I was first introduced to the idea of Czernobog and Belobog from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I was immediately enthralled. I, personally, related them to the similarly dualistic duo of Balder and Hod, both of whom there is limited and conflicting information remaining from ancestral times but for whom new deities can grow from our modern reflection of ancient times.
My children, in wanting to learn more about their Slavic spirituality and being enthralled with deities themselves, took quickly to the idea of Czernobog and Belobog, who would have been worshiped (if they were deities in that time period) in the times of their paternal ancestors in what is now modern-day Poland.
After reading Gaiman’s novel, and thinking about the duality, but letting go of the Christian mindset of good and evil, but rather thinking of a more natural and more primitive mindset of dark and light (literal dark and light) the way that I do with Balder and Hod, I felt a slightly stronger connection to them.
Czernobog is darkness in the way the winter nights are long and cold and dark- so very dark- without artificial light to illuminate our modern way of life. Belobog is light in the summer, on days when the sun is up longer than it is down and for the one special night when it never actually sets. Human activity is more productive in the light because there is more time to see and when we see, we can actually do. Czernobog is about survival against the narural cycle and Belobog is about thriving during the natural cycle.
For quite a while, the Littles have gone to bed with a final prayer- actually, three strung together- rather than a guided meditation. It begins with a natural world blessing, a sleeping time blessing, and then a prayer of guidance and keeping to their respective deities.
For Witchlette, it has always been Skadi and Idunn. She has never wavered from her devotion to her two goddesses. Skadi’s presence is stronger in the winter and Idunn is stronger in the summer, but both are always around.
For Witchling, he took a strong liking to Ulr from the get go. The final deitic prayer has a place for two gods. Witchling wants to strike different from his sister and will not pray to either Skadi or Idunn. For a while, he filled both places with Ulr. Then, Odin in one and Ulr in the other. Then Heimdal and Ulr. For the last few months, he chose Hod.
“If the god of darkness is with me while I sleep, then the dark can’t hurt me because the dark is protecting me.”
He is way too profound for a 4 year old.
Last night, after we did our prayers, he noted that Hod doesn’t feel right anymore. He wants to try another god. Being only 4, I think everyone understands that he is figuring out the world and neither of my kids will take an actual oath to a deity until they are actually old enough to understand what that entails. 8th grade Confirmation in the Catholic church is far too young and meaningless to too may who go through it, myself included, that I am sure it is starting to rub Yaweh is Jesus the wrong way that so many are giving an oath to them when they don’t really want to, but someone somewhere made a rule a long time ago which decided the year before high school is a good time for all children to do so all at once… but I digress.
“Who do you want to pray to”
“Can you tell me all the gods again? But not <sister>’s gods. I don’t want to pray to them. But can you tell me all the other ones?”
I start to list off ten: Odin, Frigg, Thor, Sif, Heimdal, Tyr, Freyr, Freya, Njord, Loki
“You didn’t say Ulr”
“I only named 10”
“How many are there?”
“More than 10”
“Say the 10 again, but this time say Ulr”
“Ok…Ulr, Odin, Frigg, Thor, Sif, Heimdal, Tyr, Freyr, Njord, and Loki”
“You didn’t say Hod”
“I also didn’t say his brother Balder, or Nana, Forsetti, Freya, Kavasi…”
“That’s too many. … Oh! What about in anesthesia? The dark god…but not him. The light god at the end.” (Our dog recently had surgery, so he said anesthesia instead of Fantasia 🙂 )
“Yeah. Do my prayers again, but do Belobog instead of Hod.”
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray to Ulr my form to keep
Belobog hold me through the night
And wake me with the morning light
“Yeah….I like that one the best. Thanks Mom”
He is branching out to his own pantheon based on his own experiences and I couldn’t be prouder.
I will write later, at some point, how our own head-canon and our belief in gods is what makes them gods (a theme Gaiman touches on very well in American Gods).