8 Responses

  1. FMH
    FMH at |

    What? No Henry II and Cunigunde?

    One might add that Jadwiga (and her kingdom) was also the reason for her future husband, Jogaila to convert to Christianity. This put an end to the last refuge of paganism in central Euorpe (in the 14th century, mind you!). The funny thing is, that we have almost zero non-anecdotal knowledge about how this pagan religion was struktured. We have some names of gods and what they were for, but that’s about it.

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    1. Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS
      Dr. Matthew D. Zarzeczny, FINS at |

      Hello! I left them out because I was also considering preparing a separate list of imperial saints. Because Henry II was a Holy Roman Emperor and his wife wife was an empress consort, I was saving them for that list along with the Romanovs and some other Romans, Byzantines, etc. I appreciate the suggestion, though! 🙂

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      1. FMH
        FMH at |

        Ah very good. I was just a little disappointed, since I lived in Bamberg, where they have been buried for a long time. The even had the gold framed skulls on display some years. I could only think that either, contrary to historical knowledge, Cunigunde died at the age of twelve or someone misplaced her skull and took just any replacement out of the crypt.

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    2. grt
      grt at |

      I have to disagree here, we do have more than a few names of gods. Of course the monks and priests distorted the chronicles and tried to erase every references on pagan cults, but we have a huge collection of dainas as well as a lot of legends, stories and folk traditions. (Etymology , linguistic reconstruction and comparative mythology are always there as well.) Yes, we do not have aa epic prose like the edda or the vedes but I would say there is quite a lot of material on the pre-christian balts.

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      1. FMH
        FMH at |

        The problem with these sources is that they were written down in a time long after paganism was gone, mainly in the 19th century. They are based the mythologic school of folklore, something which is seen more or less as pesudo-science today. There is quite a lot of material, but there is no way to proof that this material is anything else than the imagination of scholars. At the time this way of “research” was popular all over Europe, especially in countries that were just escaping foreign rule. It was a way of building a distinct own history.
        Folk traditions are an awful way of getting knowledge about pre-christian times, simply because they are very prone to change over the time. Others might seem “pagan”, but may come directly from Christian practices. Take practice in some parts of Estonia, where people have meals of the graves of their relatives. This has often been seen as some kind of left-over pagan sacrifice ritual. The problem is that archaeological evidence (animal bones, cups, plates and so on) shows that this practice developed well after Christianity took hold. The same goes for grave funiture. (See Heiki Valk on that subject if you are interested)
        I once wrote a term paper on the Christianization in the Baltic and I have to say that many modern Baltic folklorists agree with this view. People employed in tourism, media and amateur folklorists however tend to proclaim the view of continuity on the other hand. This is very similar to the situation in Germany for example (where we even have _less_ knowledge about pagan practices). There was and is an awful lot of “reverse-engineering” going on, where stories are made up to fit archaeological evidence.
        All in all you can summarize it like this: There are stories, but most of them seem to be much later creations, inspired by nationalistic ideas in folklore that were popular in many other coutries in the 19th century. Distinct Baltic folk traditions mainly developed in the time _after_ or during the Christianization. Many of them might well be a defense reaction from paganism against Christianity, but this doesn’t change the fact that they were new inventions, different from the pagan practices before Christianity arrived.
        Even if you have good knowledge that a story is actually from pagan times, it’s still up to the scholar to do the interpretation, which goes out of hand very quickly.
        Another problem is, that most pagan societies probably didn’t have a fixed pantheon and common ways of worshiping among themselves. This might have been quite different from community to community. If you compare it to Norse mythology you could say that we today have absolutely no idea about the pagan traditions in Scandinavia – since we only have some Christian retellings of Icelandic pagan myths. There could be worlds between Iceland and Skandinavia.

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        1. grt
          grt at |

          Wow, thank you for this great answer!
          While I agree with you, I think we just have different expectations on the material that we have. The folklorism you mentioned might have reached its peak with the invention of Romuva or Dievturiba which are nothing ancient after all, even if they claim it. We both agree that this has nothing to do with scientific research. I just repeated it to make it clear 🙂
          But I still think we cannot disregard ANY material we have. Even if traditions changed, they are worth checking if there is something valuable in them. But of course we cannot ground the whole research on folklore, I never wanted to say that! After all, this is a field where ethnologists, archaeologists and linguists have to work together. The dainas are very interesting and there is still a lot of work to do.
          The problem with written sources, well, isn’t it always like that? And still, it is possible to reconstruct a lot. I think it’s a little bit too hard to say we don’t have any clue. We have! I’m not talking about detailed ceremonies here, but it is possible to find numerous parallels to other traditions, basic motives and concepts. For me, this is exciting enough.

  2. Kenny
    Kenny at |

    These are really fascinating. I’ve never heard of most of these before.

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  3. Ryan Kidd
    Ryan Kidd at |

    I’ll have to admit that I did not know a majority of these Saints. I found interest in St. Alfred the Great though, I thought Oxford was founded by someone else!

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