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Proto-Indo-European Deities

The word for “deities,” "Déiwōs" (sing. Déiwos) "the shining ones," or "the celestial ones." This leaves no doubt both as to how the Proto-Indo-Europeans had of them and where they believed they dwelt. There are also chthonic deities, those of the Underworld, but the celestial ones set the tone. The deities are also the *ghutom, "to whom libations are poured" (> "god"), telling us one way in which they are to be worshiped. They are *dotores weswām, "givers of goods," telling us what they do in return for this worship.

The Déiwōs are *n-mrtōs, "undying." They may have had a beginning (perhaps as long ago as the beginning of the universe itself), but they will have no end. This is because they drink a beverage called *Nekter, the ambrosia or nektar of the Greeks, the soma of India, the haoma of Iran. A version of it may be drunk by us in ritual, giving us power and long life, but even that won't keep death from us forever. We are not gods.

We are not gods. This is one of the articles of the Indo-European faith. We are related to them, made from similar stuff, and even able to interbreed with them. But they are a different kind of being, as different from us as we are from the animals. We are ontologically different.

The gods are beings who are powerful, holy, and good. They are not archetypes, and in no way are mere projections of psychological reality. They certainly correspond to archetypes. This should be no surprise; one of the ways in which psychologists determined archetypes was by investigating myths.

More important, the gods we know are those who are relevant to us. This explains why so many of the are good to us, because we wouldn’t tend to encounter deities who weren’t. Even those deities who aren’t good can be dealt with in such a way that they are as good to us as possible, because they fit into the Xártus, which is the ultimate good. There may well be other gods, but the ones we worship are the ones suitable for us. This is just another way of saying that each corresponds to an archetype – corresponds to it, but not identical with it.

The gods are not simply personifications of natural laws, either; the laws and the gods co-exist. The gods are both the servants and the guardians of natural law. They enforce it, but are not the same as it. The gods uphold the Xártus. In part this is simply by being who they are, in part it is by performing their functions. In part it is in a deliberate sense, by opposing the forces that would destroy the Cosmos – the Outsiders.

The gods are individual beings, separate from us and from each other. As individuals, each has their own interests and preferences. This is necessary if they are to take part in the Xártus, which is a relationship between separate elements. Knowing and acting by the Xártus perfectly, they are much wiser and more powerful than us. This means that their interests and preferences will sometimes seem mysterious to us, or even be unknown. Our ancestors, through thousands of years of experience, by thousands of different people, came to understand them pretty well, and we therefore should rely pretty heavily on the records our ancestors left us.

The deities are not omnipotent. They are constrained by both their nature and by the Xártus. For instance, Dyḗus Ptḗr is a god of justice. It would be against his nature to act unjustly. The gods cannot act against their nature because it is their nature that defines their existence. This does not mean that Dyḗus Ptḗr will always act in a way that seems just to us. He has more concerns than each of us, and more wisdom to understand what is necessary. It also does not mean that he chooses between acting in accord with the Xártus and acting not in accord with it. The question simply doesn't occur to him; he is a being whose actions correspond to the Xártus.

Because they are constrained by the Xártus, the deities are similar to natural forces. Each is part of the working of the universe, and each fulfills their part to perfection. That is what makes them gods.

Neither of these two constraints – their nature and the Xártus – are external to the gods. They are both what the gods are. There is thus nothing above the gods (except for other gods). There is something within them and behind them. Notice also that one of these constraints – the Xártus – is within and behind everything. Notice also that it might be said that the nature of a deity is the same as the Xártus for them. Another way of putting this is that each "rides" a branch of the Xártus, the one that corresponds to their nature, expressing it, affecting it, governing it.

Judging from the descendant traditions, the Proto-Indo-Europeans must have worshiped a large number of deities, and honored a number of lesser divine beings as well. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be reconstructed by both name and function. Others are clear in their functions, but lack names.

Most Indo-European deity names are transparent in meaning, originating as descriptions, as titles. Woden is "the ecstatic one," Rudra is "the howler," Hermes "the god of the cairn." Certain of these titles became the main ones, promoted to the status of names, but the poets and priests still took delight in inventing titles. The Homeric Hymns praise the “Far-Shooter” (Apollo), the “Shooter of Stags” (Artemis), and the “Fulfiller” (Zeus).

For the deities who survive in function but not in name, I have therefore felt free to construct my own names, or rather titles by which they might be addressed. I will specify which names are my own creation. All others are reconstructions. It is possible that I have by luck or inspiration struck on an actual primary Proto-Indo-European title for a deity. It is even more possible that I have constructed a title which the Proto-Indo-Europeans would have recognized. What matters most, of course, is that the gods to whom they refer will recognize them. Given the Indo-European love for such titles, I feel sure the gods will know whom we are talking to.

Like their descendants the Romans, the Proto-Indo-Europeans had deities of abstractions. They believed that the existence of an idea assumed the existence of a deity to rule over it. This comes from the belief in the Xártus; the reality we perceive reflects the structure of the universe. If we perceive an idea, there must be a something in the structure of the universe that corresponds to it. That something is personal. That something is a deity. So rather than turning an abstraction into a deity, the Proto-Indo-Europeans were noticing the preexistence of a deity of that abstraction. This means that if you have something you want to pray for and there is no reconstructed Proto-Indo-European deity that seems appropriate, ask yourself what abstraction best expresses your desire. You can then use that as your deity name. (Translating it into Proto-Indo-European would be nice, but not necessary.)

The Gods

Many of the Proto-Indo-European male deities may be assigned to particular functions. There are very few male deities who cross the line between the three functions, and these probably originated as gods of one of the functions who acquired the other functions in a secondary sense. The gods can slop over a bit into other functions, though. For instance, Thor is a second function deity. However, though his connection with thunderstorms he was prayed to by farmers for rain. He becomes thereby a god of fertility. Sometimes this slopping over comes as a result of patronage. Because someone might have developed a particularly close relationship with Xáryomen, Xáryomen would be expected to have a particularly close interest in them. Although he is a god of social unity, then, they might pray to him for fertility or protection. Warriors who pray to a second function figure for courage and protection might end up praying to him for prosperity as well. This sort of thing creates a little wiggle room in the system.

