes in early medieval Poland
- Gardeła, Leszek: Vampire Burials in Medieval Poland. An Overview of Past Controversies and Recent Reevaluations
- Gardeła , Leszek & Půlpánová-Reszczyńska, Agnieszka: Cult and Ritual in Polish Archaeology. Past Research and New Perspectives
- Gąssowski, Jerzy: Late Pagan and Early Christian Poland
- Gąssowski, Jerzy: The Early Slavs: Nation or Religion?
- Hensel, Witold: The cultural unity of the Slavs in the Early Middle Ages
- Hensel, Witold: How the statue of the Arkona Svantevit looked like
- Kajkowski, Kamil: The Boar in the symbolic and religious system of Baltic Slavs in the Early Middle Ages [PDF]
- Kajkowski, Kamil: The Dog in Pagan Beliefs of Early Medieval North-Western Slavs
- Kajkowski, Kamil: Islands as symbolic centres of the Early Medieval settlement patterns in Middle Pomerania (Northern Poland) [PDF]
- Kajkowski, Kamil & Szczepanik, Paweł: The multi-faced so-called miniature idols from the Baltic Sea area [PDF]
- Kajkowski, Kamil: Nourishment for the Soul – Nourishment for the Body: Animal Remains in Early Medieval Pomeranian Cemeteries
- Kajkowski, Kamil: Ritual Dance among Western Slavs in Early Middle Ages
- Kajkowski, Kamil: The Role of Alcoholic Beverages in the Rites of the Baltic Slavs
- Kajkowski, Kamil: Slavic Journeys to the Otherworld. Remarks on the Eschatology of Early Medieval Pomeranians [PDF]
- Kajkowski, Kamil: The Symbolism and Ritual Significance of the Human Head Among the Pomeranians in the Early Middle Ages
- Kajkowski, Kamil; Kuczkowski, Andrzej: Water in pre-Christian beliefs in Pomerania (northern Poland) of the early medieval period
- Kloczowski, Jerzy: A History of Polish Christianity; section 3: Pagan Beliefs
- Kurasiński, Tomasz: Burials with Buckets in Early Medieval Poland: A Pagan or Christian Custom?
- Lehr, Urszula: The transcendental side of life. Aquatic demons in Polish folklore [PDF]
- Litwin, Jerzy: Early medieval Slavic boats (in: Medieval Baltic Ships – Traditions and constructional aspects)
- Lubecka, Anna: Polish ritual year – a reflection of Polish cultural policy [PDF]
- Mesiarkin, Adam: The name of the Slavs: Etymology and Meaning
- Michałowski, Roman: Christianisation of the Piast Monarchy in the 10th and 11th Centuries
- Piątkowski, Włodzimierz & Majchrowska, Anita: Health, illness and dying in Polish folk medicine [PDF]
- Piątkowski, Włodzimierz & Majchrowska, Anita: Unconventional therapists and their patients in Polish traditional folk medicine
- Pilaszek, Małgorzata: Witch-Hunts in Poland, 16th-18th Centuries
- Ratajczyk, Zdzisława; Gardeła, Leszek; Kajkowski Kamil: The World on a Spur. Unravelling the Cosmology of the Pagan Slavs
- Salmonowicz, Stanisław: Witchcraft Trials in Old Poland
- Samsonowicz, Henryk: The Origin of Poland, or Images of Our Own Beginnings
- Sielicki, Stanisław: Indo-Iranian parallels of the Slavic water rites of the oath and guilt confirmation attested in Medieval Latin accounts and Slavic law codices
- Sielicki, Stanisław: Saxo Grammaticus on pre-Christian religion of the Slavs: the relevant fragments from book XIV of Gesta Danorum
- Slevinski Sarah: Toward a Theory of Pre-industrial European Folk Ritual: The Case of Polish Wigilia [PDF]
- Słupecki, Leszek Paweł: The Krakus’ and Wanda’s Burial Mounds of Cracow [PDF]
- Szczepanik, Paweł: Masks in the culture of pagan Western Slavs: a ritual-ceremonial attribute or a religious fetish?
