Chernobog (from Proto-Slavic *čĭrnŭ 'black' and *bogŭ "god") – also spelled as Chernabog, Czernobog, Chornoboh, Czorneboh, Čiernoboh, Crnobog, Tchernobog and Zcerneboch among 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 are Christian (and hence do not provide careful or accurate mythography) describe him as a dark, accursed god. It is questionable how important or malicious he was really considered to be by ancient Slavs, since the name "Chernobog" is attested only among West Slavic tribes of the 12th century, hence it is speculated that he was not a very important nor a very old deity.
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 practice: 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, 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, or Zcerneboch, that is, the "Black God".
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.
In popular culture
Chernobog is a playable character in popular MOBA game Smite, under the hunter class. Chernobog is also an important antagonist character in the Heirs of Alexandria series, a fantasy series by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer. Some fantasy fans contend that Chernobog is a balrog as found in Tolkien mythology.
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. Chernobog was certainly a key player in Mussorgsky’s conception of the piece.
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 Chernabog awakening during the Night on Bald Mountain sequence, and appears as a mountain-sized, bat-winged, demonic creature.
- Mike Dixon-Kennedy (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend. ABC-CLIO. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-1-57607-063-5.
- 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.