Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Tale of Ivan Turchaninov

Prior to the Bolshevik revolution, there were hardly any Russians who emigrated to the United States for non-religious reasons, Ivan Turchaninov is one of those few.

Ivan Turchaninov, or John Basil Turchin as he called himself in America, was the only the Russian-American general in the United States Civil War. Born into a Don Cossack family on December 24, 1821 in Russia, Ivan had possessed a bright military career as early as the age of 11 when he was sent to learn at Novocherkassk, the capital of the Don Cossack region. Three years later he entered the Mikhailovskiy Artillery School in St. Petersburg, which trained Turchaninov for five years on aspects of math and engineering. Upon graduating in 1841, Turchaninov was assigned to an artillery unit in Poland. Finally, at the age of 30, he enrolled in the Imperial Military School in St. Petersburg, later becoming chief of staff among the Russian Guards and fighting in the Crimean War and Hungary.

In May of 1856, he married the daughter of his commanding officer, Nadezhda Lovov, and immigrated to the United States. Anglicizing their names to John and Nadine Turchin, the couple settled on a farm on Long Island, New York. Losing the farm a year later due to an economic downturn, the couple moved to Philadelphia where John attended engineering school.

While the exact reason for the Turchin’s immigration to America is never quite known, it might have been the fact John’s political views, which would be considered liberal by Russian standards, were not encouraged, as evidenced by the failure of the Decembrist uprising. But despite moving to the land of the free, the couple’s first years in America were none too pleasant as they had experienced a number of failed ventures, in one letter John writes:

“I thank America for one thing, it helped me get rid of my aristocratic prejudices, and it reduced me to the rank of a mere mortal. I have been reborn. I fear no work; no sphere of business scares me away, and no social position will put me down; it makes no difference whether I plow and cart manure or sit in a richly decorated room and discuss astronomy with the great scholars of the New World. I want to earn the right to call myself a citizen of the United States of America”

After finishing Engineering school, John and Nadine moved a second time to Chicago, Illinois where Nadine would work in medicine and John would work for the Illinois Central Railroad as an assistant to the company’s vice president and chief engineer George McClellan (who Turchin had met during his service in the Crimean War) until 1861, where his skills with the Russian Imperial Army found him a place as a colonel among the ranks of the Union army.

On June 17, 1861, the 19th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry marched into the south, with John Turchin in command. Soon after, the regiment was under command of the Army of the Ohio. Impressed by Turchin’s skills as a leader, Don Carlo Buell (who was leader of the Army of the Ohio at the time), gave a promotion and command of a brigade from the army’s Third Division, originally only under the command of Ormsby M. Mitchel.

With orders to hold Nashville, Turchin convinced Mitchel to head south, which would eventually lead to the taking of Huntsville, Alabama and severed the rail communications of the Confederacy from east to west. But this victory did not last long and troops were attacked by Confederate troops, eventually leading to a temporary retreat by the Union. One of the most notable instances of this was in nearby Athens, a small town of a population made up of roughly 900 people, where several of Turchin’s regiments had become so agitated they began to harbor antagonism against the people of the city. Turchin, after learning that the civilians of Huntsville had prevented several blacks from rescuing a Union soldier from being roasted alive between the engine and coal-car of a destroyed train, had become enraged himself, this is when he allowed his troops to pillage the town after reinforcements had arrived, this would become known as the Rape of Athens.

Despite Buell’s wish to protect the property and rights of the southerners, after receiving confirmation the Confederate presence in the area was indeed eliminated and that there would be threat of enemy retaliation, Turchin gathered the regiment and told them “I close my eyes for two hours. I see nothing”, just before leaving the town for a meadow where he would stay for the rest of the day. The regiment went on a rampage, ransacking businesses and stealing or destroying merchandise, one report mentions a stock of books, with bibles and testaments among them, were ripped apart and kicked about the floor while another mentions a jewelry store was broken into, with soldiers stuffing their pockets with as much valuables as they could steal. Soon, homes and living areas were also raided, one pregnant woman was so terrified she suffered a miscarriage and later died herself.

