Thursday, 22 March 2012

Interview with Rafał Merski - May 2011



Mr. Rafał Merski, founder and leader of Watra, a revivalist heathen organization in Poland, was gracious enough to spend some of his time in May 2011 to answer a variety of questions for the Fyrnsidu Project. I found that little had been discussed, and altogether published in the English language, with the founders of such revivalist organizations in Slavic lands. Indeed, I found this a surprise, in contrast to Germanic Odinist organizations, as such Aryo-heathen revivalism in Eastern nations is extremely active and flourishing on a huge scale – that I thought much more would be available to English speaking readers. It can be easily established that Aryo-Germanic Odinism is on the rise and growing in the West but on a much smaller scale when compared to Aryo-Slavic heathenism in Poland, Russian, Serbia, Croatia and the Ukraine, etc. Thus, it is for this reason that it is hoped this interview will be the first of many with such inspiring and dedicated personalities of our folk from the East. It is my understanding that due to the language barrier my questions had to be translated so I want to extend my sincere thanks to Mr. Merski for his patience and willingness to be a part of this endeavor, it is truly appreciated.

Hello Mr. Rafał Merski, thank you for accepting my invitation to be interviewed for Fyrnsidu, it is a great pleasure.
 
sorry for that long time this is answer. You are welcome. Thank You for Your interest.

You are the 'leader' of the Watra organisation (www.watra.org.pl) based in Wroclaw, Poland, which from my understanding is dedicated to the revivalism and study of the ancestral pagan religion of the Slavic peoples (Poland, Russia, Ukrainia, etc.) Please can you tell us a bit about your organisation? When, how and why it started?
Watra is a community of native faith believers. We are active since 2004 and started to work seperately in 2009. We organise lectures and meetings about our ancestors faith and Rodnover philosophy. So far, we have publish my book, 2011 calendar. We are going to make another publications and we are building first, official celebrations place.

Today, the ancestral pagan religion of Slavic lands is referred to as Rodzimowierstwo Słowiańskie (Slavic Neopaganism), also known as Rodnovery? Or Slowianowierca and Rodzimowierca? Is this correct? Do I have the translations correct? If not, please can you share the proper terminology and translation for these above terms? Would you class yourself as a Rodnover?

This is a good translation

Please can you tell us a bit about yourself personally. Please tell us a bit about your background? How did you become involved in the Slavic pagan reconstruction of your ancestral faith? And how you came to be involved with Watra?

I've described myself as ancestors faith believer in 1996. I've one it intentionnaly after reading some books about slavs religion and with feeling that's my life path. Since that time, my wisdom and expierence increased. In 2004 we started to celebrate rites and today, being a Watra foundator i find the way was correct. I share my wisdom with others, i engage in discussions and i will share my love to the slavic heritage with my children. Recently my son was born, and we have given him a slavic name with pride.

Just off the shores of Poland there is an island called Wolin where the worlds largest viking festival takes place, the Wolin Viking festival. Although it is called a 'Viking' festical, it isn't solely set around Germanic battle reenactment or religion (Odinism) but also Slavic Native Faith. Have you ever attended or plan on attending? What are your views on this event as many followers of Native Faith also attend and contribute to it? Please can you tell us a bit about this event, when it takes place? And how and when it got started? Also, recently I read that someone had burnt down a wooden pagan house in the Wolin village? Can you shed any light on this for English readers? (http://www.gs24.pl/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20110219%2FKAMIEN%2F781339217)

I consider that act of a burning that house as a casual act of vandalism wihout any overtones of religion. I was a few times on that festival and I consider this type of festivals as great agent of education of young people of our roots.

You and your organisation are based in Wroclaw, a very cosmopolitan and multicultural city, much like any other city in Europe today. However, the difference I notice is that in Wroclaw, there seems to be a very large and significant following of the native ancestral faith, especially within metal music bands, such as Graveland, etc. Do you see this also and what sort of effect do it have on Watra?

I know Robert from Graveland. He participated in our celebrations, he is a great man and I have a great respect for him. Yes, Wroclaw has a strong rodnovers climate. 3 organisations are act here although Watra is best organised because our holidays and lectures gather about 100 persons, and this is a great score as for our country.