The third function is connected religiously with fertility cults. It is difficult to find evidence for Proto-Indo-European religion of this type for two reasons. First, most of what we can reconstruct of Proto-Indo-European religion is from the works of first function writers, composed either for their own function or for second function, the warrior aristocracy. The members of these two functions did not care about the third function’s cults as much as their own, and may even have viewed them with suspicion as possible sources of subversion against the established order.

The other reason is less sinister. As the Indo-Europeans migrated, they would naturally absorb local agricultural religion, leaving their previous agricultural cults behind. This is because the fertility of the land is connected with the spiritual inhabitants of the land. It behooves us to make friends with the local fertility deities. Trying to impose our own on the land may offend both sets of beings. Under this interpretation, the lack of knowledge about Proto-Indo-European cults shows a great respect for the deities of fertility, not a lack of it.

There is a video with the pronuniciation of these deity names here

Dyḗus Ptḗr
"The Shining Sky Father" is the most important deity of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. His very name is related to *Deiwos – he is the god. It is recognizable in the Roman Jupiter, Greek Zeus Pater, Illyrian Dei-paturos, Vedic Dyaus Pitar, Baltic Dievas, Luvian Tatis Tiwaiz, Palaic Tiyaz Pāpaz, and Germanic *Tiwaz (later Týr). [Some of these from West, 2007, 166-7.] Among the Scyths he was just Papaeus, "Father" (Herodotus, 4.59). In other words, memories and versions of him survived in almost all the IE cultures, evidence of his importance to the Proto-Indo-Europeans.

From the beginning he was the highest deity. The best example in the descendant traditions of Dyéus Patér's magnificence is the Roman Jupiter, the most supreme form of whom was Jupiter the Best and Greatest (Jupiter Optimus Maximus). Zeus is to be revered above all other gods, Pindar says (Pythian 6, p. 70). In Greece, a land made up of many city-states, each with their own versions of the gods, there was a Zeus Hellanios, ”god of the Greeks,” with a temple on Mt. Oros (Howie, 1989, 68).

Dyḗs Ptḗr is the transcendent lord. He is the protector of the Xártus, the enforcer of natural law. At Sparta there was a temple to Zeus Cosmetas, "Zeus the Orderer" (Pausanias 17.4). He may therefore be called "Xártuspotis," "Lord of the Xártus." (The vocative form, that used to address him, is Xartupotei; the vocative of Dyḗus Ptḗr is Dyeu Pter.) This is implied in Hesiod’s prayer that Zeus “make judgements straight with righteousness” (Works and Days 10). Hesiod also tells us (Works and Days, 256-64) that Justice is Zeus’ daughter, and makes sure that he knows the sins of men so he can judge and punish rightly.

He is not, however, the one who forms the Xártus, and is as constrained by it as anyone is. Zeus is still bound by fate (although Pausanias (1.40.4) says that he "is the only god obeyed by Destiny" (Moira)), and all of the Vedic gods are constrained by ṛta. Odin’s sacrifice of an eye is not made to gain the power to control ørlog, but to know it. Armstrong (1989, 82), discussing an incident in the Iliad (22.208-13) expresses it thus: "Zeus balances the scales and sets the weights in them. But he does not choose the weights, or make the scales tip." Al-Maini (2009, 96) points out that in deciding the fate of Persephone, "at no place within the Hymn is Zeus able to unilaterally impose his will on any of the other gods." Zeus, and by extension Dyḗus Ptḗr, is not a tyrant, but his rule is constrained both by the Xártus and by the necessity to interact with the other deities; he must keep the parts of the cosmos they represent and control in proper relationship with each other.

The famous oracle at Delphi proclaimed the words of Apollo. It is significant that Apollo is Zeus's son; he proclaims the order of things (Armstrong, 1986, 84).

As god of the bright sky, Dyḗus Ptḗr was probably connected with the sun, although not in the sense of being the sun. Rather, the sun was his symbol. The sun sees all, is lord of the bright sky, and performs functions according to the unfailing law of the universe, the Xártus - just like Dyḗus Ptḗr. The Vedic sun god Sūrya, is the son of Dyaus Pitar. Specifically, the sun can be the eye of Dyḗus Ptḗr, with which he looks down from the sky. In some Indo-European languages, the word for "sun" has become that for "eye;" the sun is the eye of the sky (e.g., Irish súil (Matasovič, 1996, 45, n. 28); Macrobius (1.21.12) says that ancient people called the sun the "eye of Jupiter," although he may be attributing this belief to the Egyptians). It is a common comment in Greek literature that the sun god Helios "sees all that goes on on earth." In Hesiod (Works and Days, 267-9), it is the "eye of Zeus" who sees all and punishes injustice, but Helios is sometimes called the "eye of Zeus" (Sick, 2004, 434), so that amounts to the same thing . The sun in Zoroastrianism is called the eye of Ahura Mazda, who, as the supreme god there, would be the equivalent of Dyḗus Ptḗr (Sick, 2004, 449). Throughout Vedic ritual the sun is constantly referred to as an eye (Gonda, 1980, 309). Like Helios, Sūrya, as the "lord of eyes" (AV 5.24.9; Macdonell, 1897, 30), sees all things, including the good and bad actions of mankind. He conveys this information to the gods and is called the eye of Mitra (Sick, 2004, 436) and Varuṇa (Macdonell, 1897, 30), both gods of the law, social and cosmic respectively. Now Mitra is a god more connected with the function of Xáryomūn (whom I will discuss next), but as both Xáryomēn and Dyḗus Ptḗr are gods of the oath, as is Mitra, it is likely the all-seeing nature that is being invoked here. There is also Uṣas bringing the eye of the gods (RV 7.77.3). The sun is, therefore, not often found to be a god in the descendant cultures. There have been attempts to find solar deities in those that are depicted with wheels, which as we will see are associated with the sun, but this sometimes relies too heavily on this equation, with deities of thunder, such as Taranis (whose name means "thunder"), i.e., of the dark and stormy sky, are somehow solar because they carry wheels (e.g., Green, 1990, 20-1). The Umbrian version of Dyḗus Ptḗr, who has acquired the lightning aspects, was sacrificed to while the priest held some sort of disk-shaped object in his hands (Poultney, 1959, 198-9).

