The island of Rujan on the Baltic Sea was one of the most important religious centres of the Old Slavs. Its inhabitants were well-known for their dogged perseverance with their old religion, refusing to convert to Christianity. On the island of Rujan, there were temples dedicated to Svetovid, Rudjevid, Peorevid and Porenucije, but apart from these gods, another god of an unusual name is mentioned – Podaga. It is not yet determined whether this god had his own temple, or his picture, like the picture of Svarozic, was in a temple of another god. Since the written sources do not mention the exact location of the picture, we are unable to draw any conclusion concerning the problem of Podaga's role – whether he had any special functions, or he was just one of the manifestations of a Slavic god. For that reason, we will, in our analysis of Podaga's nature, concentrate on the limited data based on a Helmold's text and on the etymological analysis of Podaga's name.
Of all the chroniclers that dealt with life and religion of the Old Slavs, only Helmold mentions this deity. He also refers to Podaga as Pion, and the text in its entirety says: "The Slavs have various forms of superstition. Idols of some of their gods are in their temples, like the statue of Pion, also called Podaga..." The excerpt from Helmold's work is therefore the only historical piece of information that we have on this god. What can we learn about Podaga in this way? Nothing apart from the fact that the Slavs used to worship a deity of that name and that the statue or the picture of him was placed in a Rujan temple. Consequently, all further analysis has to be reduced to etymological study of Podaga's name. Maretic, the researcher, identifies the name Podaga with the name Budigoj, since the latter is frequently mentioned in the Slavic languages. Since this conclusion is not thoroughly explained, we will only mention how Maretic interprets the name Budigoj, that is allegedly the same as the name Podaga. Budigoj is seen as the god of wakefulness (budan = "awake"), that is, the god of the awakened life. Louis Legé and Spasoje Vasiljev rightfully challenged this conclusion. Legé thought that the name Podaga was a consequence of sound metathesis, and that its original form was Pogoda. His theory can be supported by facts. A Polish historian named Dlugos mentioned a female deity whose name was Pogoda. Goddess Pogoda was, according to Dlugos, the goddess of temperature. Accepting Legé's theory about the existence of a deity named Pogoda, Spasoje Vasiljev performed the following etymological analysis: according to him, the name Podaga is a compound consisting of two words – the preposition po and the root god, that is related to time or to a certain period of time. The root god can be found in Serbian word godina (="year"), also used by the Croats, the Bosnians, the Macedonians, etc. Vasiljev therefore thinks that Pogoda was a deity related to a certain period of time, a kind of a deadline or time limit, or a period by the end of which something had to be performed. Since our ancestors were primarily focused on agriculture and since they organised their lives in accordance with the natural fertility cycles, Pogoda was, according to Vasiljev, connected with field work, hunting and fishing. All of these activities depend on the natural cycles, like seeds' germination, growth and ripening, or the cycles of animal life based on the periods of mating, procreation, migration, etc. The verb pogoditi (= "to guess") is also related to Pogoda's name, which is why we can bring this god in connection with the ability to guess the right time to sow, reap, hunt. This verb is also related to hunting, since hunting implies shooting and hitting animals with arrows, spears, harpoons, or bullets (gadjati = "to shoot", pogadjati = "to hit"). Gods of hunting frequently appear in various mythological systems of ancient Europe – there are Greek Artemis and Roman Diana – both were goddesses of hunting. There is also Uler, Nordic god of hunting and archery, Finnish Horagalis, etc. Apart from that, Pogoda could also have been a deity quite similar to Greek Chronos, but none of the interpretations given above is based upon historical facts, and we cannot rely on them in our analysis of Slavic mythology.
by Vesna Kakasevski
translated by Snježana Todorović