Ornament, symbol, meaning


Baltic mythology

Baltic (Lithuanian and Latvian) is among the oldest surviving Indo-European traditional cultures. Much of its symbolism is truly ancient. Its seasons, festivals, and numerous deities reflect the essential agrarian nature of Baltic tribal life.

The first accounts of Baltic  Pagan beliefs comes from archaeological findings such as sacred objects, amulets and other findings while the early written sources, mostly made by German Catholic chroniclers  show rather biased accounts. 

The bull by Pope Innocent III tells about “barbarians who gives the God’s honour for dull creatures, leaf trees, clear waters, green trees and unholy spirits”.  The 16th century Jesuits reports that “everyone here is horrific Pagan. They make offerings to Perkons, Usins and other fetish. Almost in every house lives a witchdoctor and other kinds of devil servants.”


The geographer Sebastian Miller (1489-1552) in his 22 volume encyclopaedia “Cosmographia” with unpleasant surprise finds out that in the ranks of peasants of Baltic  “are many of those, who know nothing of God and his saints. One worships sun, other- moon, one chooses beautiful tree to worship, while other a stone or whatever he pleases”.

The Baltic deities are divided in six large groups:
1) the universal being - The God,
2) the gods of nature and space,
3) the gods of human destiny,
4) the gods of fertility,
5) mothers,
6) the minor deities of various functions.

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Dievs (God) 

The main ruler of everything is God or Dievs as called in Latvian (the name is close to ancient Indian deva meaning God and dyaus meaning sky; the name is similar in all Baltic languages and it comes from the word deuio - the shining sky of the day; he could be close to ancient Greek Zeus). 


The symbol of God is an open or close triangle, pointed up.

According to Baltic mythology, the God is the rightful ruler of all the guider of stars, nature and humans. The God is fighter against evil, the judge of human destiny. The God is personified, but he got no children or family. 

There are no direct offerings to God but God could be prayed like the Christian God.


Modern day use
Triangle is easy - you can do everything you want, from quilt to skirt, and play which way you prefer. Triangle is triangle, even if with a ball on top. I can't reccomend anything specific - wide room to create something traditional or scary modern.

 
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Mara, Mother of the Earth

Mara is the highest-ranking female deity in Baltic mythology, Mother of the Earth. Mara’s symbol is a triangle, pointed down, thus opposite symbol to God’s thus she may be thought as the alternate side of God (like in Yin and Yang). While God represents the sky, as a roof over the earth and his symbol is pointed up, Mara represents all Earth things.

Other female deities, sometimes all of them, are considered her alternate aspects. She is the patroness of all feminine duties (children, cattle), patroness of all the economic activities ("God made the table, Mara made the bread"), even money and markets. Being the alternate side of God, she takes a person's body after their death while God is taking the soul. She is the one who was responsible for the land, the waters, and every living thing.
In some areas she was strongly associated with Laima and may even have been considered the same deity.

Mara is strongly associated with childbirth; children are said to enter the world "through the gates of Mara". She is the protector of women, especially mothers, and children. She is also the goddess of the hearth. 

Mara is also linked with death, and often takes the form of black animals such as ravens or black hens. 

One horisontal line does represent Mara as Mother of Earth,  a zigzag line - as Mother of Water.





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Combination of God and Mara signs creates a cross which you already are familiar with – the David Star, the symbol used by Hebrews. 

In Baltic traditional culture this symbol, especially drawn as one liner, protects you from evil as it carries strength of both mayor deities – God and Mara.

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Laima, deity of Destiny
Laima is the deity of human destiny and takes care of the soul. The name Laima derives from the word laime, which means "happiness", "luck", or "fate". Laima determines whether one's life will be short or long, fruitful or poverty-stricken, carefree or worrisome. She also determines the moment of a person's death, sometimes even arguing about it with God.

There are several symbols connected with Laima. One is called the Fir-Twig.
Another is Laima’s broom or brush, which she uses to save people from drowning. 

 This must be a very ancient symbol, representing bird’s feather. Bird was a symbol of soul in many ancient cultures.


In the Latvian mythology, Laima and her sisters Karta and Dekla, were a trinity of fate deities, similar to the Norse Norns or the Greek Moirai. While all three of them have similar functions, Laima is more related with mothers, Dekla is in charge of children, and Karta holds adult's life. Laima makes the final decision on individual's fate thus is much more popular.  All in all, in general they are the same deity in three different aspects. 
In the Lithuanian mythology, Laima (fate, destiny) is often confused with Laimė (good luck) and Laumė (fairy, Lauma in Latvian). Other related deities include Dalia (fate) and Giltine (The Reaper). 

