Like many of those who read The Book Haunt, my mythological background is Greco-Roman and Norse. Andrew Paciorek’s Black Earth: A Field Guide to the Slavic Otherworld was a venture into the unknown for me; a journey into a mythology and a worldview that was both alien and familiar.
First, I have to give credit where it’s due.
Paciorek’s descriptions and explanations of each of the gods made them relatable for someone brand new to Slavic mythology. There are at least a handful of parallels between Slavic and other European mythologies that the author made sure to note, but this commentary was grounded in well-researched reality.
(On an entirely personal note, it was also a pleasant surprise to encounter familiar names from American Gods—namely Zorya and Czernobog.)
In terms of the book’s structure, building from the heights of the divinity all the way down to the superhero figures was a nice touch. More abstract Slavic ideas of creation and the ideas of good vs. evil—which were really seen as more a reflection of the seasons and the tides of change—gave way to common, everyday folk beliefs.
I also appreciated the additional etymological exploration of each name (where possible); it provided an authentic sense of language while also detailing changes and how they relate to the more common name that particular deity is known as.
My only point of criticism—if it can be considered that at all—that, if you’re well versed in Slavic mythology already, you will likely be revisiting familiar material. But this is no fault of the book’s; it reads truly and authentically like an actual field guide for mythology, and that’s something I will never get enough of.
I would highly recommend this Paciorek’s work for anyone who might be looking for a reference book for Slavic myth, or a go-to guide to start their journey into the world of Slavic mythology.
In all, I would give Black Earth: A Field Guide to the Slavic Otherworld 4.5 out of 5 stars. The structure of the book was a huge asset, and Paciorek’s love of the topic truly shows in this work.
Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you so much, and thanks for reading!
Slavic mythology is actually one of my favorites of the world mythologies. I also feel like it doesn’t get enough love, and yet it has left its mark in pop culture in more ways than we think. How many good horror stories or Gothic novels involving vampires and werewolves would we have without the Slavic myths? Even Disney’s “Fantasia” has the Slavic god of darkness, Chernabog, as the villain in the short A Night on Bald Mountain.
I know I posted a comment recently, but another thought came to my mind. While all mythology has its light and dark themes, some mythology is darker than others. And I wonder why Slavic mythology is so dark? It’s interesting. When you read their history it’s very brutal. Again, there is brutality in every countries history, but it seems like some countries have more brutal histories than others, and the eastern European countries, where these Slavic myths originated, have a lot of brutal history.