Dyḗus Ptḗr dwells in great splendor, and is almost unapproachably sacred. The Greek playwrights might include Apollo, or Herakles, or Mercury as characters in their plays, but not Zeus (Burkert, 1985, 131). This is why Aristotle (Magna Moralia 1208 b 30, in Burkert, 1985, 274; Dowden, 2010, 54) says that it would be absurd (or bizarre) for anyone to say he loves Zeus. This remoteness may explain why in the Vedic tradition his worship has been so attenuated. Even though god Varuṇa, who has replaced the Dyḗs Ptḗr in the sense lord of the ṛta (< *Xártus), has numerous verses to him in the Rig Veda, he has temples to him only in Bali (Bailey, 1975, 1, n . 1). By the time our records appear, Týr has become a lesser god, although still keeping some of his attributes, as a result of the rise of the cult of Odin, which was a later development (Dubois, 1999, 57). It may also have been explained by the fact that in all the traditions in which it survives the reflex of *Dyḗus, in the form *deiwos, becomes the name for simply “god.” This is seen already in Proto-Indo-European; Dyḗus Ptḗr has become almost the generic deity.

He is the god of priests (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 693), the embodiment of the way rituals are to be performed. In Dumézilian terms, he is the magico-ritual half of the first function.

He is a god of justice. He does what is right, ensures that others do likewise, and punishes those who do not. Laws had their origins in Zeus, as did kingship (Burkert, 1985, 130). Zeus’s close connection with justice is given a concrete manifestation in the story that, hearing a prophesy that a child of his by Themis would unseat him just as he had done with his father, he swallowed her. Themis is “Law;” the word comes from the same root (*dhe- “set, place”) that dhétis does. Not only is Zeus the guardian of natural law, but the giver and enforcer of societal law; the dhétis literally lives in him.

It is likely because of this that oaths are sworn by Dyḗus Ptḗr. For instance, Zeus is called to be a witness to an oath in Pindar, Pythian 4, and the ancient Olympic athletes and athletic judges swore an oath by Zeus that they had followed and would follow the rules (Pausanias 5.23.9-11). Jupiter (along with Earth) is called as witness of the devotion of an enemy army to destruction in Macrobius (3.9.9-13). Roman oaths may be sworn, to Dius Fidius, while out of doors (Poultney, 1959, 195). The best-known story of Týr, the binding of Fenris wolf, tells how he lost his hand through swearing a false oath (Snorri, "Gylfaginning," 34). The gods knew that the wolf needed to be bound because otherwise he would destroy the world. They made a game with him of tying the wolf up, with him breaking the bonds each time. Finally, they brought a slight cord, which had been given the magic power of being unbreakable. After having been bound with stronger ropes, he was suspicious. Týr swore that that if the wolf couldn't break this tie he would be released, and as a pledge placed his hand in the wolf's mouth. Of course, the bond could not be broken, the world was saved (until Ragnarok, when he will break free and play a major part in the destruction of the cosmos), and Týr lost his hand. He, the god of oaths, ironically swore a false oath to save the world, knowing that he would be punished by losing his hand. Even gods must suffer from false oaths, no matter how nobly made.

It is appropriate to worship Dyḗus Ptḗr on mountain tops. Thus Epicharmus (in Macrobius has Zeus dwelling on top of Mt. Gargara, and Olympos, although the home of all the gods, belongs to Zeus above all.

Dyḗus Ptḗr's name has "father in it." This is the most common title of Dyaus pitar in the Rig Veda. He is not, of course, the biological father of humans. After all, Zeus is called "our common ancestor" (Pindar, Pythian 3, p. 60) as well as "father of heaven's inhabitants" (Pindar, Pythian 3, p. 61, and although Zeus was certainly the biological father of plenty of heroes he was certainly not the biological father of everyone, human or deity. No, he rather performs the role of father. He is not, in fact, the only deity who can fulfill this role. Apollo Patroōs ("of ancestry") is invoked in the oath-taking of Athenian archons (Aristotle, in Rice and Stambaugh, 1979, 140; Howie, 1989, 67), Poseidon Father was worshiped at Eleusis (Pausanias 1.38.6), and Dionysos was at least once called πα ́τερ. That this was also the case in Rome is shown by other deities such as Mars and Janus also being called pater (Cato, De Agricultura 134.2 f., 141.2-4; Macrobius, 1.8.15, 1.12.8, 1.19.3 (Marspiter); Varro, De Lingua Latina 8.33, 8.49, 9.75), as are Liber (Macrobius, 1.18.1, 1.19.3), Neptune, Saturn, Dis, and even the Tiber. The Oscan Euclus, equated by Hesychius with Mercury, was sometimes called pater as well (Salmon, 1967, 159). In Iran, any of the male deities could be called "Father" (and any of the female ones "Mother," for that matter) (West, 2007, 140). Agni, Bṛhaspati, Tvaṣṭṛ, and Varūṇa are also called "father" (West, 2007, 131), as is Parjanya (Macdonell, 1999, 104). The Hittite Sun God is called "Father" (attaš) (Each of them could perform the divine paternal role. Each of them could perform the divine paternal role. Nonetheless, the title "father" belongs supremely to Dyḗs Ptḗr; the other gods may each be a father, but he is the father.

Dyḗus Ptḗr doesn't have a wife whom we can identify, although he must have at least a mate in order to be the father of the Diwós Sunú (see below). Because he is a sky father, it may be tempting to link him with an earth mother, and indeed his Vedic version, Dyaus Pitar, is so linked. (In fact, the name of Dyaus is almost always found in a dvandva with that of Pṛthivī, the earth.) However, the Earth Mother fits more easily with another deity, Perkʷū́nos (even the Vedic Parjanya is identified as the husband of the Earth), so Dyḗus Ptḗr's wife is unfortunately unknown. Jackson (2002, p. 73), wants to identify her as Diwō:nā (*diuōneh2). There is a Diwija in Mycenean, but there is also a Posidaeja to match with Poseidon (Trzaskoma, 2004, 446), so this may just be like providing Indra with an Indrani; i.e., a deity specifically created as a match, rather than one that was inherited. That both of these goddesses had their own temples supports a belief that they were seen as definite personalities, but not that they are descended from Proto-Indo-European times. Diwōnā is just a female form of *diḗus, meaning, therefore, simply "goddess," and therefore useless for our purpose here.

