“Before the Snow” – A documentary about Siberian people published online

Arctic Anthropology

The film by Christian Vagt features three important indigenous leaders and story tellers from the Khanty and Forest Nenets communities of Western Siberia – Josif Kechimov, Yuri Vella and Agrafena Pesikova. It is a short documentary filmed in 2007 in the West Siberian Taiga about indigenous concepts of their relationship with ghosts and the danger of inappropriate behaviour towards them.


Josif Kechimov talks about the relationship to the dead and the tragic consequences of encounters with unburied deceased relatives. Against the background of oil development, forced resettlements and the spread of Christian missionizing among his people – and his feelings of danger for the forest live of Khanty reindeer herders and decline of traditions grow.

Juri Vella tells a Forest Nenets tale about the encounter with a supernatural and threatening inhabitant of an abandoned human settlement.  Hunter‘s stories have never a single message or meaning. Yuri Vella leaves it…

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Folk Religions of Kartvelian Mountain Peoples

Written by Dyami Millarson

Disclaimer: this article was originally published on 30 April 2019 on the Operation X blog.

Kartvelian is a language family spoken by various peoples in the Caucasus region. The Kartvelian languages are interesting, because there appears to have been contact between Proto-Kartvelian and Proto-Indo-European. For that reason, we should not be surprised to find parallels between the Kartvelian religious systems and the belief systems of ancient speakers of Germanic. Today we will be looking at the religions of traditionally isolated Kartvelian peoples who live high in the Georgian mountains. My article exhibits what I could gather on this relevant topic, but I will do more research in the future and hope to visit the region myself for further investigations.

The Khevsur people, which lives in Khevsureti, practises syncretic religion retaining ancient elements of their prior folk religion. The Khevsur people has its priests with whom they convene in sacred places where the priests perform ancient rituals. Defying the anti-religious sentiment that prevailed during Soviet times in the region, the Khevsur people continued having their religious meetings with ancient rituals being performed by priests. The Khevsur cultural heritage includes a rich oral tradition of folk stories, songs and poetry accompanied by traditional dance.

One Khevsur folk tale narrates how one of their deities was trapped in a lake, which made the Khevsurs depressed, because they were unable to help the deity, who had done so much good for them. After three years, a wizard came to advise the Khevsurs on the matter, and he said they should bring a blood sacrifice. The Khevsurs sacrificed an extraordinary ram, which had four ears and horns, and thus liberated the deity. The Khevsurs rejoiced as they learned sacrifice is a good method to assist their deity, who has also assisted them on many an occasion.

I cannot say much about the Pshavs, who live in Pshavi which is to the South of Khevsureti, except that they practise their own traditions at sacred shrines and profess a syncretic religion. The Tushs, who live in Tusheti which is to the West of Khevsureti, have a similar culture as the Khevsurs. The Tushs are traditionally shepherds, who may in some isolated mountain regions continue rearing cattle as a main source of income to this day. They are known particularly for rearing sheep, but they also rear oxen and horses traditionally. The Germanic peoples, whose ancestors are the Indo-European cattle breeders, are traditionally cattle breeders as well, which is a cultural tradition that remains strong among the Frisians in the Netherlands who managed to modernise their old traditions. The Tushs may be descendants of folk religionists who fled conversion and sought refuge in the mountains to continue their old ways.

The Svans, who live in Svaneti, have their own traditions and customs like the Khevsurs and Tushs. Their belief system consisting of folk elements is syncretic. The Svans believe that the Gods would inflict disease upon whoever breaks their law. While disease is seen by the Svans as the result of a legal transgression, they deem animal sacrifice to the deities necessary. A similar belief may have existed among the Germanic tribes and their Indo-European forebears. When a relative has died, the Svans will mourn the passing of their relative for 3 years, which is a holy number in ancient Germanic religion as well. The svans believe the souls of the deceased return to their family every year halfway January. During this time, the Svans will please their spiritual guests with traditional story-telling and delicious food. When a relative has died far away from home, a spiritually gifted person will be charged with searching for the lingering soul with the aid of a rooster, for the Svans are convinced that this particular animal is capable of seeing the souls of the dead.

