Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland

At the end of August, the first National Congress of Native Faith Believers will be held in Łódź, organized by the four biggest ‘native faith’ groups in Poland. It is a clear sign that native faith is a growing social force in a country that has a reputation as mono-faith, Catholic state.

‘Native faith’ is the literal English translation of ‘rodzimowierstwo’ – a Polish term derived from the words ‘rodzimy’ (native) and ‘wiara’ (faith) – that refers to a belief system based on ethnic Slavic traditions. Native faithers reject the labels ‘paganism’ and ‘neo-paganism’ as both pejorative and not capturing the ethnic Slavic elements of their beliefs. Some scholars refer to these as ‘ethnic religions.’

There has been a marked upturn in interest in pre-Christian religious traditions across Europe in the past two decades, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. This has been reflected in the creation of international organisations such as the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, founded in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1998, with members from Latvia, Poland, Iceland, Germany, Denmark and Greece.

One of the theological questions to be discussed at the Łódź congress will be whether a person can simultaneously be a native faith believer and belong to another church. Academics involved in religious studies in Poland believe this might be a breakthrough moment for the native faith movement.

“The native faith movement as a whole is loosely organised and doesn’t have a strong dogmatic component, it is actually less about faith – as in ‘correct belief’ – and more about being faithful, living the lifestyle,” said Scott Simpson, a scholar of religious studies at the Jagiellonian University, and a co-author of a recent study of Eastern European neo-paganism.

“The differences in the ways that rites are practised and the ways that the pantheon is interpreted make native faith believers far from uniform. This is why the attempt to meet at one point is so challenging and interesting from a researcher’s perspective” said Simpson, who estimates the total number of committed Polish native faith believers at 2,000, with a much larger number of sympathizers.

“We are not a bunch of weirdoes running around the forest half-naked. If we didn’t believe with all our hearts, we wouldn’t be organizing in religious groups,” said Ratomir Wilkowski, a 40-year-old IT specialist from Warsaw and member of the Rodzimy Kościół Polski native faith church.

Most scholars believe that the reasons Poles are turning to native faith are disillusionment with the Catholic Church and the search for a uniquely Polish or Slavic identity that does not rest on Catholicism. Prof. Zbigniew Pasek of Krakow’s AGH University of Science and Technology, believes that some Poles are attempting to regain a Slavic identity by overthrowing foreign gods while Dr Marcin Piotrowski, notes that young people may feel more comfortable with less confrontational belief systems.

There are two important sites for native faith believers in Krakow – the Krak Mound, where various ceremonies take place, and the statue of Światowid at the foot of Wawel Castle, a copy of a ninth century idol in the Archaeological Museum of Krakow. Our own research has identified four groups involved in native faith in the Małopolska area. The number of members is difficult to determine, but it seems to be growing steadily.

The Krakow Post spoke to one Cracovian who has been involved in native faith for 17 years. Fearing social ostracism, she asked that her name not be published. “Our rituals most often take place in hidden spots in the woods. Above all, the faithful value peace and quiet during their rituals, especially since the media presents native faith as one with Nazism” she said, referring to a 2002 incident at the Krak mound when her group’s ritual was disturbed by drunk teenagers. “I experienced the same situation in Wrocław. In both cases, these people had no idea who we were and what we were doing. Strangely enough, they thought we were supporters of Radio Maryja” [a Catholic radio station].

Despite our interviewee’s fears, Poland is not the worst place for native faithers. In Kiev in November 2012, a statue of the Slavic storm god, Perun, erected by Ukrainian native faithers, was destroyed by unknown vandals. The three-metre-tall idol, placed on a hill in the centre of the city in 2009, had attracted fierce criticism from Orthodox and Catholic clergy in the country. Just days after a replacement was installed in July this year, it too was taken away by unidentified men with heavy lifting equipment. Ukrainian and Polish native faithers have claimed that these were actually members of the special forces of the Ukrainian police.

Poland’s native faith believers are keeping a low profile for now, and have not yet attracted significant criticism. “The rather muted reception of native faith in Poland is due to the fact that they are not numerous, and not very visible. This can change, though. If native faith believers become a more organized and visible part of society, they might be spoken against openly,” said Scott Simpson.

Polish native faith in a nutshell

The 966 event known as the Baptism of Poland did not put an end to pagan beliefs in the country. Their persistence was demonstrated by a series of ‘pagan rebellions’ in the first half of the 11th century. Traces of pre-Christian beliefs have survived to the present day in both church-endorsed rituals, such as decorating eggs for Easter and lighting candles for the dead, and in events such as the midsummer wianki (wreath) celebrations in Krakow.

Zorian Chodakowski, a 19th century poet and scholar of Polish folklore, is generally regarded as the father of the modern native faith movement in Poland. In the inter-war period, several official native faith organisations emerged, and even more came into being after the fall of Communism.

The sources for native faith beliefs are scattered throughout ancient chronicles, folklore, archaeology and linguistics. Most native
faithers recognise three main deities: Swarog (a god of the Sun and fire), Perun (a god of storms) and Mokosz (an earth goddess). Polish believers celebrate six main festivals, four of them associated with the seasons. The other two are: Dziady, devoted to the dead and Kupała, a celebration of life and fertility.

