Slavic God Veles: the Trickster

Veles leaned against the gates of Iriy. His gaze rested on the retreating forms of Lada and Gerovit. A bird landed on one of his horns and started chirping a merry melody, but he grunted and waved it away. The story repeated every spring; after months spent in Iriy, he watched her golden hair flutter in the warm breeze as she held onto Gerovit’s trunk-like arm, his seven smug faces bobbing with each heavy step. Thunder roared in the distance. Veles took a deep breath and rolled his eyes at the skies. 

‘It’s that time of the year again,’ he murmured and the thunder rumbled in response. 

The bird tried landing on his horn again, but this time he waved furiously and muttered, ‘Oh, shut up you chirping ball of air!’

Photo by Asher Ward on Unsplash

Veles, or Volos, is a very versatile and whimsical divinity revered by all Slavic tribes. He is the god of cattle and crops, of forests and beasts, but also of magic, music, and treachery. He guides the souls of the dead and presides over agreements, and ancient Slavs often swore by him when conducting transactions. 

Veles is a shape-shifter and he appears in many different forms. Believed to be the son of Rod and Zemun, the heavenly cow, he is often represented as a strong man with bull’s horns. He was in charge of both the cattle and the crops and the prosperity of communities greatly depended on him. As the god of beasts and forests, Veles is represented in the shape of a bear, or sometimes wolf, the kings of Slavic forests. 

The battle between Perun and Veles
Illustration taken from

Due to his highly versatile nature, Veles is quite a whimsical god. As the representative of the earth, Veles is a sworn enemy of Perun, the supreme god of the skies, parallel to Greek Zeus. Veles and Perun are significant since they are the only two deities in Slavic pantheon that were commonly revered by all Slavic tribes. Their struggle is taken to represent the eternal battle between heavens and earth. According to different narratives, Veles steals either Perun’s wife, his cattle, his servants, or his children, thus causing a massive strife. Perun keeps shooting Veles with lightning bolts, and eventually he wins at the beginning of each summer, when Veles has to descend from the crown of the World Tree and dwell in its roots with Zaltys the serpent. Nevertheless, Veles is relentless, he always comes up with something new and ends spending the winter up in the skies, in Iriy.

© 2019 Erna Grcic

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