*This article is an excerpt from "The Three Golden Hairs: Slavic & Germanic Myth in Czech Folklore," European Fairy Tales Series Vol VI.
I argue quite strongly that the phenomenon of holding a hybrid form of religion occurred clear across Northern Europe, from Britain clear to Russia. However, the manifestation of it occurred much more strongly in Slavic lands than elsewhere. In fact, the ancient faith of the Slavs was so overtly prominently practiced by the peasantry that the Slavs began to be referred to as the people of two faiths. Dvoeverie is a Russian word that is typically translated as “dual belief” or “double faith.”
When I set out to look more deeply into Slavic mythology to understand how it survived in fairy tales, such as was the case in the Western European paradigm, I discovered that the language barrier means that there is not a great deal of research on this topic available in English to the general public. So, I've been collecting the books that I can find, and wanted to give you a bit of information on what I've learned thus far and a rundown of a few of the best books that I've yet found for people who want to learn more about the Slavic folk tradition.
The Slavic people possess an ancient culture filled with beautiful clothing, traditional dances, ethnic cuisine, and their own tradition of mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Despite their rich canon of myth, Slavic mythology gets much less attention than other European groups.
I have long felt that Celtic and Germanic myth has taken a backseat to the Greco-Roman pantheon in the Western consciousness. But those groups have seen resurgence in interest in recent years. Slavic mythology has also experienced growing interest, however much of it has been cut off from the English speaking world in a way that Celtic and Germanic myth has not.
So, I am thrilled to see Slavic cultural tradition finally making a splash in the modern pop culture scene which in turn makes the rounds in the English speaking media.
Myth & Culture Together Live on in Folk Custom
When people think of mythology, they tend to think of the great gods and epic heroes whose exploits passed on into myth and legend. However, scholars such as Jacqueline Simpson, renowned folklorist, have pointed out that ancient indigenous beliefs lingered on in folklore and traditions in Europe which often have roots connecting back to mythological figures and beliefs.
The phenomenon of indigenous beliefs lingering on with the common people after the population has been converted to a new religion is known as “folk religion.” We see it plainly today in Central and South America. The most well known custom that merges indigenous belief with Christianity is the Mexican Day of the Dead. There are other examples in other parts of the world where ancient animist and shamanic beliefs have carried on under the newer religions of Buddhism and Islam.