[Author’s Note: This was initially intended as a brief introduction to a piece on the Slavic figure of Svarog as a Sky Father expression – however, it has grown somewhat, and contains an important, freestanding point. So here it is on its own]
The Indo-European world can probably be divided up into those mythic cultures and perspectives which are at the ‘core’, and those upon the ‘periphery’. The ‘core’ ones do not necessarily mean those that really were at the ‘core’ of this or that epoch of the ancient world – but rather, those that are more dominant in our mind’s eye, and which have subconsciously influenced how we think things ‘should’ be. The ‘periphery’ ones, equally, were often those that were actually incredibly important at the time – yet through some ineluctable combination of our modern lack of awareness of them, or simply the lack of transmission of their influence on down to us through lacking a written culture, they are only thought of rather ‘dimly’ by comparison, if at all.
The Greco-Roman ‘Classical’ cultures are ‘Core’ to many of us (despite being quite literally on the ‘periphery’ abutting the Middle East etc. and being influenced by same) – and others, such as the Scythians, were ‘periphery’ even two and a half thousand years ago when they ranged across an incredibly vast span from the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat through to Central Asia. The Nordic/Germanic cultures are something a little different in this regard, as they were unquestionably ‘peripheral’ throughout most of recorded history – at least, to those people(s) doing the recording – yet due to the sustained dominance of the descendants of Germanic peoples in the modern mythological sphere, the modern pop-cultural sphere , we now think of their beliefs as quite ‘Core’. So ‘Core’ in fact, that we make motion pictures out of their myths (allegedly), which are viewed on a global scale.
Now, I say all of this in order to introduce our topic in this piece – which is an understanding out there on the ‘Periphery’, amidst the Slavs, which nevertheless manages to preserve in quite surprising fidelity something which had fallen from prevalent recollection in various of the more ‘Core’ Indo-European cultures. A pattern which I think is actually remarkably prevalent in these regards. Perhaps due to the ‘conservatism’ of some of these peoples – which they could feel more comfortable in due to their greater remoteness from this or that other more ‘civilized’ influence and its accompanying ‘reformations’ of belief. But more upon that, perhaps, some other time.
The mythic understanding in question concerns a curious figure – the Slavic deity Svarog – as an emblematic instance of the Sky Father as ‘Solar Smith’, or perhaps more aptly, as the frequently fire-facilitated fabricator of the Universe and its cosmological crafting therein.
This is something which I believe was quite likely part of the original ‘archaic’ Indo-European mythology – yet which found itself somewhat de-emphasized in various of the descendant-cultures thereof with the passing of the ages. Although even where this occurred (and it was by no means universal), the ‘residual’ traces to show where the narrative and its associations *had* been nevertheless remained.
Comparative examples for this trend in motion may be found with the original Indo-European Solar Goddess(es), as I’ve been discussing in the ongoing “Radiant Queen of the Heavens” series – where even despite the gender-association switching of Sun and Moon to Male and Female respectively in the Classical pantheons (i.e. the ‘Core’ – especially in the way in which it’s informed just about everybody in the West’s mythperception ever since), the ‘residual’ traces for Solar Goddess elements still remain in various theonyms (such as ‘Diana’, ‘Juno’) and even the Deities Themselves upon occasion (for example, Helen still being worshipped as a Goddess amongst the Spartans). Whereas meanwhile, out upon the ‘Periphery’ of the Scythians, or the Nordic/Germanic peoples, the Solar Goddess was still very much in evidence.
A similar pattern may be evinced when considering the strong alignment of the Sky Father and ‘Wind Wanderer’ deific expressions (that is to say, these two actually being the *same deity*) – an understanding *preserved* upon the ‘Periphery’ of the Nordic/Germanic peoples (as well as in the Vedic religion – a ‘periphery’ of a different sort, perhaps), yet obscurated by the ‘Core’. Although again – never totally. Zeus, along with Hermes, goes wandering in disguise in order to test the commitment to Xenia of various people, for instance. Although again – more upon this some other time.
All of this forms part of my underlying suite of considerations for declaring that ‘Barbarian’ cultures, in the Indo-European-sphere can quite often seem to be much more ‘healthy’ than their more ‘civilized’ cousins. It is not a universal rule, to be sure, and the risk run with the ‘Barbarian’ clades is that much knowledge can be lost or changed significantly via oral transmission shifting in time of crisis (c.f the sad example of what has happened to the folk-ways of the Nuristani & Kalash religions following the forced Islamization of many of their kinsfolk and the driving into exile of the latter more than a hundred years ago – there were noted ‘changes’ in some of what they were said to believe in the seven decades or so between anthropological visits). But out there on the ‘periphery’, many of the pressures so commonly found amidst the ‘civilized’ ‘core’ which lead to the old ways and the archaic traditions being declared ‘unfashionable’ and ‘modernized’, ‘innovated’ upon or just frankly disregarded … are less pressing in the extreme.