The main god in mythology
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 10, 2016
In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept of a sky god who is addressed as a “father”, often the father of a pantheon. The concept of “sky father” may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics. The concept is complementary to an “earth mother”.
“Sky Father” is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity as the Greek Zeus Pater and Roman Jupiter, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity’s name, *Dyēus Phtḗr. While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, the concept is far from universal (e.g. Egyptian mythology has a “Heavenly Mother”).
In Ancient Egypt, Horus was ruler of the sky. He was shown as a typical male humanoid, however, he appeared to have the head of a falcon. It is not uncommon for birds to represent the sky in ancient religions, due to their ability to fly. Horus served many functions, most notably being a god of the sky, war and hunting.
Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately as the god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration. Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth god Geb, though other sources state his father is the sun-god Ra and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son.
Osiris was considered not only a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile.
Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries bc, he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: the sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk.
In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Ra-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”). When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra.
In China, in Daoist belief tian (“sky” or “heaven”) is used to refer to the sky as well as a personification of it. It is associated with light, the positive, male, etc., whereas di meaning earth or land, is associated with dark, the negative, female, etc.
Shangdi (literally “King Above”) was a supreme God worshipped in ancient China. It is also used to refer to the Christian God in the Standard Chinese Union Version of the Bible. Zhu, Tian Zhu (lit. “Lord” or “Lord in Heaven”), is translated from the English word, “Lord”, which is a formal title of the Christian God in Mainland China’s Christian churches.
In Mesopotamian mythology, An or Anu (Sumerian for “heaven”, “sky”), is the father deity of the Sumerian and Assyro-Babylonian pantheon and is also the earliest attested Sky Father deity. In Sumerian religion, he was also “King of the Gods”, “Lord of the Constellations, Spirits and Demons”, and “Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven”, where Anu himself wandered the highest Heavenly Regions.
He was believed to have the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and to have created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the Royal Tiara.
Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth; Outside of this dome was the primordial body of water known as Nammu. In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.
Dingir (usually transliterated diĝir) is a Sumerian word for “god”. The Sumerian sign DIĜIR originated as a star-shaped ideogram indicating a god in general, or the Sumerian god An, the supreme father of the gods. Dingir also meant sky or heaven in contrast with ki which meant earth. Its emesal pronunciation was dimer.
Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for “deity” although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna. Generically, dingir can be translated as “god” or “goddess”.
The sign in Sumerian cuneiform (DIĜIR) by itself represents the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”), the ideogram for An or the word diĝir (“god”), the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon. In Assyrian cuneiform, it (AN, DIĜIR) could be either an ideogram for “deity” (ilum) or a syllabogram for an, or ìl-. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again an.
The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.
Deus is Latin for “god” or “deity”. Latin deus and dīvus “divine”, are descended from Proto-Indo-European *deiwos, “celestial” or “shining”, from the same root as *Dyēus, the reconstructed chief god of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon.
Compare Greek Zeus and Sanskrit deva. Latin dies (“day”) is considered to have derived from the same PIE root that originated deus. This is to say that a celestial shining body, the Sun, gives material form to the words for “day” in the Romance Languages.
In Classical Latin, deus (feminine dea) was a general noun referring to a deity, while in technical usage a divus ordiva was a figure who had become divine, such as a divinized emperor. In Late Latin, Deus came to be used mostly for the Christian God. It was inherited by the Romance languages in French Dieu, Spanish Dios, Portuguese and GalicianDeus, Italian Dio, etc., and by the Celtic languages in Welsh Duw and Irish Dia.
Dyēus (also *Dyēus Phter, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in the religious traditions of the prehistoric Proto-Indo-European societies. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylight sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in society. In his aspect as a father god, his consort would have been Pltwih Méhter, “earth mother”.
