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Dazbog, Dazdbog, Dabog, Dajbog

Dazbog - Ana Milojković Omi
Dazbog was a god of the Sun, flame and rain. Dazbog was also considered to be a giver-god, because one of his names was Dajbog. The first part of the name is “daj” – a form of the verb to give, while the second part “bog” means god. But what did Dazbog actually give? It is possible that giving refers the Sun and sunlight which is essential for many natural processes. The Sun was also very important to the Slavs. It was the source of life and was always considered to be a positive force. The Sun gave life to the Earth, and the god who gave it was therefore Dajbog. Dazbog actually stands for the Sun disc.
            In all surviving medieval texts concerning the Slavs, Dazbog is always mentioned at some point. His name was written down by Roman, Greek and Russian chroniclers who wrote about old Slavic creed. Helios from Greek texts was translated into Slavic as Dazbog. In the Malalin manuscript dating from the 6th century Helios was also translated as Dazbog. The Russian translator tried to tell a story set in Egypt, but he substituted Greek gods for Slavic. Dazbog is also mentioned in the Spanish Code, an epic telling about Igor’s quest and many other things. Vladimir the Great put statues of seven gods in front of his palace in Kiev, and among them was Dazbog’s statue.
            To a family he was a protector of the house’s fireplace and its fire, man’s basic necessity for survival during the winter, and an indispensable help in performing everyday work. But flames could be cruel and turn against men, and take them to the underworld or destroy their property. Flames’ benevolence was crucial to survival, and many rituals were therefore related to them.
            Dazbog was definitely the god of rain, too. One of his names was Dazdbog, and “dazd” in many Slavic languages means rain (Slovak, Czech, Russian, Polish…). The rain was important because harvests depended upon it. In times of drought many rain invoking rituals were performed.
            We know that the Slavs addressed their gods as their equals and that they considered themselves gods’ descendants. To be more precise, they thought of themselves as Dazbog’s grandchildren, or his lineal descendants. Due to a short lifespan, it was uncommon in those times that grandchildren should meet their grandfather.
            Dazbog was one of Svarog’s sons. It is not certain how many sons Svarog had, but Dazbog was almost beyond doubt one of them. Some authors mention only two – Svarozic and Dazbog (Vyacheslav Vsevolodovi and Vladimir Toporov), while others mention Perun, Svetovid, Dazbog and Veles as Svarog’s sons, and they refer to all of them as a group - “svarozici” (little Svarogs). Be that as it may, Dazbog appears in every combination.
            During the day, the Sun was in the sky giving out light, while at night it was in the underworld. Actually, every morning Dazbog would set out on the journey across the sky riding a white horse or riding in a carriage, and in the evening he died or went to the world of the dead, only to come to life again next morning. We can notice in Dazbog the cycle of dying and rebirth that is frequently found in many pagan creeds, including Slavic paganism. The Serbs mention Dazbog, and folklore preserved a lame Daba, who was almost always presented as an evil spirit, which probably indicates Dazbog’s nature when being a part of the underworld, that is the world of the dead. The Serbs more than any other people imagined Dazbog as a lame old man, dressed in animal skins, usually bear skin, accompanied by a wolf. The wolf actually stands for his animal incarnation, or his primary shape that did not cease to exist after Dazbog turned anthropomorphic. The wolf became a servant, and often a messenger as well. Although his basic form was anthropomorphic, Dazbog frequently changed his shape, and his earliest wolf form remained his symbol. As the Serbs considered themselves his descendants, the wolf became a sacred animal. In one catalogue of peoples, it is recorded that the Serbs were descendants of the wolf. “Saracen is descended from the boar, Turk from the snake, Tatar from the hound, Serb from the wolf, Bulgarian from the bull, Aleman from the eagle…
            The belief in the power of the Sun was extremely strong among the Slavs. Cajkanovic claims that Dazbog was the supreme god of the Serbs. This is supported by the fact that a Slavic festivity dedicated to the invincible Sun coincides with Christmas Day. Since this holiday was impossible to uproot, it was simply substituted by a similarly important Christian one.
            Upon conversion to Christianity demonic characteristics were attributed to Dazbog. He became the most powerful of the demons and the main opponent of the Christian God. This was possibly due to his appearance of a lame one-eyed old man, dressed in dark bear skin, dwelling in the underworld quite often. We can however opt for the possibility that this was due to the power of Dazbog’s cult that was to be eliminated at all costs. Dazbog’s characteristics were later in Christianity transferred to St Sava, who was also presented in folk tales as a shepherd followed by a wolf. St Sava is also a giver in those tales.

 

by Nikola Milošević

translation by Snježana Todorović