You have recently released your first book on ancestral Slavic gods, religion and tradition, entitled "Słowiańskie Dziedzictwo: Rodzima Religia i Filozofia" (Slavic Heritage: Native Religion and Philosohpy). It comprises 13 chapters including an introduction, and covers topics such as the ancestral Slavic faith, holy days, ceremonies, gods, the soul and the body, Slavic temples and the future. What prompted you to write such a book and have has it been received? Will it be released in English? Personally, I truly hope so as there is very little information on the Slavic native religion in the English language, other than really what can be found on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_Neopaganism and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavic_mythology, some Facebook groups (http://www.facebook.com/people/Watra-Slavic-Paganism-Slowianowierca/100000581951673) and an article in English on the Veles circle) Are their any other books on Slavic paganism that you would recommend, in either Polish or English?

I've gathered material for that book for many years. As a slavonic faith priest I engage in philosophy and every sphere associated with rodnovers religion and practial aspect of it. I've transcribed it in book, and so it was created. I hope, that we will translate it to english and you will may see what is our slavic faith nowadays.

On the back of yourt book there is a short poem, “Niechaj płoną święte ognie.
I praojców naszych wiara. Bębny dudnią jak grom jasny. Dźwięki rogów i pieśń stara.” Please can you tell us what this means and its significance?


It's like 'Let the holy fire burn, and our glory slavic faith. Drums play like the holy thunder and sound of horns and the song'. This text is a quintessence of our faith and our destination. Maybe our stance would be apprecaited by our ancestors and Gods.


There are a few movies that have been released in recent years based on Slavic paganism, namely the 2003 Polish release, 'Stara baśń: Kiedy słońce było bogiem' (An Ancient Tale: When the Sun Was a God, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Ancient_Tale:_When_the_Sun_Was_a_God), the 2009 English release, 'The Pagan Quen' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pagan_Queen), the amateur Polish production, 'Dawno temu w Iłży' (A
Long Time Agoin Iłża, www.dawnotemuwilzy.pl) and the 2010 Russian release, 'Yaroslav. Tysyachu let nazad' (http://yaroslavfilm.ru). Is this evidence of a growing interest in Slavic history and pagan past? Couples with the number of pagan bands, do you see this trend growing in the future? What are your views, if you have viewed them, on these movies?

Russian "Jaroslav" is a good movie. Other are very weak.

Heathen revivalism and reconstruction seems to be increasingly observed in Slavic lands (I believe it to be called Rodnovery) as is Odinism (also known as Asatru) in the West - alongside an increasing connection with nature and the environment. Would you agree with this in your lands and why? Is it primarely a revivalism of the pagan Slavic old ways or it is coupled with new-age spirituality like Wicca as in the West? Also, can you tell us anything about or organisations such as yours such as the Veles Circle? I always seem to read a lot about a man called Ilya (Veleslav (Велеслав)) Cherkasov? He seems to be a figure head within Rodnovery in Russia. Can you enlighten is anymore or give us any information on such things in your lands? I believe that you are, maybe, his Polish equivilent? Do you have any kind of relationship?

 
Unfortunatelly, I don't know Veleslaw personally, but I have a great respect for him. Polish slavic environment grows very fast and it's someting completly another than New Age our Wicca. Our religion is based on real slavic ethicc and culture. It's etnic and not universal for everyone. In Poland there are many interesting initiatives like "Gniazdo" paper-magazine, very valuable "Radiowid" internet radio, where besides music auditions about entology and philosophy are presented.

Can you tell us a bit out Slavic ancestral paganism in Poland? How is it structured? What are it's holy days? What are its gods?

 
This is a very wide topic. All year is eventful in ceremonies and holy days. The most important are "Jare Gody", "Kupala", "Perun day", "Ancestors day" and "Szczodre Gody". Most of them are celebrated in days shared with another indoeuropean populations, also with Celts and Anglo-Saxons. Slavic Gods panteon is considered as many Gods with specific functions that alter our life and world. Some of them are Perun, Swarog, Rod, Weles, Sventovit, Triglav, Mokosz, Marzanna-Dziewanna, Lada, Jarovit. We believe also in world of ghosts and other demonic creatures.

Is the heathen revivalist religion an officially sanctioned spirituality in your homeland? Or, indeed, in any Slavic nation?

 
official slavonic faith assocations exist in Poland now. We plan to register Watra as soon as possible.

Today, in this politically correct and multicultural world, being proud of your culture, heritage, ethnicity and your folk (and even following a reconstructionist religion of their pagan ways), is often seen as 'hatefull' and 'racist' - or at least it is propagandized as such in the mainstream. However, it seems that for the non-white peoples, especially in Britain and the West in general, it is not only encouraged and promoted, but glorified also. Is this the same in your country and why do you think this is?