This deity is not directly attested; rather, scholars have reconstructed this deity from the languages and cultures of later Indo-European peoples such as the Greeks, Latins, and Indo-Aryans. According to this scholarly reconstruction, Dyeus was addressed as Dyeu Phter, literally “sky father” or “shining father”, as reflected in Latin Iūpiter, Diēspiter, possibly Dis Pater and deus pater, Greek Zeu pater, Sanskrit Dyàuṣpítaḥ.
As the pantheons of the individual mythologies related to the Proto-Indo-European religion evolved, attributes of Dyeus seem to have been redistributed to other deities. In Greek and Roman mythology, Dyeus remained the chief god; however, in Vedic mythology, the etymological continuant of Dyeus became a very abstract god, and his original attributes and dominance over other gods appear to have been transferred to gods such as Agni or Indra.
Later figures etymologically connected with Dyeus is Zeus in Greek mythology, Jupiter (from *Iou-pater) and Dis Pater (although he is more connected with the Greco-Roman Pluto theologically) in Roman mythology, Dyaus Pitar in Historical Vedic religion, and Dionysus, especially with the Thracians and Sabines.
Rooted in the related but distinct Indo-European word *deiwos is the Latin word for deity, deus. The Latin word is also continued in English divine, “deity”, and the original Germanic word remains visible in “Tuesday” (“Day of Tīwaz”) and Old Norse tívar, which may be continued in the toponym Tiveden (“Wood of the Gods”, or of Týr).
The names derived from the related *deiwos are Germanic Tīwaz (known as Týr in Old Norse), Latin Deus (originally used to address Jupiter, but later adopted as the name of the Christian god), Indo-Aryan deva: Vedic/Puranic deva, Buddhist deva, Iranic daeva, daiva, diw, etc., Baltic Dievas, Celtic e.g. Gaulish Dēuos, Scottish Gaelic dia, Welsh duw, and Slavic div (genitive divese; “miracle”). Estonian Tharapita bears similarity to Dyaus Pita in name, although it has been interpreted as being related to the god Thor.
Although some of the more iconic reflexes of Dyeus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with Canaanite deities and Perkwunos.
The deity’s original domain was over the daylit sky, and indeed reflexes emphasise this connection to light: Istanu (Tiyaz) is a solar deity, Helios is often referred to as the “eye of Zeus”, in Romanian paganism the Sun is similarly called “God’s eye” and in Indo-Iranian tradition Surya/Hvare-khshaeta is similarly associated with Ahura Mazda. Even in Roman tradition, Jupiter often is only associated with diurnal lightning at most, while Summanus is a deity responsible for nocturnal lightning or storms as a whole.
Dyēus’s name also likely means “the daytime sky”. In Sanskrit as div- (nominative singular dyāus with vrddhi), its singular means “the sky” and its plural means “days”. Its accusative form *dyēm became Latin diem “day”, which later gave rise to a new nominative diēs. The original nominative survives as diūs in a few fixed expressions.
Finnish taivas, Estonian taevas, Livonian tōvaz etc. (from Proto-Finnic *taivas), meaning “heaven” or “sky,” are likely rooted in the Indo-European word. The neighboring Baltic Dievas or Germanic Tiwaz are possible sources, but the Indo-Iranian *daivas accords better in both form and meaning. Similar origin has been proposed for the word family represented by Finnish toivoa “to hope” (originally “to pray from gods”).
Lithuanian Dievas, Latvian Dievs, Latgalian Dīvs, Prussian Deywis, Yotvingian Deivas was the supreme god in the Baltic mythology and one of the most important deities together with Perkūnas. Dievas is a direct successor of the Proto-Indo-European supreme god *Dyēus of the root *deiwo-. Its Proto-Baltic form was *Deivas. In recent Lithuanian, this word may refer to the deity of any kind (Pagan, Christian, fictional and the like).
In English, Dievas may be used as a word to describe the God (or, the supreme god) in the pre-Christian religion of Balts, where Dievas was understood to be the supreme being of the world. In Lithuanian and Latvian, it is also used to describe God as it is understood by major world religions today.
