Archive for the ‘Jonas Trinkunas’ Category

Romuva Update

jonas-trinkunas

Jonas Trinkunas, modern founder/reviver of Romuva

I’ve written before about Romuva, the native Pagan faith of Lithuania and the Baltic region [see here]. While there’s not a lot of information available in English, there’s some, and it’s worth looking at for several reasons. I’ve included two images from that previous post because they speak to the spirit.

First, Lithuania was Pagan until the late 1300s, far longer than other European nations. Many old songs remain, and a few sacred spots survived, notably the paleo-astronomical observatory with reconstructed wooden pillars at the Sanctuary of Žemaičių Alkas in the resort town of Šventoji. The names of many Romuvan gods have also survived: Perkūnas, Aušrinė, Žemyna, Austėja, Ondenis, Patrimpas, Patulas, Velnias, Leda, Saulė and Mėnulis.

Second, in spite of obstacles like the refusal of the Lithuanian parliament to recognize the faith, Romuva persists. Anyone interested in North American Romuva can find English translations of a few articles by Trinkunas and contact info here [alert — the Tripod site brings annoying pop-up ads unless you have an ad blocker].

Third, with the help of supporters with means, the related Latvian faith of Dievturība (“people who live in harmony with Diev”, the Baltic supreme deity) has made substantial gains, establishing a beautiful island sanctuary, the Lokstene Shrine of Dievturi, pictured below.

ルアクステネ神社(Lokstenes svētnīca).jpg

Lokstene Shrine/Wikipedia image

Here’s a video in Latvian with some stunning pictures of the interior and exterior of the Lokstene shrine during a holiday celebration, with the Latvian caption Priecīgus svētkus! “Happy Holidays!” After some commentary by one of the Dievturi elders (also worth watching for the sound of the language and the images interspersed throughout), around the 1:30 mark the celebration begins. You begin to get a marvelous sense of what such revivals can mean.

 

Finally, like many revivalist faiths and practices, Dievturi also has hidden resources in its people. Here’s an April 2020 video of Dievturi practitioners singing a short (40-sec) chant of strength.

 

A somewhat awkward Google translation of the Latvian lyrics:

All roads are full of fire
All roads are locked
We’ll pass right through them all
With a little help from a friend
We’ll pass through the fire
We’ll break the locks in half.

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Romuva — Baltic Paganism

romuva_flag[Updated 2 June 2020: see my Romuva Update of May 2020.
14 Dec 2018: minor editing.
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

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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