The townspeople estimated the damages of the rioting to be at least $55,000. Facing court martial, Turchin was on trial before Brigadier General James A. Garfield, who would later become a president of the United States. At the trial, Turchin argued that his superiors had been treating the rebels too softly, arguing that “the more lenient we become to secessionists the bolder they become”. While this did win Garfield and many others to his side, Turchin was still found guilty “of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.”

Turchin’s wife, Nadine Turchin met with President Lincoln to plead her case, stating that John’s nomination for promotion to brigadier general should waive his punishment, which after a vote in the Senate of twenty to eighteen, did just that, much to the dismay of Don Carlo Buell, who sought punishment for Turchin. Following this, Turchin returned to service as a general officer.

Returning to Chicago, John Turchin received a hero’s welcome and now had more supporters behind him than ever, some even saying the aggressive policies with Athens should be applied to the war as a whole and others calling for the demotion of Buell. In fact, the Chicago Tribune praised Turchin, stating that he “has had, from the beginning, the wisest and clearest ideas of any man in the field about the way in which the war should be conducted.” and that he is one “who comprehends the malignant character of the rebellion and who is ready and willing to use all means at his command to put it down.” after sponsoring his promotion to General at Chicago’s Bryan Hall.

Following this, Turchin continued his military command at the battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Atlanta (Interesting fact, another Russian, Aleksei Smirnov, was in Turchin’s regiment during the battle of Chickamauga, dying in battle). During this time, Nadine Turchin, or Madame Turchin as she was known to many, followed John Turchin’s campaigns and witnessing the battles her husband had taken part in, writing her experiences in a diary, the manuscript of which is now in the hands of the Illinois Historical Society. Remarkably, Nadine Turchin was the only Union woman to have written a diary on her experiences during those battles.

Shortly after the end of the Atlanta Campaign in September of 1864, Turchin suffered heatstroke and as a result resigned from service. For the remainder of his life, John Turchin worked a number of jobs including patent solicitor, civil engineer and eventually real estate, where he would help find land for immigrants like him in southern Illinois. He could hardly make ends meet, seeing this, his old comrades-in-arms appealed to congress to grant Turchin a payment of fifty dollars per month as pension, despite this, John and his wife were still quite poor.

Turchin died on June 18, 1901 at the age of 79, in an institute as a result of his heatstroke-attributed dementia. Although Ivan Turchaninov’s role in the Civil War was small, because of his actions at Athens, he garnered nationwide attention and brought up the question of military conduct in a civilian area among the American people.

Known as “The Mad Cossack” and “The Russian Lightning Bolt”, Many remembered him for the way he would shout orders in a thick accent, quickly becoming popular for this among the Union soldiers, a song was even written parodying the Confederate song “Here’s Your Mule”, titled “Turchin’s got your mule”, recounting how his regiment seized Southern property and livestock at Alabama. The the lyrics of the song are as follows:

“A planter came to camp one day,
His niggers for to find,
His Mules had also gone astray,
And stock of every kind.
The planter tried to get them back,
And thus was made a fool,
For every one he met in camp
Cried “Mister here’s your Mule.”
Chorus — Go back, go back, go back, old scamp,
And don’t be made a fool,
Your niggers they are all in camp
And Turchin’s got your Mule.
His corn and horses all were gone
Within a day or two,
Again he went to Col. Long,
To see what he could do.
I cannot change what I have done,
I wont be made a fool,
Was all the answer he could get,
The owner of the mule.
And thus from place to place we go,
The song is e’er the same,
T’is not as once it used to be,
For Morgan’s lost his name.
He went up North and there he stays,
With stricken face, the fool ;
In Cincinnati now he cries,
“My Kingdom for a Mule.”

And so ends the tale of Ivan Turchaninov, the man who began a legacy of Russian life in America and the man who defined the Russian-American view of the United States as stated by one of his comrades-in-arms, “He was one of the best-educated and knowledgeable soldiers of the United States. He loved this country more than many American-born citizens did”.