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32 thoughts on “Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland

  • Pingback: Resurgence of Pre-Christian Beliefs in Poland | Poland - News Review

  • August 30, 2013 at 11:46 am
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    Paganism or native faith, is a “religion” for neonazis. No doubt about that.

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    • August 30, 2013 at 1:10 pm
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      Jan I’m a native faith beliver, but I’m not a neonazi, so don’t write that bullshits like tkat…

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      • July 5, 2014 at 2:48 am
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        sad….so sad… Jan…you are but a virus…a plague upon the good Mother Earth(may she reighn forever!) Your man-made(and I do mean “man”) views are hypocrisy, slander, lies and usurption!!!! Please just go away for a time and look into your soul. Recognize that which brings true healing and peace and that which is nurturing and fair. The UNIVERSE!!! To your so called “HELL” with your blasphemous and un-entitled righteous views and words! BE GONE, FILTH!!!!!!

        Reply
        • July 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm
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          Amanda you are no better with your sexist assault and insults , be the better person for what seems like would be a change….

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    • September 5, 2013 at 12:31 am
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      the Goddess is alive & magic is afoot! someone else uses those beliefs to support hate & neo-nazism, we who are true believers must stand up & share our truth! Christianity has been used to support those same ideas & so has Islam & Hinduism, should all religion be thrown out because of some bad folks? I say NO!

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    • July 3, 2014 at 6:06 pm
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      Keep crying whatever you are – Jew, Muslim or just pathetic guilt-ridden European – actually giving a shit about where you come from doesn’t make someone a nazi. More people are loving their roots and history and native customs and fewer and fewer are caring about that irrelevant fictional character called Jesus. Deal with it.

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    • July 5, 2014 at 1:08 am
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      Catholicism is a faith for pedophiles. No doubt about that.

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    • July 5, 2014 at 2:53 am
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      Your comment is ignorant. I am a gay pagan (non-organized polytheist). I am not even in the neonazi ball park.

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    • July 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm
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      I’m sure you’ve done a thorough research – it shows :p

      Reply
    • July 7, 2014 at 8:32 pm
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      Jan if you don’t like this religion stop reading about it just to put your Bashing BS, Thanks

      Reply
    • July 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm
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      I have have studied Nazi use of Christianity…you might be surprised to learn that the Nazis openly and fuly embraced Christianity, utilized it in their propaganda and imagery, that most Nazis were Protestant Christians, and that the pagan tie to Nazis have been (surprise!) blown out of proportion to cover up the fact that they used Christianity to gain power.

      Then again, you might be surprised, but most people aren’t.

      Reply
  • August 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm
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    Jan, since nazis were Catholics, then why should native faith be a ”religion” for neo-nazis?

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  • August 30, 2013 at 4:57 pm
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    At last we rise up!!! Time to claim our true right to OUR Gods and OUR Country!!!
    Slawa!!! Slawa Bogom!!!

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  • September 1, 2013 at 12:31 am
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    Nicely written article!

    As a Wiccan priest, I’m always pleased to see the resurfacing of native faiths around the world.

    It is unfortunate that there are those who belittle and slander the Old Ways – an aid for my patience in the past when this has happened is to remember that the only reason they lash out at us is because of their own insecurities. While this does not make the attacks less painful, it does allow me to respond with efficiency instead of rage…

    I would like to read the lore of this particular group of native beliefs, especially since I have liked what I’ve found referring to Perun in my other studies. Any suggestions as to good source material?

    Stay strong and safe, and as we say – Blessed Be

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    • July 5, 2014 at 2:50 am
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      BLESSED BE!!!!! Dear Father of the ancient ways!!!!! Well met and blessed be! <3

      Reply
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  • September 2, 2013 at 12:22 am
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    Here is some information about the traditional forms of Slavic Paganism at http://piereligion.org/slavic.html They are general to the Slavic forms of Paganism and have nothing to do with Wicca which is a modern invention.

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    • September 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm
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      Dear @slag310,

      Wicca is not a modern ‘invention.’ It’s a modern *reconstruction,* which surely you must concede is much closer to what Poles and other Slavs are doing. Like you, Wiccans seek connection to our own Old Gods by recreating as best we can the ways of their worship. We don’t claim to be worshipping exactly as our ancestors did because there is very little hard documentation of exactly what they did, only later accounts — all of them biased. We claim honestly to be following a path that connects us to the Old World before first Christianity and then the so-called Age of Reason divided the human soul from the Soul of Nature. Over sixty years on, it still works, so we must be doing something right.

      Wiccans as a rule are interested in learning about and respecting all the old polytheisms. Slavic polytheism is little known outside Slavic countries, so we’re curious — again, in a respectful manner. It’s great to hear that it is being reborn phoenix-like from its own ashes.

      And as Tom said, Blessed Be!

