Dazbog

Dazbog, also Dazhbog, Dažbog, Dazhdbog, Dabog, Dajbog, Dadzbóg or Dadźbóg, was one of major gods of Slavic mythology, most likely a solar deity and possibly a cultural hero. He is one of several authentic Slavic gods, mentioned by a number of medieval manuscripts, and one of the few Slavic gods for which evidence of worship can be found in all Slavic nations.

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Dazbog (or Dazhboh) is mentioned in the Primary Chronicle, a history of early Kievan Rus, Kyivan Rus, as one of seven gods whose idols Prince Vladimir the Great erected in front of his palace in Kiev in 980, when he came to the throne. The name is also mentioned in the Hypatian Codex, as well as in the medieval Russian epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign.

Although these medieval documents come from the East Slavic area, names similar to Dazbog/Dazhboh have survived in the folklores of both West and South Slavic populations. Of particular interest is the Serbian Dabog or Dajbog, (most modern mythographers take for granted this is the same character as East Slavic Dazbog/Dazhboh), also known as Hromi Daba (meaning "Daba the Lame"), described in folklore as a lame "shepherd of wolves," an ugly demon-lord who rules the underworld and travels through the world of men. Though not always evil in folk stories, Dabog/Dazhboh is often presented as an enemy of the Christian God or heavenly saints. While one may conjecture this is the result of satanization which the Slavic solar deity underwent after Christianization, there are some pretty good indications that even the original, pre-Christian Dabog/Dazhboh or Dazbog/Dazhboh had very strong chthonic attributes.

Etymology

While the meaning of Dazbog’s name is not completely clear (as is the case with most other Slavic gods), taking into account several different versions of the name, most scholars agree the root "dazhd-" or "daj-" is derived from verb "dat"' – "to give". Thus, according to Dubenskij, Ognovskij and Niderle, Dazbog would be "giving god", "god-giver, god-donor", "deus dator". This is particularly interesting since the Slavic word for god, "bog" or "boh", the suffix of Dazbog’s name, is most likely of Iranian origin, being cognate to Avestic "baga" and Sanskrit "bhagah" (both epithets of deities), which ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-European root "*bhag", meaning wealth, fortune. Thus, translated literally, Dazbog would be "giver of fortune". This echoes the ancient Indo-European concept that deity is, in essence, an entity which gives wealth and abundance, an indication, perhaps, that Dazbog is a relic from common Proto-Indo-European religion, or even that this was not a name for any particular Slavic god, but a general epithet of a deity.

Characteristics

The most interesting passage about Dazbog comes from the Hypatian Codex, a 15th century compilation of several much older documents from the Ipatiev Monastery in Russia. The complete passage, reconstructed from several manuscripts, translates as follows:

"(Then) began his reign Feosta (Hephaestus), whom the Egyptians called Svarog… during his rule, from the heavens fell the smith’s prongs and weapons were forged for the first time; before that, (people) fought with clubs and stones. Feosta also commanded the women that they should have only a single husband… and that is why Egyptians called him Svarog… After him ruled his son, his name was the Sun, and they called him Dazhbog… Sun tzar, son of Svarog, this is Dazhbog."

This is in fact a Slavic translation of an original Greek manuscript of Malalin from 6th century. In Greek text, the names of gods are Hephaestus and Helios. Apparently, the unknown Russian translator tried to re-tell the entire story (set in Egypt) by replacing the names of classical deities with those that were better known to his readersVitomir Belaj "Hod kroz godinu, mitska pozadina hrvatskih narodnih vjerovanja i obicaja", Zagreb, 1998.] .One can only hope that he indeed replaced the names of Greek gods with their fitting Slavic counterparts; however, at least one issue remains problematic. In all Slavic languages, the word for Sun, "Sunce", is of neutral or feminine gender, never masculine. Also, in Baltic mythology, which is most akin to Slavic, Sun is a female deity, Saule, while the Moon is a male one. The same pattern can be observed in folklore of many Slavic nations, where the Sun is most often identified with mother or a bride, and Moon with father or husband, their children being the stars. Where exactly this leaves Dazbog as a possible male solar deity of Slavic pantheon remains questionable.

