Ziva, Siwa – Slavic Goddess Waters

By Phoenix of Elder Mountain Dreaming (compilation) – I searched and did a compilation on the Goddess Siwa or Ziva as she is known. Because I work with Slavic Fire and Water Rituals, both in my folk healing and collective work, the Living Waters of Siva | Ziva is one of my favorites including Marzanna. Both of these goddesses are known as the Waters of Life.

With the demotion and demolishing of the Goddess over the last 2400 years, her rebirth in the last fifty years has brought both women scholars, writers and pagan writers to the forefront of all that was lost and returned (rebirthed). She is the embodiment of prehistory, before grandfathers cultures and kingdoms and even paganism existed, and she is here to stay.

Honoring the goddess in her true nature, mother earth, animals, birds and the bird souls and women, connect us to our prehistory, our symbolic nature and our mystical nature. Siwa and Ziva goddesses are truly life itself, the core of nature and humanity and all it contains and as a woman with children, I honor both that sacrifice, that beauty and that connection to the root of family and humanity. In the Roman traditions she is Ceres and carries that same power.

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She is the great rainbow serpent dragon in her prepagan form, the cloud and moisture serpent or any other name you wish to connect her to through the well, springs, creeks, lakes, rivers and oceans. The water of life, the womb, the watery womb. She is our mother, our creator who gave us life through her daughters (women) and she has always been present even though the patriarch tried to kill her. They would have to kill every woman alive and without women, and men would not exist. I always honor men who honor the goddess and share her stories.

The water of life Goddess Ziva’s name means “Living, Being, Existing.” Ziva in her Russian name is Жива which means Alive. She is also known as the Goddess Siwa in Poland, which is more common. Because of the pronunciation of the word, sounding as “Sheeva” in modern Polish, Hindu people confuse her or think she came from or was a part of their god Shiva, she does not.

In Latin, in the 1850s there was a citation: “Divinity Zywie’s temple was built in the Mountain of the same name Żywiec. Her month is May and countless of people call her the creator of life.” In Poland Polish she is known as Siwa and even a town in Poland called Żywiec, she is also known as Siwa in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia her name is Zivena. She is also known in parts of East Germany. In Russia she is called Zhiva or Z’iva. Other forms of her name are Sivve, Shiwa, Sieba, Syeba, Siba and Dsiva. With regards to the etymology of her name, some associate with Zywye.

There is a Slavic sacred and esoteric symbol bearing her name encompasses the image of invincible life-giving energy, creator, ruling over both life, the living and the lifeless world of darkness and leading a person to the development of their essence. Goddess Živa originated in the remote antiquity.

The name of the goddess can be traced as far back as North Africa. Yet, the furthest we go back into prehistory, the clearer she emerges, not so much as goddess, but as life itself. The meaning of Živa in Slavic languages is life or living.

Among the deities of Slavic Polabians, above all Abodriti or Bodrici (Mecklenburg), the goddess Živa, or Živena among Slovakians, had a special place. Historical sources refer to her most often under the name Siwa, and recorded variously as Sivve, Shiwa, Sieba, Syeba, and Dsiva. She was goddess of fertility and love, the greatest female deity in the pantheon of Polabians.

Živa was above all the Goddess of Water. In the consciousness of people she represented the concept of life, personified by water. She was their first “goddess”, even before mother Earth, who rules when the spread of agriculture follows.

The chieftess holy place of goddess Živa was in the city Ratibor (Ratzenburg), south of Lubice (later Lübeck). The city is situated on the island of a sizable lake. On the island a powerful stream gushes to the surface, named Aqua Siwa. Today there is a spa on this spot. We come upon goddess Živa in the mythology of other nations in Middle Europe, that stem from the ancient Veneti. In the tradition of Slovaks for example she appears under the name Živena.

Chronicler Helmold calls Živa Polabian “goddess”, but in common with other chroniclers does not describe her. Her image appears only in the second publication of his chronicle in the year 1659. There are many indications that the goddess Živa was symbolically represented in the stream of fresh water, the source of all life.

Her figure, which it would be evidently impossible to portray in its true symbolism reflects more than a female figure, – youth, beauty and tenderness, life and its renewal…. All that the later goddesses of love, for example Greek Aphrodite or Roman Venus express only to some extent. 

zivaGoddess Živa had vanished from our memory in actual rituals and traditions because the Goddess was hated by God Religions, but the artists and especially the artists of folk tradition retained her figure and meaning in various guises and art forms. There are records particularly referring to “living water”, sometimes as focus of worship that indicates either by name or indirectly the goddess of life, Živa.

