I am fully Russian on my father’s side of the family and Russians are part of a people group called the Slavs. I’ve been inspecting my ancestral roots and learning about Slavic Pre-Christian religion, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
Perun (sometimes Pyerun) is the supreme deity of the pantheon. He lives on the tip of the highest branch of the world tree (the world tree in Slavic mythology is an oak or a pine) in a realm called Prav. He is the god of thunderbolts and lightning, the god of agriculture and farming, of battle and war, he is hot and dry.
Veles (sometimes Volos) is a cthonic deity of the underworld. He lives in the water at the bottom of the roots of the world tree in a realm called Nav (sometimes Navi). He is a shapeshifter, and is commonly known as King of Bears and King of Wolves. He is the deity of animals and nature, of livestock and shepherds, of magicians and musicians, and he is cold and wet and possesses a proclivity to mischief.
It begins when all is well, the world is at peace. It is spring, which means the start of a new year (in Slavic paganism, their calendar started in March and celebrated during the Spring Equinox, all the traditions around this new year became switched to Easter during the Christianization of the Slavs). Veles is looking to cause some mischief, and he sees some of Perun’s sacred cattle grazing (in other accounts it could also be Perun’s wife or child) so he leaves his realm beneath the world tree in the from of a serpent and coils up Prav and he steals them to eat them. Enraged at such an act of defiance, Perun sees it and his filled with fury.
Rising from his throne above the earth, Perun hurls lightning at Veles and chases him out of the world tree, for crossing Perun there is only one punishment, death. But Veles is a master shapeshifter and he disquises himself into a bear and hides himself in the forest. Perun watches the forest from his heavenly abode and sees Veles looking like a bear and he throws his lightning but Veles transforms into a rabbit and hops away. This continues on for quite some time with the world looking on in bated breath, every time a lightning strikes it is because Veles is hiding there. He hides as beasts, as men, as trees, but he cannot escape the careful eye of Perun.
After several months have passed Perun is finally successful and he kills Veles with a well aimed strike with his lightning. He sends the autumn rains to disguise his descent from his abode above the earth and takes Veles’ charred body in the form of a serpent down to his abode beneath the earth. But, a god can never die.
And in the next year, when it is spring, Veles is looking for some mischief to do and he sees some of Perun’s sacred cattle…