Chernobog[a] (Latin: Zcerneboch, lit. "Black God", reconstructed as Proto-Slavic *Čьrnobogъ, from *čьrnъ ("black") + *bogъ ("god")[1]) is the god of bad fate worshipped by the Polabian Slavs. He is first mentioned by Helmold in the Chronica Slavorum. The authenticity of the cult of the Chernobog, as well as of the Belobog reproduced by analogy to him, is controversial among scholars. Nevertheless, Chernobog is one of the most popular Slavic gods in the world.[citation needed]

Day and Night, the modern representation of Belobog and Chernobog, Maxim Sukharev.

SourcesEdit

Chronica SlavorumEdit

The twelfth century German monk and chronicler Helmold, who accompanied the Christianization missions to the Elbe Slavs, describes in his Chronicle of the Slavs the cult of Chernobog:[1]

Also, the Slavs have a strange delusion. At their feasts and carousals, they pass about a bowl over which they utter words, I should not say of consecration but of execration, in the name of [two] gods—of the good one, as well as of the bad one—professing that all propitious fortune is arranged by the good god, adverse, by the bad god. Hence, also, in their language they call the bad god Diabol, or Zcerneboch, that is, the black god.

Latin original text

Est autem Slavorum mirabilis error; nam in conviviis et compotationibus suis pateram circumferunt, in quam conferunt, non dicam consecrationis, sed execrationis verba sub nomine deorum, boni scilicet atque mali, omnem prosperam fortunam a bono deo, adversam a malo dirigi profitentes. Unde etiam malum deum lingua sua Diabol sive Zcerneboch, id est nigrum deum, appellant.

Later sourcesEdit

The next sources that speak of Chernobog and/or Bialobog appear only in the 16th century. Around 1530, a Dominican monk from Pirna, Johan Lindner, recalls the gods in his compilation. Although he lived in or near the Lusatian region, he probably only used written sources and monastic stories, and not field research, which quickly made his work unbelievable by many historians, including Georg Fabricius and Petrus Albinus. They believed that although his sources were numerous and varied, he used them uncritically. At the end of the 17th century, Abraham Frencel [de] also mentioned the Chernobog in his list of the Lusatian gods. This information is also considered unbelievable because it came into being late, when the Lusatian paganism was probably completely extinct and about half of the gods he mentioned are of Prussian origin.[1][2]

In 1538, the Pomeranian chronicler Thomas Kantzow in his Chronicle of Pomerania wrote:[1]

I have heretofore related all manner of faithlessness and idolatry, in which they had engaged before the time of the German Empire. Earlier yet, their ways are said to have been even more pagan. They placed their kings and lords, who ruled well, above the gods and honored the said men [as gods] after their death. In addition, they worshipped the sun and the moon and, lastly, two gods whom they venerated above all other gods. One [of them] they called Bialbug, that is the white god; him they held for a good god. The other one [they called] Zernebug, that is the black god; him they held for a god who did harm. Therefore, they honored Bialbug, because he did them good and so that he might [continue to] do them good. Zernebug, on the other hand, they honored so that he should not harm them. And they appeased the said Zernebug by sacrificing people, for they believed that there was no better way of assuaging him than with human blood, which is actually true, if only they had seen it in the right light: that Zernebug seeks nothing other than the death of Man's body and soul.

German original text

Ich hab hiezuvor mannigerley unglawben und abgoͤtterey angezeigt, so sie bei Zeiten des Teutzschen keiserthumbs gehapt. Aber zuvor seint sie noch viele heidnischer gewest, haben yre khonige und hern, so wol geregiret, vor Goͤtter aufgeworffen, und dieselbigen nach yrem totte geehret. Darneben haben sie Sonne und Mon angebetet, und zu letzst zween Goͤtter, die uͤber alle ander Goͤtter wehren, gemacht. Einen, den sie Bialbug , das ist den weissen Got, genennet; den hielten sie vor einen gutten Got; den andern Zernebug , das ist der schwartze Got, den sie vor einen Got hielten, der schaden tette. Darumb ehreten sie Bialbug deshalben, das er ynen guts tette und thun solte; Zernebug aber ehreten sie darum, das er nicht schaden solte. Und demselbigen Zernebug pflagen sie offt menschen zuslachten; dan sie meinten, er wurde nyrgentz durch besser gestillet, wan durch menschenblut; welchs dan zwar wahr ist, wan sie es nhur recht verstanden hetten; dan Zernebug sucht nicht anders, dan des Menschen tot an leib und sele

