Vij, Dieviņi, Zelta viju visgarām jūras malu,
Lai nenāca sveša salna šai zemē ziedu traukt.

Latvian culture

The main precondition for the existence of a nation also under the conditions of the modern era of globalization – the values of the traditional culture, where the main stress is laid on the immaterial national heritage – the ethnic religion of the folks. The awareness of each nation develops through its understanding about cultural values stemming out from its ethical roots and land.
Country of Latvia , people, traditions 


Its land is a sacred place for each nation, its specific and unrepeatable world outlook has been born and developed on it. A nation is a reflection of the land and vice versa. Each folk chooses such place of living that corresponds to its essence, and it is for Lets.

Dieviņš kāpa kumeļā
Es kāpslīti paturēju.
Man Dieviņš zemi deva
Par tā kāpšļa turējumu.
The God sat on the horse
I held the little stirrup
The God gave me land
For the holding of that stirrup
Latvia is the homeland of LETI since prehistoric times. They returned to this land after each ice age following the Sirius (Saata) star and called their territory of living  SĀTA [sa:ta]. The land of Leti lies near the coasts of the Baltic sea and its most splendid adornment, the way of life is the Daugava river. The Daugava begins in Valdai Hills and it has formed the way of amber in old times. It united the Mediterranean cultures with the Northern countries. The oldest news about the people of the territory comes from Heodotes (B.C. 5th century), Plinius Senior (1st c. B.C.), Cornelius Tacit (55 – 120 A.D) and other authors. Pavsanius (A.D. 2nd century) describes a northern folk – Hiperborei - , who brought presents to their God Apollonius (Leto’s san) to Dala Island from the coasts of the Baltic sea by the amber way. Roman and Greek travellers, on their turn, describe the people living in this territory as peaceful and wise. They were visited to get an advice from near and even farer countries. A folk song says:  

Svešas tautas brīnījās,
Cik dižena tauta nāca:
Baltas sagšas, sārtas jostas,
Treju zīļu vainadziņš,
Rāmi teka valodiņa
Kā avota dvēselīte.
Other people wandered
How grand these people came
White sagshas, red belts
Little crowns of three kinds of beads,
Language run peacefully
Like the soul of a spring.



Latvia is divided into four areas now: Latgale, Kurzeme, Vidzeme and Zemgale, and the ancient names of the tribes forming the later Latvian nationality are kept in these names – Lets, Kurshi, Semegallians and Selonians. The tribes had state structures – the ancient town lands or Great Lands. The people had their own understanding of the world and God, a specific way of living. Because of its geographical position, its large neighbours and not only neighbours have always been interested in . In 1095, the Pope Urban II invited Christians to participate in the first crusade. Other crusades followed and their causes were not only ideological, but also political, social, economical and, mainly, religious. The Baltic region was necessary for the strategic purposes of the tradesmen of Northern Germany and Gothland, and they were those who promoted a military expansion by a financial support. That was the way, how the period of independence ended in the land of Maara (Mary), and only the end of the 20th century came with a possibility to re-establish an independent state of , and to demonstrate its spiritual values and the world outlook. Various cultures have left their footprints on the ancient spiritual heritage of the Lets, although it has remained rather clear and untouched in comparison to other European nations.



The second half of the 19th century is called the age of the national awakening, where a great role was played by the collector and the developer of the system of folk songs Krisjanis Barons (1835 – 1923). He arranged the first issue of Latvian folk songs “Latvju dainas” (1894 – 1915) in six volumes. Dainas (folk songs) is the heritage of Latvian oral culture in the form of poetry. Their research has not ended till our days. Within the whole body of the Dainas there are about 3500 basic songs devoted to the God, 1000 devoted to Laima (the Godess of Good Luck) and 300 devoted to Mara (the Godess of Earth ) , but up to this time more than 9 000 Dainas mention or speak about the God.
The nation has kept also the old legends, fairy tales, beliefs, ways and other kind of heritage. Since September 4, 2001, Dainu skapis (the cabinet of folk songs) makes a part of the world cultural heritage and it is listed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Antons Rupainis – the world famous archaeolinguist, when exploring the time of origin of the Dainas and Vedas, has arrived to the conclusion that the Dainas and Vedas have been retained and come to us from deep pre-historic times – at least from 4 ice ages and the civilization of the Lets and the Balts is as ancient as that. The most ancient kind of cognitions has always been magnificent or the poetic one. When people in the past talked about the divine, they have always used the magnificent language of songs and have discarded the everyday language. The God is one for Latvians, but the God has many features, and, having been manifested in beautiful images, provide for understanding of the whole universe.

