Jonas Trinkunas teaches ethics at the Vilnius Pedagogical University.
In 1997, he was awarded the National Prize for his work and
contributions in the field of Lithuanian culture. The main area of
Trinkunas’ activity is the revival and popularization of the ancient
Baltic faith of the Lithuanians.
grant was given in support of Jonas Trinkunas's travel to
the the First International Gathering and Conference of Elders of
Ancient Traditions and Cultures, which was held in Mumbay, India, to
present his paper, "Revival of the ancient Baltic religions."
Additionally, Mr. Trinkunas represented The World Congress of Ethnic
Religions and Lithuanian Romuva Religion presenting the "fire
ritual" at the meeting and associated press conference. Jonas
Trinkunas resides in Lithuania.
According to the newly named high priest,
World Congress of the Ethnic
Religions) religion with Baltic roots has no human founder and no
major scriptures. It is based on folk beliefs, myths and folk songs (dainos).
However it is known that the origin of most ancient religion lies in
animism, springing from indigenous people who anthropomorphize the
environment. Early peoples understood everything in terms of
relationship, imbuing rocks, trees and animals with conscious, sacred and
In the 90s, Lithuania became independent and, because
the undercurrents of ancient beliefs were never completely squelched,
the oldest beliefs again surfaced among the people. Romuva
embodies the oldest religion in the Baltic region, which has no
beginning, predates recorded history, and extends indefinitely in the
Baltic culture. According to common scholarship, in 1236 Peter
of Dusburg, also known as Peter of Duisburg, was a Priest-Brother
and chronicler of the Teutonic Knights. He wrote that Nadruvia was the
location of Romuva (temple) a worship place at pre-Christian times in Lithuania, the sacred
center of Baltic peoples, defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of
the Indo-European language. From Romuva Kriwe, the chief priest or
"Pagan Pope", ruled over the religion of all the Balts. No
other sources mention the place. Scientists have considerable doubts if
such an organized structure existed. Anyone defining its origin more
completely is guilty of overlaying his or her own grid of assumptions on
a distant past that we simply cannot plumb.
Of the many ethnic backgrounds, the largest is still
Tatar in the Baltic region. The strongest political presence,
underscored by their Muslim origins has resulted in the establishment of
the state of Tatarstan. It is notable that Islam is represented by Sunii
as well as Shi'i in those regions. Moreover, reports from the Conference
in Mumbai at the revival of various world religions state that when
Sanskrit was discovered in the 18th century, a continuum of Sanskrit and
Baltic was completed, between which the other Indo-European languages
Before the Lithuanian revival, the Saami people in
the northern edges of the Baltic region practiced animism until about
200 years ago when they were Christianized along with the other Balts.
Tribal peoples had converted or had beliefs forced upon them by the
warlords, crusaders, neighboring countries and kingdoms. From Iceland,
Finland, Denmark and Sweden to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and
neighboring lands the perpetrators ranged from Qipchaq Tatars and
Teutonic Knights of Germany to Russian invaders who eventually
suppressed all religion within its conquered borders.
Because the countries that surround the Baltic sea
were so often traversed by marauders, traders, and crusaders, much of
the history reads like a monumental and convoluted epic. Nordic
countries of the Baltic region were largely converted to protestantism
of the Lutheran, Calvinistic and Reformed denominations. The southern
and eastern Baltic regions were more Catholicized, having fallen subject
to the Brothers of the Sword, an order formed by the Bishop of Livonia
for the sole purpose of converting the Baltics. Dressed in white tunics
with red crosses on them, the Brothers of the Sword were over-diligent
in their duties. Their uncontrollable zeal led to certain death or
subjugation of anyone in their path.
The Livonians were the first to be given power over
their neighbors in exchange for their conversion and cooperation. The
Livonians had been particularly weak until then and enjoyed the change
of pace that came with military support from the Brothers of the Sword,
who were in turn supported by Rome. With the Livonians to guide them,
the Swordbrothers, as they came to be called, conquered the Latvians,
Selonians and Lettgallians. The Brothers were only interested in having
a third of the wealth, so the people came to be ruled by Rome, under
local management, namely noblemen, Teutonic Knights, German landlords,
merchants and the clergy. There was more at stake for the conquered
physically and politically than spiritually in their own minds, and they
readily converted from one profession of faith to another as the current
The two exceptions were the Estonians, originally
allied with Russia, and Lithuanians whose king was unusually ruthless.
The Estonians had played an important role in the Baltic region and
resisted giving up their influence. They fought hard against subjugation
and conversion to Christianity. In Lithuania, King Mindaugas staved off
the German conquerors by making a deal with them. He accepted
Christianity and was rewarded richly, with his own throne. Of the Baltic
peoples, the Semgallians were the most practical, readily adopting a
Christian or Pagan religious stance whenever politically expedient.
