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Slavic Myth in Music

1. Introduction
The aim of my work is to examine how different genres of music portray Slavic myth and
what atmosphere they try to evoke. I will research through the work of several Polish musicians and
their projects that contain refererces to Slavic religion and culture, namely: Behemoth and their
album Grom and Percival and Donatan's album Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza. I will analyse the
tracks on the albums and their portrayal of Slavic myth, as well as the reception of the songs. I will
try to determine whether the artists' visions are connected with Slavic paganism as a religion or with
Slavism as a cultural phenomenon.

2. Slavic paganism or Slavism?


I will start with explaining the terms Slavic paganism and Slavicism that I will be using in
my work. According to the Encyclopedia of the Free Dictionary, Slavic paganism can be defined as:
a polytheistic religion that was practised by the Slavs before Christianisation. The religion possesses
many common traits with other religions descended from the Proto-Indo-European religion. Old Slavic
religion evolved over more than a thousand years and some parts of it were from neolithic or possibly even
mesolithic times. The Earth was worshipped as Mat Zemlya and there were no temples. Rituals were
performed in nature. (Internet source 1)

Ancient Slavic civilization can be characterised as one having great respect for tradition. Slavs
believed that the world had been created once and people should not change the way they lived
(Internet source 9). As for the cosmology, they knew the concept of the World Tree, on which the
three levels of the world were constructed: the realm of heavenly deities and celestial bodies in the
tree's crown, the realm of mortals in its trunk, and the realm of the dead in its roots. Horizontally,
the world of deities and humans was encircled by a sea. Across the sea laid the land of the dead.
There were also four wind directions: north, east, south and west. This image of the world was
typical among speakers of Indo-European languages (Internet source 1).
Slavs worshipped a wide range of deities and each tribe had its own pantheon. Nevertheless,
a common pantheon has been established by scholars. Most of the tribes worshipped Perun, by
some referred to as the supreme god (however, there are theories about the supreme deity being Rod
or Svarog), who is a heavenly god of thunder and lightning, fiery and dry, who rules the living

world from his citadel high above, located on the top of the highest branch of the World Tree. He is
always accompanied by Veles, god of waters, earth and the underworld. After a cosmic battle Perun
banished Veles to the underworld. Slavic belief was that during a storm the two gods fought. Other
deities were: Jarilo, vegetation and spring god, and Morana, the goddess of winter and death. They
were both Perun's children, but Jarilo was raised by Veles in the underworld. The image of another
god, Svarog (also Svaroi, Dabog) varies through different tribes. In some traditions he is
perceived as one god, in the others these are two or three different gods, commonly connected with
fire and sun. Svantevit and Triglav were the two gods present in all tribal beliefs, although their
position in the pantheon is now unclear (Internet source 1).
Apart from gods, there were a number of supernatural creatures that the Slavs believed in
and worshipped. Those were demons that mediated between nature and people. The Slavs made
small sacrifices and gave gifts to the demons to appease them. As those customs connected with
pleasing the demons were everyday activities inside the family, Christianity did not manage to weed
them out. As a result, knowledge about those creatures is easier to reconstruct than the pantheon.
Demons which originated in nature occupied five spheres, connected with people's lives: air, forest,
body of water, field, household. There were also demons that were spirits of people, especially
those who were born at certain time of the year or died in certain conditions, e.g. from drowning.
The demons could be good or bad, they protected or harmed people. (Szyjewski 2003: 157170).
As Slavic paganism was not uniform and passed orally, there are not very many sources left.
Therefore, the religion is hard to reconstruct. Still for the last few decades it has gained popularity
and new followers appeared. The movement is now referred to as Slavic neopaganism or Slavic
native faith. In Poland there are a few religious organisations connecting the followers, among them
Rodzima Wiara and Rodzimy Koci Polski. Both are officially registered. Contemporary Slavic
paganism aims at reconstructing the faith and rituals but does not reject creative reconstruction.
The other term I will be using is Slavism. According to Collins Dictionary it is anything
characteristic of, peculiar to, or associated with the Slavs or the Slavonic languages (Internet
source 3). The American Heritage Dictionary has it that Slavism is 1. A linguistic feature of one or
more Slavic languages, especially a Slavic idiom or phrasing that appears in a non-Slavic language.
2.