The next significant step in the awakening of the national spiritual culture was the work performed by Brastinu Ernests (1892-1942). Mr. Brastins is significant as a historian, a painter and a poet, a public figure, a person renewing the Latvian ethnic religion and the founder of Latvian God-keepers’ Community. The historical descriptions of Latvian spiritual life came mainly from the representatives of other nationalities; that is the reason, why they reach the level of tales in the descriptions of the God, Mara and Laima sometimes, the same regards the claims to consider almost every item or natural phenomenon mentioned in the folk sons as a deity. Mr. Brastins has collected dainas into God’s and Virtue songs – it was not done before; he described Latvian culture, the understanding of beauty and ornaments, solved the issues of painting and art. He wrote twenty books within twenty years. Four summers, he headed the expeditions measuring and describing all the hill forts of . E. Brastins thought that the human values are the result of the common development of different nations. The national idea keeps the principle of culture and, therefore, turns into the urge for the eternal creativity, consequently, the way of life and its existence.

The conscience of the nation and its greatest soul is Rainis (Janis Plieksans, 1865 - 1929), the poet, playwright and publicist. His words, „Spirit will see a new light though the circles of time” is selected as the motto of the 10th conference of the World Ethnic Religions that will take place in Latvia, because the basic theme of the conference is the ethnic religions as the central axis of the immaterial culture of nations especially topical under the present conditions of the globalization.

Rainis has said, „To found a society of missionaries. So that the mission would not press upon the Christian nations, the religions of which may be higher. So that they would not make pressure by the capitalism and its technical culture and spiritual savagery.” (KR, 24., p. 681) And more: „The historical cultures have a great advantage, an old heritage of culture to be supplemented. This little morsel of history can be used, if the nation keeps it in a living memory and each generation develops in its own way. The little morsel of history, in the end, forms the highest summits, more sacred even than the history of the nation: heroic and tragic struggle for the independence. The nation, who does not develop this heritage, is the nation without past even in the case of its long history.” (KR, 24., p. 578)


The ancient singers have not remained silent in our days; they have found the way to express themselves in Song and Dance Festivals taking place once in five years. The First General Latvian Song Festival took place in 1873; and in 1948, the Song Festival was united with the I Dance Festival. The Song and Dance Festival is a unique tradition gathering together the best choirs and dance groups from all the . More than 13 000 participants were singing in the joined choir of the Festival on the Song Festival Open Air Stage in the final concert of the year 2003. It is one of the most impressive choir performances seen in the world. Also the Dance Festival taking place simultaneously joins more than 13 000 dancers. The next Song and Dance Festival will take place in 2008. In November, 2003, UNESCO registered the Song and Dance festivals of , and in the prestigious List of Masterpieces of the human oral and immaterial heritage as one of the unique culture wonders of our planet necessary to protect and preserve.



The tradition to celebrate solstice is as old as Latvians always depending in their way of living from the calendar of the Sun and its rites. Eastern tribes counted their year by the Moon, our and other Western tribes had the year of the Sun. Celebrations and sacred days had naturally stemmed out from the eternal, annual rhythm with the Sun in the centre. The Sun, by the way, is not worshiped religiously, but only praised poetically as a divine institution and the regulator of the seasons. The ancient counting of time stems out of the rite of the Sun within the relevant year.

