Chernobog is a name many authors use for their big bad guy. But was Chernobog really an evil god? Was he really Belobogs evil opposite, or is there some proof that he simply represented different aspects that didn't fit with Belobog?

Was Chernobog evil before Christian monks started to compare him to the Devil?

To avoid "good vs. evil" dilemma, let's just say that human sacrifice is bad, representing 7 major sins is bad, spreading diseases is bad, etc.

Killing enemies is not bad, guiding/harvesting souls of the dead (like Grim Reaper) is not inherently bad, giving someone unnatural powers is not bad(unless the cost is like slaughtering your loved ones or something), etc.

  • Just by the names ( black god and white god) I would guess, they were meant as counterparts, but I have no source or anything.
    – Arsak
    Feb 2 '18 at 9:20

There seems to be some question as to whether or not Chernobog really existed before the Chronica Slavorum was written in the 12th century by Helmold of Bosau, a German priest. Helmold writes about a drinking execration where the people of the time and region would call upon an entity that "in their language they call the bad god Diabol, or Zcerneboch, that is, the black god" [1]. However, there are no sources mentioning Chernobog by name that predate Helmold's account, and later sources are similarly Christian in nature, furthering the dualistic concept of good v. evil and denigrating the idea of a dark or black god as the opposite of a white god [2].

The only other thing I've been able to find (though admittedly, I'm no scholar on the subject) is a mention of Zcerneboch as one of the gods represented at the temple on the island of Arkona, which was "liberated" of its pagan ways in 1168 by the Christian King of Denmark and chronicled by, you guessed it, none other than Helmold of Bosau [3], which calls into question the legitimacy of the account, especially since numerous other sources say the isle temple at Arkona was dedicated to Svantveit, not Zcerneboch/Chernobog.

[1] https://www.jassa.org/?page_id=10175 [2] https://tinyurl.com/y3xpk72f [3] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Slavic-religion#ref533471


I think the most basic answer is no, more deeper answer would be not in the Christian way. Even from the Chronica Slavorum you can see that said Slavs didn't treat him in the way Christians treat the Devil. There are no sacrifices/prayers for the Devil in Christianity. With the premise that he's not just a Helmond's made-up god, there's in my option very good theory about him being the same as the god Veles, one of creation gods where the white one is connected with life and sky/light while the black one is connected with the death and underworld/darkness (this is a concept known to many mythologies around the world). Which of course is making the black god (cerno bog) more connected to the "bad things" in human eyes for death and all the underworld demons etc. are more dangerous to/hated by the living than is for example the sun. Yet they knew that it's exactly this god who could help them to control the dangerous beings and so he was good to them, too - in the way of all gods who are commonly capable of both, awesome and terrible things.

In old slavic stories that survived till today, you can commonly read about a "dark lord" etc. who is under the Christian influence basically understood as the Devil and is usually offering or protecting gold, magic or taking human souls etc. And people are commonly using the black color instead of an actual name which could be dangerous to say (even more after Christianity arrived) so it's likely that Cernobog was a similar thing - a secondary name created from the basic descriptors.

There's actually a god known from Rujána/Rügen who could be also connected and is not mentioned by Helmond only. it's Cernoglav (Tiarnaglofi, black-headed) whose temple was on Jasmund. He's mentioned in the Knýtlinga saga.

EDIT: Just as an interesting addition, Triglav (e.g. in Štětín/Szczecin/Stettin...) is also connected to the "dark side" as his oracle horse was black (in contrary to the white horse of Svarožič and Svantovít).

Source: https://dodo.is.cuni.cz/bitstream/handle/20.500.11956/86901/DPTX_2014_2_11210_0_407388_0_163119.pdf

  • 1
    That's an insightful addition to this. Thanks a lot. I also know now that Black was the colour associated with South in Slavic culture, which I assume the chernoglav gets his name from, but I'll have a look into the doc. Jan 19 at 23:15

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