Meet the Gods: Jarilo
While Ostara (also called Eostre and Eastre) is the Germanic goddess of spring and dawn, there appears to be no equivalent Germanic god of spring. There is, however, a handsome, young Slavic god of spring and fertility – Jarilo. He was born on the night of the Slavic new year and was the tenth son of Perun, the god of thunder.
Veles, the Slavic god of the Underworld, kidnapped Jarilo from his cradle. As a result, winter overtook the land. Vegetation died and fertility was suspended. Jarilo escaped, arriving home in spring at which time flowers bloomed, birds sang and fertility festivals (some called them orgies) were held.
Each year the cycle of death and rebirth repeats, much like it does with the goddess Persephone. Each spring Jarilo returns on a white horse, celebrating the sun’s resurrection, so he was also considered a sun god. He was the god of vegetation, too, because he enabled crops to grow, protecting and defending them from natural disasters.
According to the website Meet the Slavs, “People used flowers, branches, leaves to adorn houses and barns. The wreaths were also made and thrown into the river or stream. Slavs sacrificed cattle to Jarilo, usually a ram or a goat. The priests sometimes sacrificed deer whose head was placed in front of the statue of God. When there existed threat of drought, rituals devoted to Jarilo included entire nation, so whole community prayed to God for rain.”
Also known as Gerovit, Jared and Rudjevid, he would protect the weak and helpless as a god of war. According to the same source, he demanded peace and harmony, and carried an olive branch in one hand and a sword in the other, but used “only in cases when difficulties could not be solved in other ways.”
Besides temples, Jarilo’s places were rivers, forests and cemeteries.
The month with which he is associated began March 21, when the sun entered the sign of Aries. For that reason, a ram was often sacrificed in his honor on the equinox.
As he returned to the world in the spring, according to theonetruejustice.wordpress.com, “by happenstance the lady he met was his own twin sister Marzanna (Morana), the goddess of nature, winter, and decay. Incestual relationship was a really popular thing for gods back in the day, so they soon fell in love and got married on the evening of the summer solstice.”
As that story goes, when she found out her brother/husband was unfaithful, she gathered the gods and together they murder Jarilo, dismembering him in a ritualistic sacrifice and forcing him back into the underworld. Marzanna becomes heartbroken and cruel. The cycle of death and rebirth allows Jarilo to meet, marry, and be dismembered by his sister year after year.
This Ostara, if you wish to call a god into your circle, Jarilo is one option. You could try putting an olive branch and a sword on your altar. You might also use a symbol of Aries or a ram, branches, flowers and other signs of spring.
If you would like a goddess from the same pantheon for your sabbat, get to know Kostroma, the East Slavic goddess of fertility and fruitfulness. In mythology, she was the one that provides fertility and abundance of land, invoked every spring through various rituals. Kostroma brings those born on this day a special talent in writing and speaking. Kostroma is also the goddess of signs and coincidences, according to “The World of Ancient Gods – Slavic Goddesses” on Meet the Slavs’ website.
Merry part. And merry meet again.
About the Author:
Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.