It had been a long winter and Lada was tired of staying in Iriy, the heavenly world of the dead, where she had to reside until the summer came. Veles, the ruler of forests and her companion in Iriy, had tried to entertain her, but there was a limit to the number of shapeshifting tricks that Lada could bear. She stood at the heavy, barred gates, the impatient tapping of her foot muffled by the giant oak’s leaves. She was straining her ears to hear Gerovit’s heavy footsteps amidst the deafening birdsong. Every spring, the god of war would come to Iriy and take Lada into the realm of the living to rule by his side.
Suddenly, the gate creaked open, and Gerovit’s voice boomed, ‘Ready to go, my lady?’
‘Finally!’ Lada squeaked in rapture, and then added quickly, ‘Oh, it has nothing to do with you, my dear. You were absolutely charming!’ She bent down and planted a soft kiss on Veles’s ursine muzzle. ‘It’s just these winters, they seem to be becoming longer. Morana grows more relentless each year.’
And with that she put her dainty hand into the crook of Gerovit’s massive arm and strolled out, leaving the gates of Iriy slightly ajar so that the birds could fly out on the current of heavenly air that was about to caress the earth.
Lada, Slavic equivalent to Aphrodite or Isis, is the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, often represented as a beautiful, golden-haired girl or woman, wearing a wreath made of wheats. She spends the cold months in Iriy, Slavic equivalent of Eden, where the dead reside in bliss and where the birds go during the winter. When Gerovit opens the gates of Iriy for Lada, the spring and the birds come out as well. It is located in the crown of the Word Tree (the cosmic tree), guarded by Veles, the god of forests and animals, and hence unreachable to the living. Veles is a trickster of a god, who can assume the form of any animal, but his preferred shape is that of a bear.
Lada, mother of gods and goddess of creation, together with Rod created all the other gods. She is associated with youth, joy, love, and harmony, and is therefore most commonly revered during wedding ceremonies since she represents the harmony of all existence. She comes to bless the earth in spring, where she stays until the end of the hot or fertile season. She brings warmth and comfort wherever she treads and is thus linked with the sun, the rain, and the blissfully warm summer nights. Jumping over the fire, a custom widespread in Europe, is one of characteristic rituals performed in Lada’s honour. It’s supposed to ensure fertility and protect the people, the crops, and the cattle from evil forces.
© 2019 Erna Grcic