Originally known as Jarovit, Jarilo was an important fertility god for the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. He was honoured annually with the coming of spring, and his birthday was said to be the last day of February, traditionally the Slavic New Year.
According to reconstructed myths, Jarilo was the tenth son of the supreme god, Perun, snatched at birth by Veles, ruler of the Underworld. A loyal son to Veles, Jarilo travelled to Earth as an adult, falling in love and marrying a nature goddess named Morana. Little did the pair realise that they were twins, and that their union ensured bountiful crops for their worshippers. However, Jarilo became unfaithful, and was murdered by his sister-wife, whose bitterness brought death to crops. And so, Jarilo returned to Veles and the Underworld.
The legend itself represents the widely-held belief that the life of fertility gods paralleled the birth-life-death-rebirth cycle of nature. Those well-versed in European mythology may also note it bears striking similarities to the fertility twins Frey and Freya of Norse lore, and the Ancient Greek tale of Persephone’s annual journey to and from Hades’ Underworld.