- Szczepanik, Paweł & Wadyl, Sławomir: A comparative analysis of early medieval North-West Slavonic and West Baltic sacred landscapes: an introduction to the roblems
- Trkanjec, Luka: Chthonic aspects of the Pomeranian deity Triglav and other tricephalic characters in Slavic mythology [PDF]
- Tymowski, Michał: Tribal Organizations in Pre-State Poland (9th and 10th Centuries) in the Light of Anthropological Theories of Segmentary System and Chiefdom
- Wawrzeniuk Joanna: Slavic protective magic in the early Middle Ages on Polish territories
- Wawrzeniuk Joanna: The Specificity of Slavic Folks Beliefs
- Wenska, Izabella: Sacrifices among the Slavs. Between archaeological evidence and 19th century folklore [PDF]
- Wijaczka, Jacek: Men Standing Trial for Witchcraft at the Łobżenica Court in the Second Half of the 17th Century
- Wiślicz, Tomasz: The Township of Kleczew and Its Neighbourhood Fighting the Devil (1624-1700) [topic: witch hunt]
- Wojciechowska Beata: The Remembrance of the Deceased in the Traditional Polish Culture of the Middle Ages [PDF]
- Zaroff, Roman: Measurement of Time by the Ancient Slavs
- Zaroff, Roman: Perception of Christianity by the Pagan Polabian Slavs [PDF]
- Zaroff, Roman: Politics and Priests in a Pagan Slavic Principality
- Zaroff, Roman: The Origins and Evolution of the North-Eastern and Central Polabian (Wendish) Religious and Political Systems
- Zaroff, Roman: The Origins of Sventovit of Rügen [PDF]
- Zaroff, Roman: William of Malmesbury on Pagan Slavic Oracles: New Sources for Slavic Paganism and its two Interpretations
- Znayenko, Myroslava: On the Concept of Chernebog and Bielbog in Slavic Mythology [PDF]
ARTICLES ON VARIOUS POLISH WEBSITES:
- Traditional design of the Lublin region – popular motifs [an article prepared by organization Warsztaty Kultury for a project ‘Patterns of Europe’, available on the project’s website]
- Gliński, Mikołaj : What Is Known About Slavic Mythology [article on culture.pl]
- Gliński, Mikołaj : Polish Vampires: Bloody Truth behind Dark Myth [article on culture.pl]
- Kępa, Marek : Slavic Daemons: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly [article on culture.pl]
- Kępa, Marek : Kupala Night ‒ Mixing Pagan and Christian Traditions [article on culture.pl]
- Kępa, Marek : The Polish Halloween: All You Need to Know about Dziady [article on culture.pl]
- Kępa, Marek : The Daily Diet of Proto-Polish Slavic Tribes [article on culture.pl]
- Lech, Filip : Slavs Are Us [article on culture.pl]
- Warnke, Agnieszka : 9 Slavic Rituals & Customs of Ye Olden Days [article on culture.pl]
(to be supplemented…)
For general images of the clothing, jewellery, weapons, strongholds, etc. of the medieval West Slavic tribes (Poland and the related tribes and kingdoms located in the territory of the modern-day Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany) I invite you to my gallery west-slavs.tumblr.com where I try to collect various links and references (normally rather scattered around the internet).
WHAT TO AVOID!
when researching the Slavic Native Faith please avoid:
- ‘Book of Veles‘ which is highly controversial in the terms of authenticity.
- any book by author Dmitriy Kushnir, who represents the so-called ynglistic approach. The theories he presents as “facts” in his books contain too many unverified informations, and are mixed with various non-Slavic (e.g. ethnic north-Asian) beliefs, and New Age . His personal worldviews and thesis in his books are also dangerously racist. The Ynglistic church itself has been already legally prosecuted in Russia for ethnic hatred. Strong avoid!
- following the above, avoid the so-called Slavic-Aryan Vedas that are a central focus point in Ynglism
(to be supplemented…)
POLISH NEOPAGANISM NOWADAYS
The term used for the Slavic Natie Faith in the English language is usually Rodnovery (coming from the Russian language, where the movement is the largest in numbers), and the Polish term for it is Rodzimowierstwo or Rodzima Wiara, all meaning the ‘Native Faith’. The believers / practitioners are called Rodzimowiercy in Polish (Rodnovers in English, coming also from the term for it in the Russian language). The term Rodnovery / Rodzimowierstwo is used only to describe the modern Slavic ‘neopagan’ movement, and never in the context of the historical Slavic Faith (however some exceptions I don’t know of might be used around).
Currently, there are not many informations about the modern Polish neopagan movements and organizations available in the English language for reading. Below’s what I managed to find. Some articles linked below focus on problems within the modern neopagan movements.
