Loneliness and the lack of strong ties between people is a feature of modern left-liberal civilization that distinguishes it from all the others. Modern man is born, lives and dies alone, all his social ties are superficial, even family ties have lost their depth. The only thing in this world that can serve as a source of pure perception of life is war. Mortal danger unites, cleanses the existence of everything superfluous, leaving only what a person experiences when his life is compressed to a single moment here and now.
In the process of rallying in the face of danger, bonds and relationships are formed between warriors that in the rest of the world exist only in the form of pale glimpses – the tradesman or merchant does not know such bonds, fears or rejects them, preferring a warm roof and a stuffed belly, rather than the obligations that are imposed on anyone joining a military alliance.
Brotherhood in the Traditions of Europe in terms of priority was even higher than tribal ties. The fact is that communication with the Gods took place through the head of the clan and the head of the families that made it up. The custom of twinning brought young men into direct contact with the Gods, bypassing parents and grandfathers as the elders in the family (sometimes they could be witnesses to this ritual). Young people, who tested their courage in hunting and in battles, included the bonds of brotherhood, taking the Gods as witnesses – without anyone’s mediation.
In the military tradition of our Motherland, Brotherhood dates back to Scythian times, because the Scythian kingdom existed on the territory of Ukraine from the 7th century BC to the 3rd BC for 700 years, covering most of the territory of Ukraine. There were the Scythians who recorded the first brotherhood traditions on the territory of Ukraine. Here is how the Scythian Toxaris told the Greek Mnesippus about them in the dialogue “Toxaris or Friendship” by Lucian of Samosata:
“I want to tell you how we make friends. Not drunk, like you, or from growing up together or from the neighborhood. No, when we see a person who is valiant and capable of making great victories, we all rush to him … we do everything to achieve friendship and not seem unworthy of him. And when someone is chosen as a friend, an alliance is concluded and the greatest oath takes place: to live with each other and die, if necessary, for each other. At the same time, we act as follows: having cut our fingers, we collect the blood in a bowl and, exposing the tip of the swords, both drink from it; after that, there is nothing to separate us”.
Lucian of Samosata
He also cites the story of the Scythian twins of Dandamid and Amizok, whose settlements were suddenly attacked by the Sarmatians on the 4th day after the oath. When Amizok was taken prisoner, he began to call his brother. Dandamid, leaving everything, swims across the river, which has already passed by the Sarmatians. Realizing that there were many more enemies, he shouts out: “Zirin!” This word meant readiness to ransom the captive. But Dandamid had nothing left after the Sarmatian raid – he lost all material values suitable for ransom. Then the Sarmatian leader desired the eyes of Dandamid, as payment for freedom and life. He, without any doubt, allowed his eyes to be cut out, and together with the liberated Amizok, they left the enemy camp – the sighted Amizok led the blinded Dandamid. The Scythians, having learned about this, resumed their fighting spirit, went on the offensive and the Sarmatians were forced to flee to the Don. Amizok could not live sighted, knowing that Dandamid became blind in order to free Amizok. Therefore, Amizok voluntarily underwent blinding. Throughout their lives, the Scythians supplied them with everything they needed, respected them as a living example of unity, and after death they included them in the cult of brotherhood.
The second story that Toksarid told is about the Scythian brethren:
“One day, this Abavkh came to the city of the Borysthenites, bringing with him his wife, whom he loved, and two children: a baby boy and a seven-year-old girl. His comrade Gindap traveled with him, suffering from a wound received on the way during the attack of the robbers. While fighting with them, he was wounded in the thigh, so, because of the pain, he could not stand. At night, when they were sleeping (they had to stay in the upper part of the house), a terrible fire started. The flames that surrounded the house on all sides blocked all exits. Waking up, Abavkh left the crying children, pushing his wife, who grabbed him, ordering her to save herself, and, grabbing his friend in his arms, ran out with him. He barely managed to escape in that direction, where not everything was engulfed in flames. His wife, carrying the baby, ran after him, ordering the girl to follow her. Half-burnt, she let go of the baby and with difficulty escaped from the fire, followed by her daughter, who also nearly died.