A Brief Introduction to Nenets Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Nenets folk religion or polytheism has also been called Nenets shamanism and Nenets animism (*1, *2, *3, *4, *5, *6, *7, *8, *9, *10). Not unlike Northwestern European polytheism, a characteristic feature of Nenets polytheism is blood sacrifice, particularly in their case the sacrifice of reindeer to the Gods (*6, *8, *10, *11, *12). According to a 1948 Russian-Nenets dictionary, the Nenets translation for the Russian terms бог (deity) and небо (sky) is нум’, which may be transliterated to the Roman alphabet as num’ (*13). The Nenets word for heavenly (Russian небесный) is numgy (нумгы), which is derived from the aforementioned num’ (нум’). The Sky God and Creator God of the Nenets people, whom they believe to be an old man like Othin, is simply called Num, which means God or Heaven (*1, *14, *15, *16). Similarly, Týr or *Tīwaz, the name of the Germanic God of the Sky, is originally derived from an Indo-European term for heaven and is related to the Latin words diēs (day) and deus (god); the semantic pair heaven-god is particularly noteworthy as they occur both in both Germanic and Nenets etymologies of terms for the divine. The elder semantic usage of týr persisted in Old Norse poetry where it could mean “deity” and the suffix -týr also occurs in Old Norse names where it has the same meaning as Latin deus; additionally, the plural tívar, which highlights a semantic connection with daylight and heaven, was occasionally used in Old Norse to refer to the Gods. There is another interesting etymological-semantic similarity: like the Germanic adjective *þiudiskaz, which the Germanic peoples used to describe themselves and thus express their unique group identity, meant “of the people, belonging to the people,” the endonym Nenets means “people” (*8, *9). The Nenets fashion wooden or stone dolls that they consider sacred (*3, *5, *6, *12). Similarly, the Germanic peoples had a traditional craft of fashioning spiritual men from clay or dough; and, in this spiritual context, it ought to be recalled how Othin fashioned the dwarfs. The idiosyncratic housing of the Nenets is a conical tent or teepee that is called chum or mya (*17, *18). The Nenets believe in other or parallel worlds like the Germanic peoples (*14, *16). Tadebya (тадебя) is the native Nenets name for a shaman or magico-religious leader who may connect with or travel to the otherworld as a mediator/messenger (*2). The leadership function of the tadebya may be compared to that of the seeress or vala in ancient Germanic religion; the Romans reported that the ancient Germans revered such seeresses as Veleda, Ganna, Waluburg and Albruna, and it should be noted that the Queen of the Gods, namely Frigg, is a seeress as well. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the King of the Gods, namely Othin, also fulfils a shamanic function by travelling to the otherworld for wisdom. So the ruling divine couple was shamanic in Germanic folk religion. The bear has significant religious or totemic meaning for the Nenets (*16, cp. *19, *20), and for the Germanic peoples as well, who identified the bear with Othin’s strong son Thor. While the bear was a symbol for strength, the Germanic peoples even had a class of warrior that was called “bear-shirt” (berserkr); by wearing a bear-shirt, he spiritually embodied the strength of a bear. The Nenets have a lunar calendar (*8, cp. *21), whilst the indigenous calendar of the Germanic peoples is lunisolar. The Nenets have a folk religious parallel or counterpart to the Germanic Álfar, the clan of excellent smiths: the Sihirtya (сихиртя), a spiritual family or race of light-eyed skilled craftsmen (*9).

Blood Sacrifice Is the Distinguishing Feature of Ancient Chinese Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

Taoism prohibits blood sacrifice (see Chinese source here), and Buddhism is against this as well. This means that blood sacrifice is, at least originally speaking, the distinguishing feature of Chinese folk religion, because Chinese religion originally has no prescriptions against this, though influences from Taoism and Buddhism may be present in modern times.

