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TRIGLAV , a three-headed deity of the heathen Slavs, was literally named: from tri,"three," and glava, "head." Worship of him in the temple at Szczecin (Stettin), Pomerania, is attested by Herbord, Ebbo, and Monachus Prieflingensis, the three biographers of Otto, a twelfth-century bishop of Bamberg. According to Herbord, the image of Triglav at Szczecin had three heads joined to one another. Ebbo states that the image was of gold; Monachus Prieflingensis asserts that all three heads were silver-plated. Another idol of Triglav stood in the town of Wolin. Both images were destroyed by Otto.

No detailed description of the image of Triglav exists. One of the interesting features of this god is that he was connected with the number three. His idol stood on the largest of the three hills of Szczecin, and the black horse consecrated to him and used in divination was led thrice across nine (thrice three) lances that were placed in front of the temple, about a yard apart.

In the words of the high priest of the temple at Szczecin, Triglav had three heads in order to make it known that he ruled over three realms: heaven, earth, and the underworld. Ebbo refers to him as the "summus deus" ("highest god"). Hence, Triglav may have been either a manifestation of three major gods or three aspects of one god. The black horse and the mention of the underworld suggest Triglav's ties with Veles-Volos, the god of death and the underworld, a deity standing in opposition to Sventovit, the god of heavenly light, who was associated with a white horse. Triglav may also have been related to Chernoglav, the "black god," who had a silver mustache and who was worshiped at Rügen, as mentioned in the Knytlingasaga (1265).

Tricephalous sculptures, mostly undated, have been found in South and East Slavic areas (Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Russia); in France, Gallo-Roman sculptures of three-headed gods date from the second to the fourth century ce. A tricephalous figure called the Thracian Rider was known in the ancient Balkan world, particularly in Bulgaria, and his image is preserved on hundreds of stelae of the second and third centuries ce. The name of Triglav has been retained in the toponymy of all Slavic areas, proving its common Slavic origin.


Machál, Jan. "Slavic Mythology." In The Mythology of All Races, vol. 3, edited by Louis H. Gray and George Foot Moore, pp. 217220. Boston, 1918.

Palm, Thede. Wendische Kultstätten: Quellenkritische Untersuchungen zu den letzten Jahrhunderten slavischen Heidentums. Lund, 1937.

Pettazzoni, Raffaele. "The Pagan Origins of the Three-Headed Representation of the Christian Trinity." Journal of Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 9 (1946): 135151.

Pettazzoni, Raffaele. "West Slav Paganism." In his Essays on the History of Religions, pp. 151163. Leiden, 1967.

New Sources

Kapica, F. S. Slavyanskije tradicionnije verovanija, prazdniki i rituali [Slavic traditional beliefs, festivities and rituals]. Moscow, 2001.

Petruhin, A. Y., T. A. Arapkina, L. N. Vinogradova, and S. M. Tolstaya. Slavyanskaja mifologija [Slavic mythology]. Moscow, 1995.

Shaparova, N. S. Kratkaya enciklopedija slavyanskoj mifologii [A short dictionary of Slavic mythology]. Moscow, 2001.

Tokarev, S. A. "Mifi narodov mira [World myths]." Bolshaya Rossijskaya Enciklopedija, vol.12. Moscow, 1998.

Marija Gimbutas (1987)

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