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      • July 5, 2014 at 2:51 am
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        Very well said, My lady!!!!! Blessed be! <3

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    • December 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm
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      The vast majority of Slavic pre-Christian traditions and folklore are exactly as we see in all other areas of the once ‘Celtic’, ‘Gaul’ or ‘Pagan’. The images, rituals, dates, beliefs, idols and most importantly oral traditions are all very slight regional adoptions of a Northern Euopean wide belief system. To separate the Slavic pre-Christian culture as either unique, or more pure which would mean directly connected to the oral tradition of olde is, with the greatest respect is wrong.

      The Slavic cultures have a long and profoundly proud place in the pantheon of pre-Christian cultures, as do all of the once ¡Pagan¡ nations. Wicca itself is one of the oldest pre-Christian revivalist movements that retains many of the olde ways. As it does not have a direct link by continued oral traditions passed by masters of the art and mystery’s it is a revivalist movement, as is any other of the North European movements currently operating. This is neither positive, or negative it is just what we make of it in the now.

      I respectfully suggest, that instead of separation in any shape or form of these cultural traditions shared by our ancestors, we urgently seek to group together in order to best document, preserve, research, develop and celebrate OUR oral traditions. Just as our forefathers had done for time immortal before us.

      The collection, pooling and understanding of our ancient oral traditions is both the key that unlocks the past and opens the ways to all our possible futures in European non-Christian cultures. The first rule of Roman neo-Christian conquering – was divide and conquer, this is easy to counter in a time in which our King’s no longer set our individual faith, and with modern Christian churches in drastic congregational decline. It is the time.

      All of the Scientific, Archaeological and genetic DNA evidence is on our side. DNA does not lie and our forefathers had once a common belief system spanning all Northern Europe and far beyond, celebrating common roots in beliefs and ancestors at the same times, in the same spaces. As Ceasar said, all humans worship the same godS, shortly before he left us with the only real enduring roman legacy.

      The time of the lone wolf in the woods is over.

      Peace,

      .

      Reply
  • September 4, 2013 at 7:22 am
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    This is a wonderful article to find. My great-grandfather was Lithuanian and I have found some information on the native faith of that land, but this is the first I have read of my great-grandmother’s homeland of Poland and their native faith. I would certainly like to learn more.

    Reply
  • November 13, 2013 at 1:43 am
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    Reply
  • July 3, 2014 at 7:12 pm
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    I am very happy about this development. White people, a global minority, need a religion that will give them a solid and positive ethnic identity. May the Divinity bless my beautiful people and shower us with Grace and Wisdom!

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  • July 4, 2014 at 12:05 am
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    Christianity and Islam are responsible for the destruction of native cultures and beliefs of much of Europe, Africa, America and West-Asia. Although the trend is not new, pre-Abrahmic cultures had also been involved in similar attacks on other civilizations, whom they considered as inferior. Pre-Christian Europe was under the spell of Roman civilization, Pre-Roman Europe and Indo-Europe region was heavily influenced by Aryan traditions, so on so forth….

    Reply
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  • July 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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    Hmmmm….

    “In Kiev in November 2012, a statue of the Slavic storm god, Perun, erected by Ukrainian native faithers, was destroyed by unknown vandals. The three-metre-tall idol, placed on a hill in the centre of the city in 2009, had attracted fierce criticism from Orthodox and Catholic clergy in the country. Just days after a replacement was installed in July this year, it too was taken away by unidentified men with heavy lifting equipment. Ukrainian and Polish native faithers have claimed that these were actually members of the special forces of the Ukrainian police”.

    In 2012 a statue of Perun was destroyed in Kiev. In 2014 the whole Ukraine is practically in the midst of a civil war. It’s not a very good idea to insult gods…

    Reply
  • May 27, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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    The concept of ‘the one and only true God’ was the beginning of all religious strife and murder of millions that continues to this day. I wonder why you keep calling these ‘close to nature’ and ’emanated from human wisdom’ faiths as ‘pagan’. If at all, the organised and so called ‘monotheistic’ religions are ‘pagan’. These ancient faiths are better called the ethnic or natural faiths.

    The so called ‘monotheistic’ faiths beleive in the one and only true god. This god is different in each monotheistic faith and also different in various sects of the same monotheistic faiths. So there are several true gods and many false gods…..this makes it a huge conflict of several gods. So these so called monotheists are actually polytheists.

    The so called ‘polytheistic’ faiths believe in several possible forms and representations of the same universal God and even accept atheism as a valid belief. These are the real monotheists. So every person is welcome with her own creativity without a central authority prescribing right and wrong and deciding who shall live and who shall die or who goes to heaven or who goes to hell. The ‘polytheistics’ are actually ‘monotheists’ because they beleive in one God irrespective of what form it is worshipped. They have no single form of heaven and no hell. It is all here and now.

    These are just a few observations from me, a citizen of a nation of 1.2 billion whom Christians call ‘Pagan’ and the Muslims call ‘Kafir’. I happened on this page while researching Poland, where I visit often for the Natural beauty of the Southern mountains and the Northern lakes and rivers.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm
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    Excellent article. It is so very nice to see more and more people returning to the beliefs of their ancestors.
    May the road rise to meet you….

    Reply

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