Baltic Paganism

On Baltic Deities: Marsava

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Let me tell you about Marsava.

First of all, if you want to find her on the internet, it’s really hard to do. Like, it’s really hard. Honestly, the only thing that I do know for certain about her is that she’s a goddess of fertility, associated with black beetles and grass snakes.

Unsurprisingly, I end up using a lot of upg with her. Like, a lot.

So. Marsava, according to my sources (which I will leave as a link below), was worshiped in Latvia. She’s a goddess of fertility and is associated with black beetles and grass snakes. She is linguistically related to Mara, and whether they’re the same goddess or not… well, all I can say is that I worship Marsava, who might also be Mara.

Now, beyond what’s known, I personally associate her with bees and flowers (purple ones especially) and have a perpetual shrine set up to her- literally a bowl filled with coins. She’s been fairly involved in my life; I’m honestly convinced that she’s the one behind my receiving my last two jobs. I see her as a provider of sorts; she gives bounty and plenty and is the force that drives things to grow.

She’s the goddess I go to over anything involving my financial well-being, as I do see her as a provider of plenty (and in today’s world, having “plenty” often means “financially secure”). I’ve been working with her for a couple years now, almost as long as Saule, and

I see her as a provider. She’s the goddess I go to over anything involving my financial well-being, as I do see her as a provider of plenty (and in today’s world, having “plenty” often means “financially secure”). I’ve been working with her for a couple years now, almost as long as Saule. I don’t work with her often, but I do sometimes leave her flowers or burn a candle to her.

So, you know. I’m not writing anything too insightful today; I just wanted to talk about her, since she’s such an important part of my life, and yet so unknown in the wider world. (And you should totally check out the resources below- particularly the bottom three since they’re shorter and easier to read.)

A very long article about Baltic gods, with a section about Mara and Marsava

A very short article about Mara as the goddess of milk

An article on Laima that touches on Mara

An article on Baltic mythology that includes Mara

Worshiping Saule: Summer Solstice 2016

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Today is the time for one of my favorite holidays- summer solstice, a day devoted to Saule and her daughters. I don’t really have much planned, but I’ve already left her the first cup of coffee of the day and given her an offering of water, and later I’ll be lighting candles to her and her daughters Zemyna and Ausrine. Truthfully, she has more children than that, but I only have so much room on my altar. I’ll probably light an extra candle that’ll be for her other daughters.

…Truthfully, she has more children than that, but I only have so much room on my altar, so I’ll probably light a fourth candle for the rest of her daughters.

Saule’s been with me for a good two or three years at this point. My relationship with her started… maybe two weeks after my relationship with the Norse gods ended? I didn’t really take my time in moving from one pantheon to another, which is something that I sometimes regret but mostly don’t.

In retrospect, it would have been nice to pick and choose more carefully where I wanted to go religiously. But I was sixteen or seventeen, and making slow careful decisions wasn’t a huge priority. It still isn’t, if I’m honest with myself.

In my experience with Saule, she’s a very energetic deity. She’s a very cheerful deity too; she’s very encouraging, but also very hands off. She doesn’t try to control anything about my life; she doesn’t really ask very much of me, to be quite honest. I’m more than a little grateful; I’m still struggling to be and act like an adult, and I appreciate the time to figure out where I’m at.

Anyway. Here are some of the traits of Saule that seem particularly important to me:

Saule is associated with apples. Apparently, this especially applies to yellow ones, but I associate her strongly with red ones, myself.

She also has a boat. So mythologically, after she gets over debeskalns, the heavenly mountain, she ends up sleeping on a boat that takes her under the earth, over the underground sea, and back to where she starts the day. Kinda like Ra’s barque, I guess, except with more sleeping and rest and less Constant Threat of Universal Destruction. This boat is piloted by Perkunatele, who is a goddess that we really don’t know much about.

…At least, those of us who speak English.

In Lithuanian mythology, Saule is the mother of the planets. I’ve said this before, but it just seems so COOL to me that I’m going to say it again. The sun is the mother of the planets? Doesn’t that just make all kinds of sense? space-1414114_1920

In Latvian mythology, she and her daughters court Deivs and his sons. In Latvian mythology, she has approximately two daughters (father unknown). Dievs, the god of the sky and (probable) creator of Everything has two sons (mother unknown). These families court each other, but to my knowledge, no one actually marries.

In Lithuanian mythology, she and Menuo (the god of the moon) are separated. However, because they both love Zemyna, the earth, they’ve split their time in the sky in half so that both get to see their daughter. 

I’ve always been uncertain about Menuo and Saule’s marital status. So, the rundown is that Menuo cheated on Saule with her daughter Ausrine* (goddess of the morning star), Perkunas sliced him into pieces for his betrayal of Saule, and the two of them parted ways after that.