Or maybe not; it may be the solution. As chief of the gods, Dyḗus Ptḗr was the counterpart of the chief of the Indo-European tribes. And just as the incoming tribes would intermarry with the local people, with the men of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans taking command over the women of the locals, so Dyḗus Ptḗr would “marry” the chief local goddess, the Diwōnā. Perhaps, then there never was a Proto-Indo-European consort of the chief god, but instead she was always the local goddess.

Perhaps, as West (2007, 192) points out, since we are dealing with mythology we shouldn’t look too hard for biological niceties. Still, although virgin mothers abound in world mythologies, virgin fathers are considerably rarer. Perhaps the “Sons of Dyḗus Ptḗr” we’ll be encountering were “sons” in the same way that Dyḗus Ptḗr was a father; that is, as an office, an existential relationship rather than a biological one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The sacred animal of Dyḗus Ptḗr, that which is sacrificed to him, is the ox, power under control.

Lord of the wide and shining sky,
Guardian of the well-laid law,
Dyeu Pter, preserve my people,
may their way conform to Right.

Adkins, A. W. H. Greek Religion. In Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions. ed. C. Jouco Bleeker. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1969.

Al-Maini, Douglas. The Political Cosmology of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Journal of Indo-European Studies 37:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 2009), 89-114.

Armstrong, A. H. The Ancient and Continuing Pieties of the Greek World. In Classical Mediterranean Spirituality. ed. A. H. Armstrong. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, 66-101.

Bailey, H. W. The Second Stratum of Indo-Iranian Gods. In Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. ed. John R. Hinnells. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1975, 1-20.

Birley, Anthony. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1987.

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Dowden, Ken. Olympian Gods, Olympian Pantheon. In Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 41-55.

Gamkrelidze, Thomas V. and Ivanov, Vjaceslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mounton de Gruyter, 1995.

Gonda, J. Vedic Ritual: The Non-Solemn Rites. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980.

Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica. tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Cam-bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Howie, J. G. Greek Polytheism. Cosmos 5 (1989), 51-76.

Jackson, Peter. Light from Distant Asterisks: Towards a Description of the Indo-European Religious Heritage. Numen 49 (2002), pp. 61-101.

Macdonell, Arthur Anthony. Vedic Mythology. New York: Gordon Press, 1897 (re-printed 1974).

Macrobius. Saturnalia. ed. and tr. Robert A. Kaster. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 2011.

Matasovič, Ranko. A Theory of Textual Reconstruction in Indo-European Linguistics. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

Pausanias. Description of Greece. tr. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926.

Pindar. The Complete Odes. tr. Anthony Verity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Poultney, James Wilson, ed. and tr. The Bronze Tablets of Iguvium. Baltimore: American Philological Association, 1959.

Rice, David G., and Stambaugh, John E. Sources for the Study of Greek Religion. Society of Biblical Literature: 1979.

Salmon, E. T. Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

Sick, David H. Mit(h)ra(s) and the Myths of the Sun. Numen:51 (2004), 432-67.

Snorri Sturluson. Edda. tr. Anthony Faulkes. Rutland, VT: Charles F. Tuttle, 1987.

Trzaskoma, M; R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet (ed. and tr). Anthology of Classical Myth. Indianapolis: Hackett-Publishing Company, 2004.

Varro. On the Latin Language (De Lingua Latina). tr. Ronald G. Kent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library), 1938, 1951).

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

"Xáryomēn" is one of the personalized abstractions I mentioned earlier. He is not one whose name I made up, though, being found in Ireland (Éremón (Puhvel, 1978a, 337)), Gaul (Ariomanus (Puhvel, 1978a, 337), Anglo-Saxon England (Irmin erhabene, "exalted, sublime" (Neff, 1982, 164)), Zoroastrianism (Airyaman) (but not the arch-demon Ahriman) and the Vedas (Aryaman). The Saxon Irminsul, the name of the sacred pillar likely representing the world tree, possibly comes from the root of his name, as does the German Irmingott (West, 2007, 143), and he may have been the originating god of the Germanic Erminiones. It has been suggested that iormunr, a title for Odin, comes from it as well (Turvile-Petre, 1964, 62; West, 2007, 143). His name is formed by adding *-men, a suffix similar to the English "-hood," to a root that may mean "Indo-European" (Puhvel, 1987, 182). (West (2007, 142) gives Aryo-men-, nominative "Aryomēn, masculine of neuter *aryo-men, nominative *-mṇ.) This is the root that was made famous when it was distorted by the Nazis - *H2erya-. Its descendants include Old Irish aire, "free, noble" (Puhvel, 1978, 337), and Hittite ara, "member of one's own group, peer, friend" (Puhvel, 1978, 336-337). The Hittite meaning seems closest to its original one, with "Xáryomēn" therefore meaning "The God in Charge of Our Group," specifically of doing things the way our group does them. In the Zoroastrian Gāthās, airyamen is also used to designate a social group higher than the clan or social community (West, 2007, 142). A deity with an unrelated name, Sabazios (< *swo- "one's own, ") from Thrace is a possible reflex (the name is from Polomé, 1980, 154). *Xáryomēn is the deity of "Indo-Europeanness."

Xáryomēn is the partner of Dȳ́us Ptḗr in the first function, the legal figure according to Dumézil's classification. He could be considered an early king, who established the laws of society. This last is his defining characteristic; just as Dyḗus Ptḗr rules (and is ruled by) natural law, Xáryomēn rules (and is ruled) by social law, the dhétis. In RV 7.93.7, Aryaman is invoked, together with his mother Aditi, to loosen the bonds of sin (Macdonell, 1897, 121). Together with Dyḗus Ptḗr he enforces justice, and oaths are sworn by him as well. He enforces contracts. Through him, the wealth of society is circulated properly among us.