 
In Poland such problem rather doesn't exist. In our country there are no many foreigners as they rather like to populate (for example) England. Even thought politics don't engage in slavic ceremonies we are not under any form of persecution. In whole country there are many events originated in slavic traditions. 
 
The Swastika, a representation of the Sunwheel and Kolovrat, is used very openly in Slavic and Germanic lands and in Slavic and Germanic pagan reconstruction. The Swastika (also known as the Fylfot or Fyrfos), in Germanic lands and especially Britain and indeed the Kolovrat in Slavic lands, is the primary symbol today representing our revivalist pagan spirituality in pre-christian Ancestral Faith. I am involved in pre-christian ancestral faith revivalism and reconstruction and next to the Mjollnir the Swastika takes prominence – but this is solely for religious reasons and has absolutely nothing to do with politics. However, many ill-informed only seem to view these symbols has hatefull and racist due to their use in the Third Reich. Your views please? Also, open use of the Swastika is very controversial in many Western nations. Is it the same in Poland? Do you think we should stand proud and educate others as to its meaning within European ancestral paganism or bow down to the Politicaly Correct crowd?

In Poland such problem rather doesn't exist. In our country there are no many foreigners as they rather like to populate (for example) England. Even thought politics don't engage in slavic ceremonies we are not under any form of persecution. In whole country there are many events originated in slavic traditions.

Can you tell us what the Kolovrat means specifically within Slavic paganism? Wikipedia states this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolovrat and this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolovrat_(symbol)#Slavic

 
I think that education of the society will bring good effects, not escape from primeval symbols. Photo of my person with many svastikas surrounding me appeared in television and many internet sites (for example http://wiadomosci.wp.pl/gid,11803859,title,Slowianskie-swieto-godowe---zdjecia,galeria.html?ticaid=1c47d&_ticrsn=5) and I don't remember anyone that have seen it by III Reich prismat.

Can you tell us what the Swastika means specifically within Slavic paganism? When researching pagan Slavic revivalism, you often see people in White tunics with a Swastika pattern on the sleeves (example: http://www.livefire.ru/_images/Veleslav.jpg and here: http://lh5.ggpht.com/_cD8lP6C5zEM/Sj-VotRzIRI/AAAAAAAABOE/5AMY3OYk7dE/IMGP3989.JPG), etc. Can you tell us the significance of this clothing?

 
Svastika in our religion means world of Gods, Svarga, good, wealth, hapinness. It's a salutary symbol that has also protective and good wealth functions.

There is a new documentry coming out soon based on the hisyory of the Swastika (http://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Swastika-Official-documentary/290744544795) and its usage in contemorary times. Have you or your organisation been contacted regarding this as the producers seem to be travelling all across Europe to find out information on this symbol in regard to its use in Germanic and Slavic pagan revivalism?

 
Nobody has contacted us for that.

It is my understanding that Antifa (Anti-Facist organisation) have regarded Watra and pagan pagan reconstruction groups as Nazi. This seems utterly rediculous to me. Watra have no hateful or Nazi symbols or rhetoric but you focus solely on Slavic pagan folklore, mythology, symbolism pride and honour of Slavic traditions, heritage and culture. Why do you think that they have done this and what is your reaction to it?

 
To be honest I never heard that we or other slavic religious communities were considered as nazi. We don't have any problem with that.

What other projects do you and your organisation have planned for the future and how do you see Watra and Slavic paganism in years to come?

We have very ambitious plans and the realisation of them goes really well. We have organised another Watra centre in Poznan, polish city large as Wrocław. There are many great and creative people and our cooperation makes me happy. We are in realisation of documental movie about our religion and organisation. We hather another materials and books. We prepare another sacred place in private terrain in forest. It would be stone circle with place for fire and Perun statue

Are you involved in any other project related to or separate from pagan revivalism that you would like to share with us?

I'm engaged in Assocation of Living History "Silesia". We propagate history of our land. Greetings for readers and redaction. Let the Gods direct your life. Worship them and Your culture. Remember - tree cut from it roots will dry.

Thank you Mr. Merski, it has certainly been a very interesting interview and I thank you for taking part and sparing some of your time.

Glory to the Gods!

No comments:

Post a Comment