Other notable religious sects include small Jewish
communities in Poland and Lithuania, but most were wiped out by the Nazi
genocide. There are also Muslim groups, some descending from the first
Qipchaq Tatars who arrived in the fourteenth century. Newer Muslim
immigrants are of a variety of ethnicities and represent three-quarters
of a million of the religious population in the Baltic region. Now
Christians, Jews and Muslims of a variety of ethnic backgrounds co-exist
throughout the Baltic states.
Revival of the Ancient Baltic religions. Retrieved
November 10, 2008, from First International Gathering and Conference of
Elders of Ancient Traditions and Cultures: http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/h_es/h_es_trink_j_baltic_frameset.htm
Religion In The Medieval Baltic. (1973). Retrieved November 10, 2008,
From Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences: http://www.lituanus.org/1973/73_1_06.htm
Religion, Science and the Environment. (2003).
Retrieved November 9, 2008, from Journal of the Artic Symposium: http://www.rsesymposia.org/more.php?catid=71&pcatid=46
RUMOVA - LITHUANIA
The Ancient Baltic religious community of Lithuania ordained its official highest priest
On October 19, 2002, Jonas Trinkunas, the winner of the J. Basanavicius prize (1997), was ordained into the priests of the Ancient Baltic religion of Lithuania and received the title of krivis.
The priest of traditional Baltic religion was inaugurated 600 years after Christianity was officially established in Lithuania. Long after the official christianization of the country, the Lithuanians venerated their ancient gods – Perkunas (Thunder), Zemyna, goddess of the earth, fate goddess Laima, and Gabija, goddess of fire. Historical documents indicate that at the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries people had been continuously worshipping and making offerings to the gods at the ancient sacred sites. Only in the small territory of west Lithuania about a thousand ancient ceremonial sites have been registered. These shrine-mounds, sacred springs, oaks, and stones are still celebrated by local people.
Efforts to revive native pre-Christian religion succeeded only at the end of the 20th century, when the Ancient Baltic religious community was registered in 1992. In ten years it was joined by many people: according to the latest Lithuanian census, the community has about 2,000 members and numerous supporters.
A year ago four members of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) applied for the state recognition of the Ancient Baltic religious community. The application sparked a lot of public discussions and received positive comments and evaluations from many people. Today in Lithuania ten religious communities have the status of state-recognised religions: the Roman Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Old Believers, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Reformed Church, Sunni Islam, the Karaites, the Jews, the Greek Catholic Church, and the Baptist Church.
The ordainment ceremony was held in the center of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, on the hill which is also the burial place of Grand Duke Gediminas of the 14th century. During the ceremony, the fire was ignited on the sacred altar. Krivis Jonas Trinkunas made an oath, said a prayer to the ancient gods and gave the offerings, and received the symbols of the highest religious power – the sign and brooch of the sun – fire, and the krivule. In the ceremony participated members of the Ancient Baltic religious communities from other Lithuanian cities, government officials, members of the Seimas, and reporters from major Lithuanian newspapers and TV stations. The krivule – the sign of the highest priest was presented by Algimantas Indriunas, the oldest member of the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic, who has had a life-long commitment to the Lithuanian pre-Christian religion. Although the celebration was scheduled on a rainy day of the fall, before the ceremony the rain stopped and the sun came out, and when it was over, it started raining again. Everybody was saying, gods are with us.
The ordained krivis addressed the audience in the following words:
“Dear friends, I speak under the direction of the last Lithuanian Krivis – Kestutis. I received this call forty years ago in the sacred grove of Verkiai. Daukantas, Vydunas, Basanavicius and other Lithuanian intellectuals called for the nation’s rebirth in Romuva. The way to today’s celebration was long and twisted like the krivule, but meaningful. The voice of the ancestors clearly stated the need to revive our traditional Baltic religion. How? The answer came from the common people of our country – villagers, farmers – the keepers and protectors of our folk culture. The moral code of our ancient faith, the stories of gods and goddesses, relics, rituals, chants, and the wisdom itself was handed down to us by respectable village elders. We live in the 21st century, the century of modernization, having maintained the cultural heritage of our ancestors. We still live with our Baltic gods and goddesses, we believe in their power and the omnipotence of our Earth-Zemyna.
I wish everyone harmony, love and confidence in life and loyalty to the ancestors, gods, and goddesses. God help, Laima bless!”
Gintaras Beresnevicius, the academic authority on pre-Christian religions, evaluated the ordainment of the krivis as an event of European proportions. According to him, the oldest nations of Europe, the Irish and the Lithuanians, are making historic steps in the preservation of their traditions (“Atgimimas,” No.38, www.atgimimas.lt).