Earlier *Deivas simply denoted the shining sunlit dome of the sky, as in other Indo-European mythologies. The celestial aspect is still apparent in phrases such as Saule noiet dievā, from Latvian folksongs. In Hinduism any deity is known as Deva, a result of shared Proto-Indo-European roots.
In the early Vedic pantheon, Dyaus Pita “Sky Father” appears already in a marginal position, but in comparative mythology is often reconstructed as having stood alongside Prithvi Mata “Earth Mother” in prehistoric times.
Dīs Pater was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades (Hades was Greek). Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity.
The Etruscan god Aita and Roman gods Dis Pater and Orcus were eventually taken as equivalent to the Greek Hades and merged as Pluto, a Latinization of his euphemistic Greek name Plouton.
Dīs Pater was commonly shortened to simply Dīs. This name has since become an alternative name for the underworld or a part of the underworld, such as the City of Dis of The Divine Comedy.
Cicero in his De Natura Deorum derives the name of Dīs Pater from dives, suggesting a meaning of “father of riches”, directly corresponding to the name Pluto (from Greek Ploutōn, meaning “wealthy”).
According to some 19th century authors many of Cicero’s etymological derivations are not to be taken seriously, and may indeed have been intended ironical, however, this particular derivation of Cicero’s has been accepted by some contemporary authors, some even suggesting that Dīs Pater is a direct loan translation of Ploutōn. Alternatively, he may be a secondary reflex of the same god as Jupiter (Proto-Indo-European Dyeus Phter).
Like Pluto, Dīs Pater eventually became associated with death and the underworld because the wealth of the earth—gems and precious metals—was considered in the domain of the Greco-Roman underworld. As a result, Dīs Pater was over time conflated with the Greek god Hades.
In being conflated with Pluto, Dīs Pater took on some of the Greek mythological attributes of Pluto / Hades, being one of the three sons of Saturn (Greek: Cronus) and Ops (Greek: Rhea), along with Jupiter and Neptune. He ruled the underworld and the dead beside his wife, Proserpina (Greek: Persephone). In literature, Dīs Pater was commonly used as a symbolic and poetic way of referring to death itself.
In addition to being considered the ancestor of the Gauls, Dīs Pater was sometimes identified with the Sabine god Soranus. Soranus was identified with Dis, the Roman god of the underworld, or with Apollo.
The Italic Diespiter was also a sky god who manifested himself in the daylight, usually but not always identified with Jupiter. Dīs Pater was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades (Hades was Greek).
Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity. Alternatively, he may be a secondary reflex of the same god as Jupiter (Proto-Indo-European Dyeus Phter).
Like Pluto, Dīs Pater eventually became associated with death and the underworld because the wealth of the earth—gems and precious metals—was considered in the domain of the Greco-Roman underworld. As a result, Dīs Pater was over time conflated with the Greek god Hades.
In being conflated with Pluto, Dīs Pater took on some of the Greek mythological attributes of Pluto/Hades, being one of the three sons of Saturn (Greek: Cronus) and Ops (Greek: Rhea), along with Jupiter and Neptune. He ruled the underworld and the dead beside his wife, Proserpina (Greek: Persephone). In literature, Dīs Pater was commonly used as a symbolic and poetic way of referring to death itself.
As the sky-god, Jupiter was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend. Many of his functions were focused on the Capitoline Hill, where the citadel was located. He was the chief deity of the early Capitoline Triad with Mars and Quirinus. In the later Capitoline Triad, he was the central guardian of the state with Juno and Minerva. His sacred tree was the oak.
Pluto – Hades
Pluto was the ruler of the underworld in classical mythology. The earlier name for the god was Hades, which became more common as the name of the underworld itself. In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife.
Hades was the ancient Greek chthonic god of the underworld, which eventually took his name. He was regarded as the oldest son of Cronus and Rhea, although the last son regurgitated by his father.
He and his brothers Zeus and Poseidon defeated their father’s generation of gods, the Titans, and claimed rulership over the cosmos. Hades received the underworld, Zeus the air, and Poseidon the sea, with the solid earth—long the province of Gaia—available to all three concurrently.
