The Baltic people, primarily consisting of Latvians and Lithuanians, have a rich and diverse cultural heritage steeped in ancient traditions, beliefs, and mythology. Rooted in pre-Christian pagan beliefs, the Baltic mythology offers a fascinating insight into the way these people perceive and interact with the natural and supernatural world.

Deities and Their Personalities

The Baltic pantheon consists of an extensive list of deities and divine beings, each with distinct personalities and roles. Among the most significant and widely revered gods and goddesses are:

  • Dievas (Lithuanian) or Dievs (Latvian): The supreme god, often associated with the sky, he is considered the ruler of all other gods and the guardian of moral order. Dievas is typically depicted as a wise and just deity, ensuring harmony and balance in the world.

  • Perkūnas (Lithuanian) or Pērkons (Latvian): The god of thunder, lightning, and storms, Perkūnas is one of the most powerful and feared deities in Baltic mythology. He is often portrayed as a fierce warrior with a fiery temperament, wielding a double-sided axe or a hammer to smite his enemies.

  • Laima (Lithuanian and Latvian): The goddess of fate, destiny, and childbirth, Laima is an essential figure in Baltic mythology. She is often depicted as a compassionate and wise deity who oversees human life, determining the length and quality of a person's existence.

  • Velnias (Lithuanian) or Velns (Latvian): The god of the underworld, Velnias is a complex figure, both feared and respected for his power over the souls of the deceased. He is often portrayed as a cunning trickster, with a dual nature of malevolence and benevolence.

  • Žemyna (Lithuanian) or Zemes māte (Latvian): The goddess of the earth, agriculture, and fertility, Žemyna is a nurturing and life-giving deity. She is revered for her role in sustaining life and ensuring the fertility of the land.

Noteworthy Unique Beliefs

  • Saule and Mēness: A unique aspect of Baltic mythology is the veneration of celestial bodies, particularly the sun and moon. Saule (Lithuanian and Latvian) is the sun goddess, who is considered the mother of all celestial bodies and the source of life and light. Mēness (Lithuanian and Latvian) is the moon god, who is associated with time, change, and fertility. Their interplay and relationships with other deities form a central theme in many Baltic myths and legends.

  • Aitvaras: A mythological creature found in Baltic folklore, the Aitvaras is a shape-shifting creature that can appear as a dragon, rooster, or black cat. It is said to bring both fortune and misfortune to its owner, depending on its capricious nature.

Heroes and Mythological Creatures

Various heroes and mythological creatures populate Baltic mythology, often with specific roles or functions within the mythological narrative. Some notable figures include:

  • Jūratė and Kastytis: A tragic love story in Lithuanian mythology, Jūratė, a beautiful sea goddess, falls in love with Kastytis, a mortal fisherman. Their forbidden love angers the god Perkūnas, who punishes them both, ultimately resulting in their separation.

  • Laumės: Laumės are supernatural beings in Baltic folklore, often depicted as beautiful women with bird-like features. They are known to be both benevolent and malevolent, assisting humans in need while also leading them astray. Laumės are associated with forests, water, and childbirth.

  • Eglė the Queen of Serpents: A popular Lithuanian folk tale, the story of Eglė centers around a young woman who marries a serpent king. Through various trials and tribulations, Eglė must navigate the challenges of her new life as the queen of serpents, ultimately leading to a tragic end.

Rituals and Practices

Baltic rituals and practices often revolve around the worship of deities, nature, and celestial bodies. Key rituals and practices include:

  • Sacrifices: In ancient times, animal and even human sacrifices were conducted to appease the deities and ensure their favor. These practices have since been replaced by offerings of food, drink, and other symbolic items.

  • Seasonal festivals: Seasonal festivals, such as Užgavėnės (Lithuanian) or Meteņi (Latvian), celebrate the changing of seasons and cycles of life. These festivals involve traditional music, dance, and customs that have been passed down through generations.

  • Nature worship: The Baltic people have a strong connection to nature, and rituals are often conducted in sacred groves, near rivers, or other natural sites. Rituals may include the creation of small altars, offerings to nature spirits, and prayers for protection and prosperity.

  • Divination: Divination practices such as casting lots, interpreting natural phenomena, or seeking guidance from spirits are an essential part of Baltic spiritual life. These practices offer insight into the future or help individuals make important decisions.