Latvia Symbols of Nature’s Seasons
Spring Equinox – Dawn The sign of Dawn or the rising sun sign symbolizes relationship to the top, to the heavenly world, it is the knowledge of humankind and the ideal picture of aggregation model. This sign, symbol language is sunrise and sunset graphical representation. Associated with the constant rhythm of the sun, with its eternal celestial mountain road, this is a sign of the world order for our children, because it combines an understanding of the past, present and future.
Summer Solstice – The Sun Goddess Strong sunlight is the symbolic representation of the life force culmination and fulfillment. Development of harmony symbol as a symbol of the highest mountain, sky, full of life-giving force, glory and power. Jānis The Summer Solstice God sometimes referred to as a son of God. His Midsummer’s Night festival (which is called “Jāņi” takes place on the evening of June 23rd and is the most important festival of the year for Latvians. Once every year, Jānis at midsummer came to bring luck and fertility to the people of Latvia.
Autumn Equinox – Ths God Jumis Fertility sign. Jumim surrenders to the end of spring and summer, and its a double or twin sign because it means two together, the harvest season. Ancient farmhouses adorned and protected the Juma horses who worked in tandem or a couple. This sign means fertility, strength, wealth, success and good luck. The word “Jumis” attributed to the word “Jumal” which means “God.”
Winter Solstice, The Wells symbol – this symbol is character of endings, completeness, that which forms the void or Sākotne. This mark combines with the top down and the sky with underground water. This sign also heralds a new solar year on the day of the Winter Solstice but that is a Christian tradition of the sun and the world. The original early pagan and shamanic cultures did not honor the sun on the winter solstice, they honored the midnight sun of winter which is the Auseklis.
Auseklis – This is the most important ancient symbol which is with the references of the night. In Latvia, its the Night Sun or Midnight Star as it is associated with Winter, the Winter Solstice and the protection from evil and shadows of the underworld. In modern times, after the 8th century, later paganism changed it to the more worldly Venus, or Morning Star, but still remained a Guardian Star rather than the greater collective woman of Aurora, who is the symbol of the in-between time just like the Evening Star at dusk. This is the time when the veil is thin and both the dream or energy worlds (some call the land of the dead) and the waking dream or waking life meet together at the crossroads. After the shamanic cultures and goddess cultures waned, the remains (pagan) called it the morning star, the usher of the new day.
The Cross symbol in Latvian folklore has eight or six stars. Also at the Winter Solstice (now called Christmas), this is one of the only surviving symbols to honor the winter time ceremonies and celebrations. Many Slavic and Balkan countries in Eastern Europe will use the eight pointed Star when caroling and singing folk songs going form house to house or village to village during Christmas and the Winter Solstice.
Complete article on the Auseklis, The Midnight Sun, Goddess of the Dawn:
Latvian Goddess Symbolism…
Zalktis, The Serpent Goddess
She is one of the ancient symbols of a deity in Latvia. Like all serpent goddesses, she is associated with wisdom, which makes her an elder or grandmother goddess. She is significantly connected with healing, especially the healing of the soul. Today she is still know for general well-being and health, judging from the popularity of the symbol. This sign dates back to the Iron Age.
Zalktis, The Adder symbolizes wisdom and connected to animism which can access worldwide knowledge. The white ones are the most powerful, and it is signed for one of the Mara’s talisman because Mara could transform into the healing snake. Also this sign is available on women’s clothes as protection, making it a symbol for sacred crafts and ancient arts.
Then there is žaltys, an ancient Baltic traditions, a harmless green snake highly respected as a symbol of fertility and wealth. To ensure the prosperity of family and field, a žaltys was kept in a special corner of the house, and the entire household gathered at specified times to recite prayers to it.
On special occasions the snake was asked to the table to share the family meal from their plates; should he refuse, misfortune was imminent. To encounter a snake accidentally was also considered auspicious and portended a marriage or a birth. Paralysis or great misfortune awaited anyone who dared kill a žaltys, the “sentinel of the gods” and a favorite of Saule, the goddess of the sun.