Hades was often portrayed with his three-headed guard dog Cerberus and, in later mythological authors, associated with the Helm of Darkness, a helmet or cap that can turn the wearer invisible, and the bident, a two-pronged implement resembling a pitchfork.
In classical mythology, the bident is a weapon associated with Hades, the ruler of the underworld, while the three-pronged trident is the implement of Poseidon (Neptune), god of the seas and earthquakes. That the trident and bident might be somewhat interchangeable is suggested by a Byzantine scholiast, who mentions Poseidon being armed with a bident.
Pluto’s Roman equivalent is Dis Pater, whose name is most often taken to mean “Rich Father” and is perhaps a direct translation of Plouton. Seneca calls Dis the “Infernal Jove” or the “dire Jove” (the Jove who gives dire or ill omens, dirae), just as in the Greek tradition, Plouton is sometimes identified as a “chthonic Zeus.”
Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos, or Plutus, a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because as a chthonic god Pluto ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest.
The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone, represented by the Greeks as the beautiful daughter of Demeter. The couple received souls in the afterlife, and are invoked together in religious inscriptions. Hades by contrast had few temples and religious practices associated with him, and is portrayed as the dark and violent abductor of Persephone.
Pluto and Hades differ in character, but they are not distinct figures and share their two major myths. In Greek cosmogony, the god received the rule of the underworld in a three-way division of sovereignty over the world, with his brothers Zeus ruling the Sky and Poseidon the Sea. His central narrative is the abduction of Persephone to be his wife and the queen of his realm.
Persephone did not submit to Hades willingly, but was abducted by him while picking flowers in the fields of Nysa. In protest of his act, Demeter cast a curse on the land and there was a great famine; though, one by one, the gods came to request she lift it, lest mankind perish, she asserted that the earth would remain barren until she saw her daughter again.
Finally, Zeus intervened; via Hermes, he requested that Hades return Persephone. Hades complied, “But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter.”
Demeter questioned Persephone on her return to light and air: “…but if you have tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other deathless gods.”
This bound her to Hades and the Underworld, much to the dismay of Demeter. It is not clear whether Persephone was accomplice to the ploy. Zeus proposed a compromise, to which all parties agreed: of the year, Persephone would spend one third with her husband. It is during this time that winter casts on the earth “an aspect of sadness and mourning.”
In Ancient Rome, the sky father, or sky god, was Jupiter (Zeus in Ancient Greece), often depicted by birds, usually the eagle or hawk, and clouds or other sky phenomena. Nicknames included “Sky God” and “Cloud Gatherer.” While many attribute a sky god to the sun, Jupiter ruled mainly over the clouds and the heavens, while Apollo is referred to as the god of the sun. Apollo was, however, the son of Jupiter.
Jupiter, also Jove, is the god of sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras, until Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire. In Roman mythology, he negotiates with Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, to establish principles of Roman religion such as sacrifice.
Jupiter is usually thought to have originated as a sky god. His identifying implement is the thunderbolt and his primary sacred animal is the eagle, which held precedence over other birds in the taking of auspices and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army. The two emblems were often combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt, frequently seen on Greek and Roman coins.
The Romans regarded Jupiter as the equivalent of the Greek Zeus, and in Latin literature and Roman art, the myths and iconography of Zeus are adapted under the name Iuppiter. Tinia is usually regarded as his Etruscan counterpart.
In the Greek-influenced tradition, Jupiter was the brother of Neptune and Pluto. Each presided over one of the three realms of the universe: sky, the waters, and the underworld.
The planet Jupiter has been known since ancient times. It is visible to the naked eye in the night sky and can occasionally be seen in the daytime when the Sun is low. To the Babylonians, this object represented their god Marduk. They used Jupiter’s roughly 12-year orbit along the ecliptic to define the constellations of their zodiac.
