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True Lithuania

Romuva (Neo-Paganism) in Lithuania

Romuva is a neo-pagan community that attempts to restore Lithuanian paganism. Only in 1387 was Lithuania officially Christianised, the last European state to abandon paganism. In spite of this few credible sources describe the pagan Lithuanian practices which have long since died out. Therefore many historians regard the 20th-century attempt to restore Lithuanian paganism to be a mere speculation which must be quite unlike what the real Lithuanian faith used to be. This is why unlike other old religions Romuva does not enjoy the traditional faith status in Lithuania.

For Romuva adherents, however, their religion is the one that the Lithuanians should follow. Many of them regard Christianity as having been forced upon Lithuania and also not well suited to the Lithuanian nation.

While traditionally Lithuanian nationalists used to be Roman Catholic, today many young nationalists choose to be neo-pagans instead by claiming that this religion is the one original to Lithuania.

Žemaičių alkas (literally the Samogitian pagan shrine) in the coastal resort of Šventoji is among the few pagan religious structures in Lithuania. It was built in 1998 with the aim to reconstruct a 15th-century shrine that used to stand on the Birutė hill in Palanga. Based on archaeological finds it is a group of variously shaped wooden poles, each of them representing a different deity. A sacred fire is lit between the poles during the ceremonies. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Romuvan celebrations take place outdoors near sacred fires and are led by vaidila, while krivis is the leader of the whole community. There is an extensive pantheon of gods and goddesses, most of them related to particular forces in nature, such as the thunder (Perkūnas), or to lifetime events. Like other neo-pagan faiths, Romuva has no scriptures and relies on historical tradition instead. It accentuates the link between the man and nature and sees other polytheistic traditional faiths, including Hindu, to be more acceptable than either monotheism or atheism.

Note that sometimes it may be hard for an outsider to distinguish a historical re-enactment from a real religious practice. For instance, pagan bachelorette parties are chosen not only by pagan brides.

Neo-pagans are the fastest-growing religious community in Lithuania. Its membership increased from 1270 to some 5100 between censae years 2001 and 2011. With 0,2% of the population its followers, neo-paganism is now the country's 6th largest faith.

A Romuvan mid-winter (Pusiaužiemis) celebration in Vilnius, here celebrated inside around an improvised bonfire made of candles. Krivė (female Krivis) stands in the middle. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Not every Lithuanian neo-pagan is a Romuva adherent, however. Because of the scarcity of exact knowledge of prehistoric Baltic religious practices, there are various interpretations or guesses, sometimes conflicting with each other. The questioned facts range from the existence of top gods/goddesses to the inclusion of certain esoteric or New Age practices, suggested by some non-Romuvan neo-pagan groups.

See also: Lithuanian mythology and folklore, Top 10 pagan places and activities in Lithuania

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  1. I am glad to know that our lost brothers and sisters have remembered their original hindu tradition. actually there was only hindu religion all over the world in civilized mankind. my heartiest congratulations to Jaunius Jonas Trinkunas and welcome to their homland india

    • Thanks for your comment. You have probably meant “polytheist” rather than “Hindu” though. Lithuanian neo-pagan (Romuva) faith is not the same as Hindu as it believes in different gods and godesses. Like Hindu however it is polytheist, that is believing in many gods/goddesses rather than a single God or no God.

      • It is good for me to read things like this. The revival of paganism in Europe is important. It is happening amongst the Celtic Druids of Britannia and Gallia. It is happening amongst the Latvians and the Estonians, it is also happening in Germania and Skandinavia.

      • “Hindu” means religion or philosophy from the people from the indus. you can use it even as an umbrella term for the other faiths of indoeuropean (and dravidian, too) origin, cause they have the same root. the latvian dievturi even has the word “deva” (sanskrit:god) in its name. the symbol of the world tree of romuva is the same as the trishul of shiva. same thing with the celtic cernunnos. it’s pashupati. find more similaritys. 😉

        • The problem is chronology, the Baltic group of proto indo eurpean were the first group to permanently settle, a group went east and became Slavs, another went west and became Celts and Germanics, and another went back south and settled the Hindus valley.

  2. Then the similarity will b like that among abrahmic faith.
    The good thing is, no pagan claims ‘my way is the only way,all others r going to burn in hellfire’

    • most of worlds main religions (christianity, islam, judeism, etc) came essentially from the same source – Zoroastrianism. where there is “good” and “bad” god. religion of dualistic principle.
      most of eastern religions are not like that – they are actually diadic. they embrace “good” and “bad” equally. both are reality of life and they dont shame you into acting certain way promising you something for expected “good” behavior. or punishment for “bad” 🙂
      anyway. Its awesome to see people are getting back to their original roots of paganism

  3. It is great to see even ‘officially’ paganism is growing rapidly. Regardless, we all follow pagan traditions, you would not believe how many ‘catholic’ traditions I’ve found out not to be catholic at all while living abroad…it was all from paganism! I’m so proud our ancestors had managed to keep it alive!

