Grandfather Fire and Grandmother Earth

In that time before there was Time, there was Grandfather Fire. Around Grandfather Fire sat the Circle of Animal Brothers, who, speaking in that Sacred Language of Spirit, told their Tellings, Through these Tellings Grandfather Fire gave rise to Creation...
- Jade Wah'oo Grigori, Shamanic Drumming

The first great spirit beings were Swarog, Grandfather Fire, and Matka Syra Zjemlja, Grandmother Earth. They lived in the place that was before there was a world, or time, and all the Animal Spirits and Plant Spirits came to them, and they sat in a circle. Swarog sat in the West, and Matushka Zjemlja sat in the East. All the animals and plants filled the circle, except the seat to the North, which is where they all came to the circle, and the South, which went nowhere.

And Fire and Earth told stories to them, and with stories gave each of them shapes. To Brother Gull Fire told the story of Gull, fleet and keen-eyed, and behold, Gull was there. To Sister Bear Fire told the story of Bear, kind and strong, and there was Bear. To Brother Ash Fire sang the song of Ash, straight and true, and Ash grew on the steppes; to Sister Willow, Fire sang the song of Willow, who bends with the breeze, and Willow grew in the plains. Last of all they made Man and Woman.

And Earth sang the songs of the rivers that flow, and the hills that stand at the edge of the world. And Earth told the tales of the sea that stretches forever, and of the plains where the wild things roam. And with the great work they made the world.

And then all the things chose where to make their homes. The Reindeer ran across the great plains, and the Wolf hunted through the forests. The Gull flew in the sky and the Bear slept in the ground. Earth, who would be mother to all things, would stay in the world, and through her everything would be born. But Fire, who was the beginning of everything, was too bright and furious to stay in the world, but he didn't want to go away altogether to the Upper Heaven where he came from.

So he chose to live between the world and Heaven; making his home in the sky, his heat and light would still be felt on earth. And he would live between spirit and the world; eternal as he was, he would be born and die each winter. When he died, he would return to his home in the Upper Heaven and renew his contact with the spirit. When he was gone Earth would mourn, and the world would be cold and the plants would die, but when he returned to the world he would marry Earth again, and everything would be made new.


Grandfather Fire

Now we know that Fire is in three parts.

One is fire itself, and we use it to heat our homes and cook our food. Fire is part of our lives from day to day, and its gift is the proof of his love for us and of our magic, and his seat in our homes is proof that they are reflections of the great spirit-circle in which the world was made. This we call Ogon, which simply means "fire."

The second is the sun in the sky, that lives and dies and is reborn every year. He is mortal and forever reborn, and has a face in every land, each different, but all parts of the same spirit. In Siberija he is Dazhdbog, and rules the spirit world of Siberija as the Jhereg Lord General Ackiatta rules the land. Dazhdbog is a fierce and wise spirit, and shrewd in judgment.

But the great spirit, who is both Ogon and Dazhdbog, is Swarog, the "Radiant Sky." It was Patushka Swarog who created the world with his wife and the animal Brothers, and Swarog who rules in the Upper Heaven. Swarog is fire as divine inspiration, the source of spirit and creation.

Grandmother Earth

Now we know that Earth, also, is in three parts.

One is the soil of the ground. It is inescapable and essential. Plants grow in the body of the Earth, and water flows from her. As flames burn and change, so the soil cools and protects. Her we call Zjemlja, which is nothing more than the word for "earth."

The second is the mother of the earth, the consort of Dazhdbog, who is also human in form, but immortal. Like her husband, she is not one spirit but a hundred, given a different name and a different face in each land, but cherished in all lands. It is Mokosz in Siberija who mourns her husband's sickening and death each winter, and abandons the earth to become cold and hard, and the plants to become brown and barren. Often, Mokosz in the tribe is the headwoman or midwife; in the Jhereg, Baba Trix carried her presence until her death at the Great Renewal of 1103. Now the land needs a new mother.

The great spirit of the earth, who is the soil and the mother of the soil, who was with Swarog at the beginning, is called Matka Syra Zjemlja, "Moist Mother Earth." Matushka Zjemlja is the universal principle of life and death, and resides in Heaven with her husband.

The Old Names

In the old ways, the Buryat called Fire Tenger Etseg ("Father Heaven") and Earth Gazar Eej ("Mother Earth"). But over the years, the Rus and Magyar culture has shaped and changed the Buryat tribes, and the other names have been laid over the spirits of their beliefs. Some tribes have been more strongly influenced than others, though, and the Old Names are still used by some families. The Kovach are strongly Rus-influenced, however, and little like their Mongol cousins in language.