Xáryomēn is a god of marriage and of healing. Aryaman plays an important point in the Vedic wedding ritual (Gonda, 1980, 113). Éremón gave wives to the Picts (Puhvel, 1978, 338; West, 2007, 143), and cured poison from arrows in a ritual that involved pouring milk into furrows (Puhvel, 1978, 338). In Zoroastrianism, it is Airyaman who was asked by Ahura Mazda to cure the diseases that Aŋra Mainyu had brought into the world (Duschesne-Guillemin, 1969, 340-1), and who invented a healing ritual involving pouring bovine urine into furrows (Puhvel, 1978, 338-9). This at first peculiar combination of traits makes perfect sense in a Proto-Indo-European context. Marriage is a contract which ensures the continuation of the tribe in an orderly manner. It joins members of a tribe or closely related tribes into a society ruled by the dhétis. Healing is a return to the way things should be; *med-, the root of "medical," means just that, "returning to the way things should be" (Benveniste, 1973, 399). As part of the rituals surrounding the production of healing dreams from Asklepios, a sacrifice was made to Themis (Burkert, 1985, 268), < *dhétis. Xáryomēn is a god of good social order, of the right way for things to be. Aryoman/Airyaman was connected with roads (Puhvel, 1978, 338); i.e., with the infrastructure of a culture, particularly the means of merchants' travel, and thus of the reciprocal practice of commerce. He is therefore a god of peace and plenty, of the successful and orderly continuance of society.

For all our sons, good wives.
For all our daughters, good husbands.
For all our people, happiness and health
in a land ruled by just law:
Xáryomēn, we pray to you.

And since Dȳ́us PatPt̄́rr and Xáryomen are often linked together, here is a prayer for them both:

Dyeu Pter Xáryomenkʷē
May what we do be according to the Dhétis.
May what we accomplish conform to the Xáartus.

Benveniste, Emile. Indo-European Language and Society. tr. Elizabeth Palmer. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1973 (1969).

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Gonda, J. Vedic Ritual: The Non-Solemn Rites. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980.

Macdonell, Arthur Anthony. Vedic Mythology. New York: Gordon Press, 1897 (re-printed 1974).

Neff, Mary Susan. Germanic Sacrifice: An Analytical Study Using Linguistic, Archaeological, and Literary Data. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1980. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1982.

Polomé, Edgar C. The Gods of the Indo-Europeans. Mankind Quarterly 21:2 (Win-ter, 1980), 151-164.

Puhvel, Jaan. Mitra as an Indo-European Divinity. Etudes Mithraiques. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1978.

Turville-Petre, E. O. G. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1964.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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Perkʷū́nos (either "Striker" or “Oak God”) is the god of thunder and lightning. We’ve already seen him in his great myth, slaying the Serpent. As the mighty champion, he is a god of war, particularly against outside dangers and in defense of his people. As god of the thunderstorm, he is also a patron of farmers, and therefore connected with fertility, especially of crops. Other things connected with him, as will become clear, are gluttony, wheels, pillars, oaks, mountains, bulls, and goats. Above all, he is armed with a club, axe, and/or aerial weapon, which he throws.

Perkʷū́nos survived by name in Albania (Perëndi (“god,” “sky”) (Jakobson, 1972, 6)), Thrace (basically the area of modern Bulgaria) (Perkos), India (Vedic Parjanya and Kalasha Pērūne), and Anatolia (Pirwa (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 694) and Peruna (Jakobson; 1969; 588, 593)). There are also the Thracian hero Perkos and the Kush war god Pērūne (Jackson, 2002, 76, n. 25). The name might also underlie Greek Keraunós “thunderbolt,” which appears as a title of Zeus, if that is a tabu-variant of *Peraunós (Jakobson, 1972, 6). His worship under a name descended from *Perkʷū́nos survived best among the Balts and Slavs; among the Lithuanians, he was called Perkunas (variably, Perū́nas (Jakobson, 1972, 5), and in early texts, Percunus, Percunos, Pirchunos, Perkuns, Parcuns, or Pargnus (West, 2007, 239)), among the Latvians Perkons, among the Old Prussians Percuno(s) (Turville-Petre, 1964, 97), and among the Slavs Perún? (Old Russian Perunu, Belorussion Piarun, Slovak Parom). These Balto-Slavic reflexes were extremely popular; hundreds of places are named after him among the Balts alone (Gimbutas, 1973, 466). These include villages (Lithuanian, e.g., Perkūnai, Perkūniškiai, Slavic Perun), hills (e.g., Lithuanian Perkūnkalnis, Slavic Perushtitsa), and rivers (Lithuanian e.g., Perkūnija) (Gimbutas, 1973, 467).

In some of the descendant traditions his name comes from one of his titles, the Thunderer. Thus we have the Armenian Tork’ (Russell, 1990, 2680), Anatolian Tarrḫunda/Tarhunt (Russell, 1990, 2689; Matasovič, 2009), Norse Thor and Saxon Thunor (<*Thunaraz) and Celtic Taranis (variant Tanarus), all from *TorH2nt- (Matasoviç, 2009), from *(s)tenH2- “thunder” (Jackson, 2002, 77), giving a possible Proto-Indo-European alternate name of Torxṇts. The Hittite storm god Tar?unnaš (variants Tarhunna, Tarnunta, Tarawa), whose name has been assigned the meaning “vanquisher, smasher,” from *torh- “conquer, vanquish” (Anderson, 2008, 279; Jakobson, 1969, 588) or *terH2- “idem” (Jackson, 2002, 77) may belong to this group as well. Perun is sometimes called Gromovnik, “Thunder God” (Kropej, 2003, 121). Parjanya receives the title stanayitnú- “Thunderer.”

Reflexes with unrelated names include the Celtic deity known in Gaul, Ireland, and Wales as Lugos, Lug, and Lleu, respectively (etymology uncertain), the Greek/Roman Herakles/Hercules (“Glory of Hera” or possibly “Famed for Strength” (Mallory and Adams, 117, 1997)), and the Roman Mars (of unknown etymology). And of course there is the most famous Indo-European dragon-slayer of all, the Vedic Indra (possibly “one swollen with power“ (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 561)). The Irish god “the Dagda” (“The Good God”) also falls into this group; in Tochmarc Étaine he is said to control the weather (Sayers, 1982, 356). He further has by-names such as reo (“dense darkness; throw, cast”), oíbell (“spark of flame), and áith “sharp, keen” (Sayer, 1982, 345). Another, however, Cerrce, make come from *perkʷ- (Sayers, 1982, 345-6).

