veles-by-kriegerman.jpg‘Veles’ by Kriegerman (

A Year of Dragon Rituals

Part 3. Veles (Slavic) 

19 Apr 2019, Full Moon in Libra

Veles (Cyrillic Bulgarian, Macedonian and Serbian : Велес; Polish: Weles; Ukrainian: Велес; Bosnian, Croatian, Czech, Montenegrin, Slovak, Slovenian: Veles; Ruthenian and Old Church Slavonic: Велесъ; Belarusian: Вялес, translit. Vialies), also known as Volos (Russian: Волос, listed as a Christian saint in Old Russian texts), is a major Slavic god of earth, waters, and the underworld. His attributes are wet, wooly, hairy (bearded), dark and he is associated with cattle, the harvest, wealth, music, magic, and trickery. Believed to be related to the Indo-European deity of Mitra as well as the Norse deity Loki. According to reconstruction by some researchers he is the opponent of the supreme thunder god Perun. As such he probably has been imagined as a dragon, which in the belief of the pagan Slavs is a chimeric being, a serpent with a bear’s head and drooping hairy ears. His tree is the willow much like Perun’s tree is the oak.(1)

Veles was worshipped in two aspects. As Veles he is god of death and the underworld, god of music, and a sorcerer. As Volos he is god of cattle wealth and commerce. The worship of Veles vanished with the coming of Christianity, but the worship of Volos survived as late as the eighteenth century. The God, Volos, was replaced with St. Blasius, patron saint of domesticated animals. While its original roots are in the Roman Isis Feast, most people in the West, know the feast of Shrovetide as Mardi Gras. Veles’s feast day is February 12th.(2)

Veles-Volos.jpgVeles, by Marek Hapon 2014 (

The Slavic Horned lord, ruled horned animals, earth, waters and Underworld, associated with dragons, cattle, magic, musicians, wealth and trickery. He was imagined to be (at least partially) serpentine, with horns (of bull, ram or some other domesticated herbivore), and a long beard. He has many associations with wealth and the magical forces of the spirit world. The character of Veles is very complex, and is likened to that of Cernunnos.(2)

Along with a so many cultures ancient Slavs viewed their world as a huge tree, with the treetop and branches representing the heavenly abode of gods and the world of mortals, whilst the roots represented the underworld. Veles was seen as a huge serpent coiling around the roots, was ruling the world of dead.(2)

Enemy of Perun & Storm Myth

A unifying characteristic of all Indo-European mythologies is a story about a battle between a god of thunder and a huge serpent or a dragon. In the Slavic version of the myth, Perun is a god of thunder, while Veles acts as a dragon who opposes him, consistent with the Vala etymology; he is also similar to the Etruscan underworld monster Vetha and to the dragon Illuyankas, enemy of the storm god of Hittite mythology.(1)

The reason for the enmity between the two gods is Veles’s theft of Perun’s son, wife, or, usually, cattle. It is also an act of challenge: Veles, in the form of a huge serpent, slithers from the caves of the underworld and coils upwards the Slavic world tree towards Perun’s heavenly domain. Perun retaliates and attacks Veles with his lightning bolts. Veles flees, hiding or transforming himself into trees, animals or people. In the end, he is killed by Perun and in this ritual death, whatever Veles stole is released from his battered body in the form of rain falling from the skies. This “storm myth”, or “divine battle”, as it is generally called by scholars today, explained to ancient Slavs the changing of seasons through the year. The dry periods were interpreted as the chaotic results of Veles’ thievery. Storms and lightning were seen as divine battles. The ensuing rain was the triumph of Perun over Veles and the re-establishment of world order. On a deeper level, as has been said above, Perun’s place is up, high and dry and Veles’ down, low and wet. By climbing up into the sphere of Perun, Veles disrupts the equilibrium of the world and needs to be put in his place. Perun does this in a fierce battle by smiting him with his lightning and drives him down into the water under the tree stub and the log and by putting him back in his place he restores order. Then they stop being adversaries and remain just opponents until the next time Veles tries to crawl up into Perun’s realm.(1)

Perun_versus_veles_by_feliciacano-d.jpg‘Perun versus Veles’ by Felicia Cano

The myth was cyclical, repeating itself each year. The death of Veles was never permanent; he would reform himself as a serpent who would shed its old skin and would be reborn in a new body. Although in this particular myth he plays a negative role as bringer of chaos, Veles was not seen as an evil god by ancient Slavs. In fact, in many of the Russian folk tales, Veles, appearing under the Christian guise of St. Nicholas, saves the poor farmer and his cattle from the furious and destructive St. Elias the Thunderer, who, of course, represents the Perun. The duality and conflict of Perun and Veles does not represent the dualistic clash of good and evil; rather, it is the opposition of the natural principles of earth and water (Veles) against heaven/sky and fire (Perun).(1)

Their worship and sacred places were kept separate. Veles was worshiped in the valleys, close to the water and earth, while Perun was worshiped on hills and mountainsides, close to the heavens. Veles is a god of the underworld and is closely associated with other underworld dragon-beings.(3)

A copy of the Full Moon ritual conducted by Spheres Of Light can be found here.


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