Jonas Vaiškūnas. Response to Pavilionis, who is battling Pagans

Jonas Vaiškūnas

The Seimas parliamentary body of Lithuania is deliberating the issue of State recognition of Romuva, the religious community of the Indigenous Faith of Ancient Balts. This event brings forth into the light of day, more and more often by now, various writings and declarations by surfacing activists who had long suffered their silent hatred towards Romuva. Unlike some sort of mythical trolls, these have been fully prepared to defile and harm, in all sorts of ways, to prevent the resolution from passing. I did not intend to dive into the darkness of such dregs nor into the superficial efforts to generate waves of filth regarding this straightforward legal procedural question, not until petty writings by journalists inspired by such trolls did not appear in the press. Now that the trolls themselves have surfaced into daylight, I’ve had to renege on my promise.

One such hater of Romuva, Perkūnas [God of Lightning] and Ramūnas Karbauskis happens to be a conservative politician dreaming about Lithuania’s Presidential post, Žygimantas Pavilionis. He has issued an article going by a schizophrenic title, „Perkūnas ar Jėzus”? „Perkūnas”, – atsakė Karbauskis” [“Perkūnas or Jesus?” ‘Perkūnas‘ – answered Karbauskis”]. This article appears among the pages of Lithuania’s most read Internet portal, DELFI, and begins spreading untruths from its very first sentence. . .

According to him, “The Seimas will have to decide very soon whether to recognize the Romuva community as the only community of Baltic religion, the only true representative of the ancient Baltic worldview and part of the Lithuanian national identity” [author’s note: heretofore untruths are highlighted in bold by me – J.V.]. It is difficult to believe that a Seimas member had not read about the upcoming decision for passage prior to sitting down to write his article for the famed Internet daily. Thus a suspicion comes to mind – perhaps Ž. Pavilionis had consciously wanted to mislead Lithuania’s people who had not read the documents submitted to the Seimas.

Fact is that Romuva Religious Community of the Ancient Baltic Faith is merely requesting what Article 6 of Lithuania’s Law on Religious Communities and Societies grants us a right– the right to State recognition. To inform people, the legal system of Lithuania specifies that religious communities, which have been operating in the country for 25 years from their initial registration, are able to approach the Seimas to grant them State recognition. Romuva has been operating legally now for over 25 years and corresponds to the demands raised to communities for granting State recognition (verified by the conclusions submitted to the Seimas by the Ministry of Justice and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania). Therefore it is now endeavoring to gain the right belonging to communities by virtue of the Laws of Lithuania. After all, we do reside in a country of laws. Or is that no longer the case?

Next, politician Ž. Pavilionis embodies himself into a scholar of religion and attempts to enlighten readers (among them, Seimas members as well). He presumes to want people to know what sort of values are being propagated by Romuva, “which has approached Seimas for State recognition – i.e., and the potential for being supported at the expense of the State and for having greater possibilities to disseminate its ‘religion’.”

If anyone should know, then someone who is a Seimas member, passing laws, and is an expert should surely know that the recognition of a religious community does not provide it with the right to support at the expense of the State. Only traditional religious communities recognized by the Seimas as such are able to receive consistent, annual payments from the State budget. No other religious communities, whether State recognized or not, have been granted such a right. Assuming Ž. Pavilionis is not lying but simply does not read the laws passed by Seimas, not even when he sits down to write an accusatory article, then this piece does not constitute an educational gap but a swindle … All that remains is the hope that this author is actually a decent person and that some full time assistant of his, who is a Google-religious scholar and a Google-legal expert, wrote this article in his behalf.

