Goddess of the Month - Dziewanna


Devana by Viktor Korolkov
Devana by Viktor Korolkov
Dziewanna by Gonzalo Ord贸帽ez Arias aka Genzoman
Dziewanna by Gonzalo Ord贸帽ez Arias aka Genzoman from Genzoman Gallery on deviantART

Dziewanna (Jeh' van na)is a Slavic goddess who filled many roles in our rich culture. Daughter of Perun and Dodola, She is the Spring Maiden and revered by farmers as Goddess of agriculture. However, She is unlike Persephone in that role. She does not come back from sleeping under the Earth in winter. Lada, who is the Spring Mother, does that. Dziewanna is a Maiden Huntress and a fierce warrior. While some have claimed a link between Her and the Roman Diana, their roles are only superficially similar. There are traces of Her worship that have been found from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans of an ancient wild forest goddess in the oldest relics. She is wild and free, Mistress of horses, Who rides through the land awakening the plants and banishing the winter crone, so that Lada may return. There are many spellings of Her name depending on the tribe of Slavs. Some of these include:

Dziewona - Poland
Dilwica - Serbia
Devana - Czech, Russian
Debena - Slovenia

The Maiden

One of the interesting things about Dziewanna is that Her name translates as "The Maiden" or shares linguistic roots with the word for maiden in every tribal Slavic language. It's also fascinating that Her name also translates in Polish as "Giver of Life". "The people believed that the God Zywie, the Lord of Life, used to transform himself into a cuckoo, in order to address the faithful with ominous voice. This deity is the male counterpart of Jiva, the Slavonian Goddess of the Spring, whose name is a contracted form of Jivana, in Polish Ziewonia, that is, "the giver of life" (jizn')." - J. Grimm, Deustche Mythologie.(1) No matter what version of Her you encounter, She is a true virgin, whole unto Herself, Her hair wild and free. Like Mokosz, Her free hair is very much a part of Her iconography, as it is a cultural designator of a woman not bound to any man. Women in Slavic cultures traditionally bound their hair into tight, complex braids as part of their preparations for marriage. The thicker and heavier the braid, the better in Slavic cultures, where part of the wedding ritual was "the buying of the braid" by the groom. However, the picture is even more interesting for those who take the time to learn about Her. Dziewanna is married; married and free of the control of a man at the same time. In a world of cultural boxes that put Maiden Goddesses squarely into the category of unmarried and having no romantic relationships, She is something of a pickle. Her mate, Veles, is a strong deity as well, Lord of the Earth, Water, and the Underworld, as well as poetry and music. He is also Lord of Magick and is heavily associated with dragons. Unlike the ownership marriages of other cultures, the ancient marriage of Dziewanna and Veles is one of equals where both are whole to themselves, meeting as helpmeets and partners who complement one another. They both take other partners at various times and also spend time alone. There is no trace of jealous rages in their stories, just a self-assured partnership. Together they had one son, Jarilo, Lord of all things green and growing and also a warrior, who returns with the Spring every year from the land of the dead. There are stories of Jarilo being son of Veles rival Perun, but if you look at the oldest folk references, especially those fom old Serbian, his full name is Jarovit Kobilic, Kobilic being a surname that translates as "Son of the Mare". In all Slavic cultures, Dziewanna is the Mare, and is represented by a mare in much of the iconography, so you see that Jarilo's roots as the son of Dziewanna and Veles are easy to find. I find in Her and in Her relationships with Veles and Jarilo a wonderful model for modern womyn who are wanting to be truly free in themselves and have a relationship of love with any kind of partner.

Multifaceted Goddess

Looking into the nature of Dziewanna, there are so many places to find Her and commune with Her. Pomerania in northern Poland has an area with heavy associations both in names and in legends of Dziewanna and Her Wild Hunt. The villages of Zydowo and Polanow and the surrounding forests and lakes are deep in this lore. The track of Her Hunt is said to go from Gallow Hill to the Holy Mountain of Polanow. On the Holy Mountain is a sacred spring identified in local lore with the Wild Virgin. At the outlet of the Radew River near Zydowo is the hillfort of the Goddess. Southeast of Zydowo is Stone Lake, which is said to contain two bells at its bottom. These bells are associated with the Winter Queen Marzanna and with the Spring Maiden Dziewanna. During the spring festival of Maslenitsa, it was traditional for men and women to work together creating a straw figure dressed in women's clothing which would be driven around the village during the festivites until sunset of the final day, when the people would carry it out of town to "Bury Death". The creation of this figure usually took place in the home of the last person to die prior to Maslenitsa. Depending on the location, the figure would either be buried at the roots of an oak tree or thrown into a body of water. After this figure is banished, they bring back into the village a prettily dressed doll which is called many things, but most commonly the May Queen or Dziewanna. This doll represents the fertility of the coming season and the warming of the Earth. In addition to all this work as Goddess of Spring and Sacred Mare, Dziewanna is also the Maiden Huntress who protects all wild places. She is free and roams the forests with on horseback with Her hounds. She is also Goddess of the Moon. As a lunar goddess, She was said to run through the Carpathians with Her pack of wolves.

Wild Huntress - by Tinnekke Bebout
Ahwoo! The wolves howl!
Whose soft footsteps are in the night?
Do you see the moonlight flashing on Her bow?
It is Dziewanna, Wild Huntress taking flight!
On Her white mare She rides,
Her faithful pack at Her side.
She chases away the Winter Crone;
She opens the way for the return of life.
Follow Her, the Wild and Free One.
Join Her hunt if you dare.
Send Springs blessings to us, Lady!
Banish death and the dark!
Send the chill of Winter's Breath
Back to the Land of Ice and Snow.
Summon Your son, Lord of the Growing Things
To bring us plenty of fruit and grain.
Lead Your spouse, Lord of Rain
To bless our fields and make plants grow!
Thank you Lady of the Wild Wood
For giving us sustenance in the dark
When the grip of ice was upon the land
And nothing green can ever grow.

(1) Jacob Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie (p. 543)

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