The study of the features of Chinese folk religion is relevant because Germanic and Chinese religion may both be considered folk religions, ancient polytheist belief systems that endorse ritual sacrifice as a method of interaction with the spiritual. While the most striking feature of Germanic folk religion is blood sacrifice, it is interesting to know that this applies to Chinese folk religion as well. For our studies, we ought to take a good look at the role of blood sacrifice in Chinese beliefs. I do recall an instance where Confucius partook in a blood sacrifice; his pupil questioned him about this in a hostile manner, but he defended blood sacrifice saying that his pupil loved the sheep and he loved the tradition (you may read a fuller explanation of this saying by Confucius on this English external site).

Particularly in ancient times, Chinese people offered cattle, sheep and pigs to the spiritual realm. This custom declined, however, with the advent of Buddhism and Taoism, which prohibited this as aforementioned. We should, therefore, focus particularly on the ancient times when we study the Chinese sacrificial custom that used to be prevalent among the Chinese and that simultaneously used to be the distinguishing feature of Chinese folk religion in ancient times (i.e., ancient Chinese religion), yet this distinction eroded over time under the influence of Buddhism and Taoism which interacted with Chinese folk religion.

Parallel Worlds in Germanic Folk Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

There are nine worlds in Nordic folk religion. We may safely assume that there were multiple worlds in the other strands of Germanic folk religion as well. Mithgarth, Asgarth, Alfheim, Svartalfheim and Jötunheim are all worlds that exist parallel to each other. So the Germanic peoples believed in parallel worlds: the Álfar are parallel humans, so are the Æsir, so are the Jötnar, so are the Dvergar, so are the Vanir. The worlds they inhabit are alternate worlds that are reflections of the same human, spiritual or divine condition; they reflect the same reality essentially.

Parallelism is a quintessential characteristic of Germanic folk religion; Parallelism is the truth underlying the structure of the Germanic universe (Germanic religion may be termed Germanic universism as it encompasses the Germanic understanding or view of the universe, though one should not confuse universism with universalism). The following synecdoche rings true for Germanic folk religion: divinity mirrors humanity, and humanity mirrors divinity. Natural parallelism as a structural feature of Germanic folk religion is the reason for the principle of divine diversity; the Germanic peoples believed in many deities, because they believed in parallelism as reflected in nature.

Germanic folk religion is, doubtlessly, a reflection of nature, and hence it may be termed nature religion. Nature is what inspired the Germanic peoples; for they lived in nature. The boundary between the Germanic village and nature was very small and arbitrary; the Germanic peoples lived very close to nature like other indigenous people around the globe who built their villages in nature. The home of the Germanic peoples was nature, so it is not surprising that nature informed their religious worldview.

The multiplicity of any kind of living organism is a given in nature; it is necessary for any species in nature to not be the only and last individual of their kind. For divinity to be one would mean to the Germanic mind that the Gods are a dying breed. If there were only one human being, that would mean the human race is dying. The fertility of the divine races was seen as reflective of their vitality; nature always reproduces, and reproduction is an imperative in nature. Multiplicity and multiplication were fully embraced in Germanic religion, hence fertility was always seen as an important factor in religious rite and story.

Human beings, spiritual beings and divine beings are all quintessentially belonging to the same man-like prototype with natural imperfections and moral defects; humanity, spirituality and divinity are overlapping in Germanic religion, hence I could speak of the human/spiritual/divine condition in this article as being the template or blueprint for the various mirror reflections of reality that are presented to us in Germanic folk religion.

One may superficially say that there are multiple realities or truths in Germanic folk religion, but these are actually multiple copies of the same reality or truth. These parallel realities are simply reflecting that there are universal laws governing the world, regardless of what reality one finds oneself in. The philosophical implications of this are huge; the grass is not greener elsewhere, but everyone is subject to the same fate, ørlög, primordial law.