For people living in the ancient city of Babylon, Marduk was their patron god, and thus it is not a surprise that Babylonian astronomers took an interest in tracking the comings and goings of the planet Jupiter, which they regarded as a celestial manifestation of Marduk.
The Babylonian name for the planet was Ninib, another name for the ancient Sumerian god Ninurta. In very early times, Ninurta was regarded as a king of the gods and a powerful dragon -slayer. However, he was replaced in the hearts and minds of the Mesopotamian people by Marduk, a “younger” god and another dragon-slayer, associated with the planet Jupiter.
Ninurta, or more properly Ninib, survived as a god of agriculture, a kind of celestial magistrate over fields and their bounderies – and, by extension, the bounderies and limits of consciousness that are suggested by Saturn’s position as the visible limit of the solar system. He also governed the irrigation technology that helped move the ancient Mesopotamia along the road to achievement, and that made the fields prosper.
Ninurta was a Sumerian and the Akkadian god of hunting and war. In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.
He was worshipped in Babylonia and Assyria and in Lagash he was identified with the city god Ningirsu. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.
In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future. Ninurta slays each of the monsters later known as the “Slain Heroes”. Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil.
There are many parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Tiamat and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki.
In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.
In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity.
The Romans named it after Jupiter (Latin: Iuppiter, Iūpiter) (also called Jove), the principal god of Roman mythology, whose name comes from the Proto-Indo-European vocative compound *Dyēu-pəter (nominative: *Dyēus-pətēr, meaning “Father Sky-God”, or “Father Day-God”). In turn, Jupiter was the counterpart to the mythical Greek Zeus, also referred to as Dias, the planetary name of which is retained in modern Greek.
In Germanic mythology, Jupiter is equated to Thor, whence the English name Thursday for the Roman dies Jovis. The astrological and astronomical sign of the planet Jupiter is sometimes used to represent Thursday.
The name of the day is derived from Old English Þūnresdæg and Middle English Thuresday (with loss of -n-, first in northern dialects, from influence of Old Norse Þorsdagr) meaning “Thor’s Day”. Thunor, Donar (German, Donnerstag) and Thor are derived from the name of the Germanic god of thunder, Thunraz, equivalent to Jupiter in the interpretatio romana.
In most Romance languages, the day is named after the Roman god Jupiter, who was the god of sky and thunder. In Latin, the day was known as Iovis Dies, “Jupiter’s Day”. In Latin, the genitive or possessive case of Jupiter was Iovis/Jovis and thus in most Romance languages it became the word for Thursday: Italian giovedì, Spanish jueves, French jeudi, Sardinian jòvia, Catalan dijous, Galician “xoves” and Romanian joi. This is also reflected in the p-Celtic Welsh dydd Iau.
Týr is a Germanic god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Týr is a god of war and will take mead, meat and blood for sacrifice. If a warrior carved the rune Tîwaz on his weapon he would be dedicating it to Týr and strengthen the outcome of a battle to be in his favor. After a warrior has dedicated his weapon to Týr he should not lose it or break it.
Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz. The Latinised name is Tius or Tio.
In the late Icelandic Eddas, Týr is portrayed, alternately, as the son of Odin (Prose Edda) or of Hymir (Poetic Edda), while the origins of his name and his possible relationship to Tuisto (see Tacitus’ Germania) suggest he was once considered the father of the gods and head of the pantheon since his name is ultimately cognate to that of *Dyeus (cf. Dyaus), the reconstructed chief deity in Indo-European religion.
It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.
Bṛhaspati refers to different deities depending on the age of the text. In ancient Indian literatures Brihaspati is a Vedic era sage deity who is the counselor for Demigods or Devas, whose king is Lord Indra, while in some medieval texts the word refers to the largest planet Jupiter.
In medieval mythologies particularly those associated with Hindu astrology, Brihaspati has a second meaning and refers to planet Jupiter. Brihaspati as Jupiter is part of the Navagraha in Hindu zodiac system, considered auspicious and benevolent.