  4. Lithuania is not Europes last Pagans , that goes to the Mari El and Urdmurt peoples of the Volga region .

    • The article says “(…)last European state to abandon paganism”, rather than “(…)last European ethnic group to abandon paganism”.

      While there were ethnic groups in Europe that remained pagan for longer, neither of these groups had an independent state at the time.

      Grand Duchy of Lithuania was however an independent state with paganism effectively a state religion prior to 1387.

    • Correct! And they should be reached and included in the World Council of Ethnic Religions!

  5. Are there any pagan places and pagan events in Vilnius in september 2015?

  6. Indus Valley genetic results seem to come out with closest similarities to that of ethnic Lithuanians making it a probability that ancestor of Lithuanian tribes may have controlled vaste areas up to India giving military protection to its economic center in Central to South Asia.

  7. Is it OK be not just Romuva pagan, but also being a Wicca pagan? I worship Gaia, Artemis, Hecate, Selene, Kali, Inanna, Odin and other gods and goddesses who they’re part of Wicca neo-paganism, as well as I worship Old Baltic gods and goddesses, and I have a pentagram pendant, not just swastika pendant, and yes, I’m a witch.

    • Wicca is not as popular in Lithuania as Romuva and is a rather recent import from the West (~2000s). But of course, as is always the case with religion, there is no single opinion on what is ok and what is not. For a devout Catholic, both Romuva and Wicca are not ok. For many Romuvans, perhaps, Wicca seems not ok because it is not traditionally Lithuanian, yet other adherents of Romuva may see Wicca as better than Christianity or Atheism. Like with all the new faiths, Wicca may not be understood by many Lithuanians, who may connect it with Satanism and the related practices (e.g. cemetery vandalism). But, of course, that perception may change over the time and some of the faiths that were quite new-in-Lithuania in the 1990s are already quite mainstream now, including the Romuva itself or Tikėjimo žodis. In any case, a regular Lithuanian probably does not even knows what Wicca is.

  8. WICCA is a trash of american subculture and a perversion of authentic paganism.
    Let’s protect our folks and kins from this modern plague.

  9. Regardless, its nonsense fabricated by cranks and fantasists, similar to Wicca, which was created entirely from scratch by obese nerds who read too many pulp fantasy novels. A religion based on that stupid HBO show with dragons would be about as valid. 5000 or so adherents? Statistically insignificant b.s.

  10. A nice belief.

  11. The last pagan belief in Europe , but I have a question , why Crusaders were so interested in taking this land ? And did they capture by force , killing and looting .Because there is a lot of paintings about the crusaders as they were good people but I’ve read the history from different aspects , and I found out the crusaders committed many atrocities against Jews , Muslims and even Christians who believed in Eastern Orthodox . I believe Religions like Christianity and Islam were evil . We shouldn’t just blame Muslims but also blame Crusaders for their murders , sackings .

    • Officially, crusaders did this for spreading their faith, They did not conquer Lithuania but Lithuanian leaders still decided to adopt Christianity as an official religion. Likely this would not have happened if not the pressure and risks of the crusader attacks. After Lithuania adopted Christianity, however, crusaders did not stop the attacks on Lithuania, this showing that they were at the time not really interested in religion but rather operated as an empire that conquered and looted territories with religion as just a pretext. Still, once Lithuanians were no longer pagan, Western European support for the crusaders against Lithuanians dwindled and, together with Poles, Lithuanians did eventually defeat them. Read our article on Grand Duchy of Lithuania (until 1569).

      Ultimately, it was not their religion that mattered here, but rather the tendency of human beings to consolidate into various groups and radicalize, try to destroy other competing groups and gain power for their own group and themselves. Sometimes it was religion that was used this way, at other times nationality, social class, ethnicity, organization membership, native language, etc.

      • I wondered when I was younger why my mother had such a negative attitude towards Lithuanians. Now after studying the history of the evil pagan Balts I understand. The ancient Prussians and their monstrous cousins,the Lithuanians were vicious evil and sadistic. None ever were true Christians or civilized. Pagan devil worship is all too fashionable among many in US and Europe. In the past after the Prussians enslaved and tortured to death Polish Christians, the noble Teutonic Knights tried, in vain to civilize these savages. They are roasted to death in front of idols of Baltic gods. Some of these monsters pretended to become Christian, but never were. I hate that the Poles were intimidated or foolish enough to join the filthy Lithuanians in murdering the brave Teutonic Knights. It’s the Balts who should have been killed. My mother was Polish American and my father was over half German American. You are my enemies forever.

        • Well, you should provide sources for your accusations (that Balts supposedly enslaved Poles, etc.) – I don’t think there are any. Pagans are a small minority in Lithuania, even if growing, and that is a modern reconstruction – because at one point Lithuanians were 100% Christians and no original Pagan lineage even survived.

          Poles and Lithuanians had a conflict in the late 19th / early 20th centuries, at which time it was common to demonize the other ethnicity (see the article on the ethnic relations in Lithuania: ). It is likely the negative opinion on Lithuanians in your family may actually date to this conflict.

