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Perk?nas (Lithuanian: Perk?nas, Latvian: P?rkons,[1] Old Prussian: Perk?ns, Perkunos, Yotvingian: Parkuns, Latgalian: P?rkiu?s) was the common Baltic god of thunder, and the second most important deity in the Baltic pantheon after Dievas. In both Lithuanian and Latvian mythology, he is documented as the god of sky, thunder, lightning, storms, rain, fire, war, law, order, fertility, mountains, and oak trees.[2][3]


The name continues PIE *Perkwunos, cognate to *perkwus, a word for "oak", "fir" or "wooded mountain". The Proto-Baltic name *Perk?nas can be reconstructed with certainty. Slavic Perun is a related god, but not an etymologically precise match. Finnish Perkele, a name of Ukko, is considered a loan from Baltic.

Another connection is that of terpikeraunos, an epithet of Zeus meaning "who enjoys lightning".[4]

Perk?nas in written sources

Most information about Perk?nas comes from folklore songs, legends, and fairy tales. Because most of them were collected rather late in the 19th century, they represent only some fragments of the whole mythology. Lithuanian Perk?nas has many alternative onomatopoeic names, like Dundulis, Dindutis, D?d? senis, Tar?kulis, Tar?kutis, Blizgulis, etc.[5]

The earliest attestation of Perk?nas seems to be in the Russian translation of the Chronicle of John Malalas (1261) where it speaks about the worship of "? ", and in the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (around 1290) which mentions the idol Perk?n?.

In the Constitutiones Synodales (1530) Perk?nas is mentioned in a list of gods before the god of hell Pikuls and is identified with the Roman Jove (Jupiter). In the Sudovian Book Perk?nas (Parkuns) is mentioned in connection with a ritual involving a goat. In Christian compositions, Perk?nas is a malicious spirit, a demon, as in the Chronicle of John Malalas or in the 15th century writings of Polish chronicler Jan D?ugosz.

Representation in mythology

The Hand of Perk?nas by Mikalojus Konstantinas ?iurlionis

Perk?nas is the god of lightning and thunder and storms. In a triad of gods Perk?nas symbolizes the creative forces (including vegetative), courage, success, the top of the world, the sky, rain, thunder, heavenly fire (lightning) and celestial elements, while Potrimpo is involved with the seas, ground, crops, and cereals and Velnias/Patulas, with hell, and death. As a heavenly (atmospheric) deity Perk?nas, apparently, is the assistant and executor of Dievas's will. However, Perk?nas tends to surpass Dievas, deus otiosus, because he can be actually seen and has defined mythological functions.

In the Latvian dainas, the functions of P?rkons and Dievs can occasionally merge: P?rkons is called P?rkona t?vs ('Father or God of Thunder') or Dievi, a diminutive form of Dievs.[6]

Weapons and vehicle

Perk?nas is pictured as middle-aged, armed with an axe and arrows, riding a two-wheeled chariot harnessed with goats, like Thor[7] or Celtic Taranis.

In other accounts, the thunder god is described as driving a fiery chariot through the skies with swift horses, or riding a fiery horse.[8]

Perk?nas' family relations

In songs about a "heavenly wedding" Saul? (the Sun) cheats on Perk?nas with M?nulis (the Moon); Perk?nas splits M?nulis in half with a sword. According to another, more popular, version, M?nulis cheats on the Sun with Au?rin? (the morning star) just after the wedding, and Perk?nas punishes it. However, it does not learn and repeats the adultery and is punished again every month. Other explanations say it is why the Sun shines during the day and the Moon at night. Though divorced, both want to see their daughter ?emyna (the Earth).

In other songs Perk?nas, on the way to the wedding of Au?ra (dawn; the daughter of the Sun), strikes a golden oak. The oak is a tree of the thunder god in the Baltic mythology. Lithuanian Perk?no uolas or Latvian P?rkona ozols ("oak of Perk?nas") is mentioned in a source dated to the first half of the 19th century.

Other myths say that Perk?nas and one Laum? or Vaiva (rainbow) were supposed to get married on Thursday, but the bride was kidnapped by Velnias (the devil) and Perk?nas has hunted Velnias ever since.