Vij, Dieviņi, zelta viju
Visgarām jūras malu,
Lai nenāca sveša salna
Šai zemē ziedu traukt.
Twist, the God, the golden wreath
Along the coast of sea
So that a foreign frost did not came
To freeze the flowers of this land.


Many old traditions extinct in Europe are still retained by our nation. The most splendid celebration of the year is the Midsummer –  John’s day, the festivity most often mentioned in the folk songs. About 200 dainas tell about the humanized midsummer image, the son of the God Janis, but the course of the celebration and singing of Ligo songs is included in more than 2000 folk songs. The meaning and procedure of St. John’s celebration correspond to the old traditions of the nation as before, but the only difference that has occurred under the Christian tradition is the deviation for two days to a later date that might be returned to the previous state by the promoted understanding and awareness.

Fire takes an outstanding role in the celebration of the midsummer – it is a part of the celebration ritual. It adds a particular magnificence, symbolizes the victory of the good over the evil, the light over the dark. Highly raised fire symbolizes the sun in the zenith. People gather around campfires in the John’s night, they sing, dance, perform the rituals characteristic for this night, play to the dawn of the morning. Even if the sun sets down behind the horizon, the light does not cease to burn and everybody stays up to meat the sunrise. When the rising sun is met and the face is washed in the morning dew, the blessing is received and the dark has not place in the farm, in the folk and self any more.


The Latvian awareness of the God – Dievturiba


Each nation is as rich, as many seeds may be found in its hope chest – the spiritual experience accumulated by generations or the IMMATERIAL CULTURAL HERITAGE. The spiritual experience of our folk is summarized in DAINAS – one of the bulkiest depositories of the immaterial culture of the world. It may be noticed when reading dainas, they contain a full and clear understanding of the World and the God, a wide collection of spiritual beliefs, knowledge and traditions.

In these Dainas everything that our people have thought about the God (DIEVS), Laima and Mara, and the main regularities of the universe is expressed. The whole body of the folk-songs is so great, that the collection and the arrangement of them has not ben finished yet.

The Latvian religion is called The Godkeeping – Dievturiba. The Keeping of the God – this notion is found in the Dainas and is derived from the widely used word to KEEP (in the meaning of maintain): to keep the honour, to keep good mind. 

The central divine being in the Latvian religious system is the God - DIEVS.

Dievs is the primary substance, principle, spirit and soul.  It is the creator, establisher and maintainer of everything that existed, exist and will exist. Dievs is the super personality – independent of time, space and place. Dievs is closely connected with the definite moment, making the present moment more important than the past or the future.

Dievs is one for Latvians, but the diversity of the world and at the same time its unity is encompassed in three main images: the God, Mara and Laima.

Dievs, Laima and Mara  are the expression of the meaning and contents of the Universe, where:

The GOD is what exists and remains, the beginning and the sustainer of everything;
MARA  - the mother of Earth and the symbol of the world of matter;
LAIMA  is the unfolding of fate and the representation  of the causal relationship.
All the three principles are the representations of one and the same essence. Dievs, Mara and Laima nowadays are called the SPIRIT, MATTER and DESTINY.

Latvians have brought the knowledge about the Space of Being through the times from the pre-historical period that includes the understanding about the God’s laws in the world and a person’s place in it, the life in This and That Sun, but, what is the most important, it is the wisdom standing above the believing. Roberts Muks has said: „The word ‘religion’ can be attributed to the beliefs of the world of dainas or only to dievturiba. It would be more adequately to speak about gnosis – wisdom, knowledge of life that is not “more primitive” than the esoteric found in other religions. It means only the following: while the religions we know are based on a blind belief, Latvian dievturiba is wisdom – the set of knowledge about God and the world created by the God, and its laws.” And more: „A significant thing is also the fact, the folk songs do not mention the word ‘to believe’ in religious meaning. A Latvian had not had to believe in God, because he guessed, he found it in an intuitive way. One more significant moment – such guess is implied in poetic images usually. The poet does not need to believe, because every single thing is alive and with the soul in the world created by the God.” (Roberts Mūks. Dievs, Dieviņi un velniņi, pages 115 and 47)

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