Sources

Sources

Apart from rather dim mentioning in Tacitus_ “Germania” of gentes aestiorum, who worship the Mother of Gods (most likely these were Western Balts) and some other sources ascribed to the Western Balts (by Wulfstan, Adamus Bremenensis); reports of the Arabic voyager Idrisius on Madsuna town citizens, who worship fire, could be attributed to source son Lithuania as well. Apart from the whole volume of reference of the Baltic tribes in the bulls of popes and other sources, Lithuanian religion is soomewhat more clearly represented by Ipatijus Voluinė’ manuscript fragments speak about gods secretly worshipped but Mindaugas and were it is said about gods which were besought by Lithuanian warriors; also a short insertion of the Slavic translation of Malala chronicle on Sovijus myth, undoubtedly authentic but their interpretation is not clear, many god-figures cited there are never mentioned in the subsequent sources. A separate group of sources is formed by the Lyvonic and Teutonic Orders documents, yet they are also veery fragmented and are not concerned with the securing of the authentic material. The sources increase in density in the period before accepting Christianity and right after it was accepted; data preserved by Hieronymus Praquensis and Jan Dlugosz (Johannes Longinus), th

hough idealized, supply a lot of information.

Later renaissance sources, late manuscripts, give the legendary versions of Lithuanian history where there also emerge religious elements. “Lithuanian chronicle” speaks about religious innovations that took place in the early Middle Ages, however, they are not supported by the earlier documents, yet, their authenticity can be witnessed by the overall religious innovations in the Baltic. Maciej Stryjkowski in the middle of the 16th century listed 16 Lithuania Gods, J.Lasycki listed numerous Samogitian gods and some minor mythological figures. These authors can be considered very reliable, however, they did not speak Lithuania and they were recording features of deteriorating religion, which was permeated by a number of locally worshipped “gods” and some encrusted petty mythical fiigures. This jumble hardly lends itself to coherent classification. In the end of the 16th century, in the following 17th century and later Jesuit missions were very active in Lithuania passed a lot, though, fragmented information about the remains of pagan faith spotted in the province of Lithuanian, M.Preatorius wrote about the customs and beliefs in the Lithuania Minor (Mažoji Lietuva), his works are of paramount importance because they bear no comparison to the fragments found in earlier sources, they be
ear the character of a comprehensive ethnographic compilation of the beliefs, mode of life, rituals etc. in the Lithuania Minor at the end of the 17th century. All these materials matched together can be used for reconstruction of the Lithuania tradition, however, it is necessary to bear in mind that all these facts reflect certain stages in the evolution of Lithuanian religious tradition, its periods of existence and decline, and “mechanical summing up” would not produce the overall image of the old Lithuanian religion. Also, here we could add some other group of sources: archeological and linguistic sources, folklore collections recorded in the 19th-20th centuries and the ethnographic material from the period. Yet, it is possible to assume that the specificity of different sources defines the answers to the inquiry we are concerned with; also the chronological factor is very important. Basically we should define at least 4 stages of the evolutionary processes as seen in the sources:

1. 13-14th centuries. The period of the official religion worshipped by the knighthood and the warriors; religion is strongly influenced by the “military mythology”. The class of priests is still in function.

2. 15-16th centuries. The upper strata of society are converted to Christianity. The pe
easants, who are not touched by the Christianity, pass on the old tradition. In the more isolated villages the evolution of religion, rather destructive, continues in a peculiar way. The province produces agricultural Pantheon of gods; in the villages religious rites continue.

3. 16-18th centuries. Jesuits start to attract to Christianity Lithuania province and complete the process. The old Pantheon comes to depletion, gods are being replaced by ghosts, minor mythological figures, whose cult is practiced through occasional devotional offerings. The old religious ceremonies live through dramatic alteration, they cease to be community act but are restrained to a family circle.

4. 19th and the first part of the 20th centuries. Deliberate repetition of the ancient religious elements is not observed or almost not observed. Old mythological images and rituals developed naturally enter the field of Christian faith. In the church services, festivals and folklore there abound elements of the old tradition but they are tinted with Christian meaning (or rather embedded in Christian mythology). On the one hand this situation can be conceived as the ultimate victory of Christianity against the old faith and the old mythological vision, on the other hand we can speak of an obvious penetration of the ol
ld tradition into Christianity. The result is religious syncretism sprung due to the victory of the Christianity, in reality the adaptation of the Christianity to the invincible tradition. This fusion was programmed ever since the middle of the second millennium and finally brought to life in that period.

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