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Perun

by John McCannon
Storm god in the pre-Christian Slavic pantheon. Venerated particularly by the Eastern Slavs, especially the Russians. A clear counterpart to the Latvian Perkons and Lithuanian Perkunas, Perun ("striker," from the Indo-European root perk-/perg-) was also identified with Thor by the Scandinavian Varangians who settled in Russia, and with Zeus by Russian scribes familiar with Greek mythology. Ultimately, Perun's identity can perhaps be traced back to the Vedic thunder god Parjánya. Some scholars maintain that Perun gradually displaced the more ancient Rod as the high god of the East Slavic pantheon.

According to the Kievan Primary Chronicle, Perun was the chief deity of the pagan gods worshipped by the Russians until their Christianization in 988 by St. Vladimir I, Grand Prince of Kiev. Idols of Perun depicted him as a large man with a silver head and golden mustaches. A warlike deity, Perun was typically represented as carrying a club (sometimes a hammer), a battle-axe, and a bow, from which he loosed arrows of thunder and lightning. Sacrifices of cockerels and goats were often made to him; bulls and bears were offered up during major rituals. The oak tree was considered sacred to Perun, and he was sometimes worshipped in oak groves. After Russia's conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, Perun's identity was absorbed syncretically into that of the prophet Elijah (Il'ia), whose chariot of fire racing across the sky recalled the lightning bolts associated with the old god.


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  • Also known as:
    Peroun

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