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Article ID: 14719

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Section: words

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Baltic Paganism

Author: Greenhammer
Posted: October 2nd. 2011
Times Viewed: 2,646

I just want to be spiritually agile enough so when I die, I can land on my feet running. That day comes and a spirit guide suddenly appears and taps me on the shoulder. "Come with me, one of the Goddesses is having an orientation.”

"Where am I?” I ask, looking around, “This is a good place, eh?”

“Dude, it’s the afterlife, look down there, you’re dead.”

A brief pause, and then I ask, “Can I stay here and watch my funeral n’ s***?”

“All life can be observed again, it’s all on tape in the Hall of Records, come on, you can come back and watch any aspect of history or your life. I’m telling ya’, Diana is a busy Goddess and she’s way cool and doesn’t visit too often. She’s on tour with Thomas Paine, come on let’s go!”

I realized I could never follow any single religion so I made up my own called Druddism. Druids and Luddites… Druddité is the name, combining the qualities of each.

The Druids were practitioners of wisdom and knowledge, working with people and guiding their spirituality and embracing the three kindred; Nature spirits, Ancestors and the Gods.
Luddites were once well known protesters of the advancing, dehumanizing technologies of the early 1800's and in their spirit; there are those of us who are distrustful today of genetically modified food, for instance, and suspicious of other careless scientific experimentation and chemical usage in agriculture.

Pass on the knowledge, and respect the nature spirits and work towards sustainably stewarding the earths ecosystems so they can last many thousands of years, and be cautious of technology is the Druddité message. This is even more important today as we helplessly watch animal and plant genetics, cloning, and the fragile house of cards our computer dependence has given us, putting us in a precarious state of dependence.

One of my primary inspirations for the Druddité religion happened one day while I was reading the book Ancient Wisdom by Vivianne Crowley and Christopher Crowley. An earth lover all through my adult life, I was enthralled reading the chapter on the religion of the eastern Baltic Sea; it seemed to fit me perfectly, a beautiful unity of environmentalism and the pagan respect for the earth mother.

In my search I had discovered that Buddhism is more about the mind than about nature, and Asatru, has one of my favorite pantheon of deities. Thor’s hammer rocks, but I can’t get completely behind all of it and besides, they talk a lot about ancestors and Norse lineage---of which I have none. Native Americans have a lot to offer concerning peace and nature and regarding that all the animals are our brothers and sisters, but I feel the Native Americans would never fully accept me. Masons are an esoteric, thoughtful, and charitable group who created the United States, but they have too many barriers to their Truths. African paganism is exuberant and mysterious but not my cup of tea.

Finally I had found something I could really believe in and I was completely enamored and inspired by this religion. In the book, Ancient Wisdom, it states that according to the Baltic Pagans, there are actually three parts of us. Our body that decays back into the earth and our soul, which goes to the divine and a third part, that goes to a place where the etheric component of our immortal consciousness resides. That place is called the Veles, at least according to the book Ancient Wisdom. Exactly! I thought to myself, this felt like the truth to me, Buddha Bing! Budda Boom!

As it turned out, Baltic Pagans are the ones carrying most of the ancient folk religion and the original goddess inspired truths that I had been seeking. Then along came the synchronicity, a few days later when my better half brought home some CD’s about a woman who channels a spirit from the other side. Abraham talks about your source and the divine, the soul you borrow for the material life, and your body you discard at death. These are three aspects of all of us, similar to the Baltic Pagan belief mentioned in Ancient Wisdom. Abraham Hicks also describes in great detail how to use this part of ourselves, how to connect with our vibrational counterpoint. That little voice in your ear, that’s the rest of you vibrating out there in the Veles, your spiritual counterpoint.

From WIKIPEDIA, there is a description of one form of Baltic Paganism that I have looked into, it’s called Romuva. “Romuva is a modern religious community of the indigenous Baltic region practiced by the Lithuanian people prior to their Christianization. Romuva is an ethnic religious community living Baltic pagan traditions, which survived in folklore and custom. This feature differs Romuva from neo-pagan religions that are mostly based on mythology and written sources. Romuvans are celebrating traditional forms of art, retelling folklore, practicing traditional holidays, playing traditional music along with ecological activism and stewarding sacred places.”

Do I have to follow every ceremony and habit of Romuva? Is there a wrong or right way about Lithuanian Romuva? As a Progressive Eclectic, I pick and choose what I am drawn to. The fun of all this to me is to follow my path with all its inclinations, and I mix and match my deities with abandon as they come along. Romuvans, you all be purists if you want, but much of Romuva seems like the truth to me and I must use parts of it, with respect of course.

Once again in this case I will not be entirely accepted because I am not Lithuanian. Here I am an outsider again, so I’ll indulge myself with the more ancient aspects of what they do and stop asking dumb questions on forums. Romuva is a primary building block of the Druddité Religion and as I travel the Internet I find that Romuva is barely known and so I want to share the bounty of this simple folk religion with Witchvox readers.

