Dazhbog (Russian: Дажьбо́г, Дажбог), alternatively Daždźbok (Belarusian: Даждзьбог), Dažbog, Dazhdbog, Dajbog, Daybog, Dabog, Dazibogu, or Dadzbóg, was one of the major gods of Slavic mythology, most likely a solar deity and possibly a cultural hero. He is one of several authentic Slavic gods, mentioned by a number of medieval manuscripts, and one of the few Slavic gods for which evidence of worship can be found in all Slavic tribes.
The most interesting passage about Dazhbog comes from the Hypatian Codex, a 15th-century compilation of several much older documents from the Ipatiev Monastery in Russia. The complete passage, reconstructed from several manuscripts, translates as follows:
“(Then) began his reign Feosta (Hephaestus), whom the Egyptians called Svarog… during his rule, from the heavens fell the smith's prongs and weapons were forged for the first time; before that, (people) fought with clubs and stones. Feosta also commanded the women that they should have only a single husband… and that is why Egyptians called him Svarog… After him ruled his son, his name was the Sun, and they called him Dazhbog… Sun tsar, son of Svarog, this is Dazhbog.”
This is, in fact, a Slavic translation of an original Greek manuscript of Malalin from the 6th century. In the Greek text, the names of gods are Hephaestus and Helios. Apparently, the unknown Rus translator tried to re-tell the entire story (set in Egypt) by replacing the names of classical deities with those that were better known to his readers.
One can only hope that he indeed replaced the names of Greek gods with their fitting Slavic counterparts; however, at least one issue remains problematic: in all Slavic languages, the word for Sun, Suntse, is of neutral or feminine gender, never masculine (however, there is an Old East Slavic epic character "Vladimir Beautiful Sun" or "Vladimir Bright Sun" (ru) which has the same place as Arthur in English culture).
Also, in Baltic mythology, which is most akin to Slavic, Sun is a female deity, Saule, while the Moon is a male one. The same pattern can be observed in the folklore of many Slavic nations, where the Sun is most often identified with mother or a bride, and Moon with father or husband, their children being the stars. Where exactly this leaves Dazhbog as a possible male solar deity of Slavic pantheon remains questionable.
Furthermore, this passage has raised quite a few theories about family relations between Slavic gods. If we assume that indeed Svarog was believed to be Dazhbog's father, the question arises of his relation with Svarozhits, another deity who is mentioned as a god of fire and war in several other medieval documents describing the pagan beliefs of Slavs. Svarozhits is simply a diminutive of Svarog's name, i.e., "little Svarog", which implicates he was considered a child of Svarog. Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov proposed a reconstruction of this mythical genealogy that Svarog, a deity of fire and forge similar to the Greek Hephaestus, had two sons; Dazhbog, who represented the fire in the sky (i.e., the Sun), and Svarozhits, who symbolised the flame on earth, in the forge.
Henryk Łowmiański, however, theorised that Svarog was a Slavic sky god and personification of daylight sky itself, possibly a continuation of Proto-Indo-European *Dyēus Ph2ter, while Svarozhits and solar Dazhbog were the same deity, though, he concluded, two other aspects of Svarozhits also existed: fiery Svarozhits, as in the Sun (mentioned in Old East Slavic medieval manuscripts), and lunar Svarozhits, associated with the Moon. Franjo Ledic, on the other hand, assumed that Svarog and Dazhbog are the same god.
Many mythologists also believe Dazhbog to be identical with another East Slavic deity with possible solar attributes, Khors. Osip Maximovich Bodjanskij based this theory on the following passage from Primary Chronicle:
And Vladimir began his reign in Kiev alone and erected idols on the hill outside his palace with porch: Perun of wood with a head of silver and moustache of gold and Khors Dazhbog and Stribog and Simargl and Mokosh.
Note that the names Khors and Dazhbog are the only two not clearly separated by the word "and" in the text. This could be an indication of a compound deity, Khors Dazhbog. On this basis, Toporov assumed that Khors could be an Iranian (possibly Sarmatian or Scythian) name for this god, and Dazhbog a Slavic one. Boris Rybakov compared Khors and Dazhbog to Helios and Apollo, respectively, concluding that both of them were solar gods, but while Hors represented the Sun itself, Dazhbog, as deus dator, rather symbolised the life-giving power of the Sun. That Khors was indeed a solar deity was deduced from the following passage in the Tale of Igor's Campaign:
Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of great Khors, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed.
In other words, prince Vseslav reached Tmutorokan before dawn, thus crossing the path of Khors, the Sun. In the mythical view of the world, the Sun has to pass through the underworld during the night to reach the eastern horizon by the dawn. This, and the fact that prince Vseslav is transformed into a wolf during the night, while "crossing the path of Khors", draws a parallel with the Serbian Dabog, who, as stated already, was believed to be a lame "wolf shepherd" who rules over the underworld.
Of particular interest is the fact that Serbian folk accounts describe him as being lame; lameness was a standing attribute of Greek Hephaestus, whom, as we have seen, the Hypatian Codex compared with Slavic smith-god Svarog, father of Dazhbog. (In fact, most of Indo-European smith-gods were lame; the reason for this was most likely arsenicosis, low levels of arsenic poisoning, resulting in lameness and skin cancers. Arsenic was added to bronze to harden it, and most smiths of the Bronze Age would have suffered from chronic workplace poisoning.)
