Svaroh [Сварог]. A major pagan deity of the Eastern and Baltic Slavs. He was the god of the sky (from the Sanskrit swarga ‘sky’), the sun, and heavenly fire (thunder); the precursor of Perun; and the father of Dazhboh and Svarozhych. According to an ancient myth ‘men began to forge arms’ when Svaroh threw down a pair of pliers from heaven. It can be inferred from this detail that the cult emerged at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, at the end of the Bronze Age and the start of the Iron Age. The god is first mentioned by Procopius of Caesarea in the 6th century AD. The German chronicler Thietmar of Merseburg (d 1018) claimed that Svaroh (Zwarazici) was the principal deity of the Baltic Slavs. Svaroh is mentioned in the Kyiv Chronicle under the year 1114. The Byzantine chronicler John Malalas identifies Hephaestos with Svaroh and Hephaestos' son Helios with Svaroh's son Dazhboh. In the 14th century Christian churchmen censured the common people for ‘praying to fire, calling it Svarozhyche’ (Hypatian Chronicle). In Ukrainian the archaic nouns svara and svarka, which are related etymologically to the name of the god, mean ‘conflict,’ ‘sharp dispute,’ and even ‘battle’ and ‘war.’ It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that Svaroh was also the god of war. Mykhailo Hrushevsky considered Svaroh to be the sole god in Slavic mythology, the god of the creative power of nature. Later Svaroh's various functions were assigned to other deities, and his cult declined. He is not mentioned in the pagan pantheon of Volodymyr the Great.

Hrushevs’kyi, M. Istoriia Ukraïny-Rusy, vol 1 (Lviv 1898; New York 1954)
Rybakov, B. Iazychestvo drevnikh slavian (Moscow 1981)

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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