Archive for the ‘pagan’ category

Ukrainian ‘native believers’ restore Slavic traditions at cost of neo-Nazi claims

April 19, 2011

A Sylenkoite priest preaching in a Ukrainian temple (Source: Yuri Samson, Narodna Pravda)

Transitions Online (12th April 2011) reports that there are 80 neo-pagan associations with a likely membership of 3,000 adults currently active in the Ukraine. The main vehicles for popularising neo-pagan views are magazines and rock bands. In the Ukraine, the associations describe themselves as rodnovery, or ‘native believers’, in contrast to the term ‘pagan’ which normally carries negative connotations for Ukrainians.

Magazines such as Perun, Snezhen, and Svarog carry numerous articles featuring metal bands, may of which encourage nationalism, racism and the cult of violence. Ancestral devotion is used to stir up resentment and prejudice towards those ‘not privileged to be white’. However, supporters also point to other rodnovery groups which avoid these extremist views and promote the rule of nature and the pagan gods, pointing to their essentially peaceful co-existence with humankind and nature.

Some rodnovery pagan shrines have been attacked in recent years, following the movement’s resurgence after the demise of communism and official prohibition. Local Orthodox priests are usually suspected. The rodnovery movement’s recognised ‘wise man’ or magus, Svitovit Pashnyk, recently spoke out against the destruction of shrines in several locations across the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian associations are linked to similar groups in Russia and Belarus although most acknowledge the historical precedence of the Kyevian state over that of Moscovy and consequently international meetings tend to favour the Ukraine as the location of choice. Most rodnovery claim that their civilisation dates to over 7,500 years ago and that long before the rise of Mesopotamian states, the white race had spread from the Carpathians to the River Don.

For further information there is also a short piece on the Ukraine in the wikipedia article on Slavic neo-paganism.

Pagans in the Russian Federation: ‘you are selling God!’

August 3, 2010

Source: Wikimedia commons

An ancient pagan religion, claimed to extend back over 7,500 years, is facing new and unwelcome attention from the Russian authorities, according to TOL.

The Mari people have been worshipping in sacred groves of the forests along the Volga and Kama rivers for a very long time indeed and although persecuted during the communist era, Stalin is known to have consulted with their karts, or priests, during the period of the Second World War. The Mari people are divided into the Meadow, Mountain and Eastern Maris and number a total of 604,000, according to the Russian 2002 census. The majority live in the Mari El Republic and speak one of the small group of Finno-Ugric languages, distantly related to Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. Aater the collapse of communism in Russia, a number of small Christian groups from Finland and Estonia have begun working among the Mari, many of whom have been nominally Christian since the sixteenth century. Efforts to resist this focussed around the establishment in the 1870s of new Kuga Sorta groups (that deliberately combined Christianity with traditional pagan beliefs, venerating Jesus Christ as the greatest prophet). The Mari regard nature as sacred and holy. They worship a pantheon of gods, chief of whom is the Great White God, Osh Kugu Yumo.

During the communist era in Russia, the Mari groves were targetted in much the same way that churches, mosques and synagogues were treated by the authorities. Rituals were disrupted, sacred groves desecrated, and leaders persecuted. Since the political changes of the early 1990s the Mari have known a period of relative freedom and are seeing a resurgence of their religious practices. TOL reports, however, that their understanding of living in harmony with nature has brought them into conflict with the Russian authorities who view the forests as a commercial rather than a natural resource. The Mari see spring water as an incarnation of Osh Kugu Yumo (selling water would be selling God)  and the trees as living beings with souls in a state of transition. In advancing their ancient and moral claims over the forest, the Mari’s karts are generating opposition. State prosecutors have used religious and ethnic hatred laws to silence them and ban their publications. ‘A Priest speaks’, written by Mari kart Vitaly Tanakov, claims that ‘Morality has gone to seed, there is no pity, charity, [or] mutual aid.’ Continuing that Christians and Muslims ‘have lost harmony between the individual and the people.’ This  allegation, apparently stirring up religious hatred, led to 120 hours of hard labour for its author. Their protests, grounded in their religious convictions,  have a political dimension that seeks tp underline their ethnic and historic distinctiveness. It remains to be seen whether the vision of a multi-religious Russia, espoused by both Putin and Medvedev, is evidenced by the responses of the authorities to the Mari claims.

It also raises significant questions for Christian mission and ministry within and among the Mari, at a time of rising ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Longer term Christian work in these areas may have to take greater account of the use of the Finno-Ugric languages spoken among the Mari, the particularities of Mari culture, will need to acknowledge the importance of the claims to the proper care of natural resources, and also respond wisely to allegations that Christians are guilty of a loss of harmony between individual and people.