This symbol means happiness, energy, fire, thunder and wind. Fire cross is related to the Sun Goddess Saule and the Goddess Laima and Thunder, this sign was popular to cut into the beds of children and to interweave into belts for newborn children to wrap them in and adults to protect themselves from evil. In Latvia up to this day it is used for shirts, gloves, socks for protection against evil eye.
Saule The Sun Goddess
The title of supreme only goes to the god in Slavic and Balkan Pagan men’s traditions, but as we return fully to the deeper and more creation goddess, Saule is truly a Supreme Goddess and one of the oldest Goddesses of Latvia, and before the gods. The oldest cultures on earth have the Sun as a Goddess and Latvia is included, a time when the sun meant feminine and life giving. She is a Baltic region and mythology who determines the well-being and regeneration of all life on earth, a Creator Goddess.
Saule, the sun, rides each day through the sky on a chariot with copper wheels, drawn by horses who neither tire nor rest nor sweat. Toward evening Saule washes the horses in the sea, sitting on top of a hill, holding the golden reins in her hand. Then she goes beyond the silver gates into her castle at the end of the sea. The red ball of the setting sun, one aspect of Saule, is portrayed in Baltic art as a ring, a falling red apple, or a crown. As the full light of the sun, she is also represented by a daisy, a wheel, or a rosette.
Moon is presented as the consort of the Sun Goddess and also the Sun has all relatives such as sun fathers, sun mothers, sun daughters and sons and the children of the sun goddess. Behind other symbols, the Sun Goddess symbol is placed to be in the most honorable position any symbol can be. It is also because Sun Goddess is represented as mother of all children.
All drawings of Sun are always circle typed (egg, ball, golden acorn etc), who symbolizes the Sun’s trajectory. At the simplest level, Sun can be displayed as a circle. All the detailed Sun projections have one common point – the center of this circle is always double crossed or specially pointed out. The detail count of Sun symbol are countless, for a common is supposed to be detailed multi-angle – eight-sided symbol, but also there are simple four-angle symbol.
In Latvian art the motive of Sun is displayed on every possible items. If Sun is displayed more than few times in one row, it symbolizes special magical productivity and warmness rituals. Symbol of Sun is specially used in women’s clothes and jewelry, most of the Sun symbols are also found on those tools that is used for own goods made.
A harmless green snake, žaltys who was a special favorite of the Sun Goddess Saule’s; it was considered good luck to have a žaltys in the house — and bad luck to kill one. Now we associate the Goddess with the moon, but in prehistory she was the sun and still is the Sun Goddess in older traditions like Latvia. Today as the goddess she rules both the earth’s fertility and woman’s fertility. She is a patroness goddess of those who have hard lives, the unlucky, including orphans. The design was originally a simple circle, which evolved over the years into many variations.
Laima Goddess Ancient Pre-Pagan Bird Goddess, Pagan Goddess of Destiny & Fate
The similarities of signs of the Goddess Laima or Deivė Laima, is with feathers of a sacred Bird, from a shamanic past when animals were one of our souls (animism). Pre-pagan associations with Laima is the bird symbol, considered one of the most ancient signs, as it occurs in the pottery and stone axes from about 3000 years ago in ancient tribal settlement areas and in some of the Ukrainian areas the birds are 7,000 years old.
Many other country’s goddesses were described as fickle, such terminology is never used with Laima. Her honor is unchanging. Thus, the Baltic may not have been scapegoated because the Baltic female deities were held in more honor than the southern Indo-European female deities; they were not subordinated to the gods. Therefore, there would have been no precedent for the punishment of the female.
Earlier bird symbolism means “the Soul” and the Goddess Laima, protector of Souls and Old Souls has not changed. Laima in the new pagan traditions always had a broom as the symbol by her side making her patroness of the Witch like Ragana. Laima also protected the newborn child who was often birthed in the bathhouse.
