How did Romuva get its Name?
The name for our faith was chosen by Jonas Trinkunas who was the first Krivis (high priest) of the modern Lithuanian interpretation of the ancient Baltic faith now known as Romuva. In the early 1960s while Lithuania was still part of the Soviet Union, Trinkunas was a student (check this fact) at Vilnius University. He started an ethnographic and folklore group called Ramuva – – blah blah blah – short blurb that will link to longer blurb about Jonas.
A temple by the name of Romuva appears in many chronicles by Christian explorers from other countries. We must keep in mind that these documents were produced by outsiders, so we must take them with a big pile of salt. Until the early 16th century, Lithuanian was not a written language. The nobility and legal documents were written in Latin or the Old Church Slavonic. The Lithunaian language had no alphabet. There were no books recording our history. Our history and culture were passed down orally – through stories and through song. All older resources used were of those outside of our culture, so when reading those sources, we need to keep that in mind.
Where was the Romuva temple located?
Vaitkevicius identifies eight different possible locations since the sixth century for this temple spanning from Poland near modern Kalinigrad (formerly Mažoji Lietuva or Lithuania Minor) to Kaunas. He argues that when one temple was destroyed by the Teutonic Knights, another was built in a different location.
It is widely accepted that Romuva was the name of at least one temple in Prussia as recorded in Peter of Dusburg’s Chronicle of the Prussian Land. Written in 1335, it asserted that this temple was named after Rome. However, we must remember that as a priest and member of the Teutonic Order, he was recording his observations through the eyes of a man devoted to the absolute authority of the Catholic church over every land. Dusberg equated the Prussian Krivis with the Catholic pope, so it is understandable that he make this (incorrect) linguistic assumption due to the similarities in names.
In reality, Vykintas Vaitkevicius points out that several scholars argue that the word Romuva derives from the Prussian “rama” and/or the Lithuanian “ramus”, both of which translate as “serene.”
According to K. Būga (1959: 33), the Prussians would pronounce this name as *Rōmavō and V. Mažiulis claims (1997: 32) that *Rāmăvā “was the place of serenity, calmness”.
This last theory gives me great joy, as we hope that our faith will bring serenity to those who believe.