It is probable that the worship of Fata in Oglej (Aquileia),- a maiden goddess who foretells future, and is connected with births, can be identified with Živa. Like a number of Celtic deities, it would appear, as indicated on several preserved inscriptions, that she was transposed into the Roman pantheon of gods, and became Fata, dea barbarica.

There are no direct records about how much was Živa, her Polabian version, connected with the figure of female beauty and fertility. That she was an important goddess we may conclude from the fact that in the year 1157 they built a cathedral on the hill in Ratibor, where her temple had stood.

There is a strong tradition that the temple, which preceded the Christian church on the Isle of Bled was dedicated to Živa. Diggings which archaeologists undertook on the island after World War II, discovered under the church remains of older foundations. Among them also the foundation, that provided the support for a square wooden house at the time of christianization in the 8th century. Attached to it was square building with apse from 9th century, an indication of the influence of Oglej.

In both temples, whose foundations were uncovered, transition from pagan “hram” to early christian church can be clearly seen. Was the pagan temple dedicated to goddess Živa? Christian missionaries consistently translated worship of pagan goddesses into the worship of Mother of God. Church on the Lake Bled is consecrated to the Ascension of Mary which in modern times was under the control of men and when religion began, under the control of pagan men.

That is why its so important to begin to understand that the Patriarch is now over and we can begin to honor the Goddesses who shall reveal themselves in their true forms of power which can be quite scary, not only in elder women that hold this true power, but mother earth herself who is the ultimate goddess.

The temple of Živa on the Isle of Bled and the waterfall on the Savica River were commemorated and celebrated in the epic poem Baptism on Savica by the 19 century Slovenian poet France Prešeren. The figure of Živa, the ancient goddess of water, fruitfulness and love did not completely vanish from Slovenian folklore. Christianity drove the name of the pagan goddess into oblivion.

Żywia Živa Siwa

Goddess of living water has also been retained in the folk memory in many customs where water plays a crucial role. Maidens in the environs of Ljutomer make offerings to water on New Year’s Eve. In another custom a red apple must be thrown into the spring before sunrise. In her portrayal in Helmold’s chronicle, which had been published in 1639 by Heinrich Bangert, Živa holds an apple in her hands. From this it is possible to deduce, that in the folklore of Polabians as well, the apple was preserved as love symbol of the goddess.

Zhiva represents the Slavic Goddess of Fertility which in archaic terms meant all the mystery of Mother Earth’s creation and destruction, making her a Mother Goddess. Two of the most important deities of old are the Goddess Makosh, weaver of fate and creatrix goddess, spinner of her threads of the lives of humans, nimals, birds, rivers, mountains and then greater canvas of the universe itself. The goddess Ziva or Zhiva is the first key female deity of the ancient Slavs likes Marzanna.

Zhiva’s consort is Dazhbog. In one version, she is the daughter of Lada, according to another, she is the female of Svarog. In the Slavic pantheon, it was not always ranked as Yasunyam. Much more often, she was singled out into some kind of epic deity which just means she is older than the gods, and therefore standing above the all the forces of both Light and Shadow.

She covers the world entirely, controls it and oversees the implementation of mother nature’s laws. The gods they say are wise enough to never intervene unless absolutely necessary. This is probably why Folklore did not keep references to this goddess or many goddesses because of the male pagan take over was much like men’s religion after the goddess fell (asleep).

The Goddess Ziva, not to be confused with Zivana (Dwiezanna), who is the sister of Marzanna. Ziva rules over all the living creatures of Yavi. The green earthly world is especially correlated with it such as trees, flowers and forest animals and connected to the emerald stone. In form she is considered a tall woman who is elder or middle-aged for years, holding in her hands a sickle or sometimes fruits.


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The Roots of Slavic Magic
by Patricia Robin Woodruff
 Chapter 9 
Siva (Sivve, Siwa, Sieba, Siba, Siua, Shiwa, Syeba, Živa, Živena, Žemina, Żiwia, Zhiva, Zhivy, Zhizni, Zywye, Zywya, Zhywie, Razivia, Diva, Deva, Divača, Dsiva, Dziva, Deuača) 

Siva is a very primal goddess and you need to understand her to grasp many other gods and goddesses. She is the goddess of the life-force. Her lore is much hazier, which would seem to indicate an earlier origin. Her name means “living, being, existing.” Polish writer Lamus Dworski explains, “żywić means also to nourish, feed, cherish; and the noun żywicielka could describe a provider, breadwinner or a feeding mother.”