Today she is more like the Slavic Lada, the name Laima derives from the word laime, which means “happiness” or “luck”. Laima determines whether one’s life will be short or long, fruitful or poverty-stricken, carefree or worrisome. The sign is thought to bring luck. In the Latvian mythology, Laima and her sisters, Kārta and Dēkla, were a trinity of fate deities, similar to the Norse Norns or the Greek Moirai. Laima makes the final decision on individual’s fate and is considerably more popular. While all three of them had similar functions, Laima is Goddess of luck and is more related with mothers and childbirth, Dēkla is in charge of children, and Kārta holds power over the adult’s life.
In modern Dievturi these three goddesses are referred to as the three Laimas, indicating they are the same deity in three different aspects. Birth rituals at the end of the 19th century included offerings of hen, sheep, towels or other woven materials to Laima. Only women could participate in the ritual, performed in a sauna (pirtis) which is much like the native american sweat lodge.
Māra Dark Goddess of Winter
She is the second of the supreme goddesses because she is a triple goddess (maiden, mother and grandmother) and the goddess who was responsible for the birth of the land, the waters, and every living thing. In ancient Latvian mythology, Mara was not just the mother of all the gods including Dievs, she is creator.
This is a sign of the living matter, which is closely associated with fertility, fire, and the home. This sign is formed from four sloping croup, it symbolizes the dynamic nature of matter in the active state. In ancient times the cross cross was put on loaves of bread before it was placed in the oven and in the evening, going to bed, it drew the hearth ashes. Sometimes cross cross is also called the Cross-Cross. Each thing that symbolically hoisted cross cross is sacrificed to Mara and the blessing is returned.
Today we strongly associate Mara with children and childbirth; children are said to enter the world “through the gates of Māra” making her a creation deity. She is also the protector of women, especially mothers, and daughters. She is also the Goddess of the Hearth Fires making her a Spirit or Fire goddess like many other fire goddesses around the world. Māra is also Winter making her like her sisters Marzanna and Morena of other Slavic traditions. In winter, she often takes the form of black animals such as ravens.
The Waters of Māra, the Checks of Māra
When meaning checks, have to point, that Latvians and other nations understands this sign as symbol of water. Maybe because of it is common, that this sign symbolizes Mara as mother of Seas and Lakes, Rivers etc. It’s believed, that simple horizontal line symbolizes Mara as mother of Land and this sign is called the Land of Mara. Checks are one type of common geometrical signatures, already used in Early Stone Age. The use of check as symbol becomes popular in Iron Age. In the sample artworks of public artists this sign can be found many times. Check symbol is used also as the start of all other signs.
Māras krusts (Cross and Cross of Crosses)
This is the symbol that guards, blesses and brings happiness and is used in many traditional folk crafts and tradition folk dresses and belts. One of the most positive in Latvian symbolism.
Ragana The Witch Goddess
Goddess who Sees, Seer, Healer, Mystic. Ragana [ˈrɑ:gʌnʌ] is the Lithuanian goddess who takes care of others, a healer who is gifted at healing and seeing into the future. Ragana in Lithuanian means the seeing, which is close to the Slavic Vjed(ż)ma (who knows).
Latvian God Symbolism…
Mēness The Moon God
The true Supreme God, older than all gods even Dievs. He is the fertile one, the old one. He guards and helps female warriors and male warriors, and protects those who clans reject. The Moon Sign has been found on men’s bracelets dating back to the Iron Age. Sword embellishments also boasted Moon Signs. Found on pendants and pins, orphans clothing. There are two symbols, the Mēness krusts and Mēness zīme.
Perkuns The Thunder God
Thunder is well known in whole world over 5000 years, starting from Asia up to Northern America but many people associate it with the military of Hitler demonized it. Its actually a very good and positive sign and symbol over the last five-thousand years, in many countries including Latvia. The sign of thunder, is one of the most ancient symbols in the world and has been used by all nations. The Latvian sign of thunder symbolizes light, fire, life, health and prosperity. No other nation has used the swastika so widely, nor developed so many variations of it as the Latvians. Perkuns follows most of the other Slavic Thunder God’s stories and lore.