— Thomas Kantzow, Chronik von Pommern in niederdeutscher Mundart

Then Sebastian Münster, in Cosmographiae universalis of 1550, describes the harvest ritual associated with Svetovit and continues: "In general they (the Rugians) worshipped two gods, namely Belbuck and Zernebuck, as if a white and a black god, a good and an evil genius, God and Satan, as the source of good and evil, according to the error of the Manichaeans". The works of Kantzov and Münster are probably independent of each other (various forms of recording the name of the Belebog, the Chronicle of Pomerania was first published, but it was not published until the 19th century), but they use a common source, which, according to Miroslava Znayenko, could be the archive of the Abbey of Białoboki [pl], where the Belebog was forged. Daniel Cramer, a theologian and professor from Szczecin, probably held in his hands a copy of a chronicle from this archive or saw a quote from it, because in his Pommerisches Kirchen-Chronicon he probably paraphrased a part of it:[1]

To this monastery they (the founding monks) gave the name Belbug, [more] correctly Bialbuck, which in the Wendish tongue means literally ‘the white god,’ thus to give [the Slavs] to understand that, unlike their (the Slavs’) heathen ancestors, the Christians did not know of any black god. The name [Belbug] also well befits the clothes of the Premonstratensians, who [always] went dressed in white. The foundation of the monastery took place anno 1163.

German original text

Diesem Kloster haben sie den Namen Belbug gegeben, so viel als Bialbuck welches in seiner Wendischen Sprach soviel heist als den Weissen Gott , damit zu verstehen zu geben, daß die Christen von keinem schwarzen Gott wie ihre heidnische Vorfahrn wusten. Welcher Nahm sich dann zu der Praemonstratenser Kleidung, welch in Weiß gekleidet giengen, wol schicket. Diese fundation des Klosters Belbuck ist geschehen Anno 1163

— Daniel Cramer, Pommerisches Kirchen-Chronicon

Chernobog also appears in the anonymous History of Caminensis as the god of the Vandals, which is based on a piece by Münster (both works speak of the "error of the Manichaeans"). Chernobog also appears in other, later, minor texts.[1]

InterpretationsEdit

There is no consensus among researchers on the authenticity of the cult of Chernobog and Belebog. Some researchers believe that both gods are Helmold's invention, some assume the possibility of the existence of these gods, some assume that Chernobog and Belebog are nicknames for other gods. According to Aleksander Gieysztor and Andrzej Szyjewski, Chernobog is rather a hypostasis of evil, a renamed chart, bies (demons), or a bad dola.[3][4]

Some authors attempted to prove the cult of the Chernobog by means of the names of the mountains of Czorneboh and Bieleboh in Upper Lusatia, where the gods were supposed to be worshipped, but the names were most likely created in modern times because of the popularity of the gods in the culture of the region.[1][2]

When considering the authenticity of the god, the names of the villages that are supposed to refer to the Chernobog, e.g. the village of Černobož’e in Russia or the village of Černobožna in Ukraine, as well as the neighboring villages Černíkovice and Bělbožice [cs] in the Czech Republic are also mentioned as arguments.[1][5]

Henryk Łowmiński recognized that the Chernoglav, mentioned in the Icelandic Knýtlinga saga, is the "cemetery transformation of the Chernobog".[2] Yaroslav Gorbachov believes that the third credible potential source (after the Chronica Slavorum and the Knýtlinga saga) is Al-Masudi's The Meadows of Gold, but he is not sure about the credibility of this work. It describes an idol on the Black Mountain temple with black animals and people with black skin:[1]

[There also is] another building, which one of their kings built on top of the black mountain. It is surrounded by wondrous waters of many colors and flavors, which possess all manner of healing powers. In that [building], they had a giant idol in the shape of a leaning man, who is depicted as an old person. He has a staff in his hand, with which he stirs the bones of the dead in coffins. Under his right foot are depictions of [various] kinds of ants, under his other [foot] are very black ravens in the shape of enormous ġudāf-ravens and other [varieties of raven], as well as strange depictions of Abyssinians (Ḥabashī) and East Africans (Zanjī)

Chernobog in popular cultureEdit

 
A float of Disney's rendition of Chernabog, holding the Wicked Queen from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Film and televisionEdit

As Chernabog, he appears in many Disney productions:

  • Fantasia (1940) – appears in the segment Night on Bald Mountain based on the work of Mussorgsky.[6] Walt Disney called Chernabog "The Devil himself". In 2015 a full-length live-action adaptation based on this segment was announced.[7]
  • The Reluctant Dragon (1941) – the statue of Chernabog in the shop
  • Michael & Mickey (1991) – short film; Chernabog appears in the cinema
  • Fantasia 2000 (1999) – continuation of the 1940 film; Chernabog appears in references to the first film[8]
  • Mickey's House of Villains (2003) – as a guest along with other Disney villains[7]
  • Mickey Mouse (since 2013) – in the episode "Touchdown and Out" as Mickey Mouse opponent. In the episode "The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular!" visible in the background during the introductory subtitles
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010) – the film is based on the Fantasia of 1940; at an early stage of production, his participation in the film was considered, but it was eventually abandoned in order to present it in a possible continuation of the film. Gargoyle, which is sometimes seen in the company of an antagonist, resembles Chernabog
  • Once Upon a Time (2011-2018) – appears in "Darkness on the Edge of Town" episode[7]

As Czernobog:

As Chernobog:

  • The Witcher (2021) - television series adaptation of the Andrzej Sapkowski series of novels; one of the monsters is "a some kind of chernobog" as quoted by Geralt of Rivia.