Siva is the goddess of the energy of life, eternal love, partnership, friendship and the cycle of life. In Slovakia, she is known as Diva which translates to “maiden.” She was worshiped throughout the Slavic lands into Lithuania, Serbia, Croatia and Germany. The goddess Ziva, was mentioned by the priest, Helmold in the 1100’s. He described her as the main goddess of the Polabian Slavs. She was considered the “author of life” and giver of health. Her temples were near water and healing springs attributed to her. She is sometimes credited with being the goddess and source of “living water.” (Not only is water the source of all life, but in Slavic beliefs there are different ways to magnify this power to create “living water” that we will get into.)

Charles DeKay in his book, Bird Gods, mentions that the goddess Zywie had a temple on Mount Zywiec, where they prayed for health and long life. One of the best known of her holy sites was the island of Bled in Slovenia. Her temple existed there until 745 CE when it was destroyed by the incoming Christians. Like so many pagan sacred sites, a church was built over top. It has transformed over time into the Baroque-style Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God. In this church hangs the “Bell of Desires”. It holds the ability to grant one single wish when rung three times.

The tradition is credited to father Francesco of Padova who had a church bell forged in 1534, but as there is a fictional tale about a widow making this bell for her lost love, it may have been in an attempt to Christianize a tenacious pagan tradition of Siva’s. This tradition of bell ringing was mentioned by the Christian evangelist, Otto around 1100 CE, where he derisively described the newly baptized “barbarous people” of Poland ringing the bell in order to “incite the saints to come to their help.” So it was obviously a common Pagan tradition.

It is possible that the famous St. Mary’s church in Krakow (also known as the Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven) is built on a site sacred to the goddess. The original foundations are dated to sometime around 1200 CE. The interesting tradition of bugling to the four directions of the compass, originally just at dawn and dusk(6) (is probably a leftover tradition to honor her partner the sun god.)

On the wall of the lower tower, there is a small bell hanging outside referred to as “the bell of the dying.” It used to be that the rope hung down to the ground. The tradition that comes down to us is that it was “rung at the moment of somebody’s death.” The explanation given today is that it “instils the soul of the dying with peace, and soothes the pain of death.” But it is more likely that it is a remnant of petitioning this goddess of life and death to take care of the person’s spirit.

Another holy site of Siva’s is “Aqua Siwa” that was a sacred spring on an island in the city of Ratibor, now Ratzeburg, Germany. (It has a pool and spa there; just a different way of harnessing her powers of life enhancing water.) She had a temple on a hill in Ratibor which overlooked her spring, and it was razed and a cathedral was built on top in 1154 CE.(8) These two sites both have an island, a hill and a spring (Bled has a hot spring nearby, as well as caves.) This is the perfect representation of the flowing waters of the goddess and the strong support of her nearby god.

Near the town Divača, Slovenia (which is obviously named after the goddess and/or her partner, Devač ) there is Triglavca cave to which the local villagers go to pray for fertility. Professor Katja Hrobat Virloget describes “two ritual stones, a stalagmite and a stalactite. On the top of the stalagmite, there is a natural hollow, shaped like female genitalia.”(9) One can imagine the dripping water in the cave would provide a powerful symbol for sympathetic magic.

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Oral tradition states that this is a site sacred to the lovers, Devač and Deva. An ancient secret ritual was carried out there known only to consecrated participants. The ritual was still being done as recently as 1930 and was only revealed in a scholarly paper in 2012, so this is important new information. The ritual involved putting grain in the natural hollow to keep the fields fertile.

The Resources and Sources: The Roots of Slavic Magic by Patricia Robin Woodruff, Mother Russia by Hudec, Ivan. Goddess-Berehynia Sculpture, Tales from Slavic Myths translated by Emma Nezinska and Jeff Schmitz Jobes, Gertrude and History of Pagan Europe by Kinsley, David. http://radogost.ru/jiva.html; https://vladimir-uno.blogspot.com

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on The Sisters of the Fey and commented:
    My newest book, The Sisters of the Fey, features Ziva, the mother goddess. Have a read of this traditional Slavic goddess.

    Like

  2. Caroline says:

    Also, I keep a bowl of water next to the bed and whisper to water before sleep at night.

    Like

  3. Caroline says:

    Thank you for this amazing post! Two nights ago I had a dream with a woman who lived in a lake. She was half woman with light hair and half of another aquatic animal/creature. I brought her (in the dream) a head of lettuce and put it in the water. It went under the water—then she turned and went to feed her child in a private modest manner.

    Liked by 1 person

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