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Belobog (Belbog, Belun)

Belobog is a deity whose historical existence was, and still is, a subject of numerous debates. Belobog, which, translated into English, means White god, is imagined as a counterpart to Crnobog, or Černobog (Black god) and as such represents the light deity of good essentially opposed to the deity of evil. The first thing that a connoisseur of pagan religions will ask is: how come there is such a division into black and white, good and evil in paganism? It is, indeed, a proper question. This division appeared only with the acceptance of Christianity which is why Belobog is substantially considered to be a product of Judeo-Christian religion mixed, by the common people, with their old religion. Spasoje Vasiljev is of an opinion that Belobog was constructed in order to represent the opposite of Crnobog, and many others think the alike. On the other hand, Belobog is not that much present in the Mythology of the Southern Slavs, but he is often mentioned among the Western and the Baltic Slavs. This fact can explain why Belobog seems so strange to us. But, is it really only the influence of Christianity that is  the matter, or must the occurrence of Belobog be sought in a much earlier age? According to the theory of Peter Kotka, the Slavs accepted Belobog in the period when they lived in the Persian neighbourhood (8th – 2nd c. BC). As we know, the Persian religion was dualist in its nature, thus two opposed forces – Ormuzd and Ahriman ruled the Persian universe. The Slavic Belobog would thus correspond Ormuzd, though he was never on such a high place with the Slavs. Furthermore, Kotka presented a Slavic myth in which two opposed forces, just like those mentioned above, were responsible for the creation of the Slavic world, and the forces, of course, were Belobog and Crnobog. Both of these forces were necessary for the creation of the universe, which is, indeed, a principle that could have been taken from the Persians. However, this myth should not be taken for granted since there is a quite different myth about the creation of the universe, and the myth is about a god Rod who created the cosmos from a huge egg.
However you look at it, the impression that Belobog is more of an abstract principle than a typical anthropomorphic deity stays, which can be seen in the way it was represented by the Slavs. Well, how was this deity represented? The Slavs imagined Belobog as an old man with a long white beard, dressed exclusively in white. As such, he would appear only during the daylight, doing good deeds as he went and bringing people success and happiness. Belobog helped many peasants to finish hard work in the field and he showed many strayed travellers the way out of a thick forest. The general impression of whiteness, light and positivity made him an abstract deity, completely different from other gods. This is why he is more likely the very principle of light and goodness wrapped in the form of an anthropomorphic deity, than a god pagans would otherwise bow to.
Whether it is an abstract principle, or a manifestation of the supreme god (Ormuzd or Cristian Yahweh), the appearence of Belobog in the Slavic mythology should by no means be ignored. Certain data about the notion of him with the Slavs can be found through the analysis of the name of this deity. Belobog's name reminds us a lot of the names of gods of other pantheons: Baldur, Belunos, Baal etc. All these deities are also of a light and solar nature since their names contain the same root (bal means something light and bright). The very occurrence of Baldur in the Nordic mythology is parellel to the occurrence of Belobog in the Slavic – both seem a bit of a foreign body in their systems, by being different in every posible way from other gods and by making their appearence seem extremely mysterious.  The same rules were applied both to Baldur and Belobog, Baldur was considered to be a Christian creation,wherefore he was even named Hvit Christ, i.e. White Christ. As far as the Serbs are concerned, Belobog's name has, up to now, remained with the people who use it to denote a deity, which can be seen in an old saying “he ate the white god”, used to show that somebody ate very much, i.e. that he ate everything there was to be eaten.

 

Vesna Kakaševski

translated by Jelena Salipurović