Viewing the sublimely beautiful Pajauta Valley from the impressively huge Mounds of Kernavė, it is hard to remain unmoved by the grand spirit of the Past and the magic energy forcing its way from the Natures abysses. This is the place of the first ancient capital of Lithuania. The Pagan heart of Baltic heathen religion and history.
This untamed power of Kernavė still flames as the capital buried by history has been reborn in the 20 th c. and has again become the centre of attraction. Archaeologists were stunned to dig out the city of great culture, whereas scientists make discoveries here again and again.
It was namely here, in Kernavė, that the Romuva movement started arranging its festivals in the mid-Soviet period. Here is the location where weird and mysterious people reside. Surprises follow surprises. In Kernavė environs, history, legends and magic have intertwined in such combinations that even balding science men cannot figure out where one ends and the other begins. And we believe it is will of the great ancient Gods, that Mėnuo Juodaragis start its ritual fires here for the third time, making 9-year cycle complete
::: History and magic :::
Kernavė is both the ancient capital of Lithuania and the cradle of Baltic statehood. Over fifty archaeological, historical and cultural monuments are located in the legendary town and surrounding areas. Among those there is the largest Lithuanian complex of five defensive forthills. There used to be a wooden medieval city in the neighbourhood of the forthills, in the Pajauta Valley on the riverside of Neris.
For the first time Kernavė was recorded in historical chronicles in 1279 as the domain of Traidenis (1269-1282), the Grand Duke of Lithuania. During the 13 th century, Kernavė stronghold and city were among the most important Lithuanian economic and political centres. Sometimes Kernavė is referred to as Lithuanian Troy, which has not yet received the attention of its Homer.
People inhabited these areas over 10,000 years ago. During the first millennium, when the first enemies attacks began, the inhabitants of Kernavė moved from Pajauta Valley to the fortified forthills. The latter served for military purposes up to the 14 th century. Once the capital was moved to Trakai, Kernavė became the seat of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and eventually lost its political import. It was rediscovered by Romantic artists only in the 19 th c. Due to various reasons, Kernavė had no potential to develop and remained a small yet indeed cosy and mysterious town where each visit leaves its unique trace...
In ancient times, Kernavė also served as the centre of Lithuanian pagan cult. The names of the ancient forthills, that is, Aukuras (Altar in English) and Lizdeika Hills, and the Kriveikiškiai steading, which used to be nearby, remind the times of the mysterious Lithuanian priests Kriviai. According to legends, after the introduction of Christianity, when Jogaila ordered the central Perkūnas Temple to be demolished in Vilnius, Krivių Krivaitis Lizdeika retreated to Kernavė and nursed the holy fire here until he passed away. The pagan temple used to be located on Aukuras Hill. The researchers maintain that there were ancient sites of cult on the banks of Pragarinė and Spėra Lakes as well as in the groves of Pajauta Valley.
The sacral aura of Kernavė is very distinct, therefore, it is rather reasonable that this place is famous for its abundant legends closely entwined with history. The sagas narrate the stories of Duke Kernius, who defeated the Crusaders a few times, and his beautiful daughter Pajauta. Other stories tell about abounding catacombs that used to lead from Kernavė to Trakai and Vilnius.
::: Later Developments and Present State :::
Archaeology and History Reserve, occupying the area 196 ha, has been founded here in 1989 to preserve and investigate the grand complex of nature and history heritage of Kernavė. The Festival of Live Archaeology Days is arranged here annually and always attracts masses of people. Kernavė used to be well known for its Rasos Festival (Midsummer), too. Unfortunately, lately this celebration has been turning into the mass binge of drunken provincials.
We recommend you to visit regularly expanding exposition of the Museum of Archaeology and History. There used to be Mystery Museum as well. Now there you may find only sealed house. Kernavė Parsonage is proud of the monument of Vytautas Magnus, however, the latter displays rather suspiciously soft and plastic facial features
There are two stores and one public phone in the town. You may have rest and refreshments in Kerniaus bar, the interior of which is decorated by the Deed, signed by the very founder of Kernavė and authorising the trade catering for the joys of both stomach and tongue. Though You must note, that there is no bankomat in Kernavė or arround.
Previously quiet town is nowadays visited by masses of tourists. In 2004, Kernavė has been enlisted into the List of World Heritage protected by UNESCO. This means it will soon be attacked by tourist industry legions from abroad. Tourist Information Centre has been established in the town this year. To visit Kernavė is an absolute must. Do it before its Baltic spirit has not been marred by predatory commerce!
::: Oak-woods Stretch towards Vilnius :::
There are numerous impressive forthills, altarhills, barrows and mythological stones located in the surrounding areas of Kernavė. These especially abound along Neris River going down towards Vilnius. On your way to the Festival, you may visit the forthills of Velniakampis, Bradeliškės, Buivydai, and Karmazinai. Seven forthills, four ancient settlements, fifteen collective barrows or single barrows so far have been discovered in the area of the Neris Regional Park.
The biggest oak-forest of Lithuania soughs nearby Dūkštos. Probably the best-known Lithuanian stone with four runes is located in this forest, too. Some researchers hold that it was not in Kernavė, but in Dūkštos where the ancient centre of religion was situated. Some scientists grant mythological import to this stone, whereas the others consider it was simply landmark stone. There are more important stones in the surroundings: Three Brothers in Gabijolai, a stone with a human foot in Mitkiškės, the Devils Throne in Niuronys, the Roosters Stone in the river in Valiukiškiai, etc.
They say that the famous Karmazinai forthill at the tributary of Dūkšta into Neris River is in fact an altar-hill called Viršupis (Above River in English). The stories of old people mention a pagan temple located here, which was surrounded by eighteen oak-trees in two circles. They also recall various haunting incidents. In 1999, the Union of Ramuvas planted the Unity Millennium Oak here. You may also observe majestic Bradeliškės and Buivydai forthills nearby.
A nearby Karmazinai barrow is one of the largest in Lithuania. In the area of 12 ha there are over 130 mounds, the diameter of which is from 6 to 24 metres while the height reaches about one metre. There are three mounds made by hands in Karmazinai barrow. These unique mounds can be found nowhere else in Lithuania. Now they have been restored after archaeological excavations. It is said that there had been an old oak-tree among the mounds and a stone Perkūnas cult-figure beside before the World War Two. Now the fires are lit here each year on Samhain.
Further, in the neighbourhood of Rastinėnai, in the depth of the woods, there stands Velniakampis (Devils Corner in English) Forthill, which is an enigmatic and charming place just like its name tells us... As a side note, 14 out of 15 species of bats, recorded in Lithuania, inhabit Neris Regional Park.
Neris regional park:
More about Kernavė:
The last Sorcerer of Kernavė:::
The Mėnuo Juodaragis 2004 was partly dedicated to the memory of Algirdas Alekna - architect, researcher, artist, writer and Baltic magus. For Kernavė habitants he was just very strange man... But we can cal him the Last Sorcerer of Kernavė. Last year, just after Mėnuo Juodaragis festival, on 4 th of September, 2003, Algirdas Alekna have passed away. Before death on the door of his house he have put a MJR poster and wrote upon it - "the Beginning of the Beginning"...
This man knew that the ancient magic name of Kernavė was Ker-Nava.
More words will be dropped some day...