Slavic sun-king gods in the Semantic Colour Space

From the Byzantine Chronicle of Malalas we read: “First, Mestrom began to rule … after him Feosta, who was also called Svarog by the Egyptians. When this Feosta reigned in Egypt, pincers fell from heaven during his reign, and he began to forge weapons, for before that people fought with sticks and stones. The same Feosta issued a law that women should marry only one man and live chastely, and he ordered those who committed adultery to be executed. Therefore, he was called the god Svarog. … And after that his son reigned, named the Sun, who was called Dažbog. The ruler Sun, the son of Svarog.”

M. Presniakov. Dajbog. 1998. The sun-king reigning over day and night.

In this brief text there are some important clues about these deities who did serve much the same function. They are male gods who represent a clan or country. They are moralizing lawmakers who set rules of chastity, and at the same time they are judges who pass judgement. In this role, they can write out punishments or grant forgiveness. In the son Dažbog, this kingship comes to full fruition and rises to the same height as the sun (sun king). That brings the fire aspect into the meaning. Svarog is the personification of the fire of the oven (ovin) and is worshipped as such. (Vyncke, 1969).

By focusing on a few keywords, this fire-sun god concept can be colour-coded in the Semantic Space and the connection between these words becomes clear. Under the (64-level) red-on-black colour code we find keywords such as: law, judge, justice, king, father, rule, forbidden. It is a composite of the (8-level) fire aspect, represented by the red element in the code: flame, sun, power, and the (8-level) black element: the thunder, signifying something important, represented by a stem. Another description of these kings could be: ‘important power’.

Judge Dredd by IanAnderson_xyz. a law enforcement and judicial officer in the dystopian future city of Mega-City One, fighting evil in red-on-black.
Ad for Siedodo cooker induction stove. Although fire is disappearing from the modern kitchen, this primal concept remains present in contemporary advertising. The black induction plate with the red fire above illustrates the red-on-black colour code.

The role of this king concept is to keep evil, or the wild forces (black-on-red), in check by setting rules and issuing punishments (red-on-black). We see this function metaphorically in the operation of the stove (red-on-black): the oven must keep the destructive fire (black-on-red) in check. In these early times it consisted of a pit (black) in which the flame (red) was lit to dry the sheaves of corn. The veneration of the furnace fire was very deeply rooted in the people and has survived to the present day. Incidentally, it was believed that the guardian spirit of the family lived in the ‘ovin’ (Vyncke, 1969).

Some similarities appear in the masks of the Phi Ta Khon festival in Thailand, where residents invite protection from Phra U-pakut, their guardian spirit coming from the Mun river. The masks have devilish faces and are equipped with a giant phallus. The ghosts offer protection against evil with their dangerous appearance. The phallus is a composition of a black stem with a red ball on it, just like the king’s sceptre.

A Kings sceptre
Picture from the Phra U-pakut festival by JAY TINDALL

I.Michiels, red.

The protective phallus

The phallus is found as an object of worship in cultures all over the world. It is regarded as a fertility symbol, but mainly has a protective function. It repels the evil forces and thereby brings prosperity (fertility) to the clan. The phallus is depicted in many colours, but a strikingly common one is red-on-black, also the colour combination for the king concept. The king is the one who offers protection to the subjects, by writing laws and punishments.

Torch, sceptre and phallus.

The phallus bears a striking resemblance to the king’s sceptre and to the torch. Two symbols that are also classified under the red-on-black colour code. The red aspect is the circle shape or the flame, which represents power. The black is the thunder, represented by a stick or stem. An idol with a phallus then represents a chieftain, who protects the tribesmen against destructive and demonic forces.

Some examples of a phallus in red-on-black.

Thailand, Krabi, la Phra nang Cave
Legba statue, sacred forest, Ouidah, Benin
Figural Carved Tribal Fertility Slit Drum Phallus Bhuta Bali.
Protéger la maison du mauvais oeil Au Bhoutan.

I. Michiels, red.