Nourishment for the Soul – Nourishment for the Body: Animal Remains in Early Medieval Pomeranian Cemeteries
Andrzej Kuczkowski and Kamil Kajkowski
The Ritual Killing and Burial of Animals, ed. A. Pluskowski, Oxford-Oakville (Oxbow Books, 2012)
In the first part of the title we find a somewhat deceitful expression, because we do not know if Slavs had any knowledge of the idea of the soul before the introduction of Christianity. It is only known that they had to have some imagined conception of the world beyond, and acknowledged the existence of dead there. Late medieval sources clearly refer to souls, which in traditional folk beliefs were periodically returning to feed and warm themselves by the fires made by the living. This kind of conception can be merged with Slavic eschatology. There is multiple evidence to confirm that belief some form of spirit or soul was spreading amongst the people, who in the early medieval period, bordered directly with Pomerania.
In Scandinavia the spirit of the dead, depending on its earthly behaviour would go to Valhalla or chthonic, grim Hel. Another element of lore is taken from the traveller called Ghillbert de Lannoy (who was in Livonia from 1413 to 1414) and from him we know that amongst the Balts, based on the smoke escaping from the funeral pyre, it was believed the soul was either going straight to the gods or vanishing into nothingness. On the other hand the idea of the soul itself could have been due to the influence of the Christian religious system. In this case we can say that the Slavs believed in the possibility of returning from the dead on earth in some kind of form, which would have typical existential human needs such as feeling hunger and cold.