Read more on Turchaninov at these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Turchaninov
http://civilwar.bluegrass.net/battles-campaigns/1862/620502.html
http://www.lib.niu.edu/1997/iht429748.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens,_Alabama
http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2008/02/12/ivan-turchaninov-a-russian-general-in-the-union-army/
http://www.peoples.ru/military/colonel/ivan_turchaninov/
http://www.suite101.com/content/nadine-turchin-fights–beside-her-husband-john–in-the-civil-war-a257025
http://www.jstor.org/pss/40191694
http://www.chattanoogacwrt.org/200803.htm
http://english.ruvr.ru/2007/03/09/125029.html
http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1652
http://d-pankratov.livejournal.com/663214.html

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Old Russia in Color – The Photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

While numerous other blogs and media have already taken the opportunity to bring this man’s work to light, I feel that I should do the same here for those who have yet to see this tremendous achievement in photography.

For those who don’t know yet, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky was a photographer who’s experience in chemistry created one of the earliest techniques of color photography, which he used to document the scope of the Russian empire prior to the revolution, giving us a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the time.

Through the years of 1904 to 1916, Prokudin-Gorsky was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II to document pre-revolutionary Russia and was granted access to the whole of the Russian empire. It is said that Prokudin-Gorsky had created some 3,500 negatives in his journeys across the Russian empire, although only about 1,902 have been recovered.

The technique in itself would take three different images, each through a certain filter. When put through a certain light, the photos would recreate the original scene in full color. It would only be until nearly a century later when Prokudin-Gorsky’s original negatives, purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948, would be fully put together, the photographer unfortunately, did not live to see his life’s work realized.

Thanks to the efforts of the Library of Congress, we are able to experience the wonder of the Russian empire in a way traditional black-and-white photography of the time would not be able to convey. I’ve selected several of what I believe to be the best examples of this man’s work, but I encourage the readership of this blog to view the full collection at the Library of Congress’ site.

Gallery

Here are the links where one may find more of Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographs:

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/
http://www.prokudin-gorsky.ru/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergey_Prokudin-Gorsky
http://new.runivers.ru/gallery/photogallery/authors/author18944/
http://www.gridenko.com/pg//

Featured Artist: Zdzislaw Beksinski

Today’s featured artist is Zdzislaw Beksinski, a surrealist artist/photographer from Poland. Beksinski was known for his sometimes gruesome and imaginative paintings he created during the end of the 20th century.

Unlike our previous artists, Beksinski was born during the mid-20th century, specifically February 24, 1929, in the town of Sanok. In 1947, Beksinski completed grammar school and enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture of the Krakow University of Technology. Completing the university in 1952, the painter worked as a construction site supervisor and later lived in Rzeszów until 1955 where he returned to Krakow with his wife.

Beksinski’s first public works of art, several artistic photos taken and edited were put on display at Warsaw, Gliwice, and Poznan. But major success did not reach him until 1964 when his talent as a painter had been discovered by Janusz Bogucki, who created an exhibition of his work. The event had turned out to become a success, as all of his works were sold.

This inspired Beksinski to continue his paintings of surrealism, the fantasy period as he called, would go on to be his most famous period and produce his most famous works. Following the development of computer image programs in the 1990’s, this became Beksinski’s medium during that period, although some traditional works were produced. The end of the 1990’s were also a tough time for the artist after the death of his wife in 1998 and his son’s suicide the following year.

The artist was murdered on February 21, 2005, just three days before his 76th birthday by the son of his caretaker after refusing a loan to him. Following his death, a museum dedicated to Beksinski was created in his hometown of Sanok, housing many of his works from his fantasy period. Many remember the artist’s charismatic personality and his sense of humor.

But what Beksinski is known for most is the work he created. His work is largely the product of his imagination, and although his paintings had several metaphorical aspects to them, sometimes dealing with religion or war, he was largely uninterested in the meaning of his work and preferred the viewer to find one themselves, this was also why Beksinski never titled his work. Beksinski also claimed many of his paintings were misinterpreted and while many thought his work to be negative or the result of depression, the author claims they were much to the contrary, some even being intended as humorous, although growing up during World War II is believed to have inspired some of paintings.

