Chernobog (from Proto-Slavic *čĭrnŭ 'black' and *bogŭ "god") – also spelled as Chernevog, Czernobog, Chornoboh, 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 is attested and known definitively.[a]
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"). This dualism is a common theme amongst Eurasian religions. 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. He 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".||”|
|— Helmold of Bosau, Chronica Slavorum|
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 is also the great, black demonic figure in the Walt Disney adaptation of the Modest Mussorgsky piece Night on Bald Mountain in the 1940 film Fantasia. This version appears as a boss in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance
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.
Chernobog appears in Naomi Novik's 2018 fantasy novel, Spinning Silver, which is inspired by Eastern European mythology.
Chernobog along with the "Peacock Angel" appears in S.M.Stirling's "The Peshawar Lancers"
- 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.
- Gasparini, Evel (n.d.). "Slavic religion". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
- 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 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.CS1 maint: Date format (link)