Some myths mention four sons of Perk?nas (Latvian: Perkona d?li; Lithuanian: Perk?no s?n?s),[9] who, apparently, are connected with the four seasons or with the four directions of the world (east, west, south and north). Sometimes there are seven or nine Perk?nai referred to as brothers. It is said in Lithuanian "Perk?n? yra daug" ("there are many thunders").

In some myths Perk?nas expels his wife (and in some cases his children too) and remains in the sky by himself. Some myths offer a very different story: Dievas lifts Perk?nas from the earth into the sky. Perk?nas has stones in the sky (which rumble during storms) - the motive connected to Indo-European mythology. Perk?nas dwells on high hills or mountains: compare Lithuanian toponymy of Perk?nkalnis, "mountain of Perk?nas", or Griausmo kalnas, "mountain of rumble."

In most myths, however, Perk?nas's wife is ?emyna.

Perk?nas and Velnias

An important function of Perk?nas is to fight Velnias (in Latvian, Velns). He is sometimes considered the antithesis of Perk?nas and is the god of the underworld and death. Christianity considers "Velnias" akin to their "devil", though this is not in line with ancient beliefs.

Perk?nas pursues his opponent velns for picaroon or theft of fertility and cattle. Velnias hides in trees, under stones, or turns into various animals: a black cat, dog, pig, goat, lamb, pike, cow (compare to the Latvian representations of jods a creature with the cow hoofs) or a person.

Perk?nas pursues an opponent in the sky on a chariot, made from stone and fire (Lithuanian ugnies ratai). Sometimes the chariot is made from red iron. It is harnessed by a pair (less often four or three) of red and white (or black and white) horses (sometimes goats). Compare the Lithuanian deity of horses and chariots Ratainy?ia (Ratainicza mentioned in Lasick's works; from Lithuanian ratai - "wheel"). It is a mythologized image of a chariot of Didieji Grulo Ratai ("Grand Wheels of Grulas" (Ursa Major). It agrees with Samogitian representations, in which Perk?nas is a horseman on a fiery horse. On his heavenly chariot Perk?nas appears in the shape of a gray-haired old man with a big beard of many colors, in white and black clothes, holding a goat on a cord in one hand and a horn or an axe in the other.

Perk?nas possesses many weapons. They include an axe or sledgehammer, stones, a sword, lightning bolts, a bow and arrows, a club, and an iron or fiery knife. Perk?nas is the creator of the weapons (Akmeninis kalvis, "the stone smith") or he is helped by the heavenly smith Televelis (Kalvelis).

An opponent of Perk?nas hides itself in the hollow of a tree or a stone (attributes of Perk?nas). The culmination of Perk?nas' hunt for his opponent is a thunder-storm; it not only clears the ground of evil spirits, but returns the stolen cattle or weapons.

Perk?nas is also connected to Thursday. Thursday is the day of the Thunderer in many traditions: compare Polabian Peräune-d?n ("day of Perun"), Lithuanian Perk?no diena. Perk?nas is associated with the Roman god Jupiter in early sources. Thursday is a day of thunder-storms and rains, and also of weddings.

Prussian Perk?ns

The so-called Flag of Widewuto introduced by Grunau featuring Prussian Perk?ns (in the middle)

Simon Grunau (around 1520) describes a Prussian banner with Perk?ns on it. The god is represented as an angry middle aged man with a twisted black beard, topped with a flame. It stands between young Patrimpas and old Patulas. Perk?ns maintains the same central position in the description of the sacred oak in Romowe sanctuary. In front of the oak, the eternal fire (symbol of Perk?ns) was burned. Special priests served at the sanctuary. Old Prussians would try to appeal to the god by prayers. Perkunatete was the mother of Perk?ns.

Latvian P?rkons

According to legend, Perk?nas was worshiped beneath the over 1500-year-old Stelmu Oak

P?rkons was strongly associated with Dievs, though the two were clearly different. The people sacrificed black calves, goats, and roosters to P?rkons, especially during droughts. The surrounding peoples came to these sacrifices to eat and drink together, after pouring beer onto the ground or into the fire for him. The Latvians also sacrificed cooked food before meals to P?rkons, in order to prevent thunderstorms, during which honeycombs were placed into fires to disperse the clouds.