When later someone began to reproach Abavhu for trying to save Gindap, leaving his wife and children, he objected: “It is easy for me to have children again. It remains to be seen whether they will be good, and such a friend as Gindap, I can not find even after a long search. He gave me a lot of proof of his loyalty”.
The Scythians even had Brotherhood deities, who had the name Koraki. Individual warriors who displayed incredible victories for the sake of the life of their fellows were proclaimed to be the living embodiment of these Deities.
Celtic Warriors on the Gundestrup Cauldron
Brotherhood was also common among the Celts, some tribes of which in the III-I century BC lived on the territory of Ukraine, mainly in Transcarpathia, where about 40 Celtic settlements were found. Gaius Julius Caesar writes about the brotherhoods of the Celtic tribes of the Gauls in his Notes on the Gallic War, with whom he fought for a long time and had the opportunity to study their military traditions and make sure of the loyalty of the Celtic brothers during the battle of the Romans with the Celts:
“… from another part of the city, the chief leader of the Sotiates, Adiatun, tried to make a sortie at the head of a detachment of six hundred “devotees”, whom the Gauls call “solduries”. Their position is this: they usually enjoy all the blessings of life together with those to whose friendship they have dedicated themselves; but if these latter suffer a violent death, then the soldiers share their fate or take their own lives; Until now, in the memory of history, there has not been a single such soldier who would refuse to die in the event of the murder of the one to whom he doomed himself as a friend. It was with them that Adiatun tried to break through“.
The cult of brotherhood was passed on to the descendants of the Scythians – the warlike ancestors closer to us – the warriors of Rus and the Cossacks of the Zaporizhian Army.
In Rus epics, two types of brotherhood are mentioned – named and cross. The named twinning refers to the times of the dominance of the traditional religion of Rus, before the adoption of Christianity. Cross twinning was a later adaptation of the pagan custom to the new religious and political circumstances. The ritual of cross brotherhood consisted in the exchange of crosses, which was reinforced by an oath of allegiance in the struggle of life. It was in the struggle, because this custom was exclusively in the druzhina environment.
A great example is the ancient legend “Battle of the Dunay with Dobrynya”, which mentions both types of brotherhood:
“Dunay Ivanovych saw the horsemen and said: – My brother named Ilya Muromets is riding there, he will help me kill my opponent.
Dobrynya Mykytych also saw the riders: “My cross-brother, old Ilya Muromets, is riding there, he will help me kill my opponent.”
Ilya Muromets approached the heroes and said to them: “May God help you! What are you fighting for, what are you competing for?”
Dunai Ivanovich came to complain: “I served the king of Liakhovets for 20 years and the king gave me a black tent, a barrel of green wine, a gilded bowl and an oak pillar with a ring. And Dobrynya Mykytych drove here and trampled the barrel and the bowl, tore the black tent and scattered everything across the open field”.
And Ilya Muromets said: “You are guilty, Dobrynya; you need to cut off your head.”
Here, Dobrynya began to complain: “I traveled all over the land, all over the countries, looking for my adversary, but I could not find him anywhere. I drove through a clear field and saw a black tent, and near the tent – a barrel of green wine. There was a gilded bowl on the barrel, and the inscription engraved on it was: “Whoever does not lift this bowl with one hand and drink it with one spirit, he will not be alive, he will not leave this tent.” These words seemed offensive to me, and I was very annoyed. And I got off the good horse, fastened it to the ring, poured the charm on the crown, lifted it with one hand and drank it with one breath. In the same way, I drank the second cup, and after that the third. My clear eyes became clouded, my mighty shoulders fell, and I trampled over the cask of green wine and the gilded bowl, tore the black tent and scattered everything across the open field.
Ilya Muromets spoke then: “Now I see that you are guilty, Dunai; you need to chop off your head. And now, young men, fraternize, exchange golden crosses, and let’s all march to the capital city of Kyiv.”
