Summer Solstice

The Warring Gods of Old Slavs

Belobog (Bielbog) “The White God” is the god of heaven, light, sunshine, warmth, and peace. Often depicted as a wise old man with a staff, a long beard dressed in white robes, Belobog appears during the day and he is associated with the East, direction of the sunrise. He is seen as the bringer of good luck and happiness, but in his wrathful aspect, he can also be seen as the storm and lightning. Czernobog (Chernobog) “The Black God” as I have previously written, is the dark, accursed god of the night. He rules over the evil fate and stands for the principles of darkness. He is thought to reside in the West, the direction of the sunset. Among many Slavic myths, there is one particularly interesting. The myth says that these two gods – Chernobog and Belobog – created the world, together and this was their “perfect” creation. However, during the creation process, Belobog and his evil counterpart, Chernobog clashed with each other, and therefore… they caused the world to look as it does.

The Slavic Worship of Belobog and Chernobog shows parallels to the ancient Iranian mythology of Ahriman and Ahura Mazda. These myths are reflected in the memory of the landscape itself. Czech historian Jan Peisker found more than thirty different toponyms (names of places, local names) in the Western Slavic lands which seemed to depict an ancient dualistic sacred scene. Its structure was always the same: a running river, flanked on the west side by a rock with a name indicative of devil, fear, darkness, blackness, or hell, and on the east side by a hill or a mountain peak with a name associated with Sun, heaven, light or whiteness. These ancient memories of the landscape tell the same story – on the east side of rivers, a good, White God equivalent of Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda was worshiped, but the west side was reserved for his enemy, the Black God equivalent of Zoroastrian Ahriman.

Due to their opposing personifications, these two gods are involved in the never-ending fight and their principles clash with each other. This cyclical battle is woven into the pagan calendar, the wheel of the year where they take turns ruling over the land. At around the time of Winter Solstice, Belobog beats Chernobog and establishes the rule of Light. In his human form, Belobog can be seen as a wise old man with a beard, who has a snake crawling at his feet. This snake represents ancient wisdom, and also the defeated Chernobog, or Satan. Unlike in the later Christianized version where Saint Michael Archangel throws Satan into the bottomless pit forever, or Saint George banishes the Dragon underground, the Pagan myth is cyclical. As winter fades and daylight grows, so does grow the adversarial power of the Black Sun, and at the time of Summer Solstice, Chernobog once more assumes the throne.

This occult knowledge is supported by the findings of Serbian scholar Veselin Čajkanovic who compared the solar deity mentioned in Russian historic sources, Dazhbog, with a far darker and chthonic character of Serbian folklore of an almost identical name, Dabog. Čajkanović pointed out that solar gods in various mythologies tend to have double aspects, one benevolent and light, representing the Sun in the sky during the day, and other malevolent and chthonic, representing the Sun in the underworld during the night. Thus the two seemingly opposite gods, good and evil, light and dark, could actually be simply two different aspects of a single deity.

Russian philologists Ivanov and Toporov researched the universal Indo-European myth of the battle of a Storm god and a Dragon and its Slavic version, the fight of Perun and Veles. In many Slavic countries, there are toponyms reminiscent of the two: the name of Perun is associated with a hill or mountain peak, and the name of Veles with water or a lowland under it. The opposition between the two of them is not that of good versus evil, but rather of above versus below. Perun, being the god of thunder and sky, was worshiped in high places. On the other hand, the places reserved for Veles, the god of underworld and cattle, were in lowlands near rivers or springs. With the arrival of Christianity, the once supreme god Perun was usually identified with heavenly saints, especially those depicted with powers of lightning, such as Prophet Elijah and Saint Michael Archangel, or sometimes even with the Christian God. Veles, a god of the underworld, became associated with the Christian Devil.

Belobog is referred to in American Gods by Neil Gaiman (as “Bielebog”), where he replaces his brother Czernobog in the spring. Czernobog/Bielebog lives in a Chicago apartment with the three Zorya. Towards the end of the novel, when the ‘springtime’ following the war between the gods begins, Czernobog himself begins to lighten in personality, and at one point muses that perhaps Bielebog actually is himself.