Pagan Latvian Deities

Note: CE = in the Common Era; it has replaced A.D. (Anno Domini) in most scholarly texts.

The conversion of the Latvians to Catholic Christianity began in the 900's (CE) &mdash by the Danes in western Latvia, and by the Russians (to the Greek Orthodox version of Christianity) in eastern and north-eastern Latvia. Thus, we find that the Latvian word for "church" (baznīca) is derived from a Russian word of the same meaning.

German missionaries and crusaders made a concerted effort to covert the inhabitants of Latvia (then called "Livland") beginning in the late 1100's. However, it seems that there was always a lack of clergymen willing to serve in rural parishes (i.e. outside of the capital city of Rīga).

Furthermore, the Latvians were always a different social class than the Germans: the Latvians were almost all serfs. As a result, it seems, that Christianity had a very weak impact on the Latvians, and that most were practically, if not, officially, pagans until well into the second millenium CE.

Once the Lutheran Reformation took place, Luther's command to translate the word of God into the local languages speeded up the work of de facto conversion. As a result, the first Latvian books appeared in the late 1500's, and were (of course!) religious texts.

Nevertheless, many traditions, customs, and rituals remain to this day. What we know of the Pagan Latvian Deities comes primarily from folkloristic study of these rituals and, especially, of the Latvian folk songs. Here, then, is a a brief listing and description of some of the deities of the pagan Latvian pantheon, which I have classified according to either sky deities, or earth and water deities:

Sky Deities: God (Dievs), Sun (Saule), Thunder God (Pērkons), Moon (Mēness), and Morning Star (Auseklis)

Earth and Water Deities: Laima, Māra, Ūsiņš, Mārtiņš, Jumis, and Jānis.

Links to additional sites about Pagan Latvian Deities

Latvian Mythology: article by Aldis Putelis at Encyclopedia Mythica.

Baltic Gods. Brief article about Latvian and Lithuanian pagan deities.

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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised January 10, 2010