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We begin this episode with a land acknowledgement.

In this episode of the Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery podcast, hosts Phil Arnold and Sandy Bigtree interview Eglutė Trinkauskaitė, a faculty member in humanistic studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Trinkauskaite discusses ancient Baltic religion and the challenges of studying and reconstructing it due to the loss of historical records. She also explores the impact of Christianity on Baltic religion and the process of conversion in the Baltic region. Trinkauskaite shares her personal experiences with Lithuanian traditions, such as mushroom picking and the use of bathhouses, and discusses the cultural and spiritual significance of these practices. The conversation also touches on the challenges faced by indigenous religious traditions, such as Romuva, in gaining recognition and acceptance in Lithuania.

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Show Notes

Have you ever wondered how the indigenous religious traditions of the Baltic region have evolved over the centuries? In our latest podcast episode, we delve into this topic with our esteemed guest, Eglutė Trinkauskaitė, a faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art, who shares her extensive knowledge of post-Soviet Lithuania.
Eglutė’s research shines a light on the primary sources of Baltic religion, helping us understand the true meaning of ‘paganism’, and taking us on a fascinating journey from age-old oral traditions to the Christianization process that greatly impacted the region’s matrilineal societies. This Christianization process, traced back to a papal bull from 1255, played a pivotal role in reshaping the religious landscape of Lithuania, a region that was finally Christianized as late as 1413.

The exploration of Lithuania’s religious past does not stop at Christianity. We delve into Lithuania’s unique mushroom and bee traditions, both of which carry significant spiritual connotations that remain deeply rooted in the country’s psyche. Lithuania’s engagement with the natural world, particularly through mushroom foraging and beekeeping, are central to the country’s cultural identity and its relationship with spirituality.

The mushroom tradition, a practice passed down through generations, is deeply connected to the gods of the dead in pre-colonial Baltic religion. The beekeeping tradition, a skill that Eglutė’s grandfather possessed, has its own spiritual significance. It is these traditions that tie Lithuanians to their ancestors, providing a vivid picture of a time gone by.

In our discussion, we also touch upon the unique tradition of carving wooden sculptures of Jesus, known locally as Rūpintojėlis. These carvings, believed to be imbued with the souls of the dead, represent a form of syncretism between Catholicism and pre-Christian Baltic religion, and bear testament to the spiritual dimensions of wood in Baltic culture.

The episode concludes with a discussion on the impact and potential repercussions of our Indigenous Culture Seminar presentation to the local Lithuanian community. The resurgence of religious traditions since Lithuania’s independence in 1991 has created a challenging environment for the preservation of ancient practices. This discussion provides a crucial insight into the ongoing struggle between modernity and tradition, a struggle that continues to shape Lithuania’s cultural landscape.

Through this captivating exploration of ancient Baltic religion, its history, and its influence on today’s Lithuania, listeners are invited to embark on an enlightening journey, discovering a different world that has stood the test of time. This episode serves as a valuable resource for those interested in understanding the complexities of cultural evolution, religious transformation, and the challenges of preserving ancient traditions in a modern era.


  • Philip P. Arnold, The Urgency of Indigenous Values, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2023)
  • Eglutė Trinkauskaitė. “Atomic Grandmothers and Snake Medicines.” Lituanus 63, no. 3 (2023).
  • Trinkauskaitė, Eglutė. “Rūpintojėlis: Evocation of Indigenous Lithuanian Soulfulness.” THE LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY VOLUME 65: 2 (2019) (2016): 47.


  • Music: Onondaga Social Dance songs performed by Orris Edwards and Regis Cook
  • Producers: Jordan Loewen-Colón and Adam DJ Brett
  • Show notes: Adam DJ Brett


Philip P. Arnold and Sandra Bigtree, “S03E04: Beekeeping, Mushrooms and Sculptures: A Glimpse into Traditional Lithuanian Life with Eglutė Trinkauskaitė,” Mapping the Doctrine of Discovery (Podcast), December 04, 2023. https://podcast.doctrineofdiscovery.org/season3/episode-04/.

This podcast is licensed under the Creative Commons by the Indigenous Values Initiative.
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