The Slavic myth of creation

How a duck played an unlikely important role in the Slavic myth of creation.


In the beginning, there was no light, but only chaotic darkness. This darkness inhabited no lifeforms, except for Rod, the creator of the universe and father of all gods. As the begetter of the gods, one would expect Rod to be exceptionally powerful. However, in the beginning, he was imprisoned in an egg. His captivity rendered him powerless and he pondered upon how to escape. You might think that a powerful primordial god would attempt to break the egg, using relentless power. Nonetheless, Rod chose a more subtle approach. He created Lada, the Slavic goddess of love and beauty, and through the power of love, he managed to break his prison.

After finally being freed from his prison, Rod cut his navel-cord with a rainbow. He then commenced with the creation of the world as we know it. Rod created the oceans and mother earth. For some unclear reason, mother earth fell into the ocean. But we’ll get back to that later on in the story. Rod created the winds from his breath. From his eyes, he took the stars and placed them on the firmament. The bright new dawns were created from his eyebrows and from his thoughts he fashioned the dark nights. Rod’s mighty voice was the source for thunder and he conceived the hail, snow, and rain from his tears. Last but not least, Rod created Svarog.

Lost and found

Svarog joined Rod in his creational journey. He paved a pathway for the sun in the heavens to enable the cycle between day and night. As Svarog patrolled his heavenly domain, he stopped to look down at the foaming oceans. And then it struck him. Where was mother earth? He searched and searched but, regardless of his godly abilities, was unable to find her. Still clueless about the whereabouts of mother earth, Svarog noticed a grey feathered duck floating on the surface of the ocean. In what can only be described as an act of total despair, he asks the duck if she knows where mother earth resides. Surprisingly, the duck answers Svarog that the earth is below her. The mighty Svarog does the only thing you can expect from a powerful god; he asks the duck to retrieve mother earth from the abyss of the ocean.

An unlikely hero

The duck remained silent and dove down. The ocean was so deep, she remained in the watery depths for a whole year. When she finally surfaced again, she had not retrieved mother earth. She told Svarog that she ran out of breath and missed the target only by a hair. Our godly friend apparently ran out of ideas and asked his creator, Rod, for help. Rod stirred up the winds and through these winds, he gave breath to the little duck. And once again Svarog asked the duck to retrieve the earth from the bottom of the ocean.

So let’s get this straight, we have two gods here who just created the oceans, the earth, and the heavens and they have to rely on a duck to complete this task. Admittedly, retrieving mother earth from the bottom of the ocean cannot be viewed as a simple chore. However, the thought that two primordial gods rely on a mortal creature like a duck for this matter seems somewhat ridiculous. And we can imagine that, at this point, the reader expects us to explain the deeper significance of this. But, well, the meaning behind this also remains unclear to us.

Back to the story. After Svarog asked the duck to dive down for the second time, she again remained silent and dove down. This time, she was gone for two whole years before she surfaced again. Despite the help of Rod, she again had not been able to retrieve mother earth. She explained that she only missed her target by half a hair this time.

Third time’s the charm

Svarog, now desperate, again asked Rod for help. In reply to his call for help, Rod did the only logical thing a god can do in this situation; he struck the duck with lightning. Through the lightning, Rod granted his strength to the mortal creature. Svarog asked her to dive down again and when she finally rose again after three years, her beak was filled with earth. Svarog was overjoyed and took the earth from her beak to continue the creation of the world as we know it. The duck was never mentioned again in the Slavic story of creation. Since the average life expectancy of a domestic duck is 8 to 9 years, we do hope that Rod and Svarog left her alone for what remained of her life.

Another animal companion

Svarog crushed the earth in his palms and asked the sun, the winds, and the gods to help him to create mother earth. The winds blew the crushed earth into the oceans and the sun heated it so that a crust was formed. Under the surface of the earth, Svarog created three concaves. Together, these concaves formed the domain of Pekla, the Slavic version of hell. To prevent the earth from sinking into the ocean again, Rod gave birth to the mighty serpent Yusha. This serpent was placed under the earth and tasked with the eternal task of holding her above the water. To this day, the earth still rumbles when Yusha turns.