Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The sole source about her is Bede, who briefly mentioned her attempting to explain the word "Easter". Later she was popularized by Jacob Grimm. Now the authenticity of the goddess is questioned.[1]

Pseudo-mythology (Russian: кабинетная мифология or kabinetnaya mifologiya, "office mythology", literally "cabinet mythology") are myths and deities which do not exist in genuine mythology and folklore or their existence is doubtful or disproved. It may be created by researchers who liberally interpret scarce sources.[2][3]

Pseudo-mythology should not be confused with the term "false mythology" in the derogatory meanings of "false beliefs" or "false/fabricated stories".

Philosopher Vincent Descombes maintains that "a myth is what is told as a myth and what is transmitted as a myth". Therefore, in his opinion, the correct term would be "poor mythology" or "insipid mythology", rather than "pseudo-mythology".[4]

Slavic mythology

There is a scarcity of reliable sources for the Slavic religion.[5]

A large number of questionable Slavic deities have been described since the 16th century and through the present days.

Polish chroniclers of the 16th and 17th centuries invented many pseudo-deities based on models from antiquity.[5]


A good deal of nonexistent deities and spirits were invented by Pavel Shpilevsky [ru] (also alias P. Drevlyansky) in his writings about Belarusian mythology; in particular, in his work Belarusian Folk Legends [ru] (1st part: 1846, 2nd and 3rd: 1852), where he described 52 alleged Belarusian mythological characters, most of them are questioned by modern science. Despite the fact that his writings were heavily criticized by his contemporaries (e.g., by Alexander Potebnja), they have been treated as a trusted reference work by several generations of researchers. While Shpilevsky did collect Belarusian folklore, he liberally added his own interpretations without drawing distinction from authentic folklore.[6][7][8][9]

Germanic mythology

Several pseudo deities come from the research of Jacob Grimm presented in his 1835 treatise Deutsche Mythologie. It was the first comprehensive study of German mythology. Later his methods in the study of mythology were criticized.[10]

Baltic states


Jan Łasicki in his Concerning the gods of Samagitians, and other Sarmatians and false Christians (De diis Samagitarum caeterorumque Sarmatarum et falsorum Christianorum,[11] written c. 1582 and published in 1615) provides a a list of 78 deities and spirits. However he was criticized already in 19th century, e.g., by Antoni Julian Mierzyński [pl], who also questioned the authenticity of the mythology of Teodor Narbutt, who was popular during the national awakening of Lithuania.[12] Only a few of Łasicki's deities are considered authentic now.


After the abolition of serfdom in Latvia, a new national identity was forming and authors sought to prove that Baltic cultural traditions were as deep as those of other nations.[13] It was hoped that a grand epic could be constructed using pieces preserved in folklore. It was also thought that the ancient religion, forgotten during 700 years of oppression, could be reconstructed. However, folklore sources proved insufficient for the task.[14] Some attempted to reconstruct pantheons to be as impressive as in Greek mythology, which led to some deities being simply invented.[13] Besides the assumption that deities of other Baltic peoples must be Latvian as well but were simply lost over time, many new deities were modeled after Greek and Roman deities.[14] An example of the trend is the epic poem Lāčplēsis by Andrejs Pumpurs, which features a pantheon of Latvian and Prussian gods and some the author has invented himself. Similarly, works of Juris Alunāns and poet Miķelis Krogzemis feature pantheons of invented deities.


