True Lithuania

Top 10 Pagan places & activities

Lithuania was the final European pagan great power. It has converted to Christianity only in the 14th-15th centuries. The remnants of paganism are still important in Lithuanian culture and may interest both a prehistory/mythology buff as well as a neo-pagan or Wiccan.

The pagan locations/activities in Lithuania generally fall into four broad categories: pagan practices adopted by the mainstream culture, pre-Christian locations, modern pagan-inspired artworks and the neo-pagan places. Here are 10 ideas on what to see:

1.Hike at the UNESCO-inscribed Kernavė hills where the wooden castles of Europe's final pagan capital city once stood (14th century). While everything was razed by crusading knights in 1365, a modern museum offers a great selection of period art and jewelry as well as reconstructions of the city.

2.Walk alongside wooden sculptures of Lithuanian pagan gods in Naisiai village near Šiauliai. Commissioned by a local enthusiast businessman this Museum of Baltic Gods has each of the gods reimagined by artists. The altar hill at the end is the most impressive.

3.Make a detour to the Samogitian pagan shrine in Šventoji seaside resort. This hill crowned by wooden posts representing various gods is both a historical reconstruction and an active shrine of the neo-pagans, who are the fastest-growing religious community of Lithuania (currently 0,2% of the population).

4.Go 2 km beyond the official borders of Lithuania to Punsk area (Poland), where a local Lithuanian enthusiast constructed a powerful reimagination of a pre-Christian Baltic village (known as the Prussian-Yotvingian settlement).

5.Be surprised by the Devils museum in Kaunas New Town that displays a collection of folk art devil statuettes. The "devils" here however are largely pagan-inspired evil-yet-stupid smallish creatures rather than the Christian omnipotent evil.

6.Visit the park near Vilnius Cathedral on a solstice to witness a biannual pagan-inspired fire event. It is believed that the valley where Vilnius Cathedral now stands used to serve as an important pagan center and a temple to the leading god Perkūnas (Thunder).

7.Go to the reconstructed pre-Christian observatory (a circle of wooden poles) in Kulionys village, Aukštaitija. It serves as a location for the Jorė pagan holiday, taking place in the end of April. These festivities of the "first Spring greenery" have been re-initiated by neo-pagans after having largely died out, making this a religious rather than cultural celebration.

8.Celebrate Užgavėnės (Mardi gras) in Lithuania (7 weeks before Catholic Easter) to witness local pagan-influenced traditions of masked singing and burning Morė, an effigy of Winter. It is celebrated in the city downtowns yet the Rumšiškės Museum of Folk Customs and Plateliai events are among the most famous.

9.Celebrate Rasos together with Lithuanians. This midsummer (June 23rd-24th) public holiday is now also known as Joninės (St. John's day) but much of what happens during the shortest annual night is of pagan origin, including the bonfire burning.

10.Drive (or take a bus) to Anykščiai, one of the probable locations of the original Lithuanian capital of King Mindaugas. The Šeimyniškėliai hill may have been crowned by his castle, and a reimagination of a wooden tower is built nearby. Mindaugas actually converted into Christianity but the nation reverted to pagan faith after his death (1263).

Map of the top 10 Pagan locations in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. One of the most important place is hill if Šatrija in Samogitia. On the last Saturday of July we have Celebration of fire Goddess Gabija. Here renews fire what is saved in Rīškienā near Telšē from 1994

  2. Baltu mitologijos parkas, Sausdravai, Darbenu sen. Kretingos raj. Baltuparkas..webs.com


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