Nav (Slavic folklore)

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Nav (singular Polish: Nawia, plural Polish: Nawie, Czech: Nav, Slovene: Navje, Serbian: Нав, Ukrainian: Мавка (mavka) or Нявка (nyavka)) is a phrase used to denote the souls of the dead in Slavic mythology.[1] The singular form (Nav or Nawia) is also used as a name for an underworld, over which Veles exercises custody—it is often interpreted as another name for the underground variant of the Vyraj.[1]


The words nawia, nav and its other variants are most likely derived from the Proto-Slavic *navь-, meaning "corpse", "deceased".[2]

As souls or spirits[edit]

The nawie, nawki, sometimes also referred to as lalki[1] (all plural forms) was used as a name for the souls of the dead. According to some scholars (namely Stanisław Urbańczyk, among others), this word was a general name for demons arising out of the souls of tragic and premature deaths, killers, warlocks, the murdered and the Drowned Dead.[3] They were said to be hostile and unfavourable towards humans, being jealous of life.[3] In Bulgarian folklore there exists the character of 12 navias that sucked the blood out of women giving birth, whereas in the Ruthenian Primary Chronicle the navias are presented as a demonic personification of the 1092 plague in Polotsk.[2] According to folk tales, the nawie usually took the form of birds.[1]

As an underworld[edit]

The phrase Nawia or Nav was also utilised as a name for the Slavonic underworld, ruled by the god Veles, enclosed away from the world either by a living sea or river, according to some beliefs located deep underground.[1] According to Ruthenian folklore, Veles lived on a swamp in the centre of Nav, where he sat on a golden throne at the base of the Cosmic Tree, wielding a sword.[1] Symbolically, the Nav has also been described as a huge green plain—pasture, onto which Veles guides souls.[1] The entrance to Nav was guarded by a Zmey.[1] It is highly likely that these folk beliefs were the inspiration behind the neopagan idea of Jav, Prav and Nav in the literary forgery known as the Book of Veles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Szyjewski, Andrzej (2004). Religia Słowian [Religion of the Slavs] (in Polish). Kraków: Wydawnictwo WAM. ISBN 83-7318-205-5.
  2. ^ a b Kempiński, Andrzej (2001). Encyklopedia mitologii ludów indoeuropejskich [Encyclopedia of mythology of Indo-European peoples] (in Polish). Warszawa: Iskry. ISBN 83-207-1629-2.
  3. ^ a b Strzelczyk, Jerzy (2007). Mity, podania i wierzenia dawnych Słowian [Myths, legends, and beliefs of the early Slavs] (in Polish). Poznań: Rebis. ISBN 978-83-7301-973-7.