CHERNOBOG’S LAIR PRESENTS:
"UNHOLY PASSION: CHERNOBOG, THE BLACK GOD"
UPDATED: 08/09/2011

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    CHERNOBOG (Chernabog, Czernobog, or Tchernobog) is the black god of death and darkness in Slavic Mythology, a pre-Christian, pagan, dualist belief system, consisting of two main deities, Bylebog (Bielebog) a benevolent god of light and Chernobog, the malevolent god of night. The Slavic people are the ethnic group who reside in the modern day areas of Eastern Europe such as Russia, Czech Republic and Romania (former Transylvania). Like most early, pagan, European mythologies, ancient Slavics believed these two divine beings had control over their lives. In Slavonic myth these early rites and rituals were based on the principle that the natural world is inhabited and controlled by both beneficial and harmful spirits of nature. Later, these forces were anthropomorphized into divine beings who possessed special powers and functions. The supreme god of the East and South Slavs was Perun, god of lightning and thunder, who controlled the elements of nature. Svarog, known to most Slavs, was regarded as the father of the deities: Byelobog (the White God, good) and Chernobog (the Black God, evil and death).

    These gods represented the forces of good or evil and reflected the Slavic belief in the dualistic nature of the universe. The Baltic Slavs had a particularly rich tradition and many cults, including the powerful Radogost-Svarazic. With the coming of Christianity, the great divinities of the Slavs vanished in name, but many elements of pagan belief survived in popular tradition and in many Christian Slavic religious ceremonies.

   
According to legends and myths of the Slavic pantheon, Belobog, the force of orderly creation fought with Chernobog which caused the world to come into being. The gods and goddesses of this belief were believed to be of an adopted or assimilated Iranian belief system. Because of his negative aspects, Chernobog is often associated with other deities like the Black Serpent and Koschei.

- Other pronunciations of Chernobog: (Chernabog, Czernobog, Chernevog, Czernobuh, Zcernoboch):
The name is spelled differently according to the specific Indo-European Slavic language:
Crnobog or Pya - South Slavic Crno "black" and Bog "god", pronounced Tser-nah-bog, can rhyme with There-are-not. Chernobog: in Latin characters, transliterated from  (An alphabet derived from the Greek alphabet and used for writing Slavic languages) Cyrillic. Czarnobóg: in  (The property of being smooth and shiny) Polish, pr. char-NOH-book

    "He is also known as the God of Chaos and Night and as the Black God of the Dead, ruler of  (Click link for more info and facts about Nav) Nav, son of Zmey, husband of Morena. He is strongly associated with Koschey as one of his incarnations or just an epithet (Black God Koschey). Calling Koschey by name was bad luck, thus only the epithet was left." (Crnobog)

   
The nuclear reactor disaster of Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 (recently shutdown), which released radiation killing and injuring thousands, is derived from the word Chernobog (Chernabog) and Byelo-bog, and in a way is symbolic of the tragedy. The Russian Cherno is derived from the Sanskrit Krishna, meaning the "black one" and the adjective cherny means "black". This name is in turn derived from the Ancient Egyptian, kemet, meaning the Black Land. And the word  -bog is Slavic for ‘god’. The 1983 book on "Fantasia" by John Culhane refers to Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology: "Ukranians still say, 'May the black god exterminate you.' "

    Famous Russian composer Modest Petrovich Moussorgsky used the mythology as the inspiration for his piece "(A) Night on Bald (Bare) Mountain” (1860) and was fitting in depicting this scene in Walt Disney’s film “Fantasia” (1940) conducted by Leopold Stokowski. In the film, the narrator, Deems Taylor, describes the scene:

    "A Night on Bald Mountain" by one of Russia's greatest composers, Modest Moussorgsky.  "Bald Mountain", according to tradition, is the gathering place of Satan and his followers.  Here on Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht*), which is the equivalent of our own Halloween, the creatures of evil gather to worship their master.  Under his spell, they dance furiously until the coming of dawn and the sounds of church bells send the infernal army slinking back in their abodes of darkness."
(* Walpurgis Night is celebrated the night from April 30 to 1 May 1, in Germany. It is the night when allegedly the witches on the Blocksberg hold a large celebration and wait on the arrival of the devil. Historically the Walpurgisnacht is derived from pagan spring customs, where the arrival of spring was celebrated with bonfires at night. With the Christianization of Germany these old customs were condemned as heathen. (For more information see: wikipedia.org)



"Fantasia" (1940) Night on Bald Mountain Sequence 
Courtesy of YouTube
   

 The mountain setting of the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence is referred to as being Mount Triglaf, an actual mountain near Kiev in southern Russia. According to Slavic mythology it is where the evil spirits gather on Walpurgis Night.

    Animator Vladimir 'Bill' Tytla drew on his Ukrainian childhood myths and concept imagery created by Danish artist Kay Nielsen, to bring Chernabog to life. Classic horror-film star Bela Lugosi performed live-action reference sequences for the giant demon, but Tytla was not completely satisfied and re-shot much of the acting himself.

    "Bela Lugosi served as a live action model for Chernabog, the demon in "Night on Bald Mountain". Lugosi spent several days at the Disney studios, where he was filmed doing evil, demon-like poses for the animators to use as a reference. However, Bill Tytla, the animator in charge of Chernobog, was dissatisfied with Lugosi's performace, and had sequence director Wilfred Jackson pose for the cameras. Thus it was Jackson, not Lugosi, who appeared on-screen as Chernobog." - IMDB.com

    The name of Chernabog was not used specifically in the film; however, original sketches and production work from the film refer to the demon as Chernobog, or simply Black God, Satan, or Devil. From the 1983 book on "Fantasia", in the chapter discussing "Night on Bald Mountain" the author does make reference to the character as being named Chernobog by Tytla. As the character's popularity has grown, many pieces of Disney merchandise depicting Chernobog usually feature his name being "Chernabog" with an 'A'. This change in spelling has never been addressed, although it may be possible that the name was changed so as not to deface the name of the mythological figure, as there are no real artistic depictions of the ancient deity. This may be due to the growing use of mythological stories such as in the Disney film "Hercules" (1997) in the legalities of turning a mythological figure into a Disney property.

    -Personal Note: Since I first saw Disney’s "Fantasia” when I was young, (specifically Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony sequence and the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence) I have always been fascinated with mythology. It became an involved personal hobby of mine to study mythology from all over the world. I hope one day to teach mythology and folklore or publish books on the subject. I remember being mesmerized when I saw the huge demon emerge from the mountaintop and summon the spirits of the dead to join him in his nightly ball. As an influential image in my life I have chosen to use him as the basis for my Fan Website. I have become an avid collector of Chernabog merchandise, but this does not suggest I have taken on the belief or worship of Chernobog.

LINKS & SOURCES

Culhane, John, "Walt Disney's Fantasia", Abradale Press, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1983, pgs. 180-197

Encyclopedia.com: Slavic Religion: http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/s/slavicre.asp

Slavic Pantheon: http://imbasforosnaigorsedd.forumcommunity.net/?t=20504221

Disney Villains' Lair: http://disney.go.com/vault/archives/villains/chernabog/chernabog.html

- The likeness of ‘Chernobog’ appeared in "Disney's Fantasia" (1940) designed by Vladimir Tytla.