An attitude, custom, or other feature that is characteristically Slavic. 3. Esteem for and emulation

of Slavic culture and politics (Internet source 2). As a cultural phenomenon, it can be described as
simply identifying oneself with being of Slavic origin an taking pride in that. This identification
with Slavic culture among the Polish manifests itself in growing popularity of folklore, using ethnic
patterns in fashion, cultivating customs. It does not necessarily mean following Slavic religion.

3. Slavic Myth in Music


3.1. Behemoth, Grom
Behemoth is a Polish band formed in 1991 in Gdask (Internet source 4). Its current
members are: Adam "Nergal" Darski, the band's leader, Zbigniew "Inferno" Promiski, Tomasz
"Orion" Wrblewski and Patryk "Seth" Sztyber (Internet source 10) . Until the late 1990s the band
played black metal which then evolved into blackened death metal. Behemoth's first two albums,
Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) from 1995 and Grom from 1996 contain pagan themes; their
later works turn to occult and Thelema (Internet source 4). The band has gained popularity mainly
outside the borders of Poland.
In my analysis I will focus on Behemoth's second album. Grom was released on 2nd of
January 1996 by Solistitium Records. It consists of seven tracks and an instrumental intro. The
authors of the texts are Adam Darski (The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell), Spellcraft and
Heathendom, Lasy Pomorza, Thou Shalt Forever Win, Grom) and Adam Muraszko
(Dragon's Lair (Cosmic Flames and Four Barbaric Seasons), Rising Proudly Towards the Sky)
(Internet source 5). Connection to Slavic paganism is made clear in the very first song:
Spirits of their own nature fight proudly
Live by my side, feed young heart of mine
But I cannot ever see them
[The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell) (all lyrics by Behemoth: Internet source 5)]
We see that the author's attitude is full of respect and love for nature which is a great power
taking care of people. In the song lyrics nature is shown as full of beauty and power. People who
respect nature and follow their native faith can win the spirits' goodwill:
I've met in surrounding me nature
Spirits and deities wielding the element,
In a field, in a forest, in rocks and caves
And I won their goodwill with sacrifices.
[Spellcraft and Heathendom]
Apart from respect for nature, there is also respect for the fatherland that, needless to say,
has originally been a pagan country. In fact the gods, particularly Perun, become identified with

fatherland:
Mijamy mile kolejne, by zdy do lasw,
Pod skrzydami nocy si schowa, jeszcze jeden bysk w ciemnoci,
Jak ojcowskie "dobranoc" ukada nas do snu...
Kiedy moc piorunw tnie niebiosa w ciepe letnie dni,
Zwracam swe oczy ku bogom,
Wspaniaej i potnej naturze,
Dzikujc za dar ukryty w byskw potdze.
[Lasy Pomorza]
The lyrics clearly refer to paganism in its roots, as in the song Lasy Pomorza, in which the author
evokes the times before Christianity was brought to Poland: Mamy rok dziewisetny.... Apart
from that there are clearly neopagan and anti-christian elements in the texts:
Pagan pride forever,
Born to die in honour, not to serve on knees
[Dragon's Liar]
Gods will return to their graces together with me
They'll find their oaken kingdoms as before
I free my powers when yelling silently
When I fight... thousands of demons, follow me !
() Rebuild what was ruined,
Destroy what was created by the cross
[Thou Shalt Forever Win]
In the last song in the album there is a call to return to native faith:
Grom niech bdzie Twym zwiastunem,
Brzaskiem imperium w chwale czekanego,
Dzwonem w pogaskie serca bitym,
Otarzem prawdy, dum oraz krwi okrytym.
Niech Grom zapowie Twe nadejcie,
Godzin zemsty, boskiej rozpaczy,
Nadejd nowe, potne czasy,

O sile Twej szumi pomorskie lasy...


Majestatycznie...
[Grom]
It is worth noticing that the songs contain specific items characteristic of Slavic beliefs,
among them: the World Tree, Percus (probably Perknas, Baltic god of thunder, related to Perun),
Nawia (referred to as the Underworld, Veles's realm), Strzyga (a demon). There is also reference to
dragons, sorcerers, equinox, wooden statues and other elements of Slavic culture and beliefs.
As for the reception, people seem to be choosing the album mainly because of the music
itself, not necessarily Slavic references. Nevertheless, there are commentaries criticizing the band's
choice to change the themes from Slavic paganism to Thelema in later albums. The whole album
has been played on a popular video-sharing website YouTube over 63 500 times in a period of two
years and nine months after the upload (Internet source 12).

