July 01, 2016

Ilya's Day

The ancient Slavs worshiped many gods, but perhaps the most revered was Perun, god of thunder and lightning. When Prince Vladimir came to power in Kiev in 980 he decided that all the gods worshiped by his subjects should “support” him. He erected statues of them outside his palace that overlooked the Dnieper. Among them was a wooden statue of the thundering Perun, with hair of silver and whiskers of gold.

Eight years later, Vladimir adopted Christianity. According to the Primary Chronicle, he immediately ordered that all these “idols” be cast into the Dnieper. Perun was, furthermore, to be thrashed, “not because [Vladimir] thought the wood could feel anything, but to desecrate the demon who had deceived men in this guise.”

But the people were in no hurry to forget this ancient god. For many years a phenomenon that scholars have labeled dvoyeveriye (dual faith) existed in Rus, whereby professed Christians continued to perform many pagan rites and worship pagan gods.

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