In retrospect, Beksinski has become one of Poland’s most well-known contemporary artists and has gained acclaim from across the world for his work, enthralling and inspiring all who view his work.

Gallery

See more of Beksinski’s work here:

http://www.twilightsite.com/Fantasy/Old/Beksinski/Beksinski.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zdzislaw_Beksinski
http://www.beksinski.com.pl/
http://best383.com/
http://gothic-irk.narod.ru/beks.html
http://beksinski.dmochowskigallery.net/
http://www.gnosis.art.pl/iluminatornia/sztuka_o_inspiracji/zdzislaw_beksinski/zdzislaw_beksinski.htm
http://morpheusgallery.com/Zdzislaw%20Beksinski/biography.php
http://visionaryartgallery.weebly.com/zdzislaw-beksinski.html

 

Slavic Mythology: Perun | Перун

This post is the beginning of a series of articles on various aspects of Slavic mythology that I hope to publish on a near-weekly basis. As this article is the beginning of something new, I believe I should begin with the greatest figure in the Slavic pantheon, Perun.

Often compared to Thor of the Norse mythological world, Perun was considered the highest of all gods and was one of Svarog’s three sons. Perun was seen to be the creator and master of rain, lightning, and thunder (and anything that had to do with hurricanes and storms), Perun’s name is even based off the old Indo-European root “parg” meaning ‘to strike’, much like lightning would. In fact, the Polish word for ‘thunderbolt’ is Piorun. He possessed the ability to shoot lightning strikes from a bow as well as create storms to aid farmworkers.

As well as being associated with weather, he is known for his attribution to war, believed to be a fearsome and unforgiving god who through his leadership of the military maintained order in the world. During times of war or hardship, the ancient Slavic people looked towards Perun, who they sought to punish their enemies or grant life and fertility to them through rain.

It is said Perun was born to the Mother Sva (or the goddess Lada), after she consumed a Pike fish containing an embodiment of Rod, the creator god. The Book of Kolyady contains possibly one of the only known myths on the birth of Perun:

“The sky rings with thunder,
Then the clouds shined with lightning
And he appeared into existence, as if by lightning
The son of Svarog, Perun the Thunderer!”

Like Norse mythology, the Slavic world was depicted a large Oak tree, separating the world into three parts: Parv, where the gods would rule, Yav, which is populated by man and constitutes what is seen by the mortal eye, and finally Nav, which is shown as the tree’s roots and is the land of the dead, in other words it can considered the Slavic underworld. Perched on the branches of Parv, Perun would keep watch over the mortal world, protecting it from wrongdoing, such as that of Veles, the god of the underworld.

The relationship between the two gods is seen in a Slavic myth describing Veles’ annual ascent up the Slavic world tree in the form of a snake to Parv, stealing something of value to Perun, be it his children, wife, or cattle. Chasing Veles, Perun would shoot lightning bolts from the sky, hitting the earth where Veles would hide at the time. At the end of the battle, Veles would either be chased back into the underworld or vanquished and whatever he stole would be returned in the form of rain after which Perun takes his throne on the top of the tree proudly exclaiming “Ну, там твое место, там сабе будь!” (There is your place, remain there!), according to the Belarusian version of the tale. This myth would repeat itself each year, when Veles would return as a snake once again, shedding his skin from the previous battle.

To the Slavs, the coming of the rain season signified the Perun’s conquest over Veles, whenever there was a delay in the arrival of rain, this would mean Perun had yet to defeat Veles while storms were seen as larger conflicts between the two.

Unlike the conflict between God and the devil, the antagonism between Veles and Perun is not viewed as a fight between good and evil, but rather the opposition of the Earth’s forces, one being water and existence and the other being fire and spirit, the ancient Slavs believed these forces would bring upon the new season each year. A similar belief was held for the coming of Spring where it was believed that the demon of winter would reign for a season and eventually be defeated by Perun in battle.