As I said, one idea I adopted from them was that this afterlife in the otherworld is in a place called the “Veles”, according to the book Ancient Wisdom. Kind of different than heaven: try to picture yourself totally drained after a lifetime on earth, and imagine plugging in to recharge yourself; similar to a cell phone, becoming the spiritual entity you were before life on earth.

Veles is this afterlife, and I’m sticking with this term, Veles, as the afterlife concept for my own use, even though a God of Cattle is also called Veles. Romuvans may be pulling their hair out by now, but Zemyna inspires me, along with Jurate.

One other major belief I adapted from Baltic Paganism is that, “people have religious or spiritual experiences. Everybody experiences them different in his or her own way. They can happen any time and any place, even in mundane life, when not expecting them. When seeking them, they are often evasive, ” There are no miracles, they say, only transcendent experiences that occur infrequently at unpredictable times.

Ruling elites have never liked the pagans and as Soviet communists became aware of Lithuanian pagans who were starting to outwardly practice their nature loving religion back in the 50’s, they were arrested, and sent to the Gulag. Paganism has always been this kind of threat, despite the basic earth loving nature of it. The following is part of a poem from the Second World War from a Lithuanian soldier that echoed sentiments of these earth lovers:

If I should not return
Let my brother sow the seed next spring,
As the moss shrouds my bones so will I enrich the soil.
One morning go into the field and take a rye stalk in your hand,
kiss it as you would your beloved
I will live on in the sheaves of grain.

“Lithuanian Paganism differs from American Neo-Paganism. Superficially, it dearly adheres to its ages-old traditions, which are not set in stone. Lithuanian Pagans adapt their traditions to their circumstances. They learn songs, practices, and the elements of ritual. Then they select the materials to create the appropriate ritual they need for the particular holiday each year. Everybody celebrates the same ritual, but everybody does it differently. What one group does this year, another group may have done a decade ago--- or a millennium ago."

This religion is deeply rooted and pure. The ancient mothers such as Zemyna have traveled the growing universe leaving life wherever they go I feel and these beliefs about the Goddess Zemyna are the first that I really feel are true. Baltic pagans felt a deep kinship with the earth. The sea also has a goddess known as Jurate in Lithuania and Jurata in Poland, and she is the queen of the Baltic Sea and there is an interesting myth about how Baltic amber came to be.

Most Lithuanians do not practice the traditions of their ancestors as religion but as cultural heritage. Baltic spiritual revival is strongly bound up with environmental issues and the Gaia hypothesis of British biochemist James Lovelock. He theorizes that earth is a giant living organism, a biosphere of interconnecting and mutually dependent life forms.

Going back to 1350 A.D., Lithuania had managed to remain a pagan led country, the last in Europe. A Grand Duke named Gerdinmas, or something, pretended he was Christian to keep them from invading in the late 1200’s and was able to forestall the invasion of the Popes troops. Finally, in 1384, a ten-year-old Christian girl became ruler of Poland and two years later married a Lithuanian grand duke who had recently converted to Christianity. An inauspicious start to Christianity in Lithuania it seems.

Christian warriors, the Teutonic knights, found Lithuania a tough conquest because of the deep-rooted earth religion Lithuanians adhered to. From the book Northern Crusades, I’d like to use this quote. ”It has been alleged since the 13th century that the Lithuanians were deterred from becoming Christians because of the brutality and Greed of the Teutonic Knights. This view may have its merits, but it ignores the fact that the Lithuanian religion was successful in its own rights…The Teutonic Knights could do little except contain them. Paganism allowed the Lithuanians to govern Latins, Greeks, Jews and Tartars impartially in times past. When Grand Prince Jogaila finally accepted baptism in 1386, he was moved by the prospect of winning the Polish Kingdom, and of depriving the Knights of their raison d’etre (in French; reason for existing) . The slow progress of the missionaries within Lithuania after 1386 suggests a deep rooted and much valued pagan religion.”

"Lithuanian religion does not have a founder or any single source, and it predates recorded history. It is one of the oldest religions in the world; it evolved from the natural and native beliefs of its indigenous people. The focal point of each Baltic Temple was an aukuras, the “fire altar”. The ritual is often held to commemorate special occasions, and is an essential component of many holidays. The aukuras is erected at a sacred site, usually outdoors. A group of people leads the congregants in singing dainas –ancient spiritual hymns-as the fire is lit and the ritual progresses."

From the Book Ancient Wisdom, “Baltic people are found in Lithuania and Latvia and share a common ancestry with Celts, Germans and Scandinavians. Balts are descended of people from the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea.” As time went on Swedish Vikings attempted to settle the eastern Baltic Sea but settlements were “…short lived, destroyed by the Baltic tribes.” These goddess believers were no sissies, driving away the Vikings when no one else could. On the other side of their land they kept gold grubbing, sacred site smashing Christians at bay. These were tough people and many Lithuanians are proud of their pagan past.