Translated by Jurgita Saltanaviciute
EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF ETHNIC RELIGIONS
Trinkunas – After studying Lithuanian philology at Vilnius University, Jonas became involved in the ethnical movement ‘Romuva’ in 1967, in order to revive the authentic traditions of Lithuania – a country at that time under Soviet rule. The Romuva movement is an integral part of the revival and recovery of Europe's ancient religions. The name ‘Romuva’ was chosen in honour of the famous Baltic Prussian sanctuary, which was destroyed by Christians. It means ‘temple’ or ‘Sanctuary’ as well as ‘abode of inner peace’. The movement became popular and, in 1971, was prohibited by the KGB. Jonas was expelled from University when he was discovered working on a PhD thesis exploring ancient Baltic religion. He is the author and editor of the book ‘Of Gods and Holidays: The Baltic Heritage’, (Vilnius, 1999).After Lithuania restored its independence in 1990, the majority of previously suppressed organizations were re-established. Romuva established connections with other similar movements aiming at preserving cultural diversity and traditional religions. Lithuania Romuva currently embraces 10 communities and has several thousand members. In 1997, Jonas received a National J. Basanavičius Award for his contribution to the ethnic culture of Lithuania. He works at the Lithuanian Institute for Social Sciences, and is a member of the Council for the Preservation of Ethnic Culture to the Lithuanian Parliament. Jonas is chairman of the World Congress of Ethnic religions (WCER). He continues to work towards a sustainable future, fusing ancient and modern values in Lithuania. Jonas was officially inaugurated as Krivis (highest priest) of Romuva in 2002. With his ritual folk-group Kulgrinda, Jonas performs wedding and name giving ceremonies according to the Romuva tradition. More details can be found on the website:
Jonas is also chairman of the WCER – World Congress of Ethnic
Religions – see the website:
the organization changed its name to "European Congress of Ethnic Religions"
since this was initially published.
Krivis Jonas Trinkūnas
Jonas Trinkunas was born February 28, 1939 in Klaipeda, Lithuania
1960-1965 -Vilnius University, graduated with a major in Lithuanian language and literature
1969-1973 -Vilnius University, Philosophy Dept. graduate student and researcher. Dissertation on the ancient Lithuanian religious faith.
1967 - Organizer of Rasa Holiday (Summer Solstice) in Kernavė, the ancient capital of Lithuania, and Ramuva, an ethnic culture research club. Ramuva Club became the beginning of the current Romuva religion
1969-1973 - Graduate studies included research of local culture, and ethnography expeditions. Wrote articles on folk lore, mythology and philosophy.
1973 - Expelled from the University and prohibited to work in teaching or research as result of KGB and Communist institutions' repression and persecution for the following activities: Organization of folk music ensembles in Vilnius and rural villages; the 100 year anniversary commemoration for Vydūnas, a famous philosopher and initiator of the Romuva concept; and retention of contact with Prof. Marija Gimbutienė in the U.S.A., who actively promoted the Romuva
1973 - 1988 -Worked temporary jobs, and slowly, began to form folk music ensembles again.
1988 - National Rebirth period permits the return to research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology and the possibility of greater activity in the field of ethnic culture.
1988 - 1990 Reestablished Ramuva as a cultural organization, which evolves as the Lithuanian Romuva Baltic religion Union with 10 branches in the country.
1990 - 1993 Head, Ethnic Culture Dept. of the Ministry of Culture. Prepared programs for cultural activities with the purpose of establishing Ethnic Culture Centers in towns and regions.
1994 - present Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. Leadership position, Ethnic Culture Society, Prūsa Club, and member of
1989 - present Organizer, Ramuva Summer Camps, which have become popular throughout the country and abroad.
1997 National J. Basanavicius Award for activities in the field of ethnic culture.
Reaffirmation and promotion of the ancient Lithuanian Pagan religious faith. In 1991, the Romuva Religion Community is established and officially registered. Branches of the Community exist in the USA, Canada and other countries. Contacts have been established with Pagan organizations of neighboring countries, and further in Europe and the USA.
In 1998, arranged an International Conference in Vilnius, where the World Congress of Ethnic Religions is formed. Elected Chair of this Congress.
2013, on the occasion of the Statehood Day, for active anti-Soviet dissident activities,
organizing of ethnographic activities as well as underground distribution of religious and nationalistic literature, Jonas Trinkūnas was awarded by the President of Lithuania the Order of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas.
"Declaration from the World Pagan Congress" in Nature Religions Around the World; CIRCLE Network News; Nature Spirituality Quarterly, Fall 98, Issue 69, volume 20 - no. 3, USA; and other publications.
"Potent Pagan Powwow At Vilnius - Pagans Define Their Faith" in Hinduism Today, October, 1998.
Articles on ethnology and mythology for various Lithuanian publications.
"Les Fondements de L'ancieane religion Lituanienne", in L'ORIGINEL (Revue des sciences esoteriques et iniciaques), Nr.4, 1996; and "Entretien avec Jonas Trinkunas a propos de Romuva et de la renaissance du Paganisme Lithuanien" in ANTAIOS , Brussels, Dec., 1995.
"Of Gods and Holidays. The Baltic Heritage"(2000)
J. Trinkunas, RASA. Gotter und Rituele des baltischen Heidentums.
Arun Verlag.2002, Engerda.