P?rkons' family included sons that symbolized various aspects of thunderstorms (such as thunder, lightning, lightning strikes) and daughters that symbolized various kinds of rain.

P?rkons appeared on a golden horse, wielding a sword, iron club, golden whip and a knife. Ancient Latvians wore tiny axes on their clothing in his honor.

In modern culture

Perkunas is occasionally mentioned in the novels of Harry Turtledove. He provides an important macguffin in The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump (1993) and is the patron god of one of the armies in Gunpowder Empire (2003).

Günter Grass, in his second novel Dog Years (1963), alludes to Perk?nas ("Perkunos") as a symbol of the dark human energies unleashed by the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s.

The fictional parallel to Nazi Germany in the 1966 alternate history novel The Gate of Time by Philip José Farmer is called Perkunisha, named after Perk?nas.

The Lithuanian folk music group K?lgrinda released a 2003 album titled Perk?no Giesm?s, meaning "Hymns of Perk?nas".[10]

See also


  1. ^ Caspi, Mishael (2009). The legend of Elijah in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and literature: a study in comparative religion. Edwin Mellen Press. p. 164. ISBN 9780773447264.
  2. ^ Dixon-Kennedy, Mike (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend - Mike Dixon-Kennedy - Google Ksiki. ISBN 9781576070635.
  3. ^ Dragnea, Mihai (12 April 2013). "Slavic and Greek-Roman Mythology, Comparative Mythology". Brukenthalia Acta Musei.
  4. ^ Dowden, Mr Ken; Dowden, Ken (4 January 2002). European Paganism: The Realities of Cult from Antiquity to the Middle Ages - Mr Ken Dowden - Google Böcker. ISBN 9780203011775. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Gimbutiene, Marija. Baltai priesistoriniais laikais: Etnogeneze, materialiné kultura ir mitologija. Vilnius: Mokslas. 1985. p. 167. (In Lithuanian)
  6. ^ Christensen, Lisbeth Bredholt; Hammer, Olav; Warburton, David (2014). The Handbook of Religions in Ancient Europe. Routledge. p. 369. ISBN 978-1-317-54453-1.
  7. ^ "Gintaras Beresnevi?ius, Lithuanian Mythology". Archived from the original on 2012-09-02. Retrieved .
  8. ^ Strai?ys, Vytautas; Klimka, Libertas. "The Cosmology of the Ancient Balts". In: Journal for the History of Astronomy: Archaeoastronomy Supplement. Vol. 28. Issue 22 (1997): p. S73. [1]
  9. ^ Dini, Pietro U. Foundations of Baltic Languages. English translation by Milda B. Richardson, Robert E. Richardson. Vilnius: 2014. p. 282. ISBN 978-609-437-263-6
  10. ^ K?lgrinda - Perk?no Giesm?s. Discogs.

Further reading

  • (in Lithuanian) Nijol? Laurinkien?. Senov?s lietuvi? dievas Perk?nas (Perk?nas - The God of Ancient Lithuanians). Lietuvos literat?ros ir tautosakos institutas: 1996, Vilnius. ISBN 9986-513-14-6
  • Lajoye, Patrice. (2018). The Storm God and the Hunter: A Fragment of an Old Balto-Slavic Epos?Le Dieu de l'orage et le chasseur: un fragment d'une ancienne épopée. Studia mythologica Slavica. 21. 27. 10.3986/sms.v21i0.7064.
  • Tuite, Kevin. (2004). Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus. Anthropos: International Review of Anthropology and Linguistics. 99.
  • Tuite, Kevin. "Lightning, Sacrifice, and Possession in the Traditional Religions of the Caucasus (Continued from Anthropos 99.2004: 143-159)." Anthropos, vol. 99, no. 2, 2004, pp. 481-497. JSTOR, Accessed 28 Apr. 2020.

External links

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