But Perun had done battle with other enemies. During Perun’s youth, before his apparent rule of the Slavic gods, a second serpent had appeared, named the Skiper-Serpent. The serpent was said to have crawled out of Nav and taken Perun’s sisters under the earth while Perun was taken into a dungeon, which he was imprisoned for three hundred years. In the search for Perun, Mother Sva calls the servants of Perun (Veles, Hors, and Stribog), who transform into half-human, half-bird beings such as the alkonost in order to assist in the search. The servants and Mother Sva confront the Skiper-Serpent to find the location of Perun. The serpent, attempting to lie to the servants, eventually fails and they discover the location of Svarog’s son.

The servants arrive to find Perun in a deathly sleep, requiring the waters of life to revive him. Mother Sva eventually acquires the waters from a Gamayun and succeeds in awaking Perun, who arises and exclaims “I shall go to the Skiper-Beast and return this act of friendship!”, thus beginning the first battle of Perun.

In preparation for what might seem his greatest battle, Perun asks for a blessing from Mother-Sva before entering the dark kingdom. But one does not simply walk into the kingdom of the Skiper, before Perun stood several obstacles. Perun’s first test –  a dense forest where the roots have weaved together into an impassible brush of thorns. Angered by this, Perun threatens to reduce the forest to splinters, this convinced the roots to part, and so the god continued to his next challenges.

His next obstacle was a river, where waves were fierce and may sweep a man to his death against the rocks strewn about the shore. Unintimidated, Perun orders the river to part so that he may cross, and so it does. Finally he comes to an expanse of hills blocking his road. As with the forest, and the river, he orders the hills to part and as the other two did, it followed his command.

Continuing on his path, Perun approaches his next trial, a large bird which sat on twelve branches, it possessed the shriek of an animal yet the hiss of a serpent, thunderous enough to knock down the trees of a forest. Yet Perun was not dismayed, taking out his bow and arrows, he fired a shot at the bird’s wing, where it immediately fell from it’s nest and was thrown off the road.

Then Perun comes to a snake. The snake engulfed Perun in fire, smoke emitting from it’s ears. Behind the snake were the three sisters of Perun: Zhiva, Marena, and Lolya. Three hundred years ago they were stolen by the Skiper-Serpent, transforming into monsters. Their skin was now a pale white and their hair had grown to resemble that of feather grass. Striking down the serpent, Perun instructs the sisters to go to the Riphean mountains and bathe in the waters of the dairy river and the sour cream lake.

Perun himself continued into the lair of the Skiper-Serpent.  Within the chambers of the serpent, the walls were constructed from the bones and skulls of men in the form of a lath fence. Continuing down the chamber, Perun confronts Skiper. Unaware of who had entered his lair, the serpent says “I am the ruler of the underworld! As soon as I reach the heavenly trunk, I shall bring the heavens to the ground!”. Saying nothing in reply, Perun engages the snake in battle and manages to step on the Skiper and stabs it with his spear. Surprised, the Skiper-Serpent asks him, “What is this? Are you a Vityaz or a heavenly god? My death will only come at the hands of Perun of Svarog, but he is far underground.” to which Perun replies “I am the death of which you speak of!”. And so the mighty battle between Perun and the serpent begins.

After days and nights of fighting, Perun lifts the serpent and throws it to the ground where the earth-mother parts the land, swallowing the Skiper whole and thus creating the Caucasus mountains. This battle had set Perun on the path towards becoming ruler of the gods.

Following this great victory, Perun ascended up to Parv and returned to his rightful place as a god over the Slavs. Shortly after, as Perun walked in the garden of Iriy, he happened across Diva-Dodola, daughter of Dy, the god of the Starry Sky and thunder (The name of this god is used in ancient literature as the name for the Greek god of thunder, known to most as Zeus.) and Diviya, goddess of the moon. Perun was awstruck, and he eventually asked her to marry him. But the maiden was fearful of the thunderer and burst into tears as she ran away.