However, Ž. Pavilionis does not limit himself to merely the issue submitted to the Seimas for deliberation about the State recognition of Romuva. At the same time, he undertakes the crushing of the contents of the religious faith of Romuva itself. Could he succeed at diverting the attention of those Seimas members, who have to pass a resolution, from the primary issue at hand? Delving deeply into the role of a religious scholar, the politician (or his presumed assistant) takes on an “analysis” of what Gods Romuva believes in, which Gods are “authentic” and which are not, which are “primordial” and which came later – those that are derivative… Primitive reasoning, flavored with appropriate excerpts, is supplied by Google from writings by our most notable religious scholar Gintaras Beresnevičius (1961-2006) and by researcher of the Baltic culture and signatory of our Independence Act, Algirdas Patackas (1943-2015). The conclusion by the author of the article him/ (or) herself following a collection of excerpts like refrains is “shattering”. He (or she) writes, “Thus the primordial Baltic sense of the world has essentially nothing in common with the ‘faith’ being propagated by the current community. That is why they are not even called neo-Pagans but more likely, pseudo-Pagans. The verdict by A. Patackas is unmerciful. “The result is a sad one – we’ve raised our own sect of pseudo-Pagans, who are now actually striving to become a State religion,” Ž. Pavilionis cites the words of A. Patackas.

Did A. Patackas actually aim this verdict at Romuva? It is a good thing that Google-based citations are easily found with the help of that same Google. Why, the citation comes from a work by Patackas entitled “Saulė ir kryžius [The Sun and Cross]”, where he is not discussing Romuva at all. Rather he is talking about “positivist research on religions”, which, according to him, avoids talking about monotheism (i.e., the confession of one God) by archaic religions, including by the Baltic faith. Patackas tends to consider this sort of a positivist attitude, which is characteristic of even the young generation of researchers, as a consequence of acquiring an unconscious education. Here is what he actually writes: “Most likely that is a consequence of the humanitarianism predominating in our universities, which orients towards the materialistic trend of Santaros-Šviesa [a liberal federation]. However, the result is sad – we’ve raised our very own pseudo-Paganish sect, which is actually aiming to become a State religion. The Catholic Theology Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University can consider this topic as a ‘stone in their own garden’ as well …”

Indeed, the matter under discussion here is not Romuva. Rather, positivism in the scholarship on religions is, according to A. Patackas, a subject taught even in Catholic theology at Vytautas Magnus University… Thereby, Ž. Pavilionis needs to do some learning or he needs to teach the assistant writing his articles. The lesson should point out, when citing politically useful sentences, to read, at least, a few sentences above and then below the citation. Additionally one really should try to become thoroughly versed in what is being read, as much as possible…

As for “primordial Baltic world view”, which A. Patackas tended to associate with nations of primeval cultures (Urkulture), as far as he understood, had held the most archaic comprehension of one God. Meanwhile, Romuva truly does not identify with this. According to A. Patackas himself, the concept of one primordial God began disintegrating in the Aestii culture as early as the 1st century AD, when the period of polytheist religion began. Thus it is entirely logical that Romuva does not confess to the earlier, primeval religion and worldview but to the later period – the one with a polytheistic religion and worldview. Is it because the members of Romuva do not profess only one primordial God that Ž. Pavilionis has the right to bad-mouth them by calling them pseudo-Pagans? … Moreover, apparently he is doing this, not because A. Patackas supports his view, but simply from a thickheaded hatred for any religion unlike the one he confesses. It seems unlikely that this Seimas member, who is incapable of reading laws under passage, would have the patience to read and understand the writings by A. Patackas, who had devoted his life to this subject.