Other names by which Perkʷū́nos might be called in modern prayers today (they aren’t reconstructed for him) are *Koryonos, “god of the warband” (*koryos, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 30-1) and Ḱówṛs *k´óuh1r-), “Powerful One, Hero” (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 560) .

The myth of Perkʷū́nos slaying a great serpent is the best-reconstructed Proto-Indo-European myth, surviving in many reflexes. Perkunas killed the dragon Áitvaras (West, 2007, 240), Indra killed a number of serpents/demons, the most famous being Vṛtra, a myth told many times (for instance RV 1.32; see O’Flaherty, 1975, 74-90 for examples). Herakles killed the multi-headed Hydra (Apollodorus, 2.5), the serpent of the Hesperides, and the serpents sent to kill him in the cradle. In the dindshenchas of Mag Muirthemne, the Dagda kills some kind of underwater monster with his “thunder-club” (lorg anfaidh; Gwynn, 1924, 4:295, translates it “mace of wrath,” but “thunder-club” is equally legitimate, and I think more likely). Thor is in constant opposition to the Midgard Serpent. Thor will kill and be killed by him in the final battle of Ragnarok (Snorri, “Gylfaginning” 51). He fishes the serpent up and brings him hammer down on his head, but the serpent either escapes on his own (“Hymiskviða” 21-24, Hollander, 1962). In an early version, related by the tenth century Úlf Uggason, Thor killed the serpent some time before Ragnarok (Turville-Petre, 1964, 76). The tale of their battle is also represented in stone reliefs (Stone, 1999, 17; Turville-Petre, 1964, 76). One of the panels of the Gundestrup cauldron, a silver-gilt work of art created in the Balkans or northeastern Italy but transported to and discovered in Gundestrup, Denmark, shows a deity holding a wheel, the symbol of the Gaulish Taranis. At the bottom of the panel is a ram-headed serpent. In eastern Gaul and western Germany we find the Jupiter columns, with their snake-spearing (or snake with men’s heads or upper bodies-spearing) Jupiters (note how in this last one the Jupiter figure has Taranis’ wheel on his shoulder) on top. Since the snakes sometimes have human heads, the columns may be meant to depict the fight with the semi-serpentine Typhoeus, but these columns are found only in this limited Celtic area, so they most likely represent something which was found in Celtic myth, represented in a classical form. Note that in these cases we are dealing with Jupiter the thunder and lightning god, not the reflex of Dyḗus Ptḗr. This myth may have survived into Christian times in the legend of St. George killing a dragon, represented in art in a form strikingly similar to that of the Jupiter columns.

In Albania, there is a monster called bolla, a term otherwise used for grass snakes (which are positive figures in both the Balkans and the Baltic regions), which on St. George’s Day (April 23) opens its eyes and eats whomever it sees. It was originally defeated by St. George (who hunts in the mountains (Elsie, 2001,100)), and cursed to be only able to open its eyes on this day (Elsie, 2001, 47). The dragon kulshedra, who guards the Earthly, Sea, and Heavenly Beauties, is a form of this dragon. She is defeated by St. Elias, who comes riding on his white horse or chariot of fire to kill her with thunderbolts (Elsie, 2001, 83). Her approach is accompanied by rain clouds. Churches dedicated to St. Elias are usually on hill tops (Elsie, 2001, 84).

Although not directly connected with the thundergod motif, it is in the form a snake that Ahriman attacks Ormazd, and in Iran snakes are the archetypal representatives of the evil reptiles (Zaehner, 155, 238).

The dragon-slayer is often accompanied by a human helper. Thus, Indra is helped in the killing of Trisiras by Trita Āptya (RV10.8). He returns the favor by helping Trita kill the serpent Visvarūpa (West, 2007, 260), cutting off the snake’s heads. Herakles is helped to kill the Hydra by Iolaos (Hesiod, Theogony, 313-18). The Ukrainian dragon-slaying god is helped by a smith, although he is also a god (West, 2007, 259). The wheel on the Gundestrup cauldron is held up by a smaller figure, almost certainly meant to be a human rather than a deity. The reverse is the case with Θraētaona, who kills the serpent Aži Dahāka with the help of the storm-god Vāyu (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 138).

The serpent often has multiple heads, usually three, or is multiple is some other way. The serpent of the Hesperides had a hundred heads (Apollodorus 2.5.11), the hydra had nine (Apollodorus 2.5.2, Hyginus 30), Trisiras has three, the kulshedra has seven to twelve (or nine tongues (West, 2007, 259)), Viśvarūpa three heads (RV 10.8.9; West, 2007, 260), and Aži Dahāka has three heads (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 138). There were two snakes killed by Herakles in his crib (Apollodorus 2.4.8, Hyginus 30). Geryon, a monster in mostly human form who was killed by Herakles, had three bodies (Apollodorus 2.5.10; Pausanias 5.19.1), joined at the waist, giving him three heads (Carpenter, 1991, fig. 201; Graves, 1965, 132) (or three bodies from the waist down, which would have meant he only had one head (Apollodorus, 2.5.10). (Geryon was the son of Chrysaor, who sprang from the neck of the decapitated Medusa, who had snakes for hair (Hesiod, Theogony, 280-93).) Thor is once called “cleaver of the nine heads of Þrívaldi” (Snorri, “Skáldskaparmál 4”; Lindow, 1988, 120).

The serpent is also connected with water in some way. The Midgard Serpent surrounds the earth in the waters. In “Skáldskaparmál” (Snorri, Epilogue 2) the Serpent is called “the water-soaked earth-band” against which Thor will “test his strength.” It is in the world-surrounding sea (Snorri, “Gylfaginning,” 34), and is called “Fiorgyn’s eel” (Snorri, Epilogue 57). We have seen how Thor fishes the serpent up from the sea. Geryon lives in “sea-girt Erythea” (Hesiod, Theogony, 290) and his mother was a daughter of Ocean (Apollodorus 2.5.10), the Hydra (“water”) lives in a swamp (Apollodorus 2.5.2), and the serpent of the Hesperides lives next to the ocean. The monster which the Dagda defeats is at the bottom of the sea. Vṛtra lays around (parisayānam) the waters, withholding them; Indra is “conquering in the waters” (Macdonell, 1897, 59). “Kulshedra” comes from the Greek kersúdros, “amphibious snake” (Elias, 2001, 153) and can turn herself into an eel, a turtle, a frog, or a salamander (Elias, 2001, 155), all water animals. She lives beneath a lake or a swamp, and rust-colored springs are believed to contain her blood; one way she kills people is by drowning them in her milk or urine (Elias, 2001, 155). She can cause wells to run dry, being appeased only by a human sacrifice (Elias, 2001, 155). In Albania, dead snakes were used in rain magic (Elias, 2001, 215). I think we are seeing here the connection between water and Chaos, of which the serpent is a representation.