The other worlds being replicas or replications of our human world is highly engaging and appealing from a philosophical perspective; the Germanic peoples would have looked at the other worlds and realised that the other man-like beings had it no better than them; this gave them hope automatically, as it meant that they were already living in utopia and had to make the best of life in the world they lived in. This is a very natural way to view the world; for this natural worldview helps one to deal with the harsh realities of the world.

Germanic folk religion is an acceptance of the state of the world, an acceptance of the state of nature; the natural parallelism found in Germanic religion shows us the Germanic understanding of utopia, the world in which they lived was already ideal to them because the natural world, which they inhabited, was their eternal ideal to which they aspired. The Germanic peoples could not imagine a better world than the natural world which they inhabited; they saw nature as perfect, and this is a sentiment we can certainly relate to in modern times.

Furthermore, it is important that the Germanic peoples did not fully perceive the other worlds as distinct from their own; there was always overlap. The worlds were all interconnected, and there were frequent interactions between them. Therefore, the boundaries between the worlds are blurred; the distinctions are arbitrary rather than absolute. While the worlds are part of one underlying reality, they are governed by the same universal laws, and this means that their distinction is, fundamentally, not that relevant. In other words, while one may say they are copies or replicas of the same prototype, they are actually an interconnected web; the worlds are part of the same system, and that is why they display parallelism that makes one realise they are essentially the same. The best way to think about the worlds is that they are parallel threads in a web as they belong to the same natural systemic structure and they are subject to the same natural dynamics of evolution.

In conclusion, one may understand the parallelism of the multiple worlds in Germanic religion to be a confirmation of the idea there is only one world. The Germanic peoples did not call these parallel worlds ‘worlds’, but they spoke of only one ‘world’ (age of man) and all the other realms, which I previously called worlds, were simply alternate kingdoms of man that were part of the same age of man; these realms existed parallel to each other in perpetuity. All realms being part of the same ‘age of man’ is important; they exist at the same time, they do not exist within another timeframe. Therefore, these worlds or realms are not parallel worlds in the sense they belong to other timeframes, but time runs the same in all of these worlds and therefore they exist in the same reality.

Moral Engineering: Does Germanic Folk Religion Assume Man Can and Must Be Changed?

Written by Dyami Millarson

Can man be socially engineered according to Germanic religion? Is the goal of Germanic religion to change man?

To answer this question, we need to understand the moral ambiguity that pervades Germanic folk religion.

Although there is a moral code (code of honour) inherent in Germanic folk religion as it is considered worthy to live an honourable life, the moral code of Germanic folk religion is about self-acceptance (being oneself), and therefore it is an acceptance of moral intuition (wisdom) and in-born human conscience.

There is no clear path towards what is moral in Germanic folk religion as the world is not seen through a black-and-white lens; evil and good are intertwined, and morality is thus an acceptance of both good and evil, creating moral ambiguity.

In other words, the morality of Germanic folk religion is moral ambiguity. Germanic folk religion is about man and fate; man will become what he is meant to become, and he will find, by his own intuition, what he is meant to be.

The flow of life is whatever it is; and Germanic religion is the acceptance of that. A Germanic polytheist is thus fate-accepting, life-accepting; amor fati, the love of fate, is the slogan that characterises his life.

All in all, Germanic folk religion is not about changing man or creating a mankind that is better, but it is about man finding himself, accepting himself for what he is meant to be. The goal of Germanic folk religion is not change (social engineering), but acceptance; and therefore its central message is finding peace with one’s fate whatever it may be and this requires one to embrace moral ambiguity.

The goal of Germanic folk religion is the self-actualisation of man; for man ought to find his own potential in life. Germanic folk religion seeks to get out of man whatever is already inside of him; and nothing but that which is already present in man is what concerns the goal of Germanic folk religion.

