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Austeja Baltic Goddess Of Bees and Other Magical Beings

austeja-baltic-goddess-of-bees

Mother of Bees

Austeja is the goddess of bees, and it was believed that she was the goddess of growth, plentifulness and reproduction. Austeja was already mentioned in Lithuanian literature in the 17th century. J.Lasicki wrote that she was the protector of families and the true mother of bees. Austeja is a woman and a bee in one person.

Her name is linked to the Lithuanian verb "austi" - to weave (linen) and austyti - to fly swiftly everywhere, to shut and close doors repeatedly. This, of course, is a metaphor for gathering honey and building honeycombs.

The Greek version of Austeja, is the goddess Arthemid, who was also a protector of large families and pregnant women. She was also called bee melissa.

When drinking for Austeja, the drinks are tossed up into the air, up towards the ceiling. Mead was offered to her before the wedding dance. In christenings, mead was served, and the matchmakers would speak about Austeja in their toasts so that "bees would gather honey plentifully". Austeja protected brides and pregnant women.

She is believed to be one of the oldest goddesses in the Baltic pantheon.

austeja-baltic-goddess-of-bees

Austeja Celebration

Austeja was celebrated in an August festival called Zoline. During this time bees are especially active, bringing honey from meadows. Offerings of honey were made to Austeja. When the honey was gathered from the hives, people got up very early in the morning. Before they opened the beehives, they sang a prayer to Austeja.

In Lithuanian this special event to gather the honey was called bičiuliai.

People didn't see bees just as ordinary beings. They were sacred workers. Bees were seen as divine beings and as important as men themselves They were on the same plane as humans. A dead bee had to be buried in the earth. Trees, where bees built their hives, were sacred. Bees were endowed with strong moral authority. People were not allowed to curse, fight, abuse one another or quarrel or be disrespectful in any way in the presence of the bees.

Bees could talk and sing. They sang during special holidays and festivals. Especially during sunny days. They understood humans and could prophesise the future.


austeja-baltic-goddess-of-bees

Farming Spirits

Lithuanians had many gods and goddesses related to farming and home. It is believed that the cult of these deities originated from a primordial remote mother image, and later on, the father image influenced it too. These deities protected the home, the pirtiz (saunas) and farm buildings and livestock.

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The idea of the primordial mother image lasted all the way to the 19th century. At the wedding the bride would pray and make sacrifices to a female idol made of straw, asking to forgive her for leaving home and moving to a new one, where she would have other gods to worship.

One of the farming goddesses was called Dimstipati, who was later written sources transformed into a male deity. Dimstipatis lived supposedly, in the corner behind the table, in the house and she was worshipped by women.

Another goddess Zemepati, goddess of the farmstead, was also later on transformed from a female to a male. Zemepatis would increase the growth of grain, hay, wheat and rye.

austeja-baltic-goddess-of-bees

Kaukai, the lost child

Kaukai was a spirit of the underworld. The story of Kaukai is universal and can be found all around the world. They are also known as changelings.

Kaukai myth originated from an image of stillborn babies and those that died without the proper birth rites.

J.Lasicki wrote, "Kaukai are the palm size spirits of the dead. People fed them, as they believed that if they wouldn't, they would lose their luck when Kaukai would curse them".

Underworld also had other spirits that guarded treasured buried underground

Baltic Mythology Mash Up

Atmospheric Gods, The Aitvarai

Aitvaras were snake and dragon deities in Baltic folklore. Sometimes they were described to be snakes with flaming heads. Their stories are believed to be based on meteorites. They should be fed baked and cooked meals, which were not tasted by someone yet. First Aitvarai lived in the skies or in the woods. People who kept Aitvarai at their homes were believed to be wicked people because Aitvarai stole from others' granaries and barns. Aitvarais are hunted by Perkunas, the thunder god.

Aitvarai were considered to be divine creatures, that could affect the farm's sate of wealth.

austeja-baltic-goddess-of-bees

Source:

Trinkunas, Jonas. (1999). Of Gods & Holidays: The Baltic Heritage. TvermeÌ.

© 2023 Niina Pekantytar

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