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God of war, fertility and abundance, supreme deity
Modern statue of Svetovid at Cape Arkona, Rügen island, (today Germany)
Abodetemple at Arkona, Rügen island
Symbolfour heads or faces, white stallion, horn of plenty, sword
Mountwhite stallion

Svetovid, Svantovit[1][2][3] or Sventovit[4] is one of the main Slavic deities and is the god of war, fertility and abundance.

It was primarily venerated on the island of Rügen into the 12th century.

Sometimes referred to as Beli (or Byali) Vid[citation needed] (Beli = white, bright, shining), Svetovid is associated with war and divination and depicted as a four-headed god with two heads looking forward and two back. A statue portraying the god shows him with four heads, each one looking in a separate direction, a symbolic representation of the four directions of the compass, and also perhaps the four seasons of the year. Each face had a specific color. The northern face of this totem was white (hence White Ruthenia / Belarus and the White Sea), the western, red (hence Red Ruthenia), the southern, black (hence the Black Sea) and the eastern, green.[5]


Svetovid by Benedictine monk Bernard de Montfaucon, 1722

The forms Sventevith and Zvantewith show that the name derives from the word svętъ, meaning "sacred".[6][7] The second stem is sometimes reconstructed as vit = "lord, ruler, winner".

In Lithuanian: Šventavydis (holy knowledge, holy wisdom, holy seeing: Šventa meaning "holy", Vydis meaning "knowledge" or "seeing"). (Schwentine (Lith: holy one) is a river in the North German state of Schleswig-Holstein, south of Rügen island; Šventoji River (holy river), Šventoji is an important archaeological site as the first artefacts are dated about 3000 BC north of Palanga; many lakes called Šventas ("holy").)[citation needed]

The name recorded in chronicles of contemporary Christian monks is Svantevit, which, if we assume it was properly transcribed, could be an adjective meaning approx. "Dawning One" (svantev, svitanje = "dawning, raising of the Sun in the morning" + it, adjective suffix), implying either a connection with the "Morning Star" or with the Sun itself.[citation needed]

Alternative names[edit]

The original spelling of Svetovid, sometimes Svetovit, which is used by the Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Bosnian, and is an alternative name in Bulgarian, languages, can also be referred to as Svitovyd, Svyatovit, or Svyentovit (Ukrainian), Svantevit (Wendish, and an alternative name in Ukrainian), Suvid (alternative name in Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian), Svantevid (alternative name in Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian), Svantovit (Czech and Slovak), Svantovít (Czech), Svantovid (alternative name in Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian), Swantovít, Sventovit, or Zvantevith (Latin and alternative name in Serbian and Croatian), Świętowit (Polish), Sutvid, or Svevid.


The Celebration of Svetovid on Rügen (1912), by Alphonse Mucha, The Slav Epic

Among the inhabitants of the Rügen island in the Baltic Sea were the Slavic tribe of the Rujani, whose name was a cognate of the island's.

The prophecy before the battle, Józef Ryszkiewicz, 1890

According to various chronicles (i.e. Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus and Chronica Slavorum by Helmold), the temple at Jaromarsburg contained a giant wooden statue of Svantevit depicting him with four heads (or one head with four faces) and a horn of abundance. Each year the horn was filled with fresh mead.

The temple was also the seat of an oracle in which the chief priest predicted the future of his tribe by observing the behaviour of a white horse identified with Svantevit and casting dice (horse oracles have a long history in this region, being already attested in the writings of Tacitus). The temple also contained the treasury of the tribe and was defended by a group of 300 mounted warriors which formed the core of the tribal armed forces.


The decline of the pagan cult. Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona in 1169.

David Leeming identifies the four heads as Rujevit, representing autumn and east, Porevit, representing summer and south, Iarovit, representing spring and west, and Bialobog, representing winter and north.[8]

Some interpretations claim that Svetovit was another name for Radegast, while another states that he was a fake god, a Wendish construction based on the name St. Vitus. However, the common practice of the Christian Church was to replace existing pagan deities and places of worship with analogous persons and rituals of Christian content, so it seems more likely that Saint Vitus was created to replace the original Svanto-Vit. According to a common interpretation, Svantevit was a Rugian counterpart of the pan-Slavic Perun.[citation needed]

In Croatia, on the island of Brač, the highest peak is called Vid's Mountain. In the Dinaric Alps there is a peak called "Suvid" and a Church of St. Vid. Among the Serbs, the cult of Svetovid is partially preserved through the Feast of St. Amos and St. Martyr Lasarus, still called "Vidovdan", one of the most important annual events in Serbian Orthodox Christian tradition.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

The science fiction story "Delenda Est" by Poul Anderson depicts an alternate history world where Carthage defeated Rome, Christianity never arose and in the 20th century, Svantevit is still a main deity of a major European power called Littorn (that is, Lithuania). A devotee of this god, in the story, is called Boleslav Arkonsky – a name evidently derived from the above-mentioned temple at Arkona.[citation needed]

An installation on the 2019 LUMA Projection Arts Festival was based on Svetovid.[10]

See also[edit]

  • The Slav Epic (Painting: "The Celebration of Svantovit")
  • Brahma, four-headed god also the Creator with of the universe in Hindu scriptures


  1. ^ A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick. Retrieved 10 Jan 2014.
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to World Mythology by David Leeming. Retrieved 10 Jan 2014.
  3. ^ New Larousse encyclopedia of mythology by Félix Guirand and Robert Graves, Hamlyn, 1968. Retrieved 10 Jan 2014.
  4. ^ American, African, and Old European Mythologies edited by Yves Bonnefoy. Retrieved 10 Jan 2014.
  5. ^ Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedic dictionary, Kyiv, 1987.
  6. ^ Kroonen, Guus (2013-07-19). Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18340-7.
  7. ^ Derksen, Rick (2007-12-12). Etymological Dictionary of the Slavic Inherited Lexicon. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-15504-6.
  8. ^ Leeming 2005, p. 359-360.
  9. ^ Đorđević, Dimitrije (Spring 1990). "The role of St. Vitus Day in modern Serbian history" (PDF). Serbian Studies. North American Society for Serbian Studies. 5 (3): 33–40.
  10. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]