Dunai crosses were exchanged with Dobrynya, and everyone went to Knyaz Volodymyr.”
Brothers were obliged to help each other under any conditions, even if it was necessary to return a loved one from the other world, as is said in the story of the Kyiv cycle “Mykhailo Potyk”:
“And when the church bell rang before vespers, young Mykhailo Potyk and Dokia Lykhodiivna went to the church and listened to the evening service. Mykhailo bowed low to the cathedral priests to betroth him to the fair maiden. The priests were quick to do such a thing. They quickly baptized the girl, named her Maria, got engaged to Mikhail, and married them right away. The young people prayed to God, attached themselves to the holy icons and together made a great commandment: if the first one of them dies, then the second must lie in the coffin alive with him, go to the damp earth for 3 months. After that, they left the Church of God, went to their white-stone chambers, and began to live there as a family.
However, Mykhailo Potyk did not live long with his young wife, Maria Lykhodievna – just one and a half years. He got tired of walking around the tsar’s taverns, drinking wine in vain – sometimes by a quart, sometimes by a half quart, sometimes by half a bucket, and sometimes by a whole bucket. His wife thought about how to comfort her husband, and she fell ill in the evening, and by morning she had passed away.
His named brother, young Dobrynya, ran to Mikhail in the royal tavern and said to him:
- You are here drinking and idle, and your young wife has already passed away.
Mykhailo jumped to his feet and shouted at the top of his voice:
— Hey, my named brothers, old Ille Muromtsi and young Dobryn Mykytich! You come to the named brother to consider everything together. I have to fulfill a great commandment: to lie down alive in a coffin with a dead woman, to go to the damp earth for 3 months. Build me a big house so that I can stand there, sit, and lie down. But put bread and salt and water there, so that there will be enough for three months.
The named brothers set about making the house, and Mykhailo went to the forge and ordered them to forge iron tongs, 3 iron rods, 3 tin and 3 copper rods. Then he went to the cathedral priests to report that his young wife had passed away. The priests were ordered to bring the dead body to the church and place it on the church porch.
The priests and deacons gathered with all the church parables, they buried Mariana’s body into the grave. Mykhailo Potyk, Ivan’s son, also fell into the wet earth with the dead body. He took tongs and rods with him to the coffin, and his named brothers put him bread and salt with water, a candle of hot wax and incense, so that there would be enough for 3 months; they put iron hoops on the coffin, covered it with yellow sand, put up a wooden cross, and also stretched a rope to the coffin, and that rope was tied to the cathedral bell.
So Mykhailo sits in the coffin from noon to midnight, lighting a candle of wax. And when the midnight hour came, the underground Serpent crawled up; she licked the coffin once – the hoops burst, she licked a second time – one row of oak shawls was peeled off, she licked a third time – she climbed into the coffin. Seeing Mykhailo there with his young wife, Serpent rejoiced, cheered up:
- Oh, and I will eat today. There is one dead body, and the other is alive. But Mykhailo was not afraid, took iron pincers, clamped the cursed Serpent with them and began to cut it with iron rods until the rods were gutted; then he took the tin rods, but they too were gutted; then he took hold of the copper rods. The Serpent could not stand it, prayed:
– Don’t chain me to death, let me go to the blue sea. I will bring you living water for this, to revive your wife.
Mykhailo Potyk answered her:
– Give your offspring to me.
She left him the little snakes, and she herself crawled through the dungeon to the blue sea and brought Mykhailo living water. He took one snake by the neck, stepped on its tail and tore it in two. Then he put two halves together, splashed it with living water once – the snake grew, splashed a second time – it stirred, splashed a third time – it crawled away from the coffin. Then Mykhailo splashed young Maria with living water – her blood immediately spluttered, splashed a second time – she stirred, splashed a third time – she got up and said the following words:
– Oh-oh-oh, how long I slept!
“If it weren’t for me,” answered Mykhailo, “you would have slept for a lifetime.”