It became the root of the word ‘Brihaspativara’ or Thursday in the Hindu calendar. The word “Thursday” in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to planet Jupiter (god of sky and thunder).
Brihaspati was married to Tara, the Hindu goddess of felicity and sanguineness, in medieval mythologies, who was later abducted by Chandra (“shining”). Tara bore a son, Budha, a Sanskrit word that connotes the planet Mercury and personification of this planet as a God in Hinduism. Budha is also known as Saumya (“Son of Moon”), Rauhineya and Tunga.
Budha is the root of the word ‘Budhavara’ or Wednesday in the Hindu calendar. The word “Wednesday” in the Greco-Roman and other Indo-European calendars is also dedicated to planet Mercury (“day of Woden or Oden”).
Chandra is a lunar god and a Graha. He is also identified with the Vedic lunar deity Soma. The Soma name refers particularly to the juice of sap in the plants and thus makes the Moon the lord of plants and vegetation. As Soma, he presides over Monday. He is married to 27 Nakshatras, who are known to be daughters of Daksha.
In the Central Asian-Turkic myths, Jupiter is called Erendiz or Erentüz, from eren (of uncertain meaning) and yultuz (“star”). There are many theories about the meaning of eren. These peoples calculated the period of the orbit of Jupiter as 11 years and 300 days. They believed that some social and natural events connected to Erentüz’s movements on the sky.
Janus rules over the first things, Jupiter over the highest ones. It is thence right that Jupiter be considered the king of everything, because accomplishment has the first place in order of importance (dignitas) even though it has the second in order of time”.
Janus was likely the most important god in the Roman archaic pantheon. He was often invoked together with Iuppiter (Jupiter). In general, Janus is at the origin of time as the guardian of the gates of Heaven: Jupiter himself can move forth and back because of Janus’s working.
Janus owes the epithet Iunonius to his function as patron of all kalends, which are also associated with Juno. In Macrobius’s explanation: “Iunonium, as it were, not only does he hold the entry to January, but to all the months: indeed all the kalends are under the jurisdiction of Juno”.
Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Greek equivalent was Hera. Her Etruscan counterpart was Uni. As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (“Queen”) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a triad on the Capitol (Juno Capitolina) in Rome.
Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She often appeared sitting pictured with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Hera, whose goatskin was called the ‘aegis’.
At the time when the rising of the new moon was observed by the pontifex minor the rex sacrorum assisted by him offered a sacrifice to Janus in the Curia Calabra while the regina sacrorum sacrificed to Juno in the regia. Some scholars have maintained that Juno was the primitive paredra of the god. This point bears on the nature of Janus and Juno and is at the core of an important dispute: was Janus a debased ancient uranic supreme god, or were Janus and Jupiter co-existent, their distinct identities structurally inherent to their original theology?
Among Francophone scholars Grimal and (implicitly and partially) Renard and Basanoff have supported the view of a uranic supreme god against Dumézil and Schilling. Among Anglophone scholars Frazer and Cook have suggested an interpretation of Janus as uranic supreme god. Whatever the case, it is certain that Janus and Juno show a peculiar reciprocal affinity: while Janus is Iunonius, Juno is Ianualis, as she presides over childbirth and the menstrual cycle, and opens doors.
Moreover, besides the kalends Janus and Juno are also associated at the rite of the Tigillum Sororium of 1 October, in which they bear the epithets Ianus Curiatius and Iuno Sororia. These epithets, which swap the functional qualities of the gods, are the most remarkable apparent proof of their proximity. The rite is discussed in detail in the section below.
The Archaic Triad
The Archaic Triad consisting of the gods Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus was first described by Wissowa, and the concept was developed further by Dumézil. The three-function hypothesis of Indo-European society advanced by Dumézil holds that in prehistory, society was divided into three classes (priests, warriors and craftsmen) which had as their religious counterparts the divine figures of the sovereign god, the warrior god and the civil god. The sovereign function (embodied by Jupiter) entailed omnipotence; thence, a domain extended over every aspect of nature and life. The colour relating to the sovereign function is white.