One of the most important duties of Laima is to prophesy how the life of a newborn will take place. Sometimes there was only one Laima, while in other cases all three deities would give often contradictory predictions. The final pronouncement would irrevocable and not even Laima herself could change it.

Laima is related to Gegutė or Dzeguze (the cuckoo), who is responsible for time and the succession of the seasons. The number of her calls in spring even now is believed to predict how long a person has left to live. In spring she would also determine how a person would spend the remainder of the year; if a man had no money on him when he heard the cuckoo, he would be poor for the rest of the year.  

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How to create an ornament

Now when you have three symbols of three main deities, there is time to put them together and start playing creating ornaments like our ancestors did.
Let’s make a pattern for a newborn baby. Well wishes, of course. You want all the best for this baby, right? You want all the deities to take care about this little one, right? Place God on top, Mara at the bottom and Laima in between them to create strong, protective ornament, representing the whole life of a human being. Simple, isn’t it?

The pattern is not created by me, it is created by blogger Ieva

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Perkons (Thunder)

Thunder (Perkuns in Lithuanian, Perkons in Latvian, Prussian Perkun, ancient Indian Parjanja, Scandinavian Fjorgin; he is also quite related to ancient Greek god Hephaestus) is the main cosmic god in Baltic mythology.  

He is the skyforger who rides across the sky hitting Sun’s word tree making Sun cry (an explanation for thunderstorm), when Perkons roars the God angers ridding the stone carriage. He is also a fighter against the Devil and other evil spirits.

The main symbol of Perkons is swastika, also called the thunder cross or fire cross. The swastika is one of the most oldest religious symbols found in India, Russia, Europe and even America, long before Adolf Hitler made swastika the symbol of modern evil. When you see Swastika used in Baltic traditional dresses it has nothing to do with Nazi ideology.


 This ornament is believed to enchain good luck, energy, thunder and wind. The fire cross has links with Sun, Laima and the main god -  Perkons, thus this simbol was especially used to protect newborn child. This sign was carved in the walls of the crib or weaved in the belt which was used to wrap the baby.

Modern day use 
While in Baltic people still use this simbol and try to educate the world that this simbol is at least some thousand years older that Nazi, to avoid confusion, better not use this symbol at all. Saves headache explaining that not, you are not "one of these".




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Auseklis, Morning Star symbol

Eight star cross Auseklis is the symbol of the morning star in the Baltic culture – for Latvian deity Auseklis and Lithuanian deity Ausrine. 

The symbol is one of many ancient cosmological and magical symbols used in Eastern Baltic traditional culture as personification of planet Venus.
Among crosses in Latvian folklore, this star, drawn as one-liner, becomes the most powerful protection against incubus. 

Star as an ornament were made to protect against evil spirits an devil. So sleeping under a blanket, decorated with stars, you didn’t need to worry – your soul was safe. Also these star blankets were very popular for horses. 


Modern day use 
Not many can make a weaven quilt today, but there are always other possibilities! 
Quilters! It’s your traditional Eight-Pointed Star quilt block! Make one quilt for your friend. This is especially good symbol for these who are born under Venus as ruling planet, like Librans.

And if you like knitting... In Baltic traditional culture knitted mittens always were not just a garment but a piece of a personal design. Mittens were given as presents and ladies competed who can make the best, most complicated, most colorful patterns. 

If you are really brave, you can go really far and forget about any traditional way creating your own, like this one, from collection of Linda Leen




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Jumis (Deity of harvest)

 Jumis is the Baltic deity who personify the harvest. The symbol of Jumis is two stylized, crossed corn stalks, a glyph which may be related to the sanskrit word for ‘twin.’ Whatever, this symbol is one of prosperity and good fortune.

This deity was believed to live in the fields and at the end of each harvest (during the autumn festival Miķeļi) a special ritual, the "catching of Jumis," was performed so that the fields would prosper.

The two tied stalks also represent the two faces of the God, who is also related to the Roman Janus. 

 Usually ornaments of Jumis were woven in men’s belt for prosperity and fertility. 

Often symbol of Jumis was used to decorate the rooftops thus giving the house the prosperity. 


Any Jumis signs, found in nature (like two nuts grown together) were kept in the main room – again – for prosperity and fertility.

Modern day use 
You do not want a belt? And you already have mittens? And you definitely do not want this on your rooftop? Well, how about a creative bookshelf like Jumis ornament?  Why not?

6 comments:

  1. This is so interesting...
    Hugz

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  2. Hello! I'm glad you enjoyed!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you, it was very interesting and will be very helpful for my presentation of Latvia

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  4. Mara is the Dark Goddess, Dievs is actually a new pagan god, not that old but Saule the Sun Goddess is the true Supreme Goddess because the prehistory honored female sun deities and giving any god her title falls under christian religion (the newer relgion). Lots to learn about symbolism of the divinities.

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