As Crnobog:

Video gamesEdit

  • City of Heroes (2004-2012) – as a unique villain leader of 'The Skulls' street gang and drug kingpin in the finale of The Superadine Ring story arc.
  • Shin Megami Tensei (1992) – as a summonable demon with a scythe, as well as a skeletal figure wielding a sword surrounded by mushrooms
  • Blood (1997) – Tchernobog is the primary antagonist, being depicted as a "bloodied, horned Dark God of monstrous appearance", who controls the cult known as "the Cabal"
  • Shadow Hearts (2001) - Czernobog is the highest-level dark elemental with whom the protagonist can fuse.
  • Crusader Kings II (2012) – In expansions, Monks and Mystics, when a player plays as a pagan Slavic ruler, a Chernobog appears as a "Satanic" god, worshipped by a "Cold Bloods" sect
  • Final Fantasy XIV (2013) – Chernobog is a top-class monster that appears as a mission for head hunters
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV (2013)[11]
  • GTA Online (2013) – HVY Chernobog is an armed military vehicle
  • Smite (2014) – as a playable character added in the May 2018 update. He is also the first god of the Slavic pantheon in this game[12]
  • The Shrouded Isle (2017) – The Chernobog god is worshipped by the villagers, who offer him sacrifices of people
  • Boss Rush Mythology (2020) - Chernobog is the 18th boss of the game.
  • Arknights (2020) - Chernobog is a city of Ursus, a fictional version of the Russian Empire, which a portion of the main storyline took place in.
  • Resident Evil Village (2021) – as a primary antagonist and biological threat. An ancient fungal colony is called "the Black God" and, given Resident Evil Village takes place in Romania and this colony serves as an antagonist, is likely a reference to Chernobog.
  • Disney:

Books and comicsEdit

Other mediaEdit

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The name is both historically and currently written in myriad different spellings in English. In some modern Slavic languages:
    Russian, Bulgarian and Macedonian: Чернобог, Černobog,
    Serbo-Croatian: Crnobog, Црнобог
    Ukrainian: Чорнобог Čornoboh
    Polish: Czarnobóg
    Czech: Černoboh
    Slovene: Črnobog
    Slovak: Černoboh
    In those areas which the Western Slavic tribes inhabited now under Germany (of which some indigenous Slavic peoples such as Sorbs remain), the god is known in German as Tschernebog or Czorneboh, the latter owing its name to a mountain in Saxony.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gorbachov, Yaroslav (2017-06-23). "What Do We Know about *Čьrnobogъ and *Bělъ Bogъ?". Russian History. 44 (2–3): 209–242. doi:10.1163/18763316-04402011. ISSN 1876-3316.
  2. ^ a b c Strzelczyk, Jerzy. (1998). Mity, podania i wierzania dawnych Słowian (Wyd. 1 ed.). Poznań: Dom Wydawniczy Rebis. pp. 57–58. ISBN 83-7120-688-7. OCLC 41479163.
  3. ^ Szyjewski, Andrzej. (2003). Religia Słowian. Kraków: Wydawn. WAM. pp. 48, 121. ISBN 83-7318-205-5. OCLC 54865580.
  4. ^ Gieysztor, Aleksander. (2006). Mitologia Słowian (Wyd. 3., zm., rozszerz ed.). Warszawa: Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego. pp. 160–161. ISBN 83-235-0234-X. OCLC 212627528.
  5. ^ Kulišić, Špiro; Petrović, Petar Ž.; Pantelić, Nikola (1970). Serbian mythological dictionary. Belgrade: Nolit. pp. 28–29.
  6. ^ "Disney Archives | Chernabog Villains History". 2011-02-01. Archived from the original on 2011-02-01. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  7. ^ a b c d Acuna, Kirsten (2015-06-04). "Disney's giving one of its darkest characters -- a demon gargoyle from 'Fantasia' -- its own movie". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  8. ^ a b Chernabog - Kingdom Hearts 3D Wiki Guide - IGN, retrieved 2020-10-05
  9. ^ a b "American Gods mythology guide: Who is bloodthirsty Slavic deity Czernobog?". Radio Times. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  10. ^ "Nemesis" at IMDb
  11. ^ Chernobog - Shin Megami Tensei IV Wiki Guide - IGN, retrieved 2020-10-05
  12. ^ "SMITE Patch Live With First Slavic God Chernobog". TrueAchievements. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  13. ^ Scott, Walter. (1996). Ivanhoe. Duncan, Ian. Oxford: OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-161111-7. OCLC 781614504. ...May Mista, Skogula and Zernebock, gods of the ancient Saxons...
  14. ^ "Chernobog Powers, Enemies, History | Marvel". Marvel Entertainment. Retrieved 2020-10-05.
  15. ^ "Chernobog".