3.2. Donatan & Percival, Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza


Witold Czamara, known as Donatan, is a Polish musician and music producer. He was born
in 1984 in Krakw and in 2002 he started working in music industry. Privately he is a follower of
native faith as he declared himself in an interview with Bartosz Janiszewski for Wprost magazine
(Internet source 6). Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza was Donatan's first album as a producer (Internet
source 8).
Instrumental parts on the album were played by Percival, a Polish folk metal band formed
in 1999 in Lubin. The members use traditional instruments along with contemporary ones. Their
music can be characterised as connecting authentic Slavic songs with modern sounds (Internet
source 7).
Several Polish rappers co-operated with Donatan and Percival in the project Rwnonoc.
Sowiaska Dusza. The album was released on the 26 th of October 2012 by UrbanRec. It gained
huge popularity before the premire and was very well-received. Connecting hip-hop and folk
music turned out to be a very catchy and successful mix and in 2013 the album received
Diamentowa Pyta for the best-sold album in Poland (Internet source 11).
The album contains sixteen tracks. It opens with an intro a piece of information about
Slavic people, their culture and religion read by a well-known Polish voice-over artist, Tomasz
Knapik:
Rnie nazywano nas na przestrzeni dziejw,

Skrawenami, Antami, Wenedami.


Mieszkalimy w osadach i wsplnotach plemiennych,
mwilimy podobnymi jzykami,
rozumiejc si nawzajem ().
Wierzylimy w tych samych bogw, ktrzy
objawiali si nam w dziaaniu adu natury
i cyklach pr roku.
In this very beginning of the album there is a reference to Catholicism:
Nie staralimy si
narzuca naszej wiary innym,
w przeciwiestwie do tych ktrzy swoj
wiar przynieli do nas na ostrzach mieczy,
kbach ognia i dymu (Internet source 23)
The text goes on to praise some of the Slavic people's characteristic features, such as strength,
wisdom, harmony, courage, beauty and temperament of the women, stressing that all those are still
present among Slavs. The YouTube commentaries to this intro are mainly opinions about the
Christianisation of Poland and its outcomes.
As for the song lyrics on the album, they vary significantly depending on who is the author
of the text. Very many artists contributed to the project, therefore the texts are not uniform.
Nevertheless, there are some common themes.
A theme present in every song is a Slav's nature which every person of Slavic ancestry
possesses. The Slav's features are pride, rebelliousness, combativeness and wrath:
Krew sowiaska pynie wartkim strumieniem
W tych, ktrzy umiowali t ziemi
Nasze plemi od zawsze walczy do koca
T si przekazujemy z dziada na ojca
[Ry23, Sowiaska Krew(Internet source 16)]
Synu znasz sowian? Dwa sowa
Gniew i duma, w nas oba
To moje serce, to nie gowa

Sowiaskim krajom daj tu respekt


To nie moda
[VNM, Sowianin (Internet source 13)]
Slavic temperament as well as the drinking culture of the Polish are also very common themes,
present in almost every song:
Ze sowiaskiej kultury w sobie mam sowiask krew
Wcale jej nie czuj, ale budzi czasem dziwny zew
I gdy wypij to robi si patetycznie, krzycz kocham, czy zabij
Przy czym szlocham albo wyj
[Pezet, Bud si (Internet source 20)]
In fact, one track in the album is entirely devoted to drinking alcohol, namely Pij wdk by
Jarecki and DJ BRK. What is worth noticing is that the song evokes an epic poem Pan Tadeusz by
Adam Mickiewicz:
Na ten czas Wojski chwyci za rg
[Jarecki, Pij wdk (Internet source 15)]
The one of Pan Tadeusz is not a solitary example, other rappers also make numerous references to
Polish culture and history, not necessarily from pre-Christian times:
Po co ta hucpa? wal houbca, nie stj
baw si, blaskiem maluje si nasza Polska
potoki bystre, koysane kosy owsa
wsta i ciesz si, ciesz si peni ycia
wr szerokoci jak sotys ze winiobicia
[Cira, Niech Obdarzy Niech Obrodzi (Internet source 21)]
Przez tysiclecia chcieli wyci w pie nas.
Pozostawi kraj bez bera, a miasta bez nas.
Chcieli grody, zamki, miasta puci z dymem
Lecz nie mieli woli walki i musieli zwrci imi.
Polska powsta z zaborw i licznych upokorze.

