World Congress of Ethnic Religions
On October 19th, Jonas Trinkunas, the winner of the J. Basanavicius prize (1997), was ordained into the priests of the Ancient Baltic religion of Lithuania and received the title of krivis.
The priest of traditional Baltic religion was inaugurated 600 years after Christianity was officially established in Lithuania. Long after the official christianization of the country, the Lithuanians venerated their ancient gods Perkunas (Thunder), Zemyna, goddess of the earth, fate goddess Laima, and Gabija, goddess of fire. Historical documents indicate that at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th centuries people had been continuously worshipping and making offerings to the gods at the ancient sacred sites. Only in the small territory of west Lithuania about a thousand ancient ceremonial sites have been registered. These shrine-mounds, sacred springs, oaks, and stones are still celebrated by local people.
Efforts to revive native pre-Christian religion succeeded only at the end of the 20th century, when the Ancient Baltic religious community was registered in 1992. In ten years it was joined by many people: according to the latest Lithuanian census, the community has about 2,000 members and numerous supporters.
A year ago four members of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) applied for the state recognition of the Ancient Baltic religious community. The application sparked a lot of public discussions and received positive comments and evaluations from many people. Today in Lithuania ten religious communities have the status of state-recognised religions: the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Old Believers, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Reformed Church, Sunni Islam, the Karaites, the Jews, the Greek Catholic Church, and the Baptist Church.
The ordainment ceremony was held in the center of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, on the hill which is also the burial place of Grand Duke Gediminas of the 14th century. During the ceremony, the fire was ignited on the sacred altar. Krivis Jonas Trinkunas made an oath, said a prayer to the ancient gods and gave the offerings, and received the symbols of the highest religious power the sign and brooch of the sun fire, and the krivule. In the ceremony participated members of the Ancient Baltic religious communities from other Lithuanian cities, government officials, members of the Seimas, and reporters from major Lithuanian newspapers and TV stations. The krivule the sign of the highest priest was presented by Algimantas Indriunas, the oldest member of the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic, who has had a life-long commitment to the Lithuanian pre-Christian religion. Although the celebration was scheduled on a rainy day of the fall, before the ceremony the rain stopped and the sun came out, and when it was over, it started raining again. Everybody was saying, gods are with us.
The ordained krivis addressed the audience in the following words:
Dear friends, I speak under the direction of the last Lithuanian Krivis Kestutis. I received this call forty years ago in the sacred grove of Verkiai. Daukantas, Vydunas, Basanavicius and other Lithuanian intellectuals called for the nations rebirth in Romuva. The way to todays celebration was long and twisted like the krivule, but meaningful. The voice of the ancestors clearly stated the need to revive our traditional Baltic religion. How? The answer came from the common people of our country villagers, farmers the keepers and protectors of our folk culture. The moral code of our ancient faith, the stories of gods and goddesses, relics, rituals, chants, and the wisdom itself was handed down to us by respectable village elders. We live in the 21st century, the century of modernization, having maintained the cultural heritage of our ancestors. We still live with our Baltic gods and goddesses, we believe in their power and the omnipotence of our Earth-Zemyna.
I wish everyone harmony, love and confidence in life and loyalty to the ancestors, gods, and goddesses. God help, Laima bless!
Gintaras Beresnevicius, the academic authority on pre-Christian religions, evaluated the ordainment of the krivis as an event of European proportions. According to him, the oldest nations of Europe, the Irish and the Lithuanians, are making historic steps in the preservation of their traditions (Atgimimas, No.38, www.atgimimas.lt).
Translated by Jurgita Saltanaviciute
WORLD CONGRESS OF ETHNIC RELIGIONS