Mykhailo pulled the rope and the church bell rang. As the cathedral refectory heard, he ran to Maria’s grave and saw: a rope was pulling from the ground and the cathedral bell was shaking.
As Mykhailo shouted at the top of his voice, Mother-earth shook, the towers trembled, swayed, the people of Kyiv began to panic and gathered to the grave, wondering:
– What kind of miracle is happening underground? All the dead shouted together!
And old Ilya Muromets said to young Dobrynya Mykytych:
– Apparently, the named brother of ours spoke up. He lived for a short time in the damp earth, stifling, probably, in a grave with a dead body, so he shouts in a heroic voice.
They quickly began to tear open the grave, to lower a large ladder into the pit. And Mykhailo appeared in the white world, leading his young wife by the sleeve, kissing the named brothers. They let the cathedral popes know about it. They sprinkled the young with holy water, and Mykhailo and Maria began to live and live, to pass the years together”.
Prince Svyatoslav Ihorovych
From historical examples of brotherhood in Rus, we know the case when the great prince of Kyiv, Svyatoslav Ihorovych (a Pagan) signed a twinning with the Roman aristocrat Kalokir (a Christian), the son of the strategist of Chersonesos (modern Sevastopol). Kalokir was sent at the head of the Roman embassy to Kyiv with a request from the Roman Emperor Nicephorus II Phokas to the Grand Duke Svyatoslav to go on a campaign against the Bulgarian kingdom, with which the Roman Empire had deteriorated relations. The requests were backed up by 15 cenatria (455 kg.) of gold. As we know, Svyatoslav did not trust gold or other valuable gifts. Therefore, in order to make sure that the Roman allies would not frame him, he set a condition – Kalokir had to conclude an agreement with him not just as the head of the delegation, but as a brother. Kalokir agreed to this and became Sviatoslav “like a brother” (according to the testimony of the Roman historian Lev the Deacon). The agreement was concluded in 967-968. Kalokir remained loyal to Svyatoslav until the end – he was with him throughout the Bulgarian War of 968-971, even when the Roman Empire went to war against Svyatoslav. Kalokir remained faithful to his brother and died during the Roman assault on Preslav in 971. We do not know whether Kalokir accepted the traditional faith of the Rus, or whether he swore by one of the Rus’ Gods, it is quite possible that he did. After all, it is difficult to imagine whether a bilateral oath of loyalty could have been accepted in Rus, reinforced on one side by, for example, Perun, and on the other by Jesus.
In Rus, there were many Varangians in the Kyiv prince’s wife who had their own traditional beliefs, in which there was also brotherhood. In the Scandinavian tradition, there was the concept of brotherhood – (Vin) and the concept of companionship (Felagi), both military and economic.
Brotherhood was bound by a blood oath, and fellowship by a verbal commitment. The very word Varangian is also associated with an oath. Literally, “Varyag” (Varingr) means “man of oath”. The word comes from the Scandinavian Goddess of oaths, Var. Her name also denotes the oath itself. Thus, the Varangians are people who made a common oath.
A great example of Scandinavian brotherhood is the “Saga of Orvar-Odd”. It tells the story of the Norwegian soldier Odd. His father and mother leave him to be raised by the rich bond Ingjald (bond is a free peasant). Ingjald’s biological son, Asmund, grew up next to Odd and befriended him. Therefore, when Odd wanted to leave his foster father’s house and go in search of adventure, Asmund followed his brother against his father’s will. In the saga, it is directly said: “Wherever Odd went, Asmund accompanied him”. In the course of the story of the saga, Odd makes a brotherhood with other Vikings, but the number of brothers never exceeds 3. One day, Odd Orvarr decided to compete with the Swedish warrior Hjalmar. They fought for 2 days. Both were wounded, but equal in strength and courage to each other. Then they decided to become brothers, allowing their blood to flow onto a piece of land propped up by a spear, which was then drawn out with spells and songs: “Thus Odd joined his forces with those of Hjalmar and Thord, and from that time forth they marched together”.
