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Perun – Slavic God of Thunder, War, Protection, Oaths & Sacred Spaces

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Perun is the principal Slavic god in the pre-Christian period. He is the supreme god and the ruler of the mortal world and the heavens. Among the Slavic gods, he has dominion over thunder, lightning, and storms, making him a god of fertility and agriculture. Perun is a powerful protective deity and the god of rulership, order, and war. He is called when making oaths and preparing sacred spaces.

Perun’s presence can be felt in the mortal world through the sight of lightning, the sound of thunder, the sound of rattling stones, the bellow of a bull, the bleat of a male goat, and the touch of an axe blade.

Perun Slavic God of Thunder
Perun Slavic God of Thunder

Supreme God of the Slavic Universe

Similar to Norse mythologies, the universe of pre-Christian Slavic cultures is embodied by a sacred world tree, specifically an oak. According to Slavic mythology, the mortal realm sits around the trunk of the tree, while the heavens are among its highest branches.

Perun, as the supreme heavenly god in the Slavic pantheon, and Perun ruled these two realms and is often depicted as an eagle sitting at the very top of the sacred tree.

The roots of the tree hold the underworld, and it is occupied by various serpents that represent chaos and the natural threats posed to the rest of the universe in Slavic mythology.

Oak trees and groves are sacred to Perun. Including a piece of oak incorporated into your altar can help summon the god.

Slavic World Tree Design
Slavic World Tree Design

Perun and the Creation Myth

Slavic tribes believe that Perun was born to the goddess Lada and the sky god Svarog after Lada ate a Pike fish containing the embodiment of Ron, the creator god. But not long after Perun was born, he and his sisters were kidnapped by one of the serpents of the underworld.

After 300 years, Lada managed to find the dungeon location of her son in the Underworld and awaken him from a deathly sleep using liquid obtained from a Gamayun bird. Perun, naturally, swears vengeance.

To return to the underworld to confront his jailor, Perun must pass a variety of challenges. But he is already so strong and authoritative that he passes them easily. He must pass a giant forest that has grown into an impenetrable maze, but he threatens to turn the forest into splinters, and it opens a path for him. He encounters a river more violent than the most violent sea, but it too decides to part for Perun. He comes to some giant hills, which again part at his command.

His final challenge is a giant bird that sits on top of a tree with 12 branches, but which breathes the fire of a dragon strong enough to destroy an entire forest. Perun kills the bird with his bow and arrow and passes to the home of the serpent that he seeks, a castle made from the bones of its victims.

There Perun found his three sisters, who had been changed into hideous pale beasts. As he reunites with him, the serpent comes in and engulfs Perun with flame. To the serpent’s surprise, this does not kill Perun, and the two commence to battle. The battle lasts several days, and Perun must use all the weapons in his arsenal to gain the upper hand.

Close to defeat, the serpent expresses his surprise, saying that only Perun of Svarog can defeat him, and he is imprisoned in the underworld. Perun responds that he is the death of which the serpent speaks and throws the body of the serpent into the ground and he is swallowed up by the earth. The ancient Slavs believe that this is the origin of the Caucasus Mountains.

Perun instructs his sisters to bathe in the river of the Riphaean Mountain and they are restored to their divine glory and the group return to the heavens. Perun assumed his rightful place as king of the gods after the ordeal.

Warrior Perun with his Axe
Warrior Perun with his Axe

Perun the Atmospheric Deity

But the serpent that kidnapped Perun is not the most important serpent that Perun will face. Once he frees his sisters and becomes the chief deity, the Underworld serpent Veles becomes his enemy and continually provoked Perun.

Veles is constantly trying to ascend from the Underworld to the mortal world. When he does, he sucks water from that world and leaves it barren.

As the supreme deity, Perun is constantly battling Veles and forcing him to return to the Underworld. When he defeats Veles, it is hailed by lightning and thunder marks, and moisture is restored to the mortal realm. This makes Perun an important agricultural and fertility deity in Slavic paganism.

Perun is a god of thunder, and lightning is one of his principal weapons. His stones and arrows are thought to produce lighting, and Perun also has golden apples that function a little like lightning bombs and can strike down hundreds of enemies at a time. This is reminiscent of the lightning bolts of the Greek Zeus.

Fulgurites, clumps of soil, sand, and earth that have been fused by a lightning strike, are considered the remains of the weapons of the thunder god. These can be incorporated into an altar to honour the god. Fulgurites can protect against bad luck, evil magic, disease, and lightning.

Fulgurite sacred to Perun
Fulgurite sacred to Perun

God of War

When depicted in human form, Perun appears as an imposing pagan warrior, a presentation that suits a god of war. He was represented on at least one occasion with a silver head and a golden moustache. He is also said to have silver hair and a red beard.

He sometimes appears in a flaming chariot, drawn either by horses or goats. It is noteworthy that Thor, the Norse god of thunder, also drives a chariot drawn by goats.

As the divine ruler, Perun represents kingship and war, and his favour can influence success in battle.

As a warrior, Perun carries many weapons in addition to his lighting. He is probably best known for his axe, which is called Mjolnir, suggesting an affinity between the axe of Perun and the hammer of Thor. Like Thor’s Hammer pendants among the Vikings, Perun’s Axe amulets were commonly worn by the Slavic people as a symbol of protection.

Devotees of Perun often wear axe pendants, and they can be incorporated into the altar to represent the god.

Perun axe pendants
Perun axe pendants

God of Oaths

Perun is also invoked to seal oaths. There are several records of Slavic rulers laying down their weapons in the shrine of Perun and invoking the name of the god to confirm their oath of peace. They ask the god to strike them down with their own weapons if they break their word.

Perun is also invoked to sanctify sacred places and prepare them for ritual use. This was traditionally done with blood sacrifices of an ox, other animals, and even on some occasions, humans.

Perun can be invoked to seal oaths, but those who use his name should be careful since he is known to respond violently to those who break their word. A small blood sacrifice of just a few drops can encourage Perun to clean and protect your sacred space.

Perun statuette
Perun statuette

Symbols of the Slavic God Perun

In addition to the axe, oak, and fulgurites, Perun had a hexagonal symbol that was often inscribed into the beams of buildings to sanctify or protect a space. There are two versions, a more complicated version and a simpler alternative.

The more complex version is called the Gromovnik, a Slavic word meaning "thunderer", and looks like it might have been derived from the wheel of the chariot of the Perun god. The simpler symbol is called the Perunika and looks more like a geometric symbol.

Perun symbols Gromovnik and Perunika
Perun symbols Gromovnik and Perunika

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