There are adherents of Romuva all over the world, but the religion primarily exists in Lithuania and the former Eastern Bloc nations. Romuva has close ties with sentiments of Lithuanian and Baltic nationalism. Lithuanian ancestry is not a prerequisite to acceptance by the Romuva religious community. Practising the Romuva faith is seen by many adherents as a form of cultural pride, along with celebrating traditional forms of art, retelling Baltic folklore, practising traditional holidays, playing traditional Baltic music, singing traditional dainas or hymns and songs as well as ecological activism and stewarding sacred places.
The terms Romuva, Romovė and Ruomuva came from medieval written sources in East Prussia mentioning the pagan Baltic temple Romowe. The word may be derived from the Baltic root ram-/rām-, meaning 'calm, serene, quiet', stemming from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)remǝ-.
In the 13th century the pope Gregory IX declared crusades against Baltic tribes. This led to the destruction of the Baltic faith. Grand Duke Mindaugas was Christianized with his family and warriors in 1251 to get appreciation from Christian Europe. But Mindaugas still worshiped pagan deities as the Hypatian chronicle mentions. He sacrificed to the pagan Supreme God (*Andajus, later Dievas), Perkūnas, *Teliavelis (god of smiths), and *Žvorūna (goddess of forests and hunters).
Despite the baptism of Mindaugas, the whole of ethnic Lithuania was not Christianized, so the crusades were not stopped. In 1387 the whole of Aukštaitija was Christianized by Grand Duke Vytautas and his cousin Jogaila. The old pagan priests estate was annihilated along with archaic pagan Baltic culture. The same was done in 1417 in Samogitia. After the Christianization of Lithuania the real purpose of the Christian Teutonic order was revealed. The Order was fighting against the Balts not to bring a new faith, but to conquer new territories. Another consequence of the Baltic Crusades was the extermination of pagan Old Prussians.
In 1565 Valerijonas Protasevičius invited the Jesuit order to 'fight' with idolaters. This was the last step to destroy the ancient Baltic faith. Despite this Lithuanian peasants continued to practice paganism until the 18th century. Later pagan traditions were adopted by the Christian church, old deities were replaced by sainthood.
The Romanticism epocha started in the 19th century. This led Lithuanians to turn back to their old roots. The national revival started and Lithuanian intelligentsia idealised ancient paganism and folklore. Some historians wanted to prove the beauty of ancient polytheism and even started creating new aspects of Lithuanian mythology. One of the most famous of these was Theodor Narbutt who edited Ancient Greek myths and created new Lithuanian ones. In the beginning of 20th century ancient pagan traditions were still continued in folklore and customs. People were celebrating ancient pagan festivals mixed with Christian traditions. Such festivals include Vėlinės (day of death souls, common with Celtic Halloween), Užgavėnės (festival when winter ends and spring begins. People in Samogitia burn an idol called Morė and wear masks) and Rasos or Joninės.
In 1900 Vydūnas conceived Romuva in his drama 'Amžina ugnis' (The Eternal Fire). Since the play was performed in 1912, Romuva has become a symbol of Lithuanian (pagan) nationalism. Domas Šidlauskas-Visuomis (1878-1944) began to create Vaidevutybė (Baltic neo-paganism) in 1911. At the same time the Latvian ethnic religion movement Dievturi was started by E.Brastinis. The main problem was that the first movements were based on limited folklore sources and influenced by Far Eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Even so, the idea of Romuva didn't die during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania.
After Stalin's death the cultural life became more free. Due to the nationalist nature of Romuva, the faith was suppressed during the Soviet Occupation and many practitioners were executed or deported to slave labor camps in Siberia. A clandestine Romuva group is known to have existed within a labor camp in Inta, Russia. After the members were released and returned to Lithuania around 1960, Jonas Trinkūnas (born 1939) formed the Vilnius Ethnological Ramuva and began organizing public celebrations of traditional Lithuanian religious holidays in 1967 (the ancient Lithuanian festival Rasos was made). In 1971 the Soviets expelled the members from the university they attended and exiled the leaders.
During the Cold War most organized Romuva activity was largely based in North America. However, by 1988 when the power of the Soviet Union was waning and Lithuanian independence was on the horizon, Romuva groups began reorganizing in the Baltic nations and practising their religion in the open.
Romuva was recorded as an Ancient Baltic faith community in 1992 after independence in 1990. Under the auspices of the Law on Religious Communities and Associations which was passed in Lithuania in 1995, Romuva gained recognition as a "non-traditional" religion. Lithuanian law requires a minimum of 25 years of existence before such a religion can receive the state support reserved for "traditional" religions.
Romuva feasts are based on traditional archaic Lithuanian customs preserved in authenthic form, folklore. All these feasts are based on rhythms of nature and containing ancient agrarian rituals. Year is a circle marked by two sun solstices and two equinoxes and in such way divided into 4 periods. During these periods intermediate feasts are celebrated.
Užgavėnės is one of the most ancient Lithuanian folk feastes celebrated since prehistoric times containing worship of totem animals and ancestors.
Ancient Užgavėnės rituals:
Important mythological figures in Užgavėnės are Bear, Heron, mythical deities and spirits of underworld or connected with death and spells: Ragana and Velnias (deities of underworld), witches, demons, animals-spirits, ethnic minorities symbolizing strangers from the other side.
The Baltic aukuras or "fire altar" is a stone altar in which a fire is ritually lit. Participants wash their hands and face before approaching the aukuras, and then they sing dainas or ritual hymns as the fire is lit. Food, drink, grasses and flowers are offered to the flame as the group sings the dainas. After the primary offering, participants offer their own verbal or silent contributions which are carried to the Gods and ancestors with the smoke and sparks of the flame. See also Rig Veda hymns to the fire altar.
Most of ritual hymns are preserved in Lithuanian folk tradition as folk calendar ritual songs also Romuva reconstructed some hymns for rites of gods worship. Reconstruction is based on ritual texts found in written sources, like Matthäus Prätorius and traditional archaic folk melodies. Some hymns of gods worship survived in folk tradition.