Ūsiņš Bee and Horse God
The first information about the Latvian deity Ūsiņš, was related by the Jesuit Joannis Stribingius in his 1606 report on missions in the Latvian part of Livonia: Deo Equorum, quem vocant Dewing Vschinge, offerunt singuli 2 solidos et duos panes et frustum pinguedinis, quem in ignem conijciunt. “They sacrifice to the God of horses, whom they call Deviņ Ūšiņe, each two pieces of money and two pieces of bread and a bit of fat which they throw into the fire.“ The motif of horses connected with Ūsiņš also appears in Latvian dainas.
On Ūsiņš’ Day, which falls in early May, the animals are let out to pasture for the first time. Ūsiņš is said to drive the chariot of the Sun across the sky with his two horses much like Helios of the Greeks. It is also called key sign, since Ūsiņš unlocks doors in the summer which brings the trees into full leaves and the grasses of the land. Ūsiņš sign also gives special powers, it encourages observation and understanding. Its also a symbol of blessings, known as a sign of life. The symbol is put in the cradle and the thresholds and elsewhere as a protective sign. This sign gives strength, heals diseases and strengthens the union of partnerships.
Latvian Ūsiņš, with variants Ūsenis, Ūsinis, can represent proto-Baltic *ūśinja- or *ōśinja- has been interpreted as an East Latvian dialectism. Summing up, the Latvian deity Ūsiņš ‘bee-god and patron of horses’ represents both the pleasures of life (honeybee) and the untamable water of nature and its counterpart our emotions (horse).
Dievs Father God
In ancient Latvian mythology, Dievs was not just the father of the Gods, he was the essence of them. This symbol represents the sky, as a roof over the earth. Dievs, also called Debestēvs (Latvian), Lithuanian Dievas, Old Prussian Deivas, in Baltic religion Dievs and Laima, the goddess of human fate, determine human destiny and world order. Dievs is a wooer of Saule, the sun goddess and like Jupiter, he sleeps with many different goddesses but not as many. He is an Iron Age Baltic king who lives on a farmstead in the sky making him a later pagan and not shamanic early god. Latvia is a very matriarchal clan and thus a lot of the Balkan and Slavic gods had to be imported from Viking times.
Wearing a silver gown, pendants, and a sword, he occasionally rides down to earth, on horseback or in a horse-drawn chariot, to watch over farmers and their crops. Dievs has two sons (Dieva dēli in Latvian; Dievo sūneliai in Lithuanian), who are known as the Heavenly twins and the morning and evening stars which were the Goddess stars but in later Paganism like all paganism they were given over to the new rising Gods. In name, Dievs is cognate with the Vedic Dyaus-Pitṛ, the Latin Dies-piter (Jupiter), and the Greek Zeus, denoting originally the bright, daylight sky. The word dievs was also used by the ancient Balts to denote god in general and in modern usage refers to the Christian God.
Like their Greek (Dioscuri) and Vedic (Aśvins, or Nāsatyas) counterparts, Dieva dēli are skilled horsemen. They associate with Saules meita, the daughter of the sun goddess, and when she is sinking into the sea with only her crown still visible, Dieva dēli come to her rescue. Again, very late paganism right before the Christians came showing the ‘hero’ god saving the maiden (which is the start of the patriarch of both pagan and christian religions) myths.
Jumis God of Fertility
Pagan God Jumis, is an agricultural deity representing fertility and a good harvest. He appears dressed in clothes made from field crops, such as wheat and barley.
The symbol of Jumis has a symmetrical form somewhat like crossed grain flails or (if you use your imagination), a shock of wheat. In some forms the bottom ends are bent up. Any “double fruit” that occurs in nature or in cultivation such as two cherries fused together or two ears of wheat on one stem is considered representative of the God Jumis. If there is a double fruit or ear of grain, it should be left “on the vine” to be used as part of the “catching Jumis” ritual (see below). The symbol is used as a decorative element and it brings good luck to the user. The design is woven into the card-woven belts which are an important traditional folk art among the Latvian and Lithuanian people.
