Is The Book of Veles a great Slavic text or a charlatan’s forgery?
The Book of Veles is so controversial it is banned in Russia. Its supporters say it lays out cultural, religious and historical facts about Slavs from the 7 th century BC until the 9 th century AD, etched out on wooden planks. However, its critics say the purported medieval Slavic text is so fraught with quackery and charlatanism that the reputation of scientists who’ve studied it have been ruined.
Arthurovich Isenbeck is said to have discovered The Book of Veles in a run-down castle in the Ukraine around the beginning of the 20 th century. Isenbeck left Russia and settled in Brussels after traveling around for a number of years, taking the mysterious inscriptions with him.
The first person to closely examine the wooden planks was Yuriy Mirolubov, a Russian scientist. He took them from Isenbeck and spent more than 15 years translating and decoding the texts carved into them. Mirolyubov concluded the planks on which The Book of Veles were written contained the oldest Slavic alphabet, similar to Cyrillic. These are the only known examples of proto-Slavic, says the website Meet the Slavs, which has an article titled “Is The Book of Veles a Forgery?”
The book is made of 42 birchwood planks of 38 cm (15 inches) by 22 cm (8.7 inches). The letters inscribed on them are of different sizes and shapes, so it’s possible that different scribes wrote them at different times. Some planks have symbols of bull heads, animals and the sun, possibly representing the months. The people who made the book scrubbed the boards before carving the letters, then painted them with a dark stain that faded with time.
A plank of The Book of Veles (Image from Slavorum.org )
The book begins with the words “This book of Veles we consecrate to our god who is our refuge and strength,” says the blog The Book of Veles (translation) . Veles, also known as Volos, was a god of the Slavic people who controlled agriculture, cattle and upon whose help the success of the people depended. The Book of Veles blog says the first plank continues:
In those days was the man so gentle and brave they called him the father of Russians.
And that man had wife and two daughters. He had cattle and cows and many sheep and he dwelled in the steppe so no where could he find husbands for his daughters and he prayed gods so his line does not perish like that. And Dajbog granted his request and gave him what he was praying for. So were married those who live among us.
And we are obliged to believe because it clearly is god Veles that brings forth the offspring. We owe to our gods and so we give them praise:
Let our leader be blessed now and for the eternity.
Said magicians (shamans) and went away.
The modern statue of Veles on Velíz mountain, Czech Republic (Wikipedia)
The site Slavorum: Exploring Slavic World, gives a brief synopsis of the books contents. It starts out in the 10 th century BC, when pre-Slavic tribes lived in the “land of seven rivers beyond the sea,” possibly southeastern Kazakhstan. The Slavs migrated to Syria and then into the Carpathian Mountains in the fifth century BC in what are now southern Poland, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine. There they were briefly enslaved by King Nabsur. They settled there, and several centuries passed relatively peacefully. Beginning in the fourth century AD the Slavs fought wars with the Goths, Huns, Romans and Greek. The book has several references to Ermanaric, a king who ruled a vast kingdom and against whom the Slavs apparently fought, emerging victorious in the end. The book briefly describes the fifth through ninth centuries and ends with Slavic people in disarray and ruled by the Normans.
The site Slavorum says banning the book as irrational and based in politics. “We do not have to see the book as a historical fact-book; it could be seen as a fantasy entertainment book like any other so reason behind its ban has no justifiable cause,” the article states. “Many conclude that the book inspired Pan-Slavism among its readers.”
The site Meet the Slavs concludes its article by saying most experts in Slavic languages believe the book is a 20 th century forgery. “This theory is based on fact that texts are written in invented form of different modern Slavic languages without any grammar rules,” the article states. “But in spite of those claims and fact that book is rejected [by] scientists, some Slavic neopagans use the Book of Veles in their rituals.”
If it is a forgery, there is some irony in the fifth plank of the book, which states, “Our conscience commands we don’t hide our words and we tell only the truth about our kin.”
Featured image: The text resembles Cyrillic letters, according to experts. ( Image from Slavorum.org )
By Mark Miller