Sunday, November 14, 2021

More on why I don't believe in Good vs. Evil.

A couple of weeks ago, I said I'd probably write a post on why I don't believe in Good vs. Evil. I listed one reason for my belief in that post (you can read it at the link): it's that Evil is defined by the observer, not the actor. The people that society perceives as Evil never think they are. They believe their cause is right and just. And sometimes later on, society comes around to their point of view.

I saw an ad for this Christmas ornament yesterday, and it reminded me of another reason why I don't believe Evil is a real thing. I hope Hallmark doesn't sue me -- I lifted this photo from their website. It's one of this year's Keepsake Ornaments from their Disney Villain line. The bad guy depicted here is from the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in the original 1940 movie Fantasia. Hallmark is calling him Chernabog.

I was much younger when I saw the movie. While I remember the scene, I had no idea what the character's name was until I saw this ornament for sale. 

Even if I'd known this guy's name, it wouldn't have meant anything to me back then. Now it does, though, because in the intervening years, I've done some reading on Slavic mythology. 

Chernobog -- that's the correct spelling of his name, or anyway it's one of the correct spellings (Disney got it right when they released their own Fantasia ornament) -- is reputedly the Slavic god of darkness. His name literally means "black god." He's usually paired with Belobog, whose name literally means "white god." And it's a pretty good bet that real, actual Slavic pagans never worshipped either one of them.

The only account of Chernobog and Belobog comes from a German scholar named Helmold in the 12th century, several hundred years after Christianity had come to the Slavic lands. Helmold casts Belobog (who he never actually names) as the Good Guy and Chernobog as the Bad Guy -- concepts that were foreign to the ancient Slavs. Sure, there were dualities in Slavic belief; perhaps the best known of these is the annual archetypal battle between Perun, the thunder god, and Veles, the god of the underworld. Veles rules the dark half of the year, you see, and Perun rules the light half, and there's a big fight every year when they switch off. But Veles isn't a bad guy; he's also the god of forests and cattle. He's not Evil, any more than Perun is Good. Those concepts were imposed on the Slavs by Christianity and its insistence on the Good/Evil dichotomy.

It's pretty well accepted today that the villainous Chernobog comes from that same wellspring. The Slavs didn't have a devil in their mythology, so the Christian conquerors had to impose one on them.

This may be the biggest reason why I don't believe in capital-E Evil -- even moreso than the spectrum of behaviors I talked about a couple of weeks ago. Half of my lineage comes from a people whose original belief system didn't have devils or demons. Tricksters, sure -- but devils? Creatures that were purely evil? Not 'til Christian missionaries showed them what it was (ahem).

Other ancient belief systems also lacked the Good/Evil dichotomy. But at this point, we'll never know how widespread that lack was; Christianity did its best to smother these "incorrect" ways of viewing the world, and in the case of the Slavic lands, what the Christians didn't eliminate, the Soviets did.

Anyway, as tempting as it would be to have a Slavic god on my Yule tree, I'm probably going to pass on the "Chernabog" ornament. I might re-watch Fantasia, though, just to see him in action. Plus the music is really cool.

Oh, what the heck. Here's the scene.


Not-Na-No report: I'm closing in on 15,000 words on the first draft of the third Atherton Vampire book. I'm not keeping track as avidly as I do when I'm actually doing NaNo, but I think I've written pretty much every day this past week. I probably won't finish book 3 by the end of November, but I won't miss my just-before-Christmas deadline for publication. 

In the meantime, the second Atherton Vampire novel will be out of its exclusive period with Kindle Vella a week from today, so the ebook version will definitely be out before Thanksgiving. Let's call it November 24th for the release for book 2. I'll post here when it's live, and I'll send a newsletter, too.


These moments of godly blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

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