Some articles to read to put things into perspective:
- article published by Krakow Post in 2013 (quite dated but still applies today): ‘Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland‘
- 2016 article ‘Paganism in Poland‘ that mentions Rodnovery among other neopagan movements, published on Wild Hunt website
- Pagan Temple Planned in Poland, 2017 article on the Wild Hunt Website
- Adrian Sobolewski: Roots Revival: How Slavic Faith Returned to Poland
- the statement of the organization Rodzima Wiara (Polish Native Faith) on the ECER (European Congress of Ethnic Religions) website
- Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson: Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe — book including chapters and sections dedicated to the case in Poland [preview available on google books]
- Scott Simpson: Strategies for Constructing Religious Practice in Polish Rodzimowierstwo
- Scott Simpson: Men Constructing Masculinity in Polish Rodzimowierstwo: Tradition and Nature
- Mariusz Filip: Native Faith (not) only for Men: Gendering Extreme Right-Wing Slavic Neopaganism in Poland
- Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson: “Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe”, 2013 // here you can read a short review of that book
(to be supplemented…)
Videos to watch / to listen to:
A video promoting a project ‘Rodzimowiercy na swoim’ aiming to build the first Rodnovery temple on the Polish lands (+ read their statement ‘A Place to Call Home’ on the ECER website):
A video promoting a project ‘Rodzimowiercy na swoim’ aiming to build the first Rodnovery temple on the Polish lands (+ read their statement ‘A Place to Call Home’ on the ECER website)
(Video in Polish) An invitation to ‘Stado’ festival organized in Owidz, Poland. You can see there some Slavic games and ways of celebrations.
(Video in Polish) An attempt of 3d reconstruction of Svetovid’s temple in Arkona. You can see there how a Slavic temple might’ve looked like.
Interesting podcast in English about the major Slavic gods and goddesses, describing also what were the main problems with reconstruction of the pantheon and how did some of the traditions survive within the common culture and folklore.
Published: February 2017
Have questions? Contact me at: lamusdworski [at] gmail.com
6 thoughts on “Resources about Polish and West Slavic mythology and paganism”
I didn’t learn that I had Polish heritage until I was an adult, and I appreciate this collection of English- language resources. Thank you for including the Polish source material and explaining resources to avoid as well. Do you know much about practices in the region that was once called Galicia? I am not sure how different it is from the rest of Poland and have had trouble finding material about it.
The kingdom of Galicia encompassed what is now Southern Poland and Western Ukraine! It is not much different from the rest of Poland, it just had a larger territory back then. :)
Wow! What a wonderful collection of valuable resources for those of us looking to reconnect with our Slavic roots! :)
The website/blog is well presented so thank you for the dedicated work.
P.S. Let me ask the usual pagan/human questions:
1) Who am I?
2) How did I get here?
3) What is all of this stuff?
4) Why am I always hungry?
5) How did all of this stuff get here, and why?
6) Where does all of this stuff go in the end?
7) Where do I go in the end?
8) Should I grow a mustache?
9) Why am I coerced to make children with just 1 woman at a time?
10) What’s so uncomfortable, culturally, about loving more than 1 women at a time,
especially since change is more the norm, than trying to persist in the inevitable oppression of monopoly?
When and where can I kiss you for this succinct directory?
You give generously and of a high quality.
May many blessings be upon you.
I love what you are doing, and what you have done.
Please do not stop doing this.
Please add more about the economies of S.E. Poland before Christianity.
Wasn’t Malopolska, called something else, before the name Polska became coined?
Also, who named Przemysl, and what does it refer to? Is it Bohemian/Czech?
And is Sando-mirsz, named after a Hungarian named Sando?
Does Cherven refer to RED CROATIA?
Are the Polanianians from Kiev, the same core/displaced peoples who re-established themselves in Gniezno?
Is Kujavia, an echo of Kiev, renamed by displaced peoples?
Is Po- Alania, the root of Polania?
Does Vis-lania refer to another Alania, like Visi-goths? Visi-Alania?
Did the Dniester-San-Vistula/Dniester-Bug-Vistula corridor(s) attract a Varangian entourage in the 800’s A.D.?
Why doesn’t Dukla Pass reveal more about strategic occupancy?…ala Great Moravia?…ala Avaria?…ala the Huns?
Who has mapped bronze finds across Poland? (from the Bronze Age). Where were the Bronze Age Travel/Trade corridors/Trade centers, if any?
Who has mapped the iron age iron quarries in Poland? The iron age smelting sites? The Iron age travel routes?
with much respect and love,