“In the early religion of the Balts, worship took place in sacred groves and impressive natural sites. Temples that existed during the beginning of Christian occupation were beautiful and one was noted for carvings so natural that they seemed alive. This temple was built around an old oak tree, probably the original sacred site.

In the 13th century, the Pope initiated a crusade to the Baltic region that evolved into a war that lasted 100 years. Sacred sites were either adapted to the Christian religion or destroyed. Statues of Perun, the thunder god, were thrown into rivers or smashed up. The largest of them even suffered the additional indignity of being flogged by 12 strong men before being thrown into the river. Prince Vladimir also arranged for a mass baptism of his people by the simple expedient of driving them into the river to be baptized. They went in pagan and came out Christian.”

Giant Oak trees had always been a place to gather and the Balts built shrines around them as noted. These people were part of the land, integrated into the ecosystems that sustained them. They loved their groves and trees and I imagine that stories were told even about the ancestors of the great oaks they venerated. These people loved the land and something else they did was to have eternal fires, fires that burned for decades. “In 1434 the last of the great and most revered of the sacred fires were put out. The fire was extinguished and the ashes thrown into the river so the fire could not be relit.”

Continuing then with Ancient Wisdom, “As time went on, Lutheran Protestantism replaced Catholicism across Eastern Europe and only Poland and Lithuania remained Catholic. The Catholic Church, with its multiplicity of saints and veneration of the Virgin Mary also adopted pre-Christian customs into its tradition with a freedom that could not be tolerated by austere Protestantism. In rural regions, pre-Christian traditions in Poland and Lithuania continue to flourish into modern times.

Poland preserved much of its folk tradition and customs and between the world wars there was a strong revival of interest in pre-Christian conditions. These became an inspiration for art, including that of Marian Wawzeniecka whose works often had pagan imagery. Jahn Stachniuk, born in 1905 in Kowel, founded a pagan magazine and movement called Zadruga. Stachniuk believed in the sacred power of intellectual creativity and ability to harness cosmic energy through strength of will.”

Using the strength of intellectual creativity while manipulating cosmic forces from inner peace and strength seem compatible with what I want to do with my religion. I read all these magic spells on pagan websites and the grimoires with formulas for magic and that but it doesn’t feel right, ya know?

Stachniuk wrote, “neither prayers to a deity or magic would help people achieve what they wanted. They have to do it through effort and manifesting a creative attitude in life.” This is what I’m talking about: the Romuvans and others inspired by pre-Christian traditions are reviving rituals and customs that have never quite been destroyed. Romuva is now thriving and one of its founders face is on the new 50-dollar coin. Not quite In the Goddess We Trust, but there is respect and pride in the ancient Pagan ways in some places.

If an archaeologist doesn’t find any artifacts from the Baltic Sea older than 8, 000 years does it mean the artifacts and people never existed? These people, as a rule were not stupid or sickly. Even their hunter-gatherer ancestors were of a healthy stock, the reindeer hunters and cave painters who moved north with the receding glaciers. These hardy anarcho -primitivists merged with migrations of people from the Caucasus Mountains and some ethnographers can even trace migrations to India, noting similarities between Sanskit and the Lithuanian language.

I have found deep repudiation of the theories of Lithuanian feminist archaeologist Professor Marija Gimbutas (1921-94) , as I discuss her work on forums, but they are only their opinions. To quote from her book Language of the Goddess, ”this ancient culture took keen delight in the natural wonders of this world. Its people did not produce lethal weapons or build forts in inaccessible places, as their successors did, even when they were acquainted with metallurgy. Instead they made magnificent tomb shrines and temples, comfortable houses in moderately sized villages and created superb pottery and sculptures. This was a long lasting period of remarkable creativity and stability, an age free of strife. Their culture was a culture of art.” In my view, their culture was the longest running peaceful culture of all time.

The simple folk religion of Romuva is harmless, respectful and exemplary and the Lithuanians have mixed it with Catholicism in a complementary way. Romuvans may find I place most of the accent on the feminine aspect of their religion but I think that’s where the roots of it lie.

One last excerpt from Ancient Wisdom, "An important concept in Baltic tradition is darna. The concept is similar to the Hindu dharma-moral order and principle. The aim of existence is to seek darna within our lives, within our home and within the community.” The Goddess is a concept by which we measure our joy.





Footnotes:
Ancient Wisdom Vivianne Crowley and Christopher Crowley
Wikipedia
The Northern Crusades Eric Christensen
Language of the Goddess Marija Gimbutas


Copyright: The original longer version was copyrighted in 2008



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