W czterdziestym pitym sen si zici, powiedz z dum to, e


Kiedy zetn sowiaskie drzewo, wyronie jutro nowe.
Bo by nas zniszczy, musieliby najpierw uci korze.
[Nullo, Z Dziada Pradziada (Internet source 19)]
The words sowianin and sowiaski appear in the songs very often. Sometimes they do
refer to Slavic people from before Christianity, but mainly they are used to bring up a certain image
of the contemporary Polish. At some point the texts make an attempt to explain what it means to be
a Pole in today's world:
Cauj ziemi przodkw
Tu po wrogach pozosta popi
Za plecami czuj bezkres betonowych blokw
To duma tak w oczach byszczy
Nie zostawiamy zwok bliskich na polu bitwy
[Pih, Bud si (Internet source 20)]
Good and bad sides of being Polish interlace in the texts and lead to one conclusion that
we should take pride in who we are and be as proud of our vices as we are of our virtues. In fact it is
our Slavism that should be held responsible for some of those negative traits of the character:
wolisz smak koksu czy smak oscypka ?
I tak w twojej samarze z Kolumbii siedzi polski Dentysta
przesta narzeka e benzyna, e rzd
sztachnij si Polsk, to jest nasz dom
[Onar, To jest takie nasze (Internet source 17)]
Nic mi si nie chce, nic nie musz, nie ukrywam, e mam sowiask dusz
[BRX, Nie lubimy robi (Internet source 18)]
The second most popular track in the album, with over 11 122 300 views on YouTube since
October 2012, namely Bud si, is co-authored by Pezet, Gural and Pih. The artists severely
criticize the attitude of the Polish who abandon their own cultural heritage in striving to be
perceived as cosmopolitan (Internet source 20).
As for the religion, there are some problematic issues that need to be analysed. I have

already shown that the artists involved in Donatan's project barely refer to being a Slav in preChristian times and use the term to refer to the Polish in modern times. Therefore, there is not so
much reference to the religion of the Slavs as it used to be. However, some pagan motives do occur
in the texts, for instance Niech rojenice przd sw ni [Gural, Sowiaska krew (Internet source
16)]. Rojenice is a Slovak word for Polish Rodzanice, demons that protect pregnant women and
decided about the child's fate once he or she is born. A demon Strzyga is also named in several
songs. What is interesting, pagan elements intertwine with Christian ones. It may seem that the
artists use the terms connected with Slavic religiosity unconsciously, as in the following example,
where the equinox is evoked with no clear purpose:
mam dbowy raniec pora wymwi amen
(...) go w dom, Bg w dom, wrogom amiemy koci
mam ogromne iloci mocy szczeglnie w nocy
wtedy sowiaskie dusze nie znaj sowa dosy
bimber w puchar posyp wypijmy za rwnonoc
poczuem w sobie zew, a hejterzy niech pon
[Z.B.U.K.U., Zew]
There is an interesting example of a song in which one of the artists expresses his gratitude
to Christian God for creating the world and giving people abundant crops, whereas the other rapper
mentions a pagan god Svaroi and a spring equinox celebration Jare Gody in the same context:
Ludzie to grudy ziemi strzepnite z palcw Boga,
dnia sidmego wytar rce, przesta pracowa.
() Od zawsze jestem fanem twrczoci Boga
niech obrodzi nam chmiel, yto, tyto i konopia
[Hukos, Niech Obdarzy Niech Obrodzi]
() Niech obrodzi w tym roku, zbieraj stokrotne plony
mid, podpomyk i zrywka na Jare Gody
stare rody pal ognicho Swaroyca
marzec, pierwsza niedziela po peni ksiyca
[Cira, Niech Obdarzy Niech Obrodzi (Internet source 21)]
Sadly, most of the time the elements of Slavic religion are to function as synonyms for having

parties and drinking alcohol excessively:


