Deities and fairies of fate in Slavic mythology
fate, destiny, luck
Rodzanice, Marek Hapon, 2015
|Abode||palace of the Sun|
|Artifacts||Spindle, thread of life|
Rozhanitsy, narecnitsy, and sudzhenitsy are invisible spirits or deities of fate in the pre-Christian religion of the Slavs. Sources usually mention them together with Rod. They are usually mentioned three together, but sometimes up to 9 together, of which one was a "queen" or singular. They are related to Dolya, but it is not known on what terms.
Names and meaning
- Croatian: rodjenice, rojenice, roženice, sudice, sudjenice, sujenice
- Slovene: rodjenice, rojenice, sudice, sojenice, sujenice
- Bulgarian: sudženici, narŭčnici, orisnici, urisnici, uresici
- Czech and Slovak: rodjenice, sudjenice, sudički
- Polish: rodzanice, narecznice, sudiczki
- Serbian: suđaje, suđenice, rođenice, narečnici
- Old East Slavic, Russian: rožanice, udĕlnicy
Terms rodzanica, rodjenica czy rojenica come from word roditi ("giving birth") and literally mean "woman giving birth".
Terms sudiczka, sudica, czy sojenica come from word sud ("judgment", "judge", "court") and literally mean "judging woman".
Terms narecznica, nerechnitsa, narucnica mean "determining woman".
Terms udelnica mean "granting woman".
Bulgarian terms orisnici, urisnici, uresici come from greek word όρίζοντες (orizontes - "establish") and mean "establishing woman”.
In the Eastern Slavs, the personification of good fortune was also known as Dolya, whose name means "division", "participation", and bad luck as Nedolya. In Serbs and Croats, on the other hand, there is Sreća - whose name means "luck".
In some regions of Poland, the functions of rozhanitsy were fulfilled by other figures: boginki in Lesser Poland, kraśniki in Pomerania or zorze ("auroras"). In the The Catalogue Of Rudolph's Magic, written by Edward Karvot, who wrote the information collected by Brother Rudolf about the customs of pagan Western Slavs, we read that the Slavs "make sacrifices to their three sisters, which the pagans call Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos to lend them wealth." Rudolph, probably not knowing the language of the Slavs, gave rozhanitsy the names of Moirai, which he knew from Greek mythology, and which perform the same functions as the rozhanitsy.
The rozhanitsy after Christianization were replaced by the Mothers of God or saint women. In Russian charms of a maturing boy, Parascheva, Anastasia and Barbara are mentioned, and in Bulgarian folklore Mother of God, Parascheva and Anastasia. Angels or even Christ Himself also took over the functions of rozhanitsy.
Word of St. Gregory Theologian about how pagans bowed to idols of the 11th century is first source mentioning about rozhanitsy:
This word also came to the Slavs, and they began to make sacrifices to Rod and rozhanitsy before Perun, their god.
Word of Chrystolubiec describes the prayers dedicated to the Rod and rozhanitsy:
... and we mix some pure prayers with the cursed offering of idols, because they put an unlawful table in addition to a kutia table and a lawful dinner, designed for Rod and rozanitsy, causing God's anger
Did you make offerings disgusting to God together with women, did you pray to the vilas, or did you in honor of Rod and rozhanitze, and Perun and Hors and Mokosh drink and eat: three years of fasting with obeisances
Pledging sacrifice to rozhanitsy - filling a mug to the demon
pledging Bod (or Rod and rozhanitsy) a sacrifice and preparing a mixed drink for rozhanitsy (devils)
with the children cut their first hair and the women boil groat for rozhanitsy
if to rozhanitsy they are eating bread and cheese and honey strictly forbidden in one place, says (Isaiah): woe to those who drink and eat in honor of rozhanitsy
who is worshipper of kolach, or worshipper of rozhanitsy
In the folklore of the Southern Slavs, rozhanitsy are described as beautiful girls or as good-natured elderly women. Sometimes also represented as three women of different ages: a girl, an adult woman and an elderly woman. Southern Slavs described them as beautiful figures with white, round cheeks. They were to be dressed in white clothes and had a white cap (mob cap) on their heads and to have silver and gold jewelry. In their hands they were to hold burning candles through which their silhouettes were to be easily visible in the moonlight.