Germanic folk religion is thus about helping mankind to realise its potential; it is about maintaining man as he is, and letting him become whatever he is meant to become. As a force of maintaining the order of the universe, Germanic folk religion is a device that helps man achieve whatever he is meant to achieve in his lifetime.

Germanic folk religion is like a wise old man who is meant to help a young hero on his perilous journey; Germanic folk religion provides the young hero with wise council, and the young hero may ignore that advice at his own peril.

While Germanic folk religion helps the hero on his way to victory, it takes a passive role in the background; Germanic folk religion is a philosophy that adopts the moral indifference of a wise old man who has seen too much, has come to accept moral ambiguity as a fact of life due to his many worldly experiences and has seen the survival benefit of letting moral ambivalence be his moral compass (guiding philosophy of ethics) in life.

Germanic folk religion does interfere with the life of the protagonist in the sense that it seeks to nudge him in the right direction in accordance with his destined potential; but it does not interfere with the right or wrong choices of the protagonist, as he is free to choose to accept or neglect the prudent councils of the ancient old ones who are responsible for maintaining the order of the universe.

So, Germanic folk religion is both interference and non-interference; it does not seek to change the hero (or villain) fundamentally so as to make him a better human being, but it seeks to help the hero (or villain) to become whatever he needs to become in order to fulfil his destined role in life. Everyone has their role to play and Germanic folk religion does not interfere with the order of things; it accepts man’s nature as it is, regardless of whatever that may be, and it helps man on his way, giving him wise council so that he may achieve his full potential.

Man will ultimately be judged, by men and Gods alike, on the basis whether his actions were worthy or not; an honourable name or good reputation is what ultimately matters according to the Germanic folk religious worldview. In other words, one has to maintain one’s face throughout one’s life and one should not lose face; and even if one loses face, one should try to regain one’s face, thus use actions in order to restore one’s lost honour. Germanic society is a society based on reputation, and man’s reputation is regulated by one’s actions.

The Adventure of Defining Germanic Polytheism

Written by Dyami Millarson

This site is about the adventure that is defining Germanic polytheism. This site, which contains my musing about the definition of Germanic folk religion, is a philosophical quest.

If one wishes to understand Germanic polytheism, one has to investigate it; and to investigate it, one has to seek a definition of Germanic polytheism.

I enjoy the journey of seeking a definition for Germanic polytheism all the way; this will be a long journey because there are many aspects that we will have to consider.

No matter what we talk about on this site, the purpose is nevertheless to find out what Germanic polytheism means; this is an essential question for both beginner and advanced student of Germanic polytheism.

Basically, this site is based on a philosophical question regarding a basic definition; and this question leads to a lifelong quest that has to be embraced.

Embracing this quest makes one a philosopher; and as a philosopher seeking the truth behind the definition of Northwestern European folk religion, I am an eternal disciple of Germanic polytheism.

In order to be a teacher, one has to be a good student; and if one wishes to teach others about Northwestern European folk religion, one has to study it oneself first.

Defining Germanic Polytheism On Its Own Cultural Terms

Written by Dyami Millarson

Germanic languages possess concepts which ought to help define Germanic polytheism on its own cultural terms.

Germanic religion may be defined as heiðr (honour) or blót (sacrifice). Both are essentially the same in the Germanic context.

Heiðr or blót is what motivated Germanic society; it defines Germanic culture, for it permeates it.

Polytheism may be rendered as goðablót (sacrifice to the Gods), which is a specification of blót (sacrifice).

Goðablót stands for the poly- in polytheism, for it specifies that the sacrifice is to many Gods.

Theism in the Germanic context practically means blót, for the divine exists chiefly to be sacrificed to.

In other words, the Germanic theistic principle is that the divine is not to be understood, but sacrificed to.

Thus is the difference between orthopraxy and orthodoxy, and this is relevant for the definition of religion in the Germanic cultural context.

Since Germanic culture and religion are interwoven, there is no point in trying to make an artificial distinction.