Jest Noc Kupay, Noc witojaska.
Bdziemy mogli si upodli na maksa.
Sowiaska tradycja, sprawd w annaach.
Sowiaska Polska robi haas!
() Ta impreza osiga wyszy puap.
Dostaje oficjalny status - rytua!
[Tede, Noc Kupay]
Interestingly, in this very song there is also a fragment containing a Slavic greeting often used by
contemporary pagans Sawa. Some sort of explanation for this mixing of pagan and Christian
elements is presented by Nullo in a song Z Dziada Pradziada:
Jestemy synami pogan i cho ju znamy Boga imi
W moich yach Odra pynie, z goda jestem Sowianinem.
[Nullo, Z Dziada Pradziada (Internet source 19)]
To sum up, there are some genuinely Slavic elements in the song lyrics that appear on the
album, but in general they refer to Slavic culture and history as well as contemporary Slavs. Slavic
beliefs are mainly disrespected; the celebrations and the rituals are synonymous with having good
time drinking alcohol with friends. Still it can be argued that there is an important message
conveyed by the musicians, namely that being a Slav means being proud of your ancestry and
therefore of yourself.
As far as the reception is concerned, it must be stressed that Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza
gained huge popularity. According to YouTube, the most popular track on the album has been
viewed over 29 484 600 times since its upload on the 9th of July 2012 (Internet source 22). This was
Nie Lubimy Robi. Among the commentaries to the videos there are hardly any left by
contemporary pagans or people possessing any knowledge about Slavic paganism.

5. Conclusions
The conclusion seems inescapable that the two genres of music rap mixed with folk music
and black metal portray Slavic myth in entirely different ways. Both albums, Grom and

Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza, contain anti-Christian elements; however, the artists responsible for
the latter show inconsistency and evoke Christian God as well. The image created by Behemoth is
full of respect to Slavic religion and values, whereas the rappers in Donatan's project barely
mention paganism; once they do it is mainly in the context of intoxicating oneself. What is certainly
less visible in Grom than in Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza is the Slavic pride that every Pole should
feel for having such a rich cultural heritage and noble ancestry. In Grom it is paganism that should
serve as a source of pride. In each album there is a call to return to the roots: in Grom this means
returning to Slavic paganism and in Rwnonoc. Sowiaska Dusza to the Slavic pride.
It is now clearly visible that in Behemoth's portrayal of Slavic myth religiosity is an
inseparable element of a Slav's life. We should praise gods that are bound to our land because the
ancestors' religion is an important part of our Slavic heritage. Donatan's project is mainly concerned
with Slavism being a Slav in today's world and acting like one, taking pride of your ancestry.

Bibliography:
1. Szyjewski, Andrzej: Slavic Religion, WAM, Krakw, 2003 .
Internet sources:
1. http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Slavic+paganism, (date of access 06.06.2015)
2. https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=Slavism
3. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/slavism?showCookiePolicy=true
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behemoth_%28band%29#Current_members
5. http://www.metal-archives.com/albums/Behemoth/Grom/1059
6. http://www.wprost.pl/ar/427000/Donatan-Kosciol-wPolsce-toambasadorstwo-narzecz-obcejkultury/
7. http://www.percival.pl/ (date of access 09.06.2015)
8. http://muzyka.onet.pl/donatan (date of access 09.06.2015)
9. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/548484/Slavic-religion
10. http://behemoth.pl/band/
11. http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B3wnonoc._S%C5%82owia%C5%84ska_dusza
12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtTa0Q7exxY
13. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,slowianin_ft_vnm.html
14. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,budz_sie__ft__pezet___donguralesko___pih_.htm
l
15. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,pij_wodke___jarecki__brk__.html
16. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,slowianska_krew__ft_gural__sheller__kaczor__ry
23__rafi_.html
17. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,to_jest_takie_nasze_ft__onar.html
18. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,nie_lubimy_robic__ft_borixon__kajman_.html
19. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,z_dziada_pradziada_feat__trzeci_wymiar.html
20. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,budz_sie__ft__pezet___donguralesko___pih_.htm
l
21. http://www.tekstowo.pl/piosenka,donatan,niech_obdarzy__niech_obrodzi_ft__hukos__cira.
html
22. https://www.youtube.com/watchv=WvKzyuL7ubQ&list=PL75D7D53905FF4959&index=3
23. http://muzyka.dlastudenta.pl/utwor/Wstep,66750.html