Alternatively, the serpent might be guarding either women or cows (sometimes identified with each other). The Albanian kulshedra, guarding the three Beauties, is an example of this. Geryon guards cattle (Apollodorus 2.5.10; Hesiod, Theogony, 982-3; Carpenter, 1991, 126;. The waters withheld by Vṛtra are described as cattle in a stall (West, 2007, 259). Cutting off the heads of Viśvarūpa released cows (RV 10.8.9, 10.48.2). Θraētaona wins women (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 138). The many maidens guarded by dragons in folklore may be part of this motif.

Sometimes it is the hero who is triple. On one of the fifth-century gold horns from Gallehus, in Schleswig, we find a three headed man holding an axe. To his right is a goat, which he seems to hold on a leash. To his left are three snakes, one large one which seems to suckle the others (Davidson, 1988, 43, f. 2). A marble relief from Plovdiv in Thrace depicts a three-headed horseman with an axe, whom the family setting it up thanks for “health and safety” (Schiltz, 1987, 303).

As a hero god, Perkʷū́nos conquered many other opponents, both human and monstrous, beside the serpent(s). Thor fought giants, both male and female (Turville-Petre, 1964, 76), and dwarfs, and other, little-known monsters, including the expected wolves (Lindow, 1988). Herakles, in his labors, killed the Nemean lion and the Stymphalian birds, as well as fighting other dangerous animals. Lug kills Balor, who has a single eye that can kill by its gaze, and his Welsh equivalent Lleu kills, of all things, a wren (earning, thereby, the title “Of the Skillful Hand” (Ford, 1977, 101).

The Baltic hero was an ensurer of fertility. He was prayed to to send rain, as the Latvians did to Perkons (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 575) or, alternatively, to withhold damaging storms (West, 2007, 239; Gimbutas, 1973, 474). The Balts and Slavs believed that the first thunder of spring would “unlock the earth” (West, 2007, 259), causing plants to grow again; lightning achieves the same result (Gimbutas, 1973, 471; 1971, 165).

Thor and Lug also have fertility connections. In Þrymskviða, Thor’s hammer is used to bless a bride (actually Thor himself in disguise), perhaps intended to give her fertility; the hammer has been interpreted in this case as phallic (Turville-Petre, 1964, 81). In both Denmark and Sweden there are wheatfields dedicated to him (Thórsakr) (Turville-Petre, 1964, 93-4), and in England there are Thunderfeld and Thunresfeld (Turville-Petre, 1962, 20). Lug learns from Bres the secrets of when to plough, when to sow, and when to harvest.

Mars’ role as a protector of agriculture (Pinsent, 1986, 182; Scullard, 1981, 83) is relevant here as well. There is also the story of the conception of Romulus and Remus, or rather the conceptions, since one just says that they were the sons of Mars, and the other tells of a phallus appearing on the hearth of the king of the Albans, with which he the king commanded his daughter to have intercourse. (She actually made her maid do it.) (Plutarch, “Life of Romulus,” 2.3-4, Lives). We are not told that the two stories are connected, but we have to consider at least the possibility that the phallus is meant to be that of Mars. There are images of Mars in a fertility role in the Cotswolds (Green, 1986, 136); this would likely be a British god identified with him, but those doing the identifying must have seen Mars as himself associated with fertility.

Parjanya is sometimes the consort of Earth (AV 12.1.12, Whitney, 1905, 663; Macdonell, 1999, 104; 1897, 84), and it is his rain that is the semen that fertilizes her. (“Nature is born for the whole world when Parjanya quickens the earth with his seed” (RV 5.83.4; Macdonell, 1999). In the rest of this hymn, dedicated to Parjanya, he is described as “bellowing,” just as Indra is, and as accompanied by the Maruts, who are thunderstorm spirits that more commonly accompany Indra. (It must be noted, however, that Dyaus also fertilizes the earth (RV 1.100.3, 5.17.3, in West, 2007, 181).) Indra has become the thunder god in the Veda, but besides his name and his rain, Parjanya is the “father of the mighty bird” (RV 9.82.3, in Hillebrandt, 1980 (1929), 227) which brought the soma, the sacred drink of which Indra is so fond. It is both amusing and highly appropriate that in the agnihotra ritual Parjanya is offered to next to the water-barrel (Gonda, 1980, 417), which would have been filled by rain.

There is some question, however, as to whether the name of “Parjanya” belongs to this list. According to West (2007, 245), the expected outcome in Vedic Sanskrit should be “**Parkyn(y)a. Some have suggested a combination of another “strike” root, *per-ǵ, and then perhaps taboo deformation to fix things. The name “Perkunas” was avoided by those in the Baltic lands (Gimbutas, 1973, 469-700), and there is the possible Greek Keraunos mentioned earlier to provide precedent. I am not competent to judge on the linguistics, but I find it difficult to believe that a name so close for a deity so close is not related somehow.

Herakles is not generally considered a thunder-god. However, as we have seen he is a serpent-killer and he is armed with both a club and fiery arrows. On the continent, he was sometimes identified with Donar (“thunder”), with whom Jupiter was also sometimes identified (Davidson, 1988, 207). According to Macrobius (3.12.2), there was a description of the rites of his Roman counterpart Hercules in a book by Varro named On Thunder. It is unfortunate that we don’t know much about this book, but the connection between Hercules and thunder is suggestive.