Czechs described them as white-dressed virgins or old women. They were to be tall and transparent, their cheeks were to be pale and their eyes were to spark and charm people and their hair was decorated with precious stones. Like the southern Slavs, they were to wear a white bonnet or veil.
Functions and cult
They were to look after pregnant women, and after giving birth to a child, they determined his fate for the rest of his life. The rozhanitsy appeared at midnight, three days after the birth of the child, at his cradle, then they were supposed to foretell the child good or bad fate for life. After determining the fate of the child, it was saved as an indelible mark on the forehead. The rozhanitsy opinions on the future of the child were often contradictory, and the final, oldest parent makes the final decision. The first, youngest rozhanitsa spins, the second measures and the third cuts off the thread of life - the longer the thread, the longer life will be. In southern Slavs, rozhanitsy were sometimes distinguished from sudzhenitsy, which were to appear before death and during important moments in life. Rozhanitsy were sometimes called to protect the family from illness.
For they believe that one god, the maker of lightning, is alone lord of all things, and they sacrifice to him cattle and all other victims; but as for fate, they neither know it nor do they in any wise admit that it has any power among men, but whenever death stands close before them, either stricken with sickness or beginning a war, they make a promise that, if they escape, they will straightway make a sacrifice to the god in return for their life; and if they escape, they sacrifice just what they have promised, and consider that their safety has been bought with this same sacrifice.— Procopius
According to sources, a trapezoidal table with bread, honey, cheese and groat (kutia) was prepared in honor of the rozhanitsy, sometimes the meal was left in the shrines. First haircut was sacrified to the rozhanitsy - cut hair should be offered to the rozhanitsy. Slovenes and Croats used to put candles, wine, bread and salt in the room where the woman lies the day after delivery. Failure to do so threatened that rozhanitsy would determine a child's bad fortune. Slovenians living in Istria laid bread under the boulders next to the caves in which rozhanitsy were to live, and in Bulgaria suppers were prepared. In the Czech Republic, a table was prepared on which white clothes and chairs were waiting for rozhanitsy and chair, on which bread, salt and butter were laid, sometimes cheese and beer. One of Rod's and rozhanitsy holidays was to be December 26, which after Christianization was replaced by the Orthodox Church with the Feast of the Mother of God.
The rozhanitsy were to live at the end of the world in the palace of the Sun, which could connect them to the solar deity.
In many European religions there are three female characters telling the child the future, which indicates the Indo-European origin of the rozhanitsy:
- Roman Parcae
- Greek Moirai
- Norse Norns
- Celtic Brigida in three persons or three Matres
- Baltic Łajma, which sometimes appeared in three forms
Old Russian sources also mention the rozhanitsy in one person, usually as a pair of Rod and Rodzanica. An example of such a source is the 12th century chronicle Gesta regum Anglorum, which describes the cult of Svetovid among the Slavs of Elbe, comparing him to Roman Fortune and Greek Týchē. The 13th century Russian translation of this chronicle translates Fortune as Rozhanitsa (Рожданица). Another example could be the Word about how pagans bowed to idols: "Artemis and Artemisa called Rod and Roshanitsa". In such a situation, Rozhanitsa could be the Mother Goddess - the goddess of fertility and motherhood. According to mythologists, the triple deities of fate are the hypostasis of the ancient goddess of fate. Pragermani Urðr and early Greek Clotho were to be such goddesses. A similar process probably took place in the Slavs and in that situation Dolya could be the original goddess of fate.
In popular culture
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- Szyjewski 2003, p. 164.
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- Brückner 1985, p. 171.
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