Berehynia with Sunflower Seeds

Berehynia with Sunflower Seeds


Originally a supernatural being known as a Vila or Rusalka, now considered a Slavic Goddess of Ukraine, “hearth mother, protectress of the home.”

Berehyni are believed to have been ghost-like fairies, water nymphs found by rivers, lakes, and ponds. Her name originates from the word “bereg” which means riverbank and/or protective spirit.

Pencil Sketch of Berehynia

I first sketched Berehynia, Maid of Kyiv, in prayer and meditation at the start of the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. She is an illustration based on the Independence Monument, a statue of the Slavic goddess Berehynia, in the city of Kyiv. She wears Ukrainian national dress with water elements in the details.

Under the Soviet Union, Ukraine was repeatedly subject to campaigns of extermination: of language, culture, history, and life. When Ukraine worked to free themselves of the Soviet Union and later of Russia, and due to undo Russian influence, they began to harken back to Slavic paganism and religion to rally the people, and a faux mythology about Berehynia began.

Berehynia received an upgrade from a Vila (female spirit) or Rusalka (ghost, water nymph, succubus, or demon living in rivers and lakes) to a Slavic Goddess first in the early 20th century and then again in the 1980s with the fall of the Soviet Union and a rise in Ukrainian romantic nationalism.

Ukrainian achieved independence in 1991 from Russia and Berehynia was adopted as the hearth-mother and protector of the nation as part of a focus on matriarchal myth. She has become an earth mother and an ideal of Ukrainian women. Berehynia has a place in Ukrainian nationalism, feminism, and neopaganism.

Berehynia, Maid of Kyiv

In 2001, Independence Monument was erected on Independence Square in Kyiv, depicting Berehynia holding a guelder rose branch in her hands.

At the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, people all over the world turned to Berehynia. On Friday, February 25th a prayer for peace and strength was shared by people and faiths all over the world using the statue of Berehynia in Independence Square as a focal point. Pagans and witches sent prayers, invocations, and energy to Berehyina as the protectress of the nation and the people of Ukraine.

You can shop this design on my Threadless store here: MAUT Designs on Threadless, Berehynia Maid of Kyiv

By March 1st a video of a woman confronting an occupying Russian soldier was being widely shared.

Sunflower Curse

“Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” 

How brave she is! (The Russian soldier is also commendably patient.) Some say that she is the embodiment of Baba Yaga.

The sunflower is the Ukrainian national flower. Sunflowers were brought from the new world to Europe by Spaniards in the 17th century and introduced to Ukraine in the mid-18th century. Sunflower oil is Ukraine’s largest food export. Sunflower oil owes some of its initial popularity to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which prohibits the use of butter and lard on Wednesdays and Fridays, and during the season of Lent and other feast days; as the world moved away from trans fats, sunflower oil became an excellent replacement.

The sunflower also has long been a symbol of peace and nuclear disarmament. The flowers were planted at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine after the explosion and meltdown in 1986 to remove radioactive toxins from the soil as they are hyperaccumulators. In 1996 ministers from the United States, Russia, and Ukraine planted Sunflowers at the Pervomaysk missile base marking Ukraine’s nuclear weapon disarmament. 

Ukrainians have added the sunflower to the motifs used in traditional embroidery, pysanky (batik decorated eggs), and as part of headdresses worn during celebrations.

Berehynia with Sunflower Seeds Small

I combined Berehynia with a sunflower halo and she is releasing sunflower seeds as she rises into the azure sky recalling the Ukrainian flag. As a Rusalka, she would have lingered near rivers, streams, and lakes luring young men to their death with her charms, song, and laughter. Now she is moving into the light as the protectress of the Ukrainian people. 

That Berehynia is an evolving goddess is very attractive to me. May we all get to grow and change in strength and power.

Shop Berehyina with Sunflower Seeds part of the Let Go and Let Goddess Collection

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