The second part of the article especially well illustrates the lack of patience and the surplus of hatred for people professing different beliefs, a matter that is eating at Ž. Pavilionis. Nimbly he juggles through the clichés of “Confronting Christianity”, “Kremlin’s Instructions” and “The Naisiai lands belong to Ramūnas Karbauskis”. Then this fighter against Pagans, Ž. Pavilionis, finally brings up a Hamlet-type question – “To Vote or Not to Vote?” Prior to his reply, he again makes use of a bunch of sentences taken out of context from an essay written by G. Beresnevičius, titled “Sinchronizacija [Synchronization]”. This essay criticizes “song and dance ensembles, glittering to the point of nausea, that have reached a height in the Soviet tradition of adapting Pagan customs”. However, Pavilionis fails to cite the praise for the “true” Pagans belonging to the Romuva led by Jonas Trinkūnas. Let us fully cite that section (Ant laiko ašmenų [On the Edge of Time], 2002, p. 91): “We should, after all, identify ‘true paganism'” (the term is not much in one way or another, but the true one would only be authentic from among the inauthentic) by first separating it from the ethnographic Paganish pop created by mass culture, which relies on brainwashing methods, “glosolalijas” (like the A. Tamaš group). Essentially true Pagans (author’s note: of them, I’d mention the Vilnius Romuva) do not engage in expansion aggression that is characteristic of sects (well, there’s truly never been a “Pagan missionary” who goes to people’s homes or latches onto people in a trolleybus, the way Protestant sects do).

Religion scholar G. Beresnevičius always tried to remain objective. It would be difficult to accuse him of ingratiating behavior towards the revivers of Paganism. Although he always declared clearly and explicitly that it is impossible to revive a statewide religion of the Ancient rulers and dukes, he never denied that a continuance of a Lithuanian religious tradition was possible in these times (see the link to his article here). He writes:

“It is necessary to entirely bravely assert that the continuation of Lithuanian traditions is possible during these times by moving into the religious level through different time phases, locations and objects, into that level of feeling and unity, which was and which continues constantly in the Lithuanian tradition, despite the rule of some sorts of religions and their varieties. The 19th century, differently than the 21st century, differently from the 16th, but these constitute the same measurements of life’s experiences and religious experiences. It possibly may be worded differently, but the nerve of every religion consists of the unique feelings never experienced in the secular sphere. They only exist in a religious relationship; furthermore they can only be put into words with great difficulty. There is nothing strange about that, because that constitutes going through an experience of holiness. In addition, since holiness is being experienced, the old tradition is in vital existence and its essence – lies in the feelings. All the pseudo-Oriental, new meditation and contemplation schools attempt to break the European backbone and force him/her over to yoga, samadhi and satori, usually without any results. The Lithuanian tradition is, after all, revived without special efforts and it leads to a sight and sense of religion that is one’s own and universal. This leads into a recognizable territory of essentials” (see G. Beresnevičius. “Apie (senosios) lietuvių religijos legitimacijos galimybę [On the possibility of legitimizing Lithuania’s RIGHT_BRACKETancientLEFT_BRACKET religion]”).

Meanwhile, even G. Beresnevičius himself had approached the leaders of Romuva on a number of occasions requesting a burial in the Romuva way. After his tragic departure on 2006 August 6, this was done under the leadership of Jonas Trinkūnas, the Krivis [High Priest] of Romuva. Beresnevičius had told Trinkūnas about this meaningfulness to the fate of Lithuania, as follows:

“The consecration of a Krivis (J. Trinkūnas) became a sign: the time has come to resist, retaining the self in all its forms and by all possible means. Even those sorts of means, or maybe, first of all, by such means. Europe has become unavoidable, and that is an opportunity (the last one in history) to begin reinforcing and developing a cultural, religious carcass and identity, which would be able to grow into a muscle of a free and persistent nation …”

Ž. Pavilionis ran out of patience to find claims favorable to himself in the writings by G. Beresnevičius. In his article, he simply strews a hodgepodge of incoherent fantasies and rhetorical accusations, which he ran out of patience so much as to try to substantiate and, apparently, he even ran out of knowledgeability, when he writes:

The effort of one community to usurp Lithuanianism (author’s note: 1. – the numbering here and henceforth of untruthful or misleading claims are my own, so it would be easier to reply to them – J.V.), which endeavors to register via law as State recognized and actually as a religion – is not right. The Constitutional Court has clearly stated that the list of communities of traditional religions cannot be artificially expanded; it has been completed (2). The Ministry of Justice has been entangled into an obvious controversy regarding the registration date of Romuva as a religious community. Whoever directed the Ministry of Justice to prepare a law for submission of such highly doubtful argumentation? A ‘Krivių Krivaitis‘ [High Priest] from the back seat (3)? The registration of a Baltic faith in a form that officially infringes upon the laws (4) discredits the Baltic worldview itself.”

