Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The sky / day god

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 14, 2017

Dingir (usually transliterated diĝir, pronounced /diŋir/) is a Sumerian word for “god.” 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 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, B010ellst.png) 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.

The term comes from the Old English dæg, with its cognates such as dagur in Icelandic, Tag in German, and dag in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Dutch. All of them from the Indo-European root dyau which explains the similarity with Latin dies though the word is known to come from the Germanic branch.

Dyēus 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, Iūpiter (from *Iou-pater), and Dis Pater, and possibly Dis Pater (although he is more connected with the Greco-Roman Pluto theologically) in Roman mythology, Dyauṣ Pitār 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 following names derive from the related *deiwos: Germanic Tīwaz (known as Týr in Old Norse), Latin Deus (originally used to address Jupiter, but later adopted as the name of God), Indo-Aryan deva: Vedic/Puranic deva, Buddhist deva, Iranic daeva, daiva, diw, etc., Baltic Dievas, Celtic e.g. Gaulish Dēuos, Gaelic dia, Welsh duw, 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”).

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. 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 or diva 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 Galician Deus, Italian Dio, etc., and by the Celtic languages in Welsh Duw and Irish Dia.

In Norse mythology, Dellingr (Old Norse possibly “the dayspring” or “shining one”) is a god. Dellingr is described as the father of Dagr, the personified day. Depending on manuscript variation, he is either the third husband of Nótt, the personified night, or the husband of Jörð, the personified earth. Scholars have proposed that Dellingr is the personified dawn.

In Norse mythology, Nótt (Old Norse “night”) is grandmother of Thor, who is listed as the son of the god Odin and the personified earth, Jörð. Nótt is listed as the daughter of the jötunn Nörfi or Narfi (with variant spellings) and is associated with the horse Hrímfaxi.

The form Nörr has been related to narouua, which occurs in the fragmentary Old Saxon Genesis poem in the phrase narouua naht. This and hence the giant’s name, as first suggested by Adolf Noreen, may be a synonym for “night” or, perhaps more likely, an adjective related to Old English nearwe, “narrow”, meaning “closed-in” and thus “oppressive”.

Thor is the origin of the weekday name Thursday. By employing a practice known as interpretatio germanica during the Roman Empire period, the Germanic peoples adopted the Roman weekly calendar, and replaced the names of Roman gods with their own. Latin dies Iovis (‘day of Jupiter’) was converted into Proto-Germanic *Þonares dagaz (“Thor’s day”), from which stems modern English “Thursday” and all other Germanic weekday cognates.

The earliest records of the Germanic peoples were recorded by the Romans, and in these works Thor is frequently referred to – via a process known as interpretatio romana (where characteristics perceived to be similar by Romans result in identification of a non-Roman god as a Roman deity)—as either the Roman god Jupiter (also known as Jove) or the Greco-Roman god Hercules.

In Norse mythology, Dagr (Old Norse “day”) is day personified. Dagr is stated to be the son of the god Dellingr and is associated with the bright-maned horse Skinfaxi, who “draw[s] day to mankind”. Dagr is either Dellingr’s son by Nótt, the personified night, or Jörð, the personified Earth. Otherwise, Dagr appears as a common noun simply meaning “day” throughout Old Norse works.

The t-rune ᛏ is named after Týr, and was identified with this god. The reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Tîwaz or *Teiwaz. The d rune (ᛞ) is called dæg “day” in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet d is called dags. This rune is also part of the Elder Futhark, with a reconstructed Proto-Germanic name *dagaz.

Tinia (also Tin, Tinh, Tins or Tina) was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. He was the husband of Thalna or Uni and the father of Hercle.

The Etruscans believed in Nine Great Gods, who had the power of hurling thunderbolts; they were called Novensiles by the Romans. Of thunderbolts there were eleven sorts, of which Tinia, as the supreme thunder-god, wielded three.

Tinia was also part of the powerful “trinity” that included Menrva and Uni and had temples in every city of Etruria. Tinia was sometimes represented as seated and with a beard or sometimes standing and beardless.

In terms of symbolism, Tinia has the thunderbolt and the rod of power, and is generally accompanied by the eagle and sometimes has a wreath of ivy round his head, in addition to the other insignia of Jove.

Some of Tinia’s possible epithets are detailed on the Piacenza Liver, a bronze model of a liver used for haruspicy. These inscriptions have been transcribed as Tin Cilens, Tin Θuf and Tinś Θne. There have been a number of suggestions as to their meaning, but the Etruscan language is poorly understood and there is no scholarly consensus for the translation.

Tiān is one of the oldest Chinese terms for heaven and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang Dynasty (17–11th centuries BCE), the Chinese referred to their supreme god as Shàngdì (“Lord on High”) or Dì (“Lord”). During the following Zhou Dynasty, Tiān became synonymous with this figure. Heaven worship was, before the 20th century, an orthodox state religion of China.

In Taoism and Confucianism, Tiān is often translated as “Heaven” and is mentioned in relationship to its complementary aspect of Dì, which is most often translated as “Earth”. These two aspects of Daoist cosmology are representative of the dualistic nature of Taoism. They are thought to maintain the two poles of the Three Realms of reality, with the middle realm occupied by Humanity (Rén), and the lower world occupied by Demons (Mó) and Ghosts (Guǐ).

The sinologist Herrlee Creel, who wrote a comprehensive study on “The Origin of the Deity T’ien”, gives this overview. For three thousand years it has been believed that from time immemorial all Chinese revered T’ien, “Heaven,” as the highest deity, and that this same deity was also known as Ti or Shang Ti. But the new materials that have become available in the present century, and especially the Shang inscriptions, make it evident that this was not the case. It appears rather that T’ien is not named at all in the Shang inscriptions, which instead refer with great frequency to Ti or Shang Ti. T’ien appears only with the Chou, and was apparently a Chou deity. After the conquest the Chou considered T’ien to be identical with the Shang deity Ti (or Shang Ti), much as the Romans identified the Greek Zeus with their Jupiter.

Another possibility is that Tian may be related to Tengri and possibly was a loan word from a prehistoric Central Asian language. For the etymology of tiān, Schuessler links it with the Mongolian word tengri “sky, heaven, heavenly deity” or the Tibeto-Burman words taleŋ (Adi) and tǎ-lyaŋ (Lepcha), both meaning “sky”. Schuessler also suggests a likely connection between Chinese tiān, diān “summit, mountaintop”, and diān “summit, top of the head, forehead”, which have cognates such as Naga tiŋ “sky”.

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