Sean, reads: Once again, welcome to the inn. We are glad to have you with us. Today our guest is Roman the Black Volhv.
Roman: She wrote you a script?
Sean: No, I just copied what she said before during the interview. Coffee?
Roman: Don’t mind if I do.
Sean: So, I’ve got to ask, what’s up with black coffee?
Roman, shrugging: Got deployed to Death Valley one time, when the Wraith Rider thing was going on. Waves of weird shit coming out of it one after another for months. First, we ran out of powdered creamer, then we ran out of sugar. At some point we ran out of bullets. Never ran out of coffee though. This was in my pre-heir to family business days. Before my brother died.
Sean: How long were you in?
Roman: Four years. Wasn’t planning on getting out, either.
Sean: The black volhv thing wasn’t a choice, was it?
Roman: No. It’s the family business. I’m like one of those Hallmark movie women who went off to college to live in the city and make the big money and then had to come back to their cutesy town to run the family bakery because grandma who raised them is dying.
Sean: So, you’re the big city girl?
Roman, big smile: Yes, I am.
Sean: In that case, have you found your hometown romance?
Roman: Not yet. There is always hope. The priest of the dark god thing throws a few wrenches into romance. It’s hard to maintain a relationship when you get up in the middle of the night to close a window and your girl finds you standing in the middle of the kitchen floor butt naked, with a contorted face and a puddle of urine by your feet. Kills the vibe a bit.
Sean: Why worship Chernobog at all?
Roman: It’s complicated.
Sean: We’ve got time.
Roman: Do you want the old version or the neopagan one?
Sean: Which one is more relevant?
Roman: The neopagan one. It’s more structured, which makes it less scary, so that’s what modern Slavic pagans choose to believe. Faith has power. It shapes the mythos, twists it, alters it, so now the neopagan version is the one the gods are adhering to. Again, this is long.
Sean: Go for it.
Roman: In 1919 Lieutenant Fedor Arturovich Izenbek of White Army found some wooden planks with ancient writings on them near Kharkiv in Ukraine. Somehow despite the White Army being routed and fleeing, he kept this bunch of wooden planks with him and dragged them all around, because it’s not like wooden boards would be heavy or anything or he would have better priorities considering his situation. This is where the bullshit starts, you see.
Anyhow, Izenbek finally ends up in Brussels with his sacred planks. He doesn’t take them to a museum, he won’t let any Old Slavonic experts examine them, no, he gives these planks to a dude named Yuri Mirolyubov, who had no relevant education or qualifications to deal with these planks, given that he was a physician by training. Mirolyubov supposedly studied the planks and translated them, and it took him 15 years. By that point – this is mid 1950s – he is in the US, so he sends his ‘translation’ to a small Russian publication in San Francisco called Fire Bird. He called this magnum opus the Book of Veles, who is an actual Slavic deity, and he is still salty about the whole thing. And that’s where the first idea of the Tri-world pops up. More on that later.
Although Mirolubov was a physician, he had big literary dreams and considered himself to be a writer and a poet. And he had some weird ideas. He thought the proto-Slavs were the oldest civilization on Earth that originated between Sumer and Iran, somewhere around Northern India, from which they then spread as a vanguard of Assyrian army, populating Europe. You see where this is going?
Sean: He made the whole thing up?
Roman: Bingo! Give the man a cigar. This text he was supposedly translating allegedly describes events from 7th century BC to 9th century AD. Very smart people have looked at it since and said it’s epic bullshit. The Old Slavonic in it is a grammatically incorrect mess of different dialects and straight up invented linguistic gibberish. It has massive errors, both in language and in the history it’s trying to describe. Not to mention that wood doesn’t last that long, and since the planks were conveniently lost, nobody could’ve carbon-dated them when we had that tech.
But it doesn’t matter, because a bunch of people have re-translated it since, and every time someone touched it, they added more stuff to it. It took the well-travelled road of all religious texts that endure beyond their first edition. The modern Slavic neopagans believe it to be sacred, despite all evidence to the contrary. And in our world, faith matters more because it infuses magic into the objects we worship. There are people who will go to their death defending the Book of Veles as a holy text and the one truth.
Sean: That’s the nature of religion. If it followed logic and evidence, it wouldn’t require faith.
Roman: Exactly. The book of Veles says that we exist in a Tri-world, comprised of three different realms, each with their own rules and laws: Yav, Nav, and Prav. Yav is the world of humans. Prav is the world of the gods humans find beneficial. Nav is the world of the gods humans find dangerous.
Prav is ruled by Belobog and Nav is ruled by his twin brother, Chernobog. Mostly the pantheon is split between the two, although some gods are neutral and just do their own thing. People like this because it’s neat and orderly and easy to wrap your head around it. Bad guys in one corner, good guys in another corner, roles are clearly defined. What’s not to like?
Sean: But it’s not the truth, is it?
Roman: It is. Now. It’s the truth because we now believe it to be. If you’re asking about the historic roots of our faith, it was a lot messier and a lot less safe. Chernobog will talk about it sometimes, but that state of being is only a memory for him. A memory we have forgotten for centuries. Most of the old Slavic myths, the practices, the legends, are gone, lost to the fog of time. Every culture longs for its roots and its history, but human lifespans are short. Unless we write things down in a very permanent way, they do not endure.
Sean: So, is Chernobog evil?
Roman: That is a million-dollar question, isn’t it? Is night evil?
Sean: Night just is.
Roman: Indeed. Without darkness, it’s difficult to sleep. Without winter, the soil wouldn’t get a break. Without death, there couldn’t be a rebirth. Things die, decay, and nourish new life. We all must pass on to make room for our children. Chernobog is the inevitable. He is brutal and merciless, but also necessary. However, like most active gods, he isn’t just a personification of cosmic entropy, he also has a personality because we tend to infuse our gods with humanity. That personality can be difficult at times. That’s where I come in. I’m his priest, his herald, and an agent of his will. But I do bargain with him every chance I get.
Sean: Is that a duty station you can retire from? Or is this a lifetime appointment?
Roman: Depends. My dad retired. Well, Chernobog retired him. Somewhat forcefully for various reasons. If I survive long enough, who knows? He’s been pushing me to get married and make babies. He’s used to the bloodline now, you see. He doesn’t like change, so he wants insurance in case I kick the bucket. So now I get it from three sides: dad, mom, and my god are all on my ass to procreate.
Sean: So you’ve got to find someone?
Roman: I better, before he loses his patience and pulls some undead mermaid out of the swamp for me to marry. On that note, thanks for having me. I’ve got to go do a thing.
Sean: You’re welcome any time, man.
Roman: Next time I want pastries. I heard there were awesome strawberry pastries here.
Sean: I brought cookies.
Sean: In this jar.
Roman: Oh. I thought this was a decorative vase. I’ll be taking those.
Sean: Knock yourself out.