B – Book of Veles

So something of quite a bit of academic and spiritual importance. Or rather, something I like to learn about, because of sheer historical research value that it holds.

See, the “Book of Veles” is extremely problematic from a historical standpoint for Slavic paganism.

It was discovered roundabout 1919 by a White Army soldier, as the story goes, somewhere in Ukraine. He kept it hidden away and, most tellingly, refused to allow the book to be looked at by professionals. The book was written on wooden planks, as a lot of books from early Slavic culture were, which fits with the supposed time period of the book, one would think. However, the book was finally photocopied, transcribed and translated by another man besides the owner of the book, who left the Soviet Union and went to the US in the 1940s. The Book itself disappeared during WWII, supposedly under German army control. It hasn’t been seen since then. The man who copied the text though, he began publishing it in the US, and that’s how we have the fragments that we do, from the parts of the book that hadn’t rotted away.

Now, funny fact about the content, language, grammar, and style of the Book–it’s all very problematic. According to linguistics experts that are familiar with Slavic languages, the Book is a mash up of modern and medieval Slavic tongues, made-up morphologies, and created forms of vocabulary and verbs. The consensus on the grammar and language of the Book is that a person with some knowledge of Slavic language history created the language, but it was a person without any extensive knowledge of exactly how the Slavic languages had actually developed during the time period that the Book proclaimed to cover. On the flip side, supporters of the Book claim that the problems in language come from dialectical differences from multiple authors. The experts have disputed this, as language cannot develop in the way that the Book has it done. Then there are the historians who say that given timing, and the owner’s refusal to allow the Book to be analyzed, it throws up major red flags to the validity of the Book.

The time-period of the Book itself covers up until roughly the 10th Century CE. So 900s, just before Christianization of Rus under Vladimir. It’s certainly a fascinating era to consider having things written about. Especially when traditionally writing on a larger scale is considered to have been brought to the eastern Slavs with Christianity, so unbiased accounts of paganism would have been nigh on impossible to have in such an environment. (Unbiased isn’t accurate to say, even there…the accounts by pagans would have been highly biased in favor of the pagans, of course, against their enemies.)

The experts are all in agreement that the Book of Veles is a forgery. They say that the way it is written and presented, it is not possible to be a real piece of Slavic religious history. However, the people that insist that the Book of Veles is a real artifact of Slavic paganism are insistent that it is factual.

Now, I suppose it would be great to have found a first-hand account of Slavic paganism from the time period in question. I mean…that would be a very rare find. Still, it’s not really feasible to find something of that kind of caliber. After all, the Slavic people did not write such accounts like some other peoples did. And when the historians and linguists all agree that the Book of Veles is a forgery, there’s no point to holding on to hope for it to be real. Putting one’s hope into a document made up by people for whatever reason they had, it does no one any good. Better to put one’s time towards learning those things that are factually learned with research and can be backed up with some sort of research or study.

That all is the historian in me, I can admit. While I find the “Book of Veles” fascinating as a unique forgery, I do not find it worth my time to invest my heart and soul into believing the things written in the Book. It is worth studying as a forgery, to learn the mentalities of those at the time the Book was written, because you can learn a lot about people who make forgeries from what they put into their work. But as for learning about actual Slavic paganism, there’s not much to be learned there.

That’s what this is. The “Book of Veles” works as a forgery because it fills in a gap. There is a paucity of primary sources in Slavic paganism, and so people want desperately to believe that it could be real. That no doubt explains why people still believe that it is real, even in the face of overwhelming proof to the contrary.


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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

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