Chernobog (from Proto-Slavic *čĭrnŭ 'black' and *bogŭ "god") – also spelled as Chernabog, Czernobog, Chornoboh, Čiernoboh, Crnobog, Tchernobog and Zcerneboch among many other variants – is a Slavic deity whose name means "black god", about whom much has been speculated but little can be said definitively.[a]
The only historical sources for this god are Christian, which describe him as a dark, accursed deity. It is questionable how important or malicious he was really considered to be by ancient Slavs, as the name "Chernobog" is attested only among West Slavic tribes of the 12th century AD; hence it is speculated that he was not a particularly important nor very old deity to most tribes.[by whom?]
Although the ancient Slavic religion was chiefly polytheistic with a wide pantheon of gods, he has been historically assumed to be the dualistic counterpart or contrasting aspect of the "good" deity, Belobog (the "white god"). In modern depictions, such as video games and film, Chernobog is generally portrayed as a demon or monster with a grotesque or frightening appearance, often linked to darkness and death.
A longstanding historic source on Slavic mythology mentioning Chernobog is the 12th century Chronica Slavorum, a work written by the German priest-scribe Helmold which describes customs and beliefs of several Wendish and Polabian tribes, who were mostly still pagans at the time. Helmold wrote thus in Medieval Latin:
The Slavs, too, have a strange conviction: At their feasts and carousals they pass about a libation 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, they profess that all propitious fortune is arranged by the good god, and all adverse by the bad god. Hence, also, in their language they call the bad god Diabol,[b] or Zcerneboch, that is, the "Black God".
This passage has been the cornerstone for defenders of the thesis that Chernobog was an evil god part of a Slavic dualism, at least in that distinction.
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A veneration of this deity perhaps survived in the 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.
In popular culture
Chernobog, specifically his Fantasia incarnation, is referenced with the design of the Dark One, Avoozl, in Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. Avoozl emerges from a mountain in a manner akin to Chernobog awakening during the Night on Bald Mountain sequence, and appears as a mountainous, bat-winged, demonic monster.
Tchernobog is the primary antagonist of the 1997 first-person shooter video game Blood who controls the cult known as "the Cabal". He is depicted as a "Dark God" of many incarnations, with a bloodied, horned, and monstrous appearance.
Chernobog appears in multiple entries of the Shin Megami Tensei series of JRPGs as a summonable monster. He appears usually as a bald, purple humanoid cloaked in a red scarf and holding a large scythe.
- In some modern Slavic languages the name is written differently – e.g. Bulgarian and Russian: Чернобог Chernobog; Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian: Crnobog, Црнобог; Polish: Czarnobóg; Czech: Černobůh. Spelling is further varied by regional and dialectal pronunciation.
- It is of note that "Diabol" means "devil" in the Slavic languages, and is cognate to the English word.
- Mike Dixon-Kennedy (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend. ABC-CLIO. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-1-57607-063-5.
- Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses (in French). Presses Universitaires de France. 1969.
- Helmold, Priest of Bosau (1935). Tschan, Francis Joseph, ed. The Chronicle of the Slavs. Translated by Tschan, Francis Joseph. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 159.
- Helmoldus (1581). "Caput LIII". In Reiner Reineccius. Chronica Slavorum. Frankfurt. p. 44.
- "SMITE". www.smitegame.com. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
- Odom, Mel; Chapman, Ted (1997). Blood: The Official Strategy Guide. Prima Pub. ISBN 9780761509325.
- Atlus (1994–2018). Shin Megami Tensei (series). Various platforms. Atlus.