[I couldn't resist making this post. Yesterday and today media around the world are reporting two stories related to paganism, but I think I'm the first to report the connection between the two. The first has to do with the Summer Solstice and speaks of the bizarre rituals neo-pagans are performing around the world especially in Russia, while the second concerns a Ukrainian politician who was struck by lightning while on a fishing trip. The connection between the two is that in Russia the neo-pagans are heavily opposed by the Russian Orthodox faithful, while the Ukrainian politician, Vasily Chervoni, is also opposed by the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox faithful and has even been excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for trying to revive the worship of the sun god Dazhbog. I hate to make humorous such a tragedy, but it does leave one wondering how timely the two fit in - especially when the media most focused on the Russian pagans this year instead of the more popular rituals going on in England as well as at Stonehenge. The two stories are below. - J.S.]
Russian Pagans From Ancient Cult Greet Solstice
Russian Pagans Celebrate Summer Solstice Despite Opposition From Orthodox Church
By Sergei Ponomarev (AP, July 5, 2009)
Maloyaroslavets, Russia - Tambourine throbbing in hand, Velislav chants to gods whose cult has almost been obliterated by a millennium of Christianity in Russia.
Several hundred followers wearing linen, ancient Slavic ornaments and flower garlands circle around the high priest to celebrate the summer solstice, in an all-night festivity fought by the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries. The rugged faces of bearded gods and stern goddesses top a temple of upright logs.
These are Russia's neo-pagans, whose ranks are estimated in the low thousands. Only a handful of pagan groups are officially registered in this predominantly Orthodox Christian country with sizable Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish minorities. The fractured pagan groups constantly argue about the authenticity of rituals, the hierarchy of priests or the pantheon of gods.
The Orthodox Church claims neo-pagans are mostly interested in the entertainment of the rituals, and only some are pagans of principle. They are also controversial because right-wing nationalists who oppose the immigration of non-Slavs have said some of their members are neo-pagan. In late February, four pagans were arrested in Moscow and charged with organizing a series of explosions and the brutal killing of 11 dark-skinned non-Slavs.
On this night of the summer solstice, the pagans gather on a fragrant meadow near the city of Maloyaroslavets, some 200 kilometers west of Moscow. They go through a fertility rite known as Ivan Kupala - derived from the Slavic word "to bathe" - whose purpose is self-purification, unity with forces of nature and the honoring of the Sun god, Velislav says.
Priests pelt grain on the crowd, and young women with braided hair serve loaves of unleavened bread and kvas, a nonalcoholic drink made of rye. As darkness falls, they jump over bonfires, roll burning wooden wheels symbolizing the Sun chariot and float burning candles in a nearby river to attract good luck.
Dmitri Pankratov, who goes by Ragnar among his friends, says Slavic paganism is the only true religion for Russians. Other religious "are branches grafted to a tree," Pankratov says on the morning after the festivity. "None of them are a root of the people."
Lightning Kills Ukrainian Politician Who Tried to Revive Pagan Cult
Moscow News, July 6, 2009
Derazhnoye, Ukraine - A Ukrainian politician who had been excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for his attempts to revive ancient pagan cult was killed by lightning on Saturday while on a fishing trip, Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on Monday.
According to the report, Vasily Chervoni was at a fishing trip near the village of Derazhnoye and suffered a direct lightning hit during a thunderstorm. He in hospital died shortly afterwards.
The newspaper reported that the late politician was a close friend of Ukrainian President Yushchenko and had at one time occupied the governor’s post in Rovno Region. A former activist in the Soviet youth movement Comsomol, Chervoni started an independent political career in early 1990s with radical Ukrainian nationalists. At some point, the politician joined the religious movement Runvera – a Ukrainian sect that seeks revival of obscure ancient cults, in particular, the worship of the sun god Dazhbog.
In 1992, Chervoni was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. When he was retired from the governor’s post in 2006, all Orthodox churches in Rovno Region had a special prayer thanking the Lord for deliverance.
One of the Main Activists of the Kiev Patriarchate Struck Dead by Lightning
Kiev, July 6, Interfax - Former head of the Rovno Region of Ukraine and member of the so-called "supreme church council" of the self-proclaimed "Kiev Patriarchate" Vasily Chervony died last Saturday from a stroke of lightning.
The mortal stroke found him when he was fishing in the Kostopol District of the Rovno Region. Chervony was taken to the hospital where he soon died.
According to numerous evidence, this man was a chief organizer and direct participant in the violent seizures of dozens of churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Rovno and Volyn Regions, these seizures were accompanied with brutal beatings and tortures of priests and believers.
After the victory of the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yuschenko appointed Chervony a governor of the Rovno Region.
The day before his death, Chervony convoked several dozens of "priests" and "deans" of the schismatic "Kiev Patriarchate" and gave them a task to call off their adherents to the route from Rovno to Vladimir-Volynsky where Patriarch Kirill's cortege is to go in a month. According to Chervony's instructions, these people should hold a series of provocations against the Primate of the Russian Church. According to some information, Chervony also planned provocations in the Borispol airport on the day of the Patriarch's arrival to Kiev.