Romuva — Baltic Paganism   3 comments

romuva_flag[Updated 29 Dec 2016: two links added: a tribute to Trinkunas and a video of Kulgrinda, a music group he founded.]

One of the expressions of love of the earth relatively unknown in the U.S. is Romuva, Baltic Paganism. It is better known but similar to Druwi, another Baltic Pagan practice whose name itself shows its obvious connections with Druidry.

I first encountered this mostly Lithuanian pre-Christian religion about a decade ago, and I’ve followed news of it intermittently since then. Lithuania was one of the regions that held on to its ancient Pagan roots longer than most of Europe. Pagan observances still flourished into the 1400s. A series of crusades over several hundred years aimed at stamping out such lingering practices were largely successful, but even in the 1400s under Grand Duke Gediminas, Lithuania was still officially Pagan.

While much has undoubtedly been lost, Romuva imagery, song, symbol and practice were and still are intertwined with Catholic observance to a considerable degree, and folk memory and practice has preserved much material, particularly songs and dances. The roots of modern Romuva date from the Romantic period that sparked Lithuanian nationalism and an interest in indigenous culture, as it did for so many other regions of Europe.

Like many cultural phenomena of the last few hundred years, Romuva as it exists today owes a great deal to one person — in this case, ethnologist and krivis (Romuva priest) Jonas Trinkunas, who was born in 1939.

jonas-trinkunas

Trinkunas, who passed almost three years ago in early 2014 (you can find a tribute at the Wild Hunt here), was a folklorist and university lecturer in Vilnius, Lithuania. He founded the “Society of Friends of India” (Lithuanian Indijos Bičulių Draugija), and the similarities of practice he saw in “the traditions of India were what pushed him to search for the roots of Lithuanian culture and its spiritual meaning”, notes the Wikipedia article on Trinkunas.

Hounded during the Soviet period when Lithuania lay under Kremlin authority, he was barred from academic life for 15 years, and only with Lithuanian independence could he resume that work. But in that interval he continued to travel his country and collect songs and lore that nourished his commitment to Romuva practice.

Once the Soviets were gone, the first festival observance he organized was Rasos — the summer solstice — the Lithuanian name literally means “morning dew”.

On the outskirts of Žemaičių Alkas, a Lithuanian resort area with a historical town center, carved wooden pillars mark the close intermingling of Pagan and Christian observance. Note the runes on the middle pillar.

pag-xtian-pillars

The archaism of Lithuanian practice extends to language as well: to cite just one example from literally hundreds available, Lithuanian dieva “god” comes from Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, and is related to Latin deus, Germanic Tiw (English Tue’s Day, Tuesday), Sanskrit deva, etc.

For a taste of Romuva in action, here’s a 4:28 video of a Romuva handfasting, with several dainas (traditional songs) sung as accompaniment to the images. I suspect most Druids would feel right at home here.

Finally, a link to Kulgrinda, a traditional music group Trinkunas founded:

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Images: Romuva flagTrinkunas at fire; carved wood pillars at Žemaičių Alkas.

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3 responses to “Romuva — Baltic Paganism

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  1. That handfasting was so beautiful, thank you!

    • Thanks, Laura. Happy (almost) New Year. I love the care and attention that Romuvans give to their ritual clothing, and the bride and groom having their lips smeared with honey (?) by the officiant before they kiss was marvelous! Good to see how others half a world away still honor the old ways.

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