Furthermore, this passage has raised quite a few theories about family relations between Slavic gods. If we assume that indeed Svarog was believed to be Dazbog’s father, the question arises of his relation with Svarogich, another deity who is mentioned as god of fire and war in several other medieval documents describing the beliefs of pagan Slavs. Svarogich is simply a diminutive of Svarog’s name, i.e., "little Svarog", which implicates he was considered a child of Svarog. Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov proposed a reconstruction of this mythical genealogy that Svarog, a deity of fire and forge similar to the Greek Hephaestus, had two sons; Dazbog, who represented the fire in sky (i.e., the Sun), and Svarogich, who symbolised the flame on earth, in the forge. Henrik Lovmjanjski, however, theorised that Svarog was a Slavic sky god and personification of daylight sky itself, possibly a continuation of Proto-Indo-European "*Dyēus Ph2ter", while Svarogich and solar Dazbog were one and the same deity, though, he concluded, two other aspects of Svarogich also existed: fiery Svarogich, as in the Sun (mentioned in Russian medieval manuscripts), and lunar Svarogich, associated with the Moon. Henrik Lovmjanjski, Religija Slovena, Beograd 1996 ] Franjo Ledic, on the other hand, simply assumed that Svarog and Dazbog are one and the same god. Franjo Ledić. Mitologija Slavena, vol. I, Zagreb, 1970. ]

Many mythologists also believe Dazbog to be identical with another East Slavic deity with possible solar attributes, Hors. Osip Maximovich Bodjanskij based this theory on a following passage from Primary Chronicle:

"And Vladimir began his reign in Kiev alone and erected idols on the hill outside his palace with porch: Perun of wood with a head of silver and mustache of gold and Hors Dazhbog and Stribog and Simargl and Mokosh."

Note that the names Hors and Dazhbog are the only two not clearly separated by word "and" in the text. This could be an indication of a compound deity, Hors Dazbog. On this basis, Toporov assumed that Hors could be an Iraninan (possibly Sarmatian or Scythian) name for this god, and Dazbog a Slavic one. Boris Rybakov compared Hors and Dazbog to Helios and Apollo, respectively, concluding that both of them were solar gods, but while Hors represented the Sun itself, Dazbog, as "deus dator", rather symbolised the life-giving power of SunBoris Rybakov. "Ancient Slavic Paganism". Moscow, 1981] . That Hors was indeed a solar deity was deduced from the following passage in the "Tale of Igor’s campaign" [http://www.anita.f2o.org/ This f2o.org account is no longer in service ] ] :

"Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of great Hors, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed."

In other words, prince Vseslav reached Tmutorokan before dawn, thus crossing the path of Hors, the Sun. In mythical view of world, the Sun has to pass through the underworld during the night to reach the eastern horizon by the dawn. This, and the fact that prince Vseslav is transformed into wolf during night, while "crossing the path of Hors", draws a very interesting parallel with the Serbian Dabog, who, as stated already, was believed to be a lame "wolf shepherd" who rules over the underworld. Of particular interest is the fact that Serbian folk accounts describe him as being lame; lameness was a standing attribute of Greek Hephaestus, whom, as we have seen, the Hypatian Codex compared with Slavic smith-god Svarog, father of Dazbog. (In fact, most of Indo-European smith-gods were lame; the reason for this was most likely , low levels of arsenic poisoning, resulting in lameness and skin cancers. Arsenic was added to bronze to harden it and most smiths of the Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic workplace poisoning.) Serbian Dabog, being lord of underworld, was also associated with precious metals, and sometimes was said to have a silver beard. Veselin Čajkanović concluded that the cthonic character of Dabog in Serbian folklore fits very nicely with the solar Dazbog mentioned in Russian sources, pointing out that in numerous mythologies, solar deities tend to have double aspects, one benevolent, associated with the Sun during the day, and the other malevolent, associated with night, when the Sun is trapped in the underworld. In his studies of Serbian folklore, Čajkanović also concluded that many more benevolent aspects of Dazbog were passed on to popular saints in folk Christianity, in particularly onto St. Sava, Serbian national saint, who, although undoubtedly was a real historical person, in folk tales often appears in the role of culture hero Veselin Čajkanović, Mit i religija u Srba, Beograd, 1973.] . The fact that in “Tale of Igor’s campaign”, the Russians and their princes are being referred to as ‘’Dazbog’s grandchildren’’, indicates that Dazbog was considered as an ancestral deity, a common role of a culture hero archetype in mythologies.

References

See also

*Svarog
*Hephaestus
*Culture hero
*Heimdall


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