Laima is the Goddess of Fate and Destiny. She dispenses quality and quantity:
• Laima bestows good luck and bad; happiness and misfortune
• Laima determines the length of one’s life
• She is a goddess of birth and death
Her name is sometimes interpreted as meaning “happiness” but it may derive from an Old Lithuanian word indicating wisdom. Her name is also related to words for luck and fate. She is a particularly powerful goddess; the spirit above other spirits. Laima is the daughter of Zemyna, the Earth Mother. Alternatively, Zemyna and Laima are sisters; daughters of the primordial Mother Zemyna of the Marshes.
Laima supervises the birth process. She decides whether the baby will be born, what sort of mental capacity the child will possess as well as physical attributes. She determines fate and how and when someone will die.
Laima was not worshipped as part of the official state cult; eventually many of her powers were assigned or appropriated by the male spirit, Dievas. Myths sometimes depict the two deities in conflict with Laima generally winning arguments. Perhaps because she was not favoured by rulers but by farmers and peasants, active veneration of Laima survived long after official conversion to Christianity. Seventeenth century Jesuits complained that offerings to Laima were still brought to her pillar stones.
Rituals honouring Laima were also done in the bathhouse: women joined together to sing to Laima and recite ritual poetry. Bathhouse rituals dedicated to Laima were held prior to giving birth with a ritual feast in the bathhouse immediately afterwards. (Bathhouses also traditionally doubled as birthing houses.) Only women took part. The birthing woman made fabric offerings (embroidered towels; vest; sash) to the keeper of the sauna who, once upon a time, may have been Laima’s priestess but post-Christianity still served as her mediator. Rituals involved sacrificing a chicken which had to be killed with a ladle.
Laima may appear alone or in the company of the Laimos. Her throne is a golden stool. She may manifest as a woman or as any of her sacred creatures. She commonly appears as a bear or cuckoo. In her guise as messenger of death, Laima takes the form of a titmouse.
Bear, elk, cuckoo, duck, lamb, owl, swan, titmouse
Traditionally flowers, flax, hand woven cloth and belts; offerings were traditionally made following successful happy births
Laima was associated with sacred stones, which marked locations of subterranean wells containing the water of life. Laima sits near these stones on her golden stool spinning the thread of life. There are descriptions of Laima’s stones in the Vilnius region dating to 1836. She was also venerated within traditional bathhouses (similar to Russian bania or Finnish sauna).
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.