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from The Roots of Slavic Magic by Patricia Robin Woodruff

Chapter 9
Siva

Siva - (Sivve, Siwa, Sieba, Siba, Siua, Shiwa, Syeba, Živa, Živena, Žemina, Żiwia, Zhiva, Zhivy, Zhizni, Zywye, Zywya, Zhywie, Razivia, Diva, Deva, Divača, Dsiva, Dziva, Deuača)

Siva is a very primal goddess and you need to understand her to grasp many other gods and goddesses. She is the goddess of the life-force. Her lore is much hazier, which would seem to indicate an earlier origin. Her name means “living, being, existing.” (1) Polish scholar Lamus Dworski explains, “żywić means also to nourish, feed, cherish; and the noun żywicielka could describe a provider, breadwinner or a feeding mother.”(2) Siva is the goddess of the energy of life, eternal love, partnership, friendship and the cycle of life. In Slovakia, she is known as Diva which translates to “maiden.”(3) Her partner is the god, Siebog/Devač. She was worshipped throughout the Slavic lands into Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia and Germany.

 

The goddess, Siva/Ziva, was mentioned by the priest, Helmold in the 1100’s. He described her as the main goddess of the Polabian Slavs. She was considered the “author of life” and giver of health. Her temples were near water and healing springs attributed to her. She is sometimes credited with being the goddess and source of “living water.” (Not only is water the source of all life, but in Slavic beliefs there are different ways to magnify this power to create “living water” that we will get into.) 

Charles DeKay in his book, Bird Gods, mentions that the goddess Zywie had a temple on Mount Zywiec, where they prayed for health and long life.  Lamus Dworski mentions that the town of Żywiec, Poland (known for was Żywiec beer) is named after this goddess (as stated in Jan Nepomucen Gątkowski’s book of 1867.)

One of the best known of her holy sites was the island of Bled in Slovenia. Her temple existed there until 745 CE when it was destroyed by the incoming Christians. Like so many pagan sacred sites, a church was built over top. It has transformed over time into the Baroque-style Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God. In this church hangs the “Bell of Desires”. It holds the ability to grant one single wish when rung three times. The tradition is credited to father Francesco of Padova who had a church bell forged in 1534,(4) but as there is a fictional tale about a widow making this bell for her lost love, it may have been in an attempt to Christianize a tenacious pagan tradition of Siva’s. This tradition of bell ringing was mentioned by the Christian evangelist, Otto around 1100 CE, where he derisively described the newly baptised “barbarous people” of Poland ringing the bell in order to “incite the saints to come to their help.”(5) So it was obviously a common Pagan tradition.

It is possible that the famous St. Mary’s church in Krakow (also known as the Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven) is built on a site sacred to the goddess. The original foundations are dated to sometime around 1200 CE. The interesting tradition of bugling to the four directions of the compass, originally just at dawn and dusk(6) (is probably a leftover tradition to honor her partner the sun god.) On the wall of the lower tower, there is a small bell hanging outside referred to as “the bell of the dying.”(7) It used to be that the rope hung down to the ground. The tradition that comes down to us is that it was “rung at the moment of somebody’s death.” The explanation given today is that it “instils the soul of the dying with peace, and soothes the pain of death.” But it is more likely that it is a remnant of petitioning this goddess of life and death to take care of the person’s spirit.

Another holy site of Siva’s is “Aqua Siwa” that was a sacred spring on an island in the city of Ratibor, now Ratzeburg, Germany. (It has a pool and spa there; just a different way of harnessing her powers of life enhancing water.) She had a temple on a hill in Ratibor which overlooked her spring, and it was razed and a cathedral was built on top in 1154 CE.(8) These two sites both have an island, a hill and a spring (Bled has a hot spring nearby, as well as caves.) This is the perfect representation of the flowing waters of the goddess and the strong support of her nearby god.

Near the town Divača, Slovenia (which is obviously named after the goddess and/or her partner, Devač ) there is Triglavca cave to which the local villagers go to pray for fertility. Professor Katja Hrobat Virloget describes “two ritual stones, a stalagmite and a stalactite. On the top of the stalagmite, there is a natural hollow, shaped like female genitalia.”(9) One can imagine the dripping water in the cave would provide a powerful symbol for sympathetic magic. Oral tradition states that this is a site sacred to the lovers, Devač and Deva. An ancient secret ritual was carried out there known only to consecrated participants. The ritual was still being done as recently as 1930 and was only revealed in a scholarly paper in 2012, so this is important new information. The ritual involved putting grain in the natural hollow to keep the fields fertile.(10) (described under the god Siebog/Devač.)

Another cave that was likely sacred to Siva/Diva and her partner is Potočka zijavka ...







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