Serbian Dabog, being lord of the underworld, was also associated with precious metals, and sometimes was said to have a silver beard. Veselin Čajkanović concluded that the chthonic character of Dabog in Serbian folklore fits very nicely with the solar Dazhbog mentioned in Old East Slavic sources, pointing out that in numerous mythologies, solar deities tend to have double aspects, one benevolent, associated with the Sun during the day, and the other malevolent, associated with night, when the Sun is trapped in the underworld.
In his studies of Serbian folklore, Čajkanović also concluded that many more benevolent aspects of Dazhbog were passed on to popular saints in folk Christianity, in particularly onto St. Sava, Serbian national saint, who, although undoubtedly was a real historical person, in folk tales often appears in the role of culture hero. The fact that in the Tale of Igor's Campaign, the Rus and their princes are being referred to as "Dazhbog's grandchildren", indicates that Dazhbog was considered as an ancestral deity, a common role of a culture hero archetype in mythologies.
Veles, also known as Volos (Russian: Волос, Влас, Власий), is a major Slavic god of earth, waters, livestock, and the underworld. His attributes are wet, wooly, hairy (bearded), dark and he is associated with cattle, the harvest, wealth, music, magic, and trickery.
According to reconstruction by some researchers, he is the opponent of the supreme thunder god Perun. As such he probably has been imagined as a dragon, which in the belief of the pagan Slavs is a chimeric being, a serpent that devours livestock. His tree is the willow much like Perun's tree is the oak.
Volos is mentioned as god of cattle and peasants, who will punish oath-breakers with diseases, the opposite of Perun who is described as a ruling god of war who punishes by death in battle.
According to Ivanov and Toporov, Veles' portrayal as having a penchant for mischief is evident both from his role in the storm myth and in carnival customs of Koledari shamans. In his role as a trickster god, he is in some ways similar to both Greek Hermes and Scandinavian Loki. He was connected with magic. The word volhov, obviously derived from his name, in some Slavic languages still means sorcerer while in the 12th century Ruthenian epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign, the character of Boyan the wizard is called Veles' grandson. Veles was also believed to be protector of travelling musicians. For instance, in some wedding ceremonies of northern Croatia (which continued up to the 20th century), the music would not start playing unless the bridegroom, when making a toast, spilled some of the wine on the ground, preferably over the roots of the nearest tree. The symbolism of this is clear, even though forgotten long ago by those still performing it: the musicians will not sing until a toast is made to their patron deity.
As a god of the underworld and dragons, he became identified with the Devil. His more benevolent sides were transformed to several Christian saints. As a protector of cattle, he became associated with Saint Blaise, popularly known among various Slavic nations as St. Vlaho, St. Blaz, or St. Vlasiy (Armenian: Սուրբ Վլասի; germ: Blasius; fr: Blaise; sp: San Blas; port: São Brás; it: San Biagio; Croat: sv. Blaž; eng: Blase; Greek: Άγιος Βλάσιος). In Yaroslavl, for example, the first church built on the site of Veles's pagan shrine was dedicated to St Blaise, for the latter's name was similar to Veles and he was likewise considered a heavenly patron of shepherds. As mentioned already, in many Eastern Slavic folk tales, he was replaced by St. Nicholas, probably because the popular stories of the saint describe him as a giver of wealth and a sort of a trickster.
The Russian philologists Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov reconstructed the mythical battle of Perun and Veles through comparative study of various Indo-European mythologies and a large number of Slavic folk stories and songs. An unifying characteristic of all Indo-European mythologies is a story about a battle between a god of thunder and a huge serpent or a dragon. In the Slavic version of the myth, Perun is a god of thunder while Veles acts as a dragon who opposes him, consistent with the Vala etymology; he is also similar to the Etruscan underworld monster Vetha and to the dragon Illuyankas, enemy of the storm god of Hittite mythology.
The reason for the enmity between the two gods is Veles's theft of Perun's son, wife, or, usually, cattle. It is also an act of challenge: Veles, in the form of a huge serpent, slithers from the caves of the underworld and coils upwards the Slavic world tree towards Perun's heavenly domain. Perun retaliates and attacks Veles with his lightning bolts. Veles flees, hiding or transforming himself into trees, animals or people. In the end, he is killed by Perun and in this ritual death, whatever Veles stole is released from his battered body in the form of rain falling from the skies. This "storm myth", or "divine battle", as it is generally called by scholars today, explained to ancient Slavs the changing of seasons through the year. The dry periods were interpreted as the chaotic results of Veles' thievery. Storms and lightning were seen as divine battles. The ensuing rain was the triumph of Perun over Veles and the re-establishment of world order. On a deeper level, as has been said above, Perun's place is up, high and dry and Veles' down, low and wet. By climbing up into the sphere of Perun, Veles disrupts the equilibrium of the world and needs to be put in his place. Perun does this in a fierce battle by smiting him with his lightning and drives him down into the water under the tree stub and the log and by putting him back in his place Perun restores order. Then they stop being adversaries and remain just opponents until the next time Veles tries to crawl up into Perun's realm.
The myth was cyclical, repeating itself each year. The death of Veles was never permanent; he would reform himself as a serpent who would shed its old skin and would be reborn in a new body. Although in this particular myth he plays a negative role as bringer of chaos, Veles was not seen as an evil god by ancient Slavs. In fact, in many of the Russian folk tales, Veles, appearing under the Christian guise of St. Nicholas, saves the poor farmer and his cattle from the furious and destructive St. Elias the Thunderer, who represents Perun. The duality and conflict of Perun and Veles does not represent the dualistic clash of good and evil; rather, it is the opposition of the natural principles of earth and water (Veles) against heaven/sky and fire (Perun).