    • This is because the Crusades have been a thing of the past millennium, and today Christianity has become very gentle, even weak and incompetent, and basically secular, with few extremists and even large-scale gatherings. Islam has remained unchanged and reformed for thousands of years, still launching jihads and terrorist attacks, severely discriminating against women, and in recent years, fundamentalism has emerged

    • The number of people killed by the Crusaders is nothing compared to the number of people who have been fighting against the infidels in Islam for 1400 years, because the scale and number of Crusaders are very small, and the number of people killed by Muslims in wars with the Byzantine Empire and in the name of jihad in India and northwest China can be counted in billions. Not to mention that the vast majority of Christians are now secular, and today the communist Pope Francis even meets with shaman leaders. So it is absolutely wrong to compare Christianity with Islam.

  12. This is coming incredibly late, and for that I apologise, but I am an American with Prussian roots trying to learn about Romuva and related faiths. I have been deeply interested in the Lithuanian pantheon for many years, and I would like to look into worshipping from it, but as far as I know, I have no Lithuanian ancestry. Is Romuva a closed practise? Can non-Lithuanians be Romuvos? Can a Latvian/Prussian/etc person be a Romuvo? I want to be as respectful as possible to the people who worship these gods.

    • It is not closed to Lithuanians only, everybody is welcome. I saw Lithuanians bringing their foreign friends to the events and I would assume there are people of ethnic minorities who have joined as well as some of the historic minorities integrate more and more (I know people of ethnic minorities who take care of Lithuanian pagan heritage, not sure if they do it as a part of Romuva). However, it should be noted, that the events in Lithuania are held in Lithuanian language – they would be difficult to understand without language knowledge. There is very little available on Romuva in foreign languages.

  13. I’m looking for the book on the history of lithuanian paganism and im having trouble finding it. Does anyone here have a title suggestion?

    • Before the Christianization of Lithuania there was still no real local historiographical tradition, many things about the local mythology are speculative (based on foreign sources that were compiled by outsiders who themselves understood little about the Lithuanian paganism, e.g. Christian missionaries). So, even in Lithuania, this is somewhat speculative (and the reason why many people detest the modern reconstruction of paganism claiming that it is essentially a new religion since it is impossible to know the exact beliefs and rites of the pre-Christian Lithuanian pagans anymore). This makes it very difficult to write down a concise English book on Lithuanian paganism that would not delve into the personal opinions of the author.

      Moreover, the pagan faith must have evolved over the time, so the question is wherever you’d seek information about the Lithuanian paganism in its final form (the one encountered, described, and destroyed by Christian missionaries), or its earlier forms.

      You may read works by Lithuanian-American Marija Gimbutas, although they are just one of the systems of guesses based on relatively few primary sources available (compared to e.g. Roman or Greek mythologies). Also, some of them tend to recreate even earlier times, e.g. Gimbutas theorizes that there was a matriarchy with a supreme female Goddess even before the more modern forms of Medieval Pagan pantheons. These theories are always controversial, however – not because somebody would doubt the author’s goodwill but because there are simply too few sources (that also sometimes conflict each other), making each theory at least as much based on the author’s own “extensions” as on real evidence.

  14. Vilnius (AFP) – Dancing around a blazing fire with garlands of wildflowers in their hair, members of Lithuania s Romuva neo-pagan community mark the summer solstice, as the Baltic state undergoes a revival of its pre-Christian beliefs.

  15. I am glad that there is a revival of the Vedic civilization and the spirituality of that civilization. Based Lithuanian linguistics, my Lithuanian ancestors practiced a faith that is closer to modern Hinduism. I have felt drawn to south Asian civilization because the spiritual practices within that tradition seemed to make more sense than the world view of Roman Catholicism (a tradition I was raised in). Revival ought to be looking to heal society and the earth. Life is the religion.

  16. I am glad that there is a revival of the Vedic civilization and the spirituality of that civilization. Based Lithuanian linguistics, my Lithuanian ancestors practiced a faith that is closer to modern Hinduism. I have felt drawn to south Asian civilization because the spiritual practices within that tradition seemed to make more sense than the world view of Roman Catholicism (a tradition I was raised in). Revival ought to be looking to heal society and the earth. Life is the religion.

  17. So, I am currently in LT walking the Camino route from Vilnius to the village my ancestors left around 1890. If anyone wants to meet up I am around! I just wanted to add that Vedic civilization (at its height) spans several thousand years up to the present. It reached from Europe to East Asia. The renaissance in Europe involved a lot of transcription of texts in ancient Persian. Ancienat Persian language is very very similar to Sanskrit. By this rationale, the bloom of civilization attributed to th renaissance has its origins in Vedic civilization they Persia! I am a syncretic believer of many disjointed systems that seem to continue to evolve as I journey on. In 2016 I did a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash where I did outer Khora with a group of Hindu pilgrims from India. I have done several pilgrimages and the warmth with which believers can coexist with an outsider like me has inspired my faith.

  18. Damm fools! Turn to Jesus, not the phony religion of good works Catholicism but to Jesus himself for salvation

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