Jarilo (Cyrillic: Ярило or Јарило; Pl: Jaryło; Hr: Jura or Juraj; Sr: Đurilo; Slavic: Jarovit) was a major male Proto-Slavic deity of vegetation, fertility and spring, also associated with war and harvest. The only historic source that mentions this deity is a 12th century biography of proselytizing German bishop Otto of Bamberg, who, during his expeditions to convert the pagan tribes of Wendish and Polabian Slavs, encountered festivals in honor of the war-god Gerovit (Jarovit). The worship of this god survived in Slavic folklore for a long time after Christianization. Up until the 19th century in Russia, Belarus and Serbia, folk festivals called Jarilo were celebrated in late spring or early summer. The Slavic root jar means spring/summer. Even the Slavic name Yury, Jerzy, Juraj or Jura is not as much a translation of Greek Georgios as a continuation of Slavic Jare, Jarilo or Jarovit.
A Croatian scholar Radoslav Katiči identified a key phrase of ancient mythical texts which described Jarilo: “…Gdje Jura/Jare/Jarilo hodi, tu vam polje rodi…” “…Where Jura/Jare/Jarilo walks, there your field gives birth…”
“St. George is a spring holiday, which is celebrated on 23 or in some
places on 24 April, according to the Orthodox calendar on 6 May.
Christian saint St. George is known for the legend that kills the dragon
or snake. Older tradition knows George Green, who was in the
pre-Christian religion feast beginning of spring. This feasts are tied
to a cult of Jarylo which is a Slavic god of vegetation, fertility and
springtime. Root “jar” or “yar” means spring or summer or strong.
the 19th century in Russia, Belarus and Serbia, folk festivals called
Jarilo were celebrated in late spring or early summer. Early researchers
of Slavic mythology recognised in them relics of pagan ceremonies in
honor of an eponymous spring deity. Best preservations of pagan folk
tradition has been maintained in Northern Croatia and Southern Slovenia,
especially Bela krajina, similar spring festivals were called Jurjevo
or Zeleni Juraj or Zeleni Jurij (Green George), nominally dedicated to
All of these
spring festivals were basically alike: processions of villagers would go
around for a walk in the country or through villages on this day.
Something or someone was identified to be Jarilo or Juraj: a doll made
of straw, a man or a child adorned with green branches, or a girl
dressed like a man, riding on a horse. Certain songs were sung which
alluded to Juraj/Jarilo’s return from a distant land across the sea, the
return of spring into the world, blessings, fertility and abundance to
Yarilo is the god of erotic sexuality, similar to Dionysus. He is young and fair, and wears a white cloak and a wild-flower crown. Yarilo leads a white horse and goes barefoot, carrying a bunch of wheat ears in his left hand, and a human skull in his right. His rites are in the springtime and at harvest, as he is a vegetation deity. His feasts were celebrated in Russia into the nineteenth century. In one story, he is the son of Dazhbog and Lada. At Lada’s command, he opens the gates of the sky and descends to earth, bringing spring, then he returns to the heavens at the end of summer. It is said: “Where he treads with his feet, there is an abundance of rye; And where he casts his eyes, ears of wheat will spring.”