Radegast (god)

Radegast, also called Radigost, Radhost, Radhošť, Redigast, is a hypothetical West Slavic god of hospitality, fertility, and crops, associated with war and Sun. It is, however, questionable whether such a deity was in truth worshiped by pagan Slavs. While the name itself is attested in several valuable historic descriptions of Slavic mythology, it is somewhat unclear whether it refers to a deity or to a city of pagan Slavs.

Confusion

Depending on a source cited, one may argue pro- or contra-existence of such a deity in the Slavic pantheon. At the beginning of the 11th century, the German bishop and chronicler, Thietmar of Merseburg, wrote in his "Chronicon" ("Chronicle") that the pagan Wendish tribe of Rethra, in their holy city of Radegast, worshiped many gods, the most important of which was called Svarogich. By the end of the century, Adam of Bremen, another important German chronicler, wrote in his major opus "Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum"("Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church"), that in the pagan city of Rethra, a god Radegast was worshiped, and to him, the Johannes Scotus, Bishop of Mecklenburg, was sacrificed on 10 November of 1066, during a Wendish pagan rebellion against Christianity. Adam's work was continued by another German priest, Helmold, who in the latter half of the 12th century in his Chronica Slavorum wrote of Radegast as a god of the Wendish tribe of Rethra or Raiduri.

Explanation

Following the logic of Ockham's razor, the simplest explanation would be that Thietmar's work, being the oldest, is the correct description, whilst Adam and Helmold misinterpreted his writings when drawing references from them, and thus confused the name of a god with the name of a city. Another possibility is that, from Thietmar's to Adam's time (that is, during some 70 years), the Slavs themselves confused the names of the god (Svarogich) and the city (Radegast); this, however, seems most unlikely. The third possibility is that during these 70 years in a pagan Slavic community, the god Svarogich was replaced by a god Radegast, and the city name was changed from Radegast to Rethra. The fourth option is that Svarogich and Radegast were two names of the same god, and that the city of Rethra was also known by one of the names of its patron deity, Radegast.

There are several arguments which indicate that the first explanation is the correct one. As already stated, Thietmar’s description is oldest, and is probably the only one which was based on direct reports from people who were in contact with pagan Slavs. On the other hand, Adam was probably re-telling Thietmar's description in his own words, and mixed up a few things. His description of worship of Radegast is basically the same as Thietmar's description of Svarogich, apart from the shift in the name. The same can be said in the case of Helmold, who was probably re-telling Adam's. Furthermore, Svarogich is mentioned as a high god of Wendish tribes as early as 1008, almost a decade before Thiethmar's description, and he is also mentioned in some Russian medieval manuscripts; thus, Svarogich was known to both West and East Slavs and was likely a deity of the original Proto-Slavic pantheon. By contrast, Radegast as a god is mentioned only by Adam and Helmold, which, as stated already, can be explained simply by their misinterpretation of Thietmar.

Thus, the conclusion would be that Radegast was a holy city and probably a famed oracle of the West Slavic tribe of Rethriani or Redriani, where they worshiped Svarogich as their main god.

On the other hand, of course, it might not be so.

In popular culture

Since the name can easily be etymologised as meaning something like “Dear guest”, Radegast was proclaimed as the Slavic god of hospitality and as such entered the hypothetical, reconstructed Slavic pantheon of modern days. Even myths concerning him were constructed based on various folk customs of sacred hospitality. Similar customs, however, are known in many Indo-European mythologies without a distinct deity associated explicitly with them.

Radegast is also a brand of Czech beer.

Radagast the Brown is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium.

There is a statue dedicated to the god Radigost on top of mount Radhošť in the Czech Beskydy mountains (see [http://www.beskydy.cz/info/mista_view.asp?id=963] ).

References

*Thietmar of Merseburg, "Chronicon".
*Adam of Bremen, "Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum".
*Helmold, "Chronicon Slavorum".


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