Mars is also not often thought of as a god of thunder and lightning, that role being taken by Jupiter. I believe he should be seen this way, however (as does York, 1988, 160). First, Jupiter likely acquired his thunderbolt from Zeus, who in turn acquired it from the Near Eastern chief gods who are thunder gods. The names of both deities – “Shining (sky)” – show that originally they couldn’t originally have been gods of the stormy, and therefore cloudy, sky. He is connected with oaks (York, 1988, 160). Mars is a not only god of war, but is also associated with agriculture; this connection which has puzzled generations of classicists can easily be explained if he was in origin a thunder god. According to Macrobius (3.12.5-8), Mars was identified with Hercules, whom we have already seen is a thunder and lightning god. Most important, the Romans possessed an ancient shield which they believed to have been thrown down from the sky (York, 1988, 74). There was a stone kept near the temple of Mars in Rome which was carried in a procession to outside the city as a rain-making ritual (Scullard, 1981, 15). Finally, Mars was connected with the oak (York, 1988, 161).

The hero Beowulf may be an epic reflex of this deity. At the end of his tale he, like Thor kills and is killed by a dragon, and earlier he dives beneath the sea in his greatest deed of slaying Grendel and Grendel’s mother. Both these monsters come from beneath the sea to attack the well-ordered hall of Hrothgar, which, as Michael Enright (1996, 5) puts it, “symbolize[s] the realm of warmth, protection and honor standing true against the wintery waste and chaos of the stormy world outside.” Chaos threatens Cosmos, and the representatives of Chaos must be destroyed by the hero.

Perhaps the most famous reflex, however, is Indra, the Vedic champion god. His major deed is killing the great serpent Vṛtra, after being fortified with the sacred drink soma. He is so identified with this myth that he is often called simply Vṛtrahan, “killer of Vṛtra.” In Iran he survived under both names, as a demon Indara, and a god, Vərəθraγna. This is even though his dragon-slaying myth does not survive there, and there is no demon with the name Vərəθra, which would have been the Iranian version of Vṛtra (Duschesne-Guillemin, 1969, 332-3).

Indra was armed with some sort of throwing club (it may also be used to strike), called the vájra. It is likely of copper, since it is described as “red-brown,” the Vedic term for copper (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 112), but is also sometimes called aśman “stone” or parvata “rock” (Macdonell, 1897, 55). In RV 1.85.9. it has a thousand spikes.

Herakles, the Dagda, and Perúnъ (Polomé, 1983, 547) were all armed with clubs, with Herakles also bearing a bow; Apollodorus (2.4.9) also provides him with a javelin. The three-headed figures from the Gallehus horn and Thrace both carry an axe. Perkunas can be armed with a mace, a spear, a sword, an iron rod, arrows, or stone bullets (West. 2007, 240), and Perún with an axe (Kropej, 2003, 126; West, 2007, 242), arrow (West, 2007, 242), or hammer (Kropej, 2003, 126). The strely “arrow” of Perkunas is, despite its name, a Neolithic axe or a piece of a meteor (Gimbutas, 1973, 475). Stone tools, i.e., Neolithic axes and such, believed to be thunderbolts (Maher, 1973, 446) were used as talismans to protect homes from lightning (Gimbutas, 1973, 476) and to protect soldiers and hunters (Maher, 1973, 446).

The Dagda has his “thunder club.” When Lug asks him what power he can put against the Fomorians, he says that the dead under his club will be as many as “hailstones under the feet of horses” (“Cath Maige Tuired,” Gray, 1982, 119). He also had an axe; when a woman said that she would block every ford before him with an oak tree, he said he would go past and leave a mark from his axe on them (“Cath Maige Tuired,” Gray, 1982, 93). The weapon of the Hittite Weather God was a mace (Güterbock, 1950, 89). Thor’s famous hammer was named Mjøllnir, which is cognate with Russian molnija, Old Prussian mealde, and Welsh melt all of which mean “lightning” (Maher, 1973, 450). We’ve seen the axe of the three-headed figure on the Gallahus horn. Thor’s hammer may have been a later replacement for an axe (Davidson, 1969, 614), which is found in Landnámabók (Sturlubók, ch. 257, in DuBois, 1999, 161; Turville-Petre, 1964, 84). His weapon is also described as a club (Saxo Grammaticus, Historia Danica III, 73, in DuBois, 1999, 159).

The enemies of the kulshedra, the drangues, (or dragua (Elsie, 2001, 83)) fight with her with meteors or lightning (West, 2007, 259), or with a plough (Elsie, 2001, 208).

Both Lug (Gray, 1982, 61) and Lleu kill with rocks; Lug uses a sling, and Lleu goes barehand. (Kim McCone (in Radner, 1991, 143) holds that the battle between Lug and Balor, including, I would presume, the use of a sling, was influenced by that of David and Goliath. However, the parallel with Lleu, a story which is less similar to the biblical one, suggests that this is not the case.) Lug also has a spear that no foe has ever withstood (“Cath Maige Tuired”, Gray, 1982, 25). In some folklore variants, Lug’s weapon is a red-hot iron staff from a smithy (Radner, 1991, 142), but that can be seen as a variant of a spear, perhaps of lightning because of its heat, and that it is taken from a smith, the user of fire, iron, and a great hammer. Lleu later uses a specially made spear against an enemy (Ford, 1977, 108-9), but it’s against his wife’s lover.

Although a club was Herakles’ defining weapon (he is almost never shown without it), he more often fights with arrows. This is how he killed Geryon (Apollodorus 2.5.10) (although in a 7th century BCE bronze relief, as well as one from the 6the century BCE, he uses a sword (Carpenter, 1991, fig. 201, 202)) and the serpent of the Hesperides (Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, 4.1422 ff.; Graves, II, 146). He killed the Hydra with both flaming arrows and his club (the arrows forced it out of its lair, and he used the club to crush its heads), with the help of Iolaus burning the heads as he crushed them (Apollodorus, 2.5.2) (or as he cut them off). As well as his vájra, Indra also used arrows.

The weapons of the reflexes vary, then, but they can be categorized as either clubs (Perkunas, Indra, Herakles, the Dagda, Thor, the Hittite Weather God) or aerial weapons (mainly thrown axes and hammers (Perkunas, Perún?, Thor) but also arrows (Herakles, Perún, Perkunas, Indra; Indra’s vájra, although a club, is also thrown)).

The most primitive of these weapons would be a club or axe; I believe that Perkʷū́nos’ classic weapon is the double-headed axe, either metal (bronze or copper; the Proto-Indo-Europeans may have used iron in a very late period) or flint. The Proto-Indo-European word for his weapon would be *wágros, “smasher” (Watkins, 1995, