Skip to Content

Živa: A Guide to its Meaning and Origin

Živa is a goddess worshiped by the Slavic Polabians, a tribe belonging to the Obodritic confederation of the Polabian Slavs. The name Živa means “life” or “living” in Slavic languages, and the goddess was associated with love, life, and fertility. Historical sources refer to her most often under the name Siwa, and recorded variously as Sivve, Shiwa, Sieba, Syeba, and Dsiva.

According to the Chronicle of Helmold of Bozov, Živa appeared only in the context of the strengthening of the pagan cult during the reign of Niklot. The goddess was considered a mother goddess and was associated with the harvest, fertility, and childbirth. She was also believed to be a protector of women and children, and her worship was widespread among the Slavic Polabians.

Today, Živa is still revered by some Slavic neopagans, who see her as a symbol of life, fertility, and the natural world. Her image can be found in various forms of Slavic art, including pottery, jewelry, and embroidery. Despite the limited historical records of her worship, Živa remains an important figure in Slavic mythology and continues to inspire modern interpretations and celebrations.

Živa in Mythology

Slavic Mythology Origins

Živa is a mother goddess in Slavic mythology, specifically belonging to the Obodritic confederation of the Polabian Slavs. She is known to represent fertility, love, and marriage, and is often portrayed as the opposing personification to Mara, the goddess of death. Chronicler Helmold of Bozov described the strengthening of the pagan cult during the reign of Niklot, and mentioned Živa as one of the goddesses worshipped by the Slavs.

Symbolism and Representation

The name Živa translates to “She who lives” and is often associated with the concepts of life and vitality. In some traditions, she is also known as Živena. Živa is usually depicted as a young woman with long hair, holding a sheaf of wheat and a flower. She is also sometimes associated with the sun, and is believed to have the power to control the weather. Živa is considered to be a powerful goddess, and is often invoked for blessings related to fertility and the continuation of life.

Overall, Živa is an important figure in Slavic mythology, representing the forces of life and vitality. Her symbolism and representation have been passed down through generations, and continue to be an important part of Slavic culture and tradition.

Cultural Significance

Folklore and Traditions

Živa is an ancient Slavic goddess of life, love, and fertility. She was worshipped by the Polabian Slavs and other Slavic tribes. According to folklore, she represented the life-giving force of nature and was associated with water, particularly springs and rivers. In Slavic mythology, Živa was often depicted as a beautiful young woman with long hair, wearing a wreath of flowers on her head.

Throughout history, Živa has been an important figure in Slavic culture. She was often invoked in fertility rituals and was believed to have the power to bless crops and ensure a bountiful harvest. In some traditions, young girls would dress up in white and sing songs to Živa in the hope of attracting a good husband.

Modern Depictions

In modern times, Živa has become a symbol of Slavic heritage and culture. Her image can be found on various items, such as jewelry, clothing, and artwork, as well as in literature and music. Živa is still celebrated in some parts of Eastern Europe, particularly in Slovenia, where there are festivals and events dedicated to her.

The goddess has also been the subject of scholarly research, with some scholars arguing that Živa represents a prehistoric Indo-European goddess of life. Her name has been linked to other ancient goddesses, such as the Greek goddess of life, Zoe, and the Hindu goddess of fertility, Shiva.

Overall, Živa remains an important figure in Slavic culture and mythology. Her legacy continues to inspire artists, writers, and scholars, and her image remains a beloved symbol of Slavic heritage.

Linguistic Aspects


The name “Živa” is derived from the Slavic word “živ” which means “to live”. It is believed that Živa was the goddess of life in Slavic mythology, representing fertility, love, and marriage. Her name is associated with the concept of vitality and the continuation of life.

Name Variations

Živa is also known by various other names in different Slavic languages. For example, in Polish, she is referred to as “Żywa”, while in Czech, she is known as “Živa” or “Živena”. In some parts of Russia, she is called “Zhivaya”, which also means “living”.

It is worth noting that the name “Živa” has various spellings and pronunciations depending on the region and language. In some cases, the name is written with a diacritic mark, such as the caron (ž), which indicates a different pronunciation of the letter “z”.

Overall, the name “Živa” is significant in Slavic mythology and represents the concept of life and vitality. Its variations across different Slavic languages are a testament to the diversity and richness of Slavic culture and traditions.

Comparative Mythology

Parallels in Other Cultures

Živa, the Slavic goddess of life, fertility, love, and marriage, shares some similarities with other deities from different cultures. For instance, the Hindu goddess Shiva has a similar name, and both Živa and Shiva are associated with life and vitality. Additionally, the Greek goddess Aphrodite shares some qualities with Živa, such as being a goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. These similarities suggest that there may be some underlying universal themes and archetypes that are present in different mythologies.

Živa and Other Deities

Živa is not the only deity associated with life and fertility in Slavic mythology. For example, the god Jarilo is also associated with fertility and the renewal of life. However, Živa is unique in that she is specifically associated with female fertility and childbirth. This suggests that Živa played an important role in the lives of Slavic women, who likely looked to her for protection and guidance during pregnancy and childbirth.

In conclusion, Živa is a fascinating figure in Slavic mythology, with connections to other deities from different cultures and a unique role as a goddess of female fertility and childbirth. By studying Živa and other mythological figures, we can gain a better understanding of the universal themes and archetypes that are present in different mythologies.

Art and Literature

Živa in Visual Arts

Živa, the Slavic goddess of fertility and life, has been a popular subject in visual arts throughout history. Depictions of her often show her holding a sheaf of wheat or other symbols of abundance and fertility. In modern times, her image has been used in various forms of art, including paintings, sculptures, and even tattoos. Her depiction in art is a testament to her enduring popularity and the continued relevance of her message of abundance and fertility.

Literary References

In addition to visual art, Živa has also been referenced in literature. In Slavic mythology, she is often associated with the harvest and the changing of the seasons. This symbolism has been used in literature to convey themes of rebirth and renewal. For example, in the novel “The Witcher” by Andrzej Sapkowski, Živa is referenced as a goddess of fertility and abundance, and is associated with the character Ciri, who is herself a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Overall, Živa’s influence on art and literature is a testament to her enduring popularity and the continued relevance of her message of abundance and fertility.

Religious Practices

Rituals and Worship

Živa was a goddess of water and life, and her worship was centered around these themes. Her followers would often visit natural springs and streams, where they would offer gifts and perform rituals to honor the goddess. These rituals often involved pouring water or other liquids as offerings, and sometimes included singing or chanting. Živa was also associated with fertility, and her worship included rituals to promote successful crops and healthy livestock.

Historical Sites

The chief holy place of goddess Živa was in the city Ratibor (Ratzenburg), south of Lubice (later Lübeck). This site was an important pilgrimage destination for Živa’s followers, who would travel from far and wide to visit the sacred spring and perform rituals in honor of the goddess. Other historical sites associated with Živa include natural springs and rivers throughout Slavic lands, where her followers would gather to perform rituals and offer gifts. Today, many of these sites are still considered sacred by modern Pagans and are visited as part of spiritual pilgrimage.