The three functions are interrelated with one another, overlapping to some extent; the sovereign function, although essentially religious in nature, is involved in many ways in areas pertaining to the other two. Therefore, Jupiter is the “magic player” in the founding of the Roman state and the fields of war, agricultural plenty, human fertility and wealth. Jupiter, as a sovereign god, was considered as having the power to conquer anyone and anything in a supernatural way; his contribution to military victory was different from that of Mars (god of military valour).
In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus is an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris “spear.” Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning “wielder of the spear” (Quiris, in the Sabine language, cf. Janus Quirinus).
Other suggested etymologies are from the Sabine town Cures; from curia, i.e. he was the god of the Roman state as represented by the thirty curies. A. B. Cook explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.
Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning “wielder of the spear” (Quiris, in the Sabine language, cf. Janus Quirinus). Other suggested etymologies are from the Sabine town Cures; from curia, i.e. he was the god of the Roman state as represented by the thirty curies. A. B. Cook explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.
Quirinus was originally most likely a Sabine god of war. The Sabines had a settlement near the eventual site of Rome, and erected an altar to Quirinus on the Collis Quirinalis Quirinal Hill, one of the Seven hills of Rome. When the Romans settled there, they absorbed the cult of Quirinus into their early belief system — previous to direct Greek influence — and by the end of the first century BC, Quirinus was considered to be the deified Romulus.
He soon became an important god of the Roman state, being included in the earliest precursor of the Capitoline Triad, along with Mars (then an agriculture god) and Jupiter. Varro mentions the Capitolium Vetus, an earlier cult site on the Quirinal, devoted to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, among whom Martial makes a distinction between the “old Jupiter” and the “new”.
In later times, however, Quirinus became far less important, losing his place to the later, more widely known Capitoline Triad (Juno and Minerva took his and Mars’ place). Later still, Romans began to drift away from the state belief system in favor of more personal and mystical cults (such as those of Bacchus, Cybele, and Isis). In the end, he was worshiped almost exclusively by his flamen, the Flamen Quirinalis, who remained, however, one of the patrician flamines maiores, the “greater flamens” who had precedence over the Pontifex Maximus.
Religious historian A. Brelich has argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity which was split into a founder hero and a god when Roman religion became demythicised. Among the features of Romulus that make of him the human equivalent of Quirinus is his death at the hands of the patres which occurred on the date of the Quirinalia, February 17, also the last day of the Fornacalia or Stultorum Feriae according to Ovid’s Fasti.
Brelich maintains the equal identity of a god and founder hero with a staple food of a community, spelt in this case, is a well-known theme in anthropology, as shown in the myth of Hainuwele, which Jensen named as dema myth. The possible presence of the flamen Quirinalis at the festival of Acca Larentia would corroborate this thesis, given the fact that Romulus is a stepson of hers, and one the original twelfth arval brethren (Fratres Arvales).
According to Brelich the identity of Quirinus and Romulus would find a further point of support in the parallel with Vofionos, the third god in the triad of the Grabovian gods of Iguvium. Vofionos would be the equivalent of Liber or Teutates, in Latium and among the Celts respectively.
In earlier Roman art, he was portrayed as a bearded man with religious and military clothing. However, he was almost never depicted in later Roman belief systems. He was also often associated with the myrtle. His festival was the Quirinalia, held on February 17.
Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Quirinal hill in Rome, originally named from the deified Romulus, was still associated with power – it was chosen as the seat of the royal house after the taking of Rome by the Savoia and later it became the residence of the Presidents of the Italian Republic.
Quirinus is a god that incarnates the quirites, i.e. the Romans in their civil capacity of producers and fathers. He is surnamed Mars tranquillus peaceful Mars, Mars qui praeest paci Mars who presides on peace. His function of custos guardian is highlighted by the location of his temple inside the pomerium but not far from the gate of Porta Collina or Quirinalis, near the shrines of Sancus and Salus.
