Slavic Mythology: Perun and the Power of Lightning
For the Slavs, thunderstorms were considered to be the manifestation of a higher power’s anger, and the accompanying lightning a weapon meant to punish anything or anyone who dared to oppose world order.
In many cultures thunderstorms are a symbol of the battle between good and evil, and lightning a weapon of a life-giving solar entity used to vanquish underworld powers belonging to the realm of darkness and evil. Among such deities were the Greek Zeus and Norse Thor.
For the Slavs, the word “piorun” (lightning) is etymologically linked with the pagan god Perun, ruler of the sky and lightning. According to myth he battled his opponent Żmij (or Wołos) with lightning strikes. It was also believed that gods used lightning to fertilize the earth. Lightning had a cult following, and fire resulting from its strike was considered as holy. The symbols of divine strikes were axes and hammers, which had their own cult character. — Urszula Janicka-Krzywda, Zwyczaje, tradycje, obrzędy
"Perun is the highest god of the [Slavic] pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning. His other attributes were fire, mountains, the oak, iris, eagle, firmament (in Indo-European languages, this was joined with the notion of the sky of stone), horses and carts, weapons (the hammer, axe (Axe of Perun), and arrow), and war. He was first associated with weapons made of stone and later with those of metal. Perun is described as a rugged man with a copper beard. He rides in a chariot pulled by a goat buck and carries a mighty axe, or sometimes a hammer. The axe is hurled at evil people and spirits and will always return to his hand.
In Slavic mythology, much like in Norse and Baltic mythologies, the world was represented by a sacred tree, usually an oak, whose branches and trunk represented the living world of heavens and mortals, whilst its roots represented the underworld, i.e. the realm of the dead. Perun was the ruler of the living world, sky and earth, and was often symbolised by an eagle sitting on the top of the tallest branch of the sacred tree, from which he kept watch over the entire world. Deep down in the roots of the tree was the place of his enemy, symbolised by a serpent or a dragon: this was Veles [Wołos], watery god of the underworld, who continually provoked Perun by stealing his cattle, children, or wife. Perun pursued Veles around the earth, attacking him with his lightning bolts from the sky. Veles fled from him by transforming himself into various animals, or hiding behind trees, houses, or people; wherever a lightning bolt struck, it was believed that this was because Veles hid from Perun under or behind that particular place. In the end, Perun managed to kill Veles, or to chase him back down into his watery underworld. The supreme god thus reestablished order in the world, which had been disrupted by his chaotic enemy. He then returned to the top of the World tree and proudly informed his opponent down in the roots: Ну, там твое место, там сабе будь! (Nu, tam tvoje mjesto, tam sabje bud’! ‘Well, there is your place, remain there!). This line came from a Belarusian folk tale of great antiquity. To the Slavs, the mythological symbolism of a supreme heavenly god who battles with his underworldly enemy through storms and thunder was extremely significant, and from Perun and Veles, this idea of cosmic battle was passed onto God and the Devil following Christianization.” Read More
Perun, M. Presnyakov, 1998
Wooden statue of Perun in Russia.
Statue of Slavic god Perun, erected by Ukrainian Slavic pagans in 2009, city of Kyiv.
Drawings of Slavic axe amulets based on archaeological findings dating between the 11th and 12th century.