Perun followed quickly behind her. He came to the house of Dy and asked for his approval and to appease him, so that he may win the hand of his daughter. He invited Perun in to converse over dinner. As they spoke, a great beast arose from the Black Sea, a three-headed snake. The snake began to wreak havoc, destroying all in it’s path and kidnapping Diva.

Hearing the monster’s roars, Dy and Perun came out of the palace to rescue Diva. As they approached, the snake remained at it’s golden chariot, pulled by eight half-horse/half- crow creatures. As the snake watched the gods approach, Diva was able to escape and proclaimed “I would have been glad to walk on the sea, but I walk across the sky, with thunder in the clouds I play!”. This angered the snake and darkness began to engulf the garden of Iriy, one of the snake’s heads began to spew sparks, while the second exhaled an icy wind. Finally the third head spoke, in a bellowing voice, “Return to me Diva-Dodola at once!”

Ignoring this, Perun and Dy transformed into eagles and at once attacked the snake, striking it with thunder and lightning. Defeated, the monster was plunged back into it’s home at the bottom of the black sea. Victory had yet again been achieved by Perun.

This battle had gained the approval of Dy, and soon he allowed Perun and Diva to marry, Diva had now become the Peruna/Perunitsa – wife of Perun. However during the wedding, trouble had befallen. Veles had caught the eye of Diva and she was tempted to escape the wedding with him. But despite Veles’ offers, she was adamant, but still could not resist the romantic charms of Veles.

Despite this, the wedding continued and the claps of thunder were soon heard and Diva sang out to Perun:

“Let us go, Perun, we shall walk
Over fields and over the woods!
With a storm you shall pass
And I – a lightning bolt!
Thou shalt smite the storm,
And I – blurted out!
Let us go, Perun, we shall walk
Over fields and over the woods!
With the rain you shall pass
And I – with grace,
You – will bring down water,
And I – will grow …

Let us go, thunder, we shall walk
With a storm you shall pass
in the field of the Tartar!
You are with the storm,
And I with Molonya,
You will kill,
And I shall blurt out.
Let us go, thunder, we shall walk

in the field of Turdak!
You are with the rain,
and I am with grace,
you spill,
but I grow.”

Perun’s final myth begins shortly after his marriage with Diva. Following their marriage, Perun and Diva conceived a child gaining force and strength from her father and pride from her mother. The child had been named Devana, and possessed the ability to transform into any animal, from the smallest fish to the mightiest bird, it had been clear that she was destined to become a great huntress.

In time she had become just that, a proud goddess of the hunt, incapable of fear. But she had eventually begun to hunt for entertainment rather than necessity, eventually she had decided while walking among the woods with her two obedient wolf companions that she would capture the heavenly monastery of the gods and overthrow Svarog and become queen of the three worlds.

Learning of this, Dazhbog quickly rushed to inform Perun of Devana’s plans. This enraged the thunderer, who hastened towards his daughter. Catching sight of her in the woods, he let out a roar so loud it scared off Devana’s wolves, she had no choice but to engage her father in battle. Spears were drawn and both fighters rushed at each other on brilliant steeds, destroying each others spears in a flurry of splinters. Unscathed, Perun and Devana drew swords and continued fighting, to the point where both swords broke from the power of the impacts.

Weaponless, Devana took on the shape of a predatory lioness. Perun did so as well, becoming a mighty lion. But now Perun had outmatched his daughter, in one swipe of his paw, the lioness had been thrown on her back. For the first time in her life, Devana was frightened. Realizing she could not defeat her father, she took on the shape of a bird and attempted to escape. Perun did the same once again, transforming into an eagle and once again overtaking Devana, throwing her to the ground.

Weak and afraid, the huntress took on the form of a fish and attempted to escape a second time, for she knew that he would not be able to catch her then, realizing this, Perun called upon the aid of Mokosh, the goddess of fate. Perun’s request was answered and a Seine had caught Devana. The huntress had began to call out to her father for forgiveness and had sworn to obey him. On that the two reconciled and Devana had not a second thought on conquering Parv.

