What's a Daina?

Holzkunst in Großschönau: Donnergott Perkunas
Holzkunst in Großschönau: Donnergott Perkunas (Photo credit: Roberto Verzo)

In Latvian and Lithuanian folklore, most of what is known about the old gods comes from the Dainas, folksongs and poems that were collected in the early 1900s. There are something in the realm of two hundred thousand dainas that were collected in Latvia, of which a tiny handful have been translated into English, and most of those books are out of print as well. In the hope of making things a little easier for the next person to come along, I’m going to share some of the Latvian and Lithuanian dainas that are relevant to the mythology.

These are from The Daina: An Anthology of Lithuanian and Latvian Folk-Songs by Uriah Katzenelenbogen, published in 1935.

With nine whips of lightning
Perkons flayed the oak,
For he lashed the roots with three
And with six he lashed the limbs (Kr. B. 33713)

Out over the waves went Perkons
And the rain has poured into the sea;
The peasant prays to little Perkons:
“Go, Perkons, over the earth,
Go, Perkons, over the earth.”
For the ears of barley have withered. (Kr. B. 33711)

The numbers at the end of each correspond to the numbers assigned by Krišjānis Barons when he collected the daina in question. If you’d like to view them in the original Latvian, you can search by number at Latvian Dainas.

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