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Chernobog (Proto-Slavic *čĭrnŭ 'black' and *bogŭ "god"), also spelled as Czernobog, Crnobog and Tchernobog is a Slavic deity, whose name means black god, about whom much has been speculated but little can be said definitively. The only historical sources, which are Christian ones, interpret him as a dark, accursed god, but it is questionable how important or malicious he was really considered to be by ancient Slavs. The name is attested only among West Slavic tribes of the 12th century, hence it is speculated that he was not a very important or very old deity. He is the counterpart of Belobog.
One historic source on Slavic mythology mentioning this god is the 12th-century Chronica Slavorum, a work written by German priest Helmold which describes customs and beliefs of several Wendish and Polabian tribes who were still pagans. Helmold wrote that:
The Slavs, too, have a strange delusion. At their feasts and carousals they pass about a bowl over which they utter words, I should not say of consecration but of execration, in the name of the gods — of the good one, as well as of the bad one — professing that all propitious fortune is arranged by the good god, adverse, by the bad god. Hence, also, in their language they call the bad god Diabol, or Zcerneboch, that is, the black god.
On the basis of this inscription, many modern mythographers assumed that, if the evil god was Chernobog, the Black God, then the good god should be Belobog or the White God. However, the name of Belobog is not mentioned by Helmold anywhere in his Chronica, nor is it ever mentioned in any of the historic sources that describe the gods of any Slavic tribe or nation. Svetovid may serve as the opposite god.
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A veneration of this deity perhaps survived in folklore of several Slavic nations. In some South Slavic vernaculars, there exists the phrase do zla boga (meaning "to [the] evil god," or perhaps "to [the] evil [of] God"), used as an attribute to express something which is exceedingly negative.
Virtually no one is really aware of the literal meaning of these words anymore; exclamations such as Ovo je do zla boga dosadno! and To je do zla boga glupo! can be safely translated as "This is devilishly boring!" and "That is immensely stupid!" without any real loss in meaning. Even these translations are becoming somewhat outdated, though, as Slavic languages have some common curses that are used in the middle of a sentence, whereas a similar curse in English would be an introductory interjection. To continue one of the above examples, To je do zla boga glupo! can also be translated as "Damn! This is stupid!". Combining the two concepts would render it as "This is damn stupid!", which is also acceptable.
It must be noted that curses, expletives, and foul language in general are often highly idiomatic in any language and may (note the emphasis) be better translated with culturally-analogous words or phrases rather than literal translations. Translations should, in any event, try to maintain the same relative level of intensity of expletives.
The word Bog ("God"), however, in all Slavic languages today is used as it is in English for the Christian God.
In popular culture
- Chernobog has made appearances in various media. As Chernabog, he features in the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Disney's Fantasia (1940), as a gigantic black gargoyle like creature who summons other ghosts and demons. In an interview, Walt Disney referred to him as Satan himself. Deems Taylor likewise refers to him as such in the film. This rendition also appears in the video games Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance as a boss character, where Night on Bald Mountain is played during his boss fights, making him the only Disney villain with his own personal boss music. He also appears in the drama Once Upon a Time in the episode "Darkness on the Edge of Town.".
- In literature, he appears in American Gods by Neil Gaiman, as "Czernobog." In the alternate history novel The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling, the Russian Empire turns to Chernobog worship after a comet impact causes widespread famine and cannibalism. Chernobog is also the main antagonist in the Heirs of Alexandria series by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer. A version of Chernobog is also used in Richard Kadrey's third novel in the Sandman Slim trilogy, although it is spelled as "Chernovog." Also appears as one of the "Overtakers" in the Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson.
- He also appears in a number of video games, usually as a villain. In the Blood series (where the name is spelled as "Tchernobog") he is depicted not as a person but as an essence of a force that keeps the realities together and must be used by persons incarnating the god. The first game features an incarnation as the main villain, and the second game's plot revolves around the main character Caleb actually being the god. He has also appeared as a recurring demon in the Megami Tensei series.
- Chernobog (and Cthulhu) inspired the character of Avoozl the Dark One, master of the antagonists Katrina and Ad-Avis in the Sierra Entertainment adventure-RPG Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. He is worshipped by a cult of horrendously mutated priests called "The Chernovy".
- Czernobog is the name of a Russian Imperial Stout style beer brewed by Harpoon Brewing Company in Boston, Massachusetts.
- In some modern Slavic languages it can be reflected as: Bulgarian and Russian: Чернобог Chernobog, Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian: Crnobog, Црнобог, Polish: Czarnobóg, Czech: Černobůh.
- Tschan, Francis Joseph, ed., trans. (1935). The Chronicle of the Slavs by Helmold, Priest of Bosau. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 159.
- Helmoldus (1581). "Caput LIII". In Reiner Reineccius. Chronica Slavorum. Frankfurt. p. 44.
- The Walt Disney Company (2009). "Disney Archives, Chernabog Villains History".[dead link]