The concept of Perun’s daughter had come from the Greek goddess of the hunt Artemis, or Diana as the Romans called her. While Perun was mostly inspired by Norse mythology, Devana of course was based on Greek mythology, showing how influence from two vastly different cultures had combined into the fabric of Slavic mythology.

As you may have noticed, most of Perun’s conflicts were against evil serpents who threatened the existence of the world. While a definite reason explaining why this is not truly known, Perun’s battles with serpents have become one of the several traits attributed to him, however there are many more, such as the weapons he used in battle.

Being a war god of sorts, Perun was said to possess a number of strange and powerful weapons one of which being an axe which he is often depicted with, although he is also seen with other weapons such as a sword, spear, and arrow. Like Thor’s hammer, the axe is a common symbol attributed to Perun which he is said to have thrown at spirits and enemies after which it would return to his hand. The axe of Perun is often worn as a necklace by Slavic Pagans to protect against disease, evil, and even lightning.

Speaking of, lightning, as mentioned in Perun’s myths, is another weapon Perun possessed, thought to be arrows fired from a bow. In fact when his bolts struck the ground, their remains were once believed to be fulgurites and belemnites (In many Eastern European countries, they are given the name lightning stones), if something was struck by lightning, it was thought to be sacred. Perun’s final weapon is another recurring theme in ancient myths, the golden apple. It is said these apples were the mythical explanation of the ball lightning phenomenon, an old Serbian folk song makes reference to this:

“…Then he took out three apples of gold
And threw them high into the sky…
…Three lightning bolts burst from the sky,
One strikes at two young brothers-in-law,
Another strikes at pasha on a horse,
The third strikes six hundred wedding guests,
Not an eye for a witness fled
Not even to say, how they ended dead.”

But his weapons were not just described in his myths, in ancient times pagans were known to have hanged arrows and bolts from their houses to protect them from storms, ease labor during pregnancy, grant well-being to newborns and newlyweds and restore milk to cows. Oak trees were also considered sacred to Perun, it is said some were even fenced off to protect them as the cutting of such a tree was considered a sin among Slavs.

The family of Perun is also part of an important myth. The remains of an ancient shrine discovered in Novgorod show eight pits circled around a statue in the center, possibly being an altar to Perun and his eight sons. The sun is also an important figure to pagan Slavic traditions, as Veles and Perun were thought to be married (Although the sun may have represented Diva, who as explained earlier, had affairs with Veles) to it which is why it would set at night, where it would be with Veles in the land of the dead until daybreak.

With the arrival of Christianity in Eastern Europe, Perun was eventually replaced with St. Elijah and many of his qualities (such as lightning) were later attributed to God himself.

One account of Perun’s downfall says his monument by the fortress of Vladimir was torn down and dragged to river Dnieper by a horse and eventually thrown into it where it drifted down until stopping on a riverbank, in a similar fashion to Bishop Absalon’s toppling of the Svantevid statue at Arkona.

While it’s hard to say we see or hear much of Perun in our modern lives, the thunderer and his numerous battles with serpents may have had more of an effect on the world than one could have previously thought. Perhaps his deeds even survived long enough after Christianization to influence the emblem of a certain nation’s coat of arms.

Read more on Perun by following these links, the first link below is a detailed study of the representation of Perun’s depiction during pagan periods. While I only skimmed a small part of it, if you can read Russian (Or have a good translator), I highly recommend you give it a look.

http://chudinov.ru/izobrazheniya-peruna/1/
http://perun.ca/History.aspx
http://godsbay.ru/slavs/perun.html
http://darkforest.3dn.ru/forum/52-537-1
http://narodna.pravda.com.ua/history/4bb5cd5d42730/
http://www.slavianin.ru/nasledie/prazdniki/zimniy-den-boga-peruna.html
http://wondermaker.narod.ru/vedizm/about_perun.htm
http://shkolazhizni.ru/archive/0/n-20737/
http://chudinov.ru/skulpturyi-yakobyi-peruna-iz-radzivillovskoy-letopisi/
http://mysticwicks.com/showthread.php?t=115685
http://www.organizmica.org/archive/505/drat.shtml