Aivar Põldvee [et] writes that the Estonian pantheon started shaping in the 19th century during the period of national awakening. The older sources about ancient Estonian deities are scarce and ambiguous, while the 19th-century research was uncritical. Still, 19th century writings shaped the modern interpretation of Estonian mythology. Therefore, Põldvee writes that the term "pseudo-mythology" is applicable here.[15] In particular, it is traceable how the Estonian god Vanemuine was reconstructed by Estonian intellectuals from Finnish Väinämöinen, whose authenticity (at least the whole mythology around him) has also been questioned.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Richard Sermon, "From Easter to Ostara: the Reinvention of a Pagan Goddess?"
  2. ^ Топорков А. Л. Кабинетная мифология // Славянская мифология: Энциклопедический словарь. Изд. 2-е, испр. и доп. М., 2002.
  3. ^ H. J. Rose, "Italian Pseudo-mythology", In: A Handbook of Greek Mythology, Routledge.
    • Quote: "The mythologist <...> must share the disgust of the historian when he realizes that the overwhelming majority of them are not genuine popular native traditions at all, but comparatively late, artificial tales, put together either by Greeks or under Greek influence"
  4. ^ Vincent Descombes, A foreword to the translation of Jacques Bouveresse's Wittgenstein Reads Freud, 1995, ISBN 1400821592, p vii
  5. ^ a b Norbert Reiter, "Mythologie der alten Slaven", In: Die Mythologie der alten Kulturvölker. Band 2: Das alte Europa, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-12-909820-8, pp. 163–208.
  6. ^ Viktor Korbut, "Вечнае змаганне за містыфікацыі" ("An Eternal Fight for Mystifications"), Arche, issue 1 (30), 2004, pp.188-191
  7. ^ А. Богдан, А. Бразгуноў, С. Гаранін, Л. Гедзімін, Л. Ляўшун, В. Чамярыцкі (editors), Scientific editor: В. Чамярыцкі.Анталогія даўняй беларускай літаратуры: XI — першая палова XVIII ст., Minsk, Беларуская навука (Belarusian Science), 2003.
  8. ^ Топорков А. О «Белорусских народных преданиях» и их авторе. In: Рукописи, которых не было. Подделки в области славянского фольклора, Moscow, Ладомир, 2002.
  9. ^ Левкиевская Е. Е. Механизмы создания мифологических фантомов в «Белорусских народных преданиях» П. Древлянского In: Рукописи, которых не было. Подделки в области славянского фольклора, Moscow, Ладомир, 2002.
  10. ^ Tom Shippey, 'A Revolution Reconsidered: Mythography and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century', in The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous, ed. by Tom Shippey, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 291/Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, 14 (Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005), pp. 1-28 (pp. 17-18), citing K.-S. Kramer, 'Jacob Grimm und seine "volkskundliche Quellen": Zur Frage der Zeugniskraft von "Sitte und Sage" für die "Deutsche Mythologie" ', in Germanische Religionsgeschichte: Quellen und Quellenprobleme, ed. by Heinrich Beck, Detlev Ellmers, and Kurt Schier (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1992), pp. 588-607.
  11. ^ De diis Samagitarum... at the internet archive
  12. ^ Antoni Julian Mierzyński [pl], 'Jan Łasicki : źródło do mytologii litewskiej, Krakow, 1870 (book review, in Polish)
  13. ^ a b Muktupāvels, Valdis (2005). "Baltic religion: New religious movements". In Jones, Lindsay (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). Thomson Gale. pp. 762–767.
  14. ^ a b Kursīte, Janīna (2005). "Baltic Religion: History of study". In Jones, Lindsay (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). Thomson Gale. pp. 767–771.
  15. ^ Aivar Põldvee [et],"Agricola’s List (1551) and the Formation of the Estonian Pantheon", In: Re-Forming Texts, Music, and Church Art in the Early Modern North, pp.449-474, doi:10.2307/j.ctt1gsmw8v.20.
    • Quote: "It is appropriate to use the term pseudo-mythology here, as older information about the ancient gods and beliefs of the Estonians is very scarce and ambiguous, while the nineteenth century records are in most cases uncritical and also too late. A large proportion of the materials representing Estonian mythology is at best characterized with the term fakelore"
  16. ^ Aivar Põldvee, "The Birth of Vanemuine. Additions to the History of Estonian Pseudo-Mythology" (abstract)

Further reading