Dazbog, Slavic God of the Sun

Scythian kurgan anthropomorphic stone sculptures in Izyum, Eastern Ukraine
Scythian kurgan anthropomorphic stone sculptures in Izyum, Eastern Ukraine.

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Dazbog (spelled Dahzbog, Dzbog, or Dazhd'bog) is said to have been the god of the sun in the pre-Christian Slavic culture, who drove across the sky in a golden chariot drawn by fire-breathing horses—which sounds just a bit too much like ancient Greek, raising doubt among scholars about his true origins.

Key Takeaways: Dazbog

  • Alternate Spellings: Daždbog, Dzbog, Dazbog, Dazhbog, Dazhdbog, Dabog, Dajbog, Dadzbóg, Dadzbóg, Dazhbog, Dazh'bog and Dazhd'bog
  • Equivalents: Khors (Iranian), Helios (Greek), Mithra (Iranian), Lucifer (Christian)
  • Culture/Country: Pre-Christian Slavic mythology
  • Primary Sources: John Malalas, The Song of Igor's Campaign, Kievan Rus pantheon of Vladimir I 
  • Realms and Powers: God of the sun, happiness, destiny, and justice; later supreme deity 
  • Family: Son of Svarog, brother of fire god Svarozhich, husband of Mesyats (the moon), father of the Zoryi and Zvezdy

Dazbog in Slavic Mythology 

Dazbog was the Slavic sun god, a role that is common to many Indo-European people, and there is ample evidence that there was a sun cult in the pre-Christian tribes of central Europe. His name means "day god" or "giving god," to different scholars—"Bog" is generally accepted to mean "god," but Daz means either "day" or "giving."

The primary tale about Dazbog is that he resided in the east, in a land of everlasting summer and plenty, in a palace made of gold. The morning and evening auroras, known collectively as Zorya, were his daughters. In the morning, Zorya opened the palace gates to allow Dazbog to leave the palace and begin his daily journey across the sky; in the evening, Zorya closed the gates after the sun returned in the evening. 

Dazbog
Depiction of Dazbog. Max presnyakov / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Appearance and Reputation

Dazbog is said to ride across the sky in a golden chariot drawn by fire-breathing horses who are white, gold, silver, or diamonds. In some tales, the horses are beautiful and white with golden wings, and sunlight comes from the solar fire shield Dazbog always carries with him. At night, Dazbog wanders the sky from east to west, crossing the great ocean with a boat pulled by geese, wild ducks, and swans.

In some tales, Dazbog starts out in the morning as a young, strong man but by the evening he is a red-faced, bloated elderly gentleman; he is reborn every morning. He represents fertility, male power, and in "The Song of Igor's Campaign" he is mentioned as the grandfather of the Slavs.

Family 

Dazbog is said to be the son of the sky god Savrog, and the brother to Svarozhich, the fire god. He is married to the moon Mesyats in some tales (Mesyat is sometimes male and sometimes married to the Zevyi), and his children include the Zoryi and the Zevyi. 

The Zoryi are two or three siblings who open the gates to Dazbog's palace; the two Zevyi are responsible for tending to the horses. In some stories, the Zevyi sisters are conflated with the single goddess of light Zorya. 

Pre-Christian Aspect

Pre-Christian Slavic mythology has very little extant documentation, and the existing tales captured by ethnologists and historians come from multiple modern countries and have many different variations. Scholars are divided about the role of Dazbog to the pre-Christians.

Dazbog was one of the six gods selected by the Kievan Rus' leader Vladimir the Great (ruled 980–1015) as the main pantheon of Slavic culture, but his role as the sun god has been questioned by historians Judith Kalik and Alexander Uchitel. The major source for the assignation of the name of Dazbog with the sun god is the Russian translation of the sixth-century Byzantine monk John Malalas (491–578). Malalas included a story about the Greek gods Helios and Hephaistos ruling Egypt, and the Russian translator replaced the names with Dazbog and Svarog. 

There's no doubt that there was a solar cult in pre-Christian Slavic mythology, and there is no doubt that there was a Dazbog, who was among the idols erected by the Rus leader Vladimir the Great in the late 10th century. Kalik and Uchitel argue that to the Slavic pre-Christians, Dazbog was a god of unknown powers, and the unnamed solar deity was the head of a cult. Other historians and ethnologists do not agree. 

Sources 

  • Dixon-Kennedy, Mike. "Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend." Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998. Print.
  • Dragnea, Mihai. "Slavic and Greek-Roman Mythology, Comparative Mythology." Brukenthalia: Romanian Cultural History Review 3 (2007): 20–27. Print.
  • Kalik, Judith, and Alexander Uchitel. "Slavic Gods and Heroes." London: Routledge, 2019. Print.
  • Lurker, Manfred. "A Dictionary of Gods, Goddesses, Devils and Demons." London: Routledge, 1987. Print.
  • Ralston, W.R.S. "The Songs of the Russian People, as Illustrative of Slavonic Mythology and Russian Social Life." London: Ellis & Green, 1872. Print.
  • Zaroff, Roman. "Organized Pagan Cult in Kievan Rus’. The Invention of Foreign Elite or Evolution of Local Tradition?" Studia Mythologica Slavica (1999). Print.