One may try to define Germanic religion as a subcategory of aspect of Germanic culture, but this is false, because Germanic religion is as inherent in Germanic culture as vice versa.

The distinction of culture and religion is therefore absolutely not relevant in the Germanic context, and in fact should rather be regarded as one and the same.

Germanic society had a religious culture and a cultural religion, it was a society where the religion-culture dichotomy did not exist nor matter at all.

So while one may try equating heiðr with culture, one ought to recognise that Germanic culture is blót; for it is the Germanic custom to sacrifice.

In other words, blót is heiðr and heiðr is blót, which shows that the lines between culture and religion are totally blurred in the case of the Germanic tradition.

The Natural Formula Behind Polytheism

Written by Dyami Millarson

Polytheism is based on the formula that unity ≠ diversity in nature. Polytheism fundamentally rejects the notion of unity or oneness in nature. Diversity is the quality of being many, and that is the Germanic definition of nature.

The definition of nature is relevant to Germanic polytheism because that definition is what underlies Germanic polytheism. For this reason, the formula that unity ≠ diversity while nature = diversity is vitally important.

In conclusion, the Germanic theists do not define nature as one but many, and therefore they do not define the divine, which is inherent in or equal to nature, as one but many, which means that theism in the Germanic context is necessarily polytheism and categorically rejects the notion of monotheism based on the nature of the divine as observed by the Germanic theists since time immemorial.

How Is Germanic Polytheism to Be Defined?

Written by Dyami Millarson

English dictionaries offer the following definition of polytheism based on orthodoxy: the belief in or the doctrine of many Gods.

Simultaneously, many dictionaries offer an alternative definition based on orthopraxy: the worship of many Gods.

Polytheism tends to be not only based on shared beliefs, but shared rites. The latter are at least equally important, if not more important, in any polytheistic tradition.

In the case of Germanic polytheism, the emphasis lies clearly on rites. Truth be told, the Germanic polytheists were indeed firmly convinced of certain things, but there can be no doubt as to their priorities; for their beliefs were all geared towards sacrifical rites.

The working definition of Germanic polytheism should be adapted to the Germanic situation: Germanic polytheism is the sacrifice to the Gods. Whilst everything was geared towards sacrificial rites in relation to the Gods, the essence of Germanic polytheism is sacrifice and the Gods may be simply defined as the ‘recipients of sacrifice’.

Therefore, theism exists in the Germanic context only in relation to sacrifice and its definition ought to include a notion of sacrifice. In the Germanic tradition, theism cannot exist outside the context of sacrifice; for all Gods accept sacrifice.

Germanic (poly)theism is based on the underlying assumption that sacrifice is the legitimate or true way to communicate with the Gods; sacrifice is the holiest of acts or deeds in this context and so we cannot escape defining Germanic (poly)theism in this way.

Thus, we may conclude that the Gods exist in the Germanic tradition to be sacrificed to, and that there are necessarily many recipients of sacrifice in Germanic theism, so that this theism cannot escape being polytheism.

Polytheism is philosophically intrinsic to the Germanic tradition; for the Germanic sacrifice required many recipients. The Germanic peoples sent gifts to nature in all of its aspects; they took from the nature beings, but they also gave back directly to nature beings.

In essence, the Germanic peoples did not conceive of nature as an abstract uncountable concept but as living countable beings, and therefore it is more apt to speak of nature beings in the Germanic context rather than nature, which is an abstraxt concept alien to Germanic culture, which only recognised multiple nature beings and no single nature.

Germanic culture only recognised natural diversity and rejected unity as unnatural, which shows how Ancient Germanic people looked at the universe. Indeed, Germanic religion may be termed Germanic universism because it is a peculiar way od looking at the universe.

One may say one forest is a whole, but a forest is actually many trees. The Germanic peoples did not see there is nature, but based on their strict observation, they only saw many beings and they did not require the conceptnof nature as they stuck to their philosophical basic definition of the world they lived in: nature = many beings.