On Monday, Lithuanian news outlets reported that Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva, the revived ethnic Pagan religion of Lithuania, was transported to the hospital and died. He was 76 years old. On hearing the news, Andras Corban Arthen, the founder and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, posted a heartfelt tribute to his friend and colleague.
“My heart is broken — my dear friend Jonas Trinkunas, head of Romuva (the traditional pagan religion of Lithuania) died earlier today. I knew Jonas for twenty years; he was a great man, who kept true to his beliefs despite all manner of struggles and religious persecution. He was an inspiration not only to Romuvans, but to the Lithuanian people, and was honored for his work by the president of Lithuania last year. And he was also a great inspiration to those of us who had the privilege of knowing him — I am so glad that many of our EarthSpirit folks got to meet him last summer when he and some of his family visited us. Go in peace, my friend; I will find you in the fire, and the thunder, and the rich dark earth.”
Trinkunas was not only someone who spearheaded the revival of his country’s ethnic pre-Christian faith, he was also an activist who helped found the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (now the European Congress of Ethnic Religions), a major organizing resource for revived pre-Christian traditions across Europe. In acknowledgement for this contribution toward the growth of ethnic religions and ancient traditions, the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) in Greece posted the following message on hearing of his death.
“Farewell into the world of your Ancestors, Jonas, our beloved friend, our respectable President. It was a big honor for us that our paths met in the struggle to restore the ancestral Traditions. You will forever live in our hearts.” - Marina Psaraki, Vlassis Rassias, Yiannis Bantekas, on behalf of the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE)
Trinkūnas, and Romuva, inhabited a special place within the minds of those who practice ethnic faiths and reconstructed Pagan traditions, since Lithuania was the last pagan nation of Europe to convert to Christianity, and thus, could claim a strong connection to its ancient pre-Christian traditions. Nor did Inia and Jonas Trinkūnas remain content to quietly practice in Lithuania, forming a touring band, Kūlgrinda, which released several albums and helped spread the message of their traditions to a wider audience.
“Another great light has been dimmed in this world. May it’s memory live on in our hearts. I am so honored to have met such a great Spirit. We will call your name at Samhain. What is remembered lives. Until we meet again.” - Angie Buchanan, Gaia’s Womb/Earth Traditions
In recent years, Jonas Trinkūnas spent increasing time as an ambassador for Romuva, speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and was rewarded with the prestigious Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas, one of Lithuania’s top civilian honors.
“The award was personally bestowed by Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania, who praised Jonas for his involvement with the underground resistance against the Soviet regime which ruled Lithuania for over forty years, as well as for his work in preserving traditional Lithuanian religion and literature.”
These honors and tributes are mere shorthand for an incredible and rich life, one lived in complete service to his religion, to his country, and to its ancient traditions and gods. You can read more about his life and his many accomplishments at Romuva’s official obituary for their supreme priest.
“I am very sad to learn that Jonas Trinkunas, the founder and leader of the Lithuanian Pagan movement Romuva, passed away today. He had some health problems in recent years, and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital in Vilnius. I first met him in 1996 on my first visit to Lithuania. I saw him for the last time in October of last year (2013). He was a true gentleman, that is, a deeply gentle soul, who tried to be helpful to everyone who came his way, but who also had a strong dedication to Lithuania and Romuva that carried him through many trials and tribulations. I will miss him deeply. My heart goes out to his wife Inija and his family.” - Michael Strmiska, author of “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives.”
A funeral is planned for Wednesday in Lithuania. May he be with his gods. What is remembered, lives.