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Friday, November 3, 2023

Book review: Bogowie

 Doing things a little different today, a book review of a subject I actually don't know much about. I thought it would be fun to dig into a subject that's new to me so today we're going to be talking about T. D. Kokoszka's book 'Bogowie: A Study of Eastern Europe's Ancient Gods'. This one is out through my publisher Moon Books.

Bogowie is a fascinating dive into Slavic paganism from an academic angle, covering a range of related topics from deities to folk magic. It may seem a little intimidating at first - at 430 pages its certainly not a light read and each chapter is thoroughly backed up with relevant sources, cited meticulously - but the writing style is straightforward and it includes retellings of various folktales which nicely break up the informational sections. I found the balance in the book was good and the material, while dense, was understandable and well written. 

Bogowie starts, quite sensibly I think, but discussing exactly who the Slavic people were and are  to establish the scope of the book. The author is also honest throughout that this area of study is particularly difficult in part because of the complex history of Slavic cultures and in part because of the scarcity of older sources. The author was honest that the subject gets little attention and is often dismissed outright because of the lack of written material focused around it. I appreciated having all of this covered because I felt that it gave me a good understanding of both the wider subject as well as the intentions of the author in writing the book, which appears to be a much needed addition to the existing material on the topic. 

With an Introduction and 14 chapters the book is well organized and through, but not as dry as one might expect. To start it explores various historic cultural connections between Slavic people and others, as well as laying out the development of the Slavs across history and various influences on that development. From that point the text goes on to look at specific mythic figures including Baba Yaga, Mokosh, Perun, Volos, the Zoryas, Svarozhichi, and Chernobog, while analysing deeper mythic concepts and exploring related cultural material. This includes Christian syncretism within the folk belief which I found especially interesting. The author also digs into beliefs around death and the soul, as well as exploring magical practices in the cultures and holy days. Its thorough but not, in my opinion, overwhelming, and manages to convey a lot of information in ways that hold a reader's interest. 

 The book nicely blends history, folk belief, and practice in a way that I think people will find interesting and digestible. The author does a good job of explaining the core principles and concepts he covers in ways that even people new to folklore studies will understand, while keeping the text interesting and engaging. I would recommend this for anyone who is particularly interested in Slavic paganism but also for anyone who enjoys folktales and is curious to learn something new. This one really covers all the bases.

1 comment:

  1. Saw this one at a great time, probably going to put this book on my birthday wishlist. Thanks for posting!