The German professor Hermann Strack Leberecht, who studied this ritual in detail, wrote: “An interesting ancient northern custom: when two people entered into a fraternal union, they cut a piece of turf so that both ends leaned toward the ground; the middle was supported by a spear that lifted the sod (the original meaning of this rite is probably that the brothers wanted to show that they are children of the same mother earth)”.
It is interesting that Odd and Hjalmar entered into a brotherhood with the conditions that Hjalmar stated:
“Neither I nor my people wish to eat raw meat or drink blood. There are many people who wrap the meat in a matter, then beat it and then consider it ready to eat, but I think that is wolf food. I do not want to rob merchants or coastal inhabitants more than is necessary in a campaign, and I do not allow women to be insulted and robbed”.
This is how the rite of establishing a brotherhood is described in the “Saga of Gisli”: “Here they go to the very middle of the spit and cut a long layer of sod so that both ends of it are united with the ground, put spears under it with secret signs of such a length that standing you can just reach with your hand where the tip attaches to the shaft. They, Thorgrim, Gisli, Torkel, and Westein, all four of them had to go under the sod. Then they let their blood flow, mixing into the earth dug out of under the turf, and mixing it all, blood and earth. And then they all kneel down and swear to avenge each other, as brother for brother, and call all the Gods to witness”.
Thus, the one who betrayed his brothers also betrayed the Gods, and the way to Valhalla was closed to him, he was an oathbreaker and his way was to the abode of darkness Hel.
The researcher of ancient Scandinavia, Jacqueline Simpson, in the book “Vikings: life, religion, culture”: “The symbolism is completely obvious: the arch-loop of peat symbolizes the womb of Mother Earth, through which the friends pass to be “born” again as brothers; they mix their blood in the ground as a sign that they are now of one blood and take an oath. Thereby, they take upon themselves the responsibilities that correspond to their new “kinship” and confirm them by shaking hands – the usual conclusion of all agreements.
The saga of Sturlaug Ingolvsson is also about brotherhood. The outstanding warrior Sturlaug went into battle against the giant Kol instead of Jarl Hring, who was too old for the battle. Thanks to the magic sword, Sturlaug killed Kol, but a year later he was challenged to a duel by Kol’s brother Franmar. Sturlaug Asa’s wife sent her husband to consult her adoptive mother Bephreia, who was a velva (she could foretell the future and cast spells). The old woman asked Sturlaug: “Who are you going to fight with now? “His name is Franmar,” says Sturlaug. “And he is Kol’s brother.” “He is a completely different person,” said the old woman. “It is bad that you and he are mortal enemies, for Franmar is a very brave man and comes from a good family, and Kol was a bad man and belonged to the race of threls”. It would be good if it happened that you would become friends and not enemies. And I can’t advise you anything more. Fate will decide your dispute, but Sweepud, my adopted son, will go with you”.
In the battle with Kol’s people, two of Sturlaug’s brothers died, who defeated Kol, who was dying from a wound in a duel. Then Vephreya appeared, took Kol, and cured him. After that, Sturlaug had two new brothers, one of whom, Frosty, had just before killed Sturlaug’s brother Jokull: “In the morning, Sturlaug prepares for a trip. Frosty then approaches Sturlaug and says: “I would like to go with you and your brothers.” Sturlaug says, “I think it will replace Jokull if you take his place”. He became Sturlaug’s brother. They all go together and go without stopping until they come to Befreya. When they arrived at Wephreia, Swepud and Franmar were in the yard, both alive and well. They spent the night there in a good mood. In the morning, Vephreya said: “I would, my Sturlaug, that you and Franmar would take an oath and become brothers, for he is in every way the best of men”. Sturlaug says: “You decide what suits me best”. Here they take an oath of brotherhood. Each of them would avenge the other as if they were brothers”.