However, there’s some indication that the two of them are still, in some way, married. Menuo is described as continuing to cheat on Saule with Ausrine, causing Perkunas to perpetually cut him into pieces as punishment. (He’s put back together by Ausrine, by the way. This explains the phases of the moon.)

And there’s also a really cute myth that describes eclipses as being when Saule and Menuo kiss. See, it gets dark because they throw a blanket over themselves so that Zemyna, their daughter, doesn’t see.

…But there’s also the possibility that I’m mixing myths from different areas of Lithuania together. SO. Keep your salt with you, guys.

Saule really likes coffee and hot drinks. This is in no way supported by any mythology or archeology. It’s pure UPG. But in my experience, she likes tea, and I gather that she likes coffee as well, so.

 

Anyway. That’s my piece for today. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that your solstice is beautiful and enchanting.

*For the record, I’ve never seen any indication that Ausrine was Menuo’s daughter, and I’ve seen a little indication that she’s Perkunas’s daughter. So. I don’t think incest has much to do with the story, though I could be mistaken.

Reaching Down to the Core

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What’s at the core of your religion? What is the foundation of your practice? Why is it so important to you?

I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot. And these last few months, my focus has been on stripping back my practice; thinking about why I’m Kemetic, why I worship the deities I do, what it does for me, and how it effects my  daily life.

So, here’s what I’ve found.

The core of my religious practice revolves around two deities.

The first is Ma’at. For me, Ma’at is in the cycles of everyday life; it’s in the rising and setting of the sun, in relationships between people, in supporting one’s community and telling the truth. I try to structure my life around maintaining good Ma’at (which sometimes works out and sometimes does not).

The second is Saule. She’s my favorite deity, and she’s been around as long as I’ve been in paganism. I remember once that I tried to stop worshiping her for a period of six months, during a time period when I was trying to be purely Kemetic. Guess how that worked out?

It didn’t. I couldn’t stop seeing her in the sunlight, or in apple trees, or the sun. I missed her a lot. Which is silly to say about an invisible being, but, y’know, it is as it is.

I’m weak. I need my imaginary friend.

The only reason I don’t put Saule before Ma’at is because Ma’at forms the basis of my worldview. Everything lives on Ma’at; Ma’at is the only way that anything can function well and consistently. (And it’s ironic that I give Ma’at this position because I don’t think I’ve ever done any rituals to Ma’at, whereas I pray to Saule all the time).

Anyway. I’m beginning to see the two of them as working closely together, at least as it pertains to order, love, and functionality.

Now to preface this. I know that there’s a rule among pagans that if you worship two different pantheons, you should keep your worship of the pantheons separate. Because, you know, that happened all the time in antiquity, right? People kept their pantheons and beliefs separate from one another with absolutely no integration. At all. Ever.

I’m being a little sarcastic, but truthfully, there’s no historical basis for the melding of the Egyptian and Lithuanian gods. How could there be? The time periods, areas, and cultures are as separate as they come.

However, even keeping that in mind, I do see Saule and Ma’at as working together.

Saule cares for children and mothers. Saule’s mythos is very cyclical a revolves around birth, death, and formation. Saule brings the dead to the underworld, caring for people even after they’ve passed away. She is the ultimate expression of love. And in this way, I see Saule as maintaining Ma’at.

It’s… probably a little bit blasphemous. The Baltic tribes did not have any concept comparable to Ma’at. How could they? As I said, Egypt was very different from Lithuania.

But… you know… I am a Kemetic. I’m a Kemetic that worships foreign gods. And that means that ultimately I end up fitting everything in my life into a more Kemetic worldview; seeing things in terms of Ma’at and Isfet, maintenance and destruction.

I mean, it’s a little bit weird. But it fits and it works, and Saule’s happy and I’m happy and Ma’at- well, who knows what’s going on with Ma’at- but anyway, everything’s still running smoothly. And with that in mind, I’m going to continue this odd sort of integration that my practice seems to be doing.

To be honest, it pains me a little to talk about this. I know that many people think that part of being a Good Pagan means keeping the pantheons one worships separate. That each pantheon is its Own Thing and doesn’t overlap with any other at all.

But I disagree. Gods, religion, and spirituality are all growing things. And while it’s true that one goes about worshiping the Baltic and Kemetic gods somewhat differently, I don’t think that means that they don’t interact with each other. And I don’t think that means that you can’t worship them together, so long as one keeps an ear out to what they’re saying (and stops if they start complaining about what you’re doing).

Anyhow. That’s what’s at the core of my belief system. What’s at yours?  Whatever’s at your center, thank you so much for reading, and may the sun always be at your back.