The name of his festival in Latvian is Apjumibas, after Jumis. It is celebrated at the fall equinox, specifically for the three days, Sept. 22-23-24. This is an after-harvest celebration and it is different than many after-harvest festivals which are usually set closer to Oct 23 or Oct 31, because the Baltic states (Latvia and Lithuania) are so far north. The time between the grain harvest celebration and the slaughter of cattle is very compressed in northern countries because the growing season is so short. Another name for the festival is Mikeli which refers to the archangel Michael, because the feast day of St. Michael also falls at about this time, Sept. 29th according to the Christian church.
In Latvian folk belief, St. Michael is the receiver of souls, and it would appear that he has accepted this task from Jumis, simply because his is the next nearest holiday. By the time of the festival, the harvest must all be brought in and stored. After the festival, the “gates of winter” are opened. At the end of reaping, a “Catching Jumis” ritual occurs in the grain fields which is intended to capture his spirit and his fertility for the fields of a village. A clump of uncut grain, (preferably one with a double ear) is left in the field. It is tied in a bundle and the top is pushed down and weighed down with a stone or soil to press it into the ground.
This is thought to direct the fertility of the field back into the soil where it will be available for the grain crop next year. Sometimes the sheaf is plaited into a wreath or braid and presented to a high status woman in the community who keeps it until spring. In the spring any seeds will be rubbed out and scattered over the field and the entire wreath is planted under a rock in the field. When the harvest is done, Jumis is celebrated with a community feast which includes a special Jumis loaf, and responsorial singing, dancing and fertility rituals.
Jumis means ‘twin’ in Latvian and is the cognate form whose name Yama means “twin” and who represents the Ox which was sacrificed to make the standards of Indo-European creation myths of the patriarch. Most likely in the early pagan cultures he was not sacrificed but honored in ceremony of goddess and shamanic cultures. It is this Proto-Indo-European God who developed into the various Gods and Saints.
Latvian Talisman Symbolism…
Cross of the Thunder, Cross of the Fire (Swastika) &
Ugunskrusts Sign of Fire or Thunder Cross
Thunder is one of the oldest ancient elements along with lightning. In Latvia the Thunder cross is mentioned from 3rd century and the symbol was found in early iron age, where it is forged in bronze talisman and jewelry. This symbol has several names – cross of Thunder, cross of Fire, Branch cross, etc. There is so much on the web that you can search for its ancient and sacred meanings.
Shrovetide represents a new start of each symbol. Pitched Cross, which fills the solar signs void, creating a new, dynamic state of development and points to the deliberate entry. Various living material and ideal processes the center or balance.
Martina is a sign of light and fire. In dark times or long winters, the light and warmth of the people is very much needed. This sign, stylized, depicts two roosters who are up first thing in the morning, so they are the light messengers, and is derived from the Jumis signs; Shade Jumis. In winter, the lifeblood of stored roots, this sign tells the story of this life and the strength of the ground forces, it is the gateway through which we pass to start something new.
Austras koks Sun Tree (World tree) – This is the emblem of the Romuva religion, a revival of the indigenous Pagan religion of Lithuania. The symbol of Romuva is a stylized oak tree, representing the axis mundi, or “world tree,” known in local mythology as Austras Koks, ” tree of dawn,” i.e., a tree of life. The three tiers represent the three worlds: the world of the living, or present-day, the world of the dead, or passed time, and the world to come, the future.
The flame represents the ritual offering fire central to Romuva religious practices. The runic inscription here reads, “Romuve,” or sanctuary, the root from which the the word Romuva is derived.
Source: Various, Photo: Folk series by make-up artist Beata Bojda and Photographer Ula Kóska, Poland. Latvian artist Sindija Mačtama.