In Norse mythology, Gunnar and Hegni become Sigurd’s brothers when he marries their sister Gudrun. And in the key work for the Scandinavian religious tradition, Lokasenna (“The Quarrel of Loki”), it is said that the Gods Odin and Loki were also brothers:
“Do you remember, you Odin, in ancient times we mixed our blood? Because, you said, I won’t drink beer unless they pour it for both of us”.
However, although over time, both in Scandinavia and in Rus, Christianity became the dominant religion, the tradition of military brotherhood did not disappear, it only acquired external Christian images.
For example, among the Zaporozhye Cossacks, the rite of brotherhood was performed in the Sich Church of the Most Holy Mother of God.
Among the Zaporozhian Cossacks, the rite of fraternization took place in the Sichova church. They made an oath in front of a priest, and then signed its text version, exchanged crosses and kissed three times. The oath was given by Dmytro Yavornytskyi in the 1st volume of the History of the Zaporizhzhya Cossacks: “We, the undersigned, make this covenant before God that we are brothers, and whoever breaks our alliance of brotherhood, let him before God our Savior holds the answer before the non-hypocritical judge. Our written promise to the above-mentioned Fedors (two Cossacks with the same name) is as follows: to love each other as brothers, regardless of adversity from either our friends or enemies, but looking to the God who gives peace; before this, they decided not to drink intoxicants, brother to love brother. In the seventh, brothers, we sign”.
The researcher of Cossack antiquity, Adrian Kashchenko, writes in more detail about the brotherhood among the Zaporozhian Cossacks in his work “The Tale of the Glorious Zaporizhzhya Army”:
“Brotherhood was held in high esteem by the Zaporozhians. Folk tales have preserved for us many cases of when a Cossack, having found his brother in captivity and not having the funds to buy him back, surrendered himself to hard labor in order for the Turk to set his brother free. Each owner agreed to this, because it was more useful for him to have a fresh, strong man instead of a frail one, exhausted by slave life and work. It also happened that a freed comrade, after living in Sich for several years, returned to captivity again to stand in for his faithful comrade in prison. As a sign of fraternity, the Zaporozhians exchanged crosses from their bodies, and then they had everything in common: they gave each other horses, weapons, and other things. In campaigns, the brothers would not eat a piece of bread without each other; in battles, they fought side by side and saved each other from death or protected each other with their bodies. The brotherhood gave great strength to the Zaporozhians. It was one of the secret reasons for their invincibility and the fact that the enemy rarely captured a Sichov in captivity. When it happened that one of the brothers was wronged or insulted by someone, the other immediately interceded for him; if the brothers were treacherously killed, then his named brother, remaining alive, became his avenger”.
“Find yourself, my son, a faithful companion – and no human power will take you. And I have an ancient Cossack spell against evil power,” Ukrainian writer Mykola Gogol wrote about the Cossack brotherhood of Hetman Ostap Gogol’s descendants in the novel “The Lost Deed”.
Brotherhood lives on in our time. One of his examples are two volunteers of the “Azov” battalion – 21-year-old Oleg Aksenenko “Aksyon” from Luhansk region and 18-year-old Andriy Snitko “Khoma” from Volyn. Two young Ukrainian nationalists, who both went through the Revolution of Dignity, but met already in the ranks of the “Azov” battalion in June 2014 and became real brothers in arms and in spirit. Both of them died in the battle for Ilovaisk on August 20, 2014. Russian mercenaries surrounded their department in one of the courtyards of the private sector of Ilovaisk and started throwing grenades. When one of the enemy’s grenades fell in the middle of the yard where the Azovs were blocked, Khoma jumped on the grenade without thinking, saving his comrades. Aksion also died in this battle, covering his comrades to the last – a fragment of a fragmentation grenade hit his eye and reached his brain.
In the Azov warrior tradition, Aksion and Khoma are the embodiment of brotherhood, which we could read about only in history books before, but which came to life during the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Today, the tradition of brotherhood continues to be nurtured in the Azov units, within which a real fighting brotherhood was formed during the 8 years of war.
Aksion and Khoma