As a protector of peace he is nevertheless armed, in the same way as the quirites are, as they are potentially milites soldiers: his staue represents him is holding a spear. For this reason Janus, god of gates, is concerned with his function of protector of the civil community.
For the same reason the flamen Portunalis oiled the arms of Quirinus, implying that they were to be kept in good order and ready even though they were not to be used immediately. Dumézil and Schilling remark that as a god of the third function Quirinus is peaceful and represents the ideal of the pax romana i. e. a peace resting on victory.
Mars Quirinus was the protector of the Quirites (“citizens” or “civilians”) as divided into curiae (citizen assemblies), whose oaths were required to make a treaty. As a guarantor of treaties, Mars Quirinus is thus a god of peace: “When he rampages, Mars is called Gradivus, but when he’s at peace Quirinus.”
The deified Romulus was identified with Mars Quirinus. In the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, however, Mars and Quirinus were two separate deities, though not perhaps in origin. Each of the three had his own flamen (specialized priest), but the functions of the Flamen Martialis and Flamen Quirinalis are hard to distinguish.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming. Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars.
Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.
Although Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, Mars was the son of Juno alone. Jupiter had usurped the mother’s function when he gave birth to Minerva directly from his forehead (or mind); to restore the balance, Juno sought the advice of the goddess Flora on how to do the same. Flora obtained a magic flower (Latin flos, plural flores, a masculine word) and tested it on a heifer who became fecund at once. She then plucked a flower ritually using her thumb, touched Juno’s belly, and impregnated her. Juno withdrew to Thrace and the shore of Marmara for the birth.
Ovid tells this story in the Fasti, his long-form poetic work on the Roman calendar. It may explain why the Matronalia, a festival celebrated by married women in honor of Juno as a goddess of childbirth, occurred on the first day of Mars’ month, which is also marked on a calendar from late antiquity as the birthday of Mars. In the earliest Roman calendar, March was the first month, and the god would have been born with the new year.
The consort of Mars was Nerio or Nerine, “Valor.” She represents the vital force (vis), power (potentia) and majesty (maiestas) of Mars. Her name was regarded as Sabine in origin and is equivalent to Latin virtus, “manly virtue” (from vir, “man”). In the early 3rd century BC, the comic playwright Plautus has a reference to Mars greeting Nerio, his wife. A source from late antiquity says that Mars and Nerine were celebrated together at a festival held on March 23. In the later Roman Empire, Nerine came to be identified with Minerva.
Nerio probably originates as a divine personification of Mars’ power, as such abstractions in Latin are generally feminine. Her name appears with that of Mars in an archaic prayer invoking a series of abstract qualities, each paired with the name of a deity. The influence of Greek mythology and its anthropomorphic gods may have caused Roman writers to treat these pairs as “marriages.”
The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. A relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in a sacrarium at the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome. The spear was said to move, tremble or vibrate at impending war or other danger to the state, as was reported to occur before the assassination of Julius Caesar. When Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus.
Ereshkigal and Nergal
Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. It was said that she had been stolen away by Kur and taken to the underworld, where she was made queen unwillingly.
Inanna refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.
Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. Ereshkigal was also a queen that many gods and goddesses looked up to in the underworld.
She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.
Nergal was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia (Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia) with the main seat of his worship at Cuthahrepresented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. He is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta.
Nergal is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person.
Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.
Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.
In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.
Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaedaor Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda / Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.
In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.
In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.
The worship of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical.
Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan. According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.
One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *hewsṓs- or *hausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *hewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ēōs, Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *hews-tro-.
The name *hewsṓs is derived from a root *hwes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir.
The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess. The love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos.
The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”). J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Erigone “early-born” in Greek.
The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the new year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
In Mesopotamian religion, Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. Depicted as a woman she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish is named for its incipit: “When above” the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, “the first, the begetter”, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, “she who bore them all”; they were “mixing their waters”.
It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu, a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki.