Marija Gimbutas: Old Europe, Goddesses and Gods, and the Transformation of Culture

Figure 1. Marija Gimbutas with Franklin Murphy (left) and Lloyd Cotsen (right) at a celebration honoring these two key supporters of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. Cotsen Institute Photographic Archive.IN THE FALL OF 1965, UCLA Extension offered a lecture course called “The Ancient World before the Greeks,” with an optional field trip to Greece, Turkey, and Israel. Marija Gimbutas, a new professor in the Department of Indo-European Studies, was very much involved. I took that class and it rearranged my life.

On our last night on Crete, after visiting dozens of sites, the field trip participants formed the Friends of Archaeology, at the suggestion of Marija and surely encouraged by the plentiful ouzo. With much enthu- siasm, the group elected Sandy, my late husband, as president of what is now UCLA’s oldest active support group, although he clearly announced that he could be only a figurehead.

Vikings in the East: Scandinavian Influence in Kievan Rus

Vikings in the East: Scandinavian Influence in Kievan RusThe Vikings, referred to as Varangians in Eastern Europe, were known throughout Europe as traders and raiders, and perhaps the creators or instigators of the first organized Russian state: Kievan Rus. It is the intention of this paper to explore the evidence of the Viking or Varangian presence in Kievan Rus, more specifically the areas that are now the Ukraine and Western Russia. There is not an argument over whether the Vikings were present in the region, but rather over the effect their presence had on the native Slavic people and their government. This paper will explore and explain the research of several scholars, who generally ascribe to one of the rival Norman and Anti- Norman Theories, as well as looking at the evidence that appears in the Russian Primary Chronicle, some of the laws in place in the eleventh century, and two of the Icelandic Sagas that take place in modern Russia.

‘The gleaming mane of the serpent’: the Birka dragonhead from Black Earth Harbour

‘The gleaming mane of the serpent’: the Birka dragonhead from Black Earth HarbourAbstract

The ‘Birka dragon’ symbol is synonymous with the famous Viking Age town of that name, an association born from the 1887 discovery of a casting mould depicting a dragonhead. Recent excavations in Black Earth Harbour at Birka have yielded a dress pin that can, almost 150 years later, be directly linked to this mould. This artefact introduces a unique ‘Birka style’ to the small corpus of known Viking Age dragonhead dress pins. The authors discuss and explore the artefact's manufacture, function and chronology, and its connections to ship figureheads.

Rites of Slavic paganism

warha eu 01The unity and integrity of a nation and a tribe is most dependent on the uniformity of the norms of behavior, the perception of the general picture of the world and its individual elements, the presence of shared memories. For each ethnic culture there are different ideas about the degree of importance of each component, but if any of the above is missing, society and ethnicity may be doomed to collapse.

Our Ancestors were characterized by two types of behavior: everyday (in the intervals between significant events) and ceremonial (dedicated to a particular event).

Solar symbol of well-being and prosperity

Solar symbol of well-being and prosperityThe swastika (as a character 卐 or 卍) is a geometrical figure and an ancient religious icon from the cultures of Eurasia, where it has been and remains a symbol of divinity and spirituality in native European religions, Indian religions, Chinese religions, Mongolian and Siberian shamanisms.[1] According to René Guénon, the swastika represents the north pole, the center and the axle of the world, the activity of the absolute God of the universe shaping the world. The symbol is drawn either in the stars around the celestial north pole (the Big Dipper) or in the stars around the ecliptic north pole (Draco). In the Western world, it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck, the Sun and Indo-European peoples; but in the 1930s, it became the main feature of Nazi symbolism as an emblem of Aryan race identity and, as a result, become stigmatized in the West by association with ideas of racism and antisemitism.

Heathenry (new religious movement)

Heathenry (new religious movement)Heathenry, also termed Heathenism or Germanic Neopaganism, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religious studies classify Heathenry as a new religious movement. Its practitioners model their faith on the pre- Christian belief systems adhered to by the Germanic peoples of Iron Age and Early Medieval Europe. To reconstruct these past belief systems, Heathenry uses surviving historical, archaeological, and folkloric evidence as a basis, although approaches to this material vary considerably.

Eariy slavs in the southwest baltic region: initial investigations in dobropole pyrzyckie (Poland)

Eariy slavs in the southwest baltic region: initial investigations in dobropole pyrzyckie (Poland) Sebastian Messal, Bartłomiej Rogalski


Important but up to now more or less unsolved questions of early Medieval archaeology focus on the date and the process of Slavonisation in the southwest Baltic area. The state of knowledge in various regions of northeast Germany and Poland lead to partly different research reviews, which in some cases even expressed opposing opinions. There are only a few absolute dates available indicating that the beginning of the Slavonic settlement can be dated to the late seventh and early eighth centuries, but how this process of slavonisation can be explained is still unknown. Did a new Slavonic community migrate into a devastated landscape, or was there a change of identity into a Slavonic way of life connected with continuous Germanic settlement?

Russian neopagans move their faith from the fringes

The burning of a ritual dummy on the Kupalo holiday. It symbolizes the death and rebirth of the sun. (Pavel Volkov)For centuries, Russia’s pagans practiced their faith on the fringes. But lately, the community of rodnovers, or neopagans, is growing — and finding a home in the country’s biggest cities.

Russia’s first pagans were largely wiped out by the Russian Christian church 1,000 years ago. But a modern iteration of the movement was reborn during the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The collapse of the communist system in Eastern Europe enabled the few small Pagan movements in the region to surface in the public sphere,” political scientist Kaarina Aitamurto wrote in the journal E-International Relations. “At the beginning of the 1990s, they gained momentum in virtually all ex-socialist countries.”

Followers say their polytheistic faith honors Russia’s Slavic roots and allows them to maintain a distinct national identity. Today, there are thousands of self-described rodnovers in Siberia, Volga, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The group defines its faith loosely, pulling traditions and beliefs from ancient Slavic tribes. Though customs vary from place to place, many rodnovers celebrate the “solar holidays” that mark the change of the season by dressing in costume and performing short plays. At some ceremonies, there are sacrifices, dances and communal meals. Rodnovers often worship in Slavic-style temples that feature images of the gods.

Ethnic nationalism

Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethno-nationalism, is a form of nationalism wherein the nation is defined in terms of ethnicity.

The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that «nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry». It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, and with their ancestors. However, it is different from a purely cultural definition of «the nation», which allows people to become members of a nation by cultural assimilation; and from a purely linguistic definition, according to which «the nation» consists of all speakers of a specific language.

The Church against neo-paganism

The Church against neo-paganismHierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and representatives of the secular structure of the Holy Synod are paying closer attention to the spread of neo-paganism in Russia

Neo-paganism in the post-Soviet space

Rodnoverie (the Slavic native faith) refers to a characteristic variety of neo-paganism, typical of Russia, aimed at the reconstruction of pre-Christian beliefs of ancient Slavs. Rodnovers reject Christianity which, in their view, was imposed on the ancient Rus’, and worship Slavic gods traceable today only thanks to data provided by historians and archeologists. Despite their small number (several tens of thousands, according to researchers), Rodnovers, who widely celebrate the respective holidays, are firmly established on the religious map of Russia.


Peryn (pronunciation Perуn, Russian Перынь)Peryn (pronunciation Perуn, Russian Перынь) is a peninsula near Veliky Novgorod (Russia), noted for its medieval pagan shrine complex, and for its later well-preserved monastery.

The Peryn peninsula is at the confluence of Lake Ilmen and the River Volhov, 6km (04miles) south of the city of Veliky Novgorod. In the Dark Ages, the city was developed not far from Peryn, at Ruerikovo Gorodische also known as Holmgård, but its business and social activities were later moved to form today's city center. The area south of Novgorod, including Peryn, is therefore considered part of the historic surroundings of Veliky Novgorod.

Historically, Peryn was an island formed by the River Volkhov and two small rivers called Rakomka and Prost. It could only be reached by boat. The conditions changed significantly after a dam was constructed in the 1960s to provide access for vehicles. After the 1960s Peryn looked like a peninsula but now it looks more like a hill which only becomes a peninsula when floods arrive in the spring.


SlavsSlavs are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group, who speak various Slavic languages of the Balto-Slavic language group. They are native to Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Southeastern Europe, Northeastern Europe, North Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. From the early VI century they spread to inhabit most of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe.


JariloJarylo (Cyrillic: Ярило or Ярила; Polish: Jaryło; Croatian: Jura or Juraj; Serbian: Јарило; Slavic: Jarovit), Jaryla (Belarusian: Ярыла), alternatively Yarylo, Iarilo, or Gerovit, is a Slavic god of vegetation, fertility and springtime.
The Slavic root jar or yar means spring or summer or strong.
The only historic source that mentions this deity is a 12th-century biography of the proselytizing German bishop Otto of Bamberg, who, during his expeditions to convert the pagan tribes of Wendish and Polabian Slavs, encountered festivals in honor of the war-god Gerovit in the cities of Wolgast and Havelberg. Gerovit is most likely a German corruption of the original Slavic name Jarovit.


VelesCyrillic Serbian: Велес;
Polish: Weles; Велес;
Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian: Veles;
Ruthenian and Old Church Slavonic: Велесъ;
Belarusian: Вялес (''Vialies'')), also known as Volos (Russian: Волос, listed as a Christian saint in Old Russian texts), is a major Slavic god of earth, waters, forests and the underworld.
His attributes are wet, wooly, hairy (bearded), dark and he is associated with cattle, the harvest, wealth, music, magic and trickery. Believed to be related to the Indo-European deity of Mitra, as well as Norse deity of Loki. According to reconstruction by some researchers he is the opponent of the Supreme thunder-god Perun. As such he probably has been imagined as a dragon, which in the belief of the pagan Slavs is a chimeric being, a serpent with a bear's head and drooping hairy ears.
His tree is the willow, like god Perun's tree is the oak. No direct accounts survive, but reconstructions speculate that he may directly continue aspects of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon.

The «Veda Slovena» mystery

The «Veda Slovena» mysteryIn 1874 in Belgrade, and in 1881 in St. Petersburg, the two volumes of "Veda Slovena" were published - "Bulgarian folk songs of the pre-historical and pre-Christian age". Compiled by the Bosnian Serb Stephen Verkovich, "Veda Slovena" created a furore among the scholarly world ranging from Russia to France, and went down in history as the biggest folklore mystery, the debates over which are still going on.


KoleduvaneKoliada or koleda (Cyrillic: коляда, коледа, колада, коледе) is an ancient pre-Christian Slavic winter festival. It was later incorporated into Christmas.
The word is still used in modern Ukrainian ("Коляда", Kolyadá), Belarusian (Каляда, Kalada, Kalyada), Russian (Коляда, Kolyada), Polish (Szczodre Gody kolęda), Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian (Коледа, Коледе) Lithuanian (Kalėdos, Kalėda) and Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Slovak, Slovene (koleda). The word used in Old Church Slavonic language (Колѧда) sounds closest to the current Polish language pronunciation, as Polish is the only Slavic language which retains the nasal vowels of the Proto-Slavic language. One theory states that Koliada is the name of a cycle of winter rituals stemming from the ancient calendae.


 MorenaMarzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Morana (in Czech, Bulgarian, Slovene, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian),or Morena (in Slovak and Macedonian), Maslenitsa (in Russia)and also Mara (in Belarusian and Ukrainian), Maržena, Moréna, Mora or Marmora is a Baltic and Slavic goddess associated with seasonal rites based on the idea of death and rebirth of nature. She is an ancient goddess associated with winter's death and rebirth and dreams. In Slavic rites the death of the Goddess Marzanna at the end winter, becomes the rebirth of Spring of the Goddess Kostroma (Russian), Lada, Vesna representing the coming of Spring.


MokoshMokosh (Мокошь) is a Slavic goddess mentioned in the Primary Chronicle, protector of women's work and women's destiny. She watches over spinning and weaving, shearing of sheep, and protects women in child birth. Mokosh is the Great Mother, Mat Zemlya.

Mokosh was the only female deity whose idol was erected by Vladimir the Great in his Kiev sanctuary along with statues of other major gods (Perun, Hors, Dazbog, Stribog, and Simargl).


Rod is a Slavic deityRod (Polish, Slovenian, Croatian: Rod, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian Cyrillic: Род, Ukrainian: Рід) is a Slavic deity, often mentioned in the Old Church Slavonic didactic literature which was directed against pagans.

Rod is usually accompanied by Rozhanitsy (singular rozhanitsa), female deities or demigodesses who are his companions. The name «Rod», as well as the word «rozhanitsa», is derived from the Common Slavonic root meaning «birth», «origin», «kin» (compare Greekgenesis and its cognates, such as genealogy). In modern Russian, the word «rod» means «kin», and «rozhenitsa» is «a woman in childbirth».


PerunIn Slavic mythology, Perun (Cyrillic: Перун) is the highest God of the pantheon and the God of thunder and lightning. His other attributes were fire, mountains, wind, the oak, iris, eagle, firmament (in Indo-European languages, this was joined with the notion of the sky of stone), horses and carts, weapons (the hammer, axe (Axe of Perun), and arrow), and war. He was first associated with weapons made of stone and later with those of metal.
Perun is described as a rugged man with a copper beard. He rides in a chariot pulled by a goat buck and carries a mighty axe, or sometimes a hammer. The axe is hurled at evil people and spirits and will always return to his hand.

Summer Solstice Traditions

Summer Solstice TraditionsFor many bygone civilizations, the summer solstice - the longest day of the year - was endowed with great significance. People celebrated this special day, which falls in June in the northern hemisphere and is also known as midsummer, with festivals, celebrations and other observances, some of which still survive or have experienced a revival in modern times.
Though a connection between the Celtic high priests and England's Stonehenge has never been reliably established, many people who identify as modern-day Druids still gather at the mighty monument every midsummer.