The questions were short and clear; thus it remains to answer them in brief as well:
1. Romuva does not seek to usurp Lithuanianism. The use of a right established by law to be recognized in accordance with legal acts in effect does not mean Romuva is appropriating Lithuanianism for itself.
2. Romuva does not seek to expand the list of traditional communities. State recognition of a religious community does not presuppose the recognition of its traditionalism. This is clear to anyone who reads the laws.
3. Seimas directed the Justice Ministry (JM), because, according to the laws in effect, the Seimas requests a conclusion from the JM upon receiving a request from a religious community for State recognition; the conclusion is the basis for the Seimas to pass a resolution (specifically a resolution, not a law, which Ž. Pavilionis keeps on repeating erroneously).
4. Where, when and which laws were breached in this way? What sort of form and what kind of registration is being talked about? Here, directives and citations would be needed, but not from a fictional essay and not from a slanderous complaint sent to Seimas members by Kęstutis Račkaitis, who had been expelled from the Romuva community. Ž. Pavilionis cites this man at the end of his essay and even actually threatens Romuva with court by stating, “If that is true, then this matter is worthy, not of a vote by Seimas, but of an investigation by law enforcement.” Although Romuva doubts that a Seimas member would have the patience, time and desire to undertake such an action, it has already begun preparing a lawsuit regarding the slander disseminated by K. Račkaitis.

Ž. Pavilionis attempted to provoke doubt among Seimas members and hatred among the public towards the Romuva religious community that is seeking State legalization by legal means; thusly he has shown his true face. If it is true that he sees himself as one of the candidates for the upcoming Presidential election in the Republic of Lithuania, then may God have mercy and keep Lithuania from electing a president with a troll’s face disfigured by hatred for otherwise minded people.

P.S.: I am writing this reply on the desk of A. Patackas (RIP), sitting in His chair and sensing his, Algirdas the King of Lithuania, exuding an intensely piercing look at my left temple coming from his especially liked bas-relief figure of the ruler hanging from the wall of my workroom. Thus I am obligated to pass on a few stanzas of the final words written by Algirdas, my dear friend and “brother-in-arms”, to Ž. Pavilionis and others of his ilk. These words of his were rhymed and read at his funeral by his brother Gintaras:

Mano broliai yra ne broileriai, My brothers are not broilers
Netupėjau su jais vištidėje, I never perched with them in a chicken coop
Sakalai yra mano broliai Hawks are my bird brothers
Aukštybėje… Up there in heaven’s loop…

Ką galiu jums ištarti, troliai, What can I say to you, trolls,
Pakarti troleibuso sienų: Hung from trolleybus walls, pay heed
– Buvot moliai ir liksit moliai, – You were and you’ll remain moles
Esat jūs tiktai maistas hienų! You’re nothing more than hyena feed.

Su brangiausiais – neatsisveikinu… Those dearest – no goodbyes I’ll grace…
Mes, gyvieji, niekad nemirsime, We, who live, shan’t die nor sever,
Mėnulveidžiai ir saulaveidžiai, Moon-faces and sun-faces,
Į tikėjimą tyrą pavirsime, Converting to pure faith forever.

Į tikėjimą, į tekėjimą, Into faith, ever-flowing,
Į gaivaus dieviškumo srovenimą, Into a refreshing flux of Godliness,
Nes mes einame, kaip ir ėjome – Since we go on as we were going,
Ne į mirtį, o į gyvenimą. Not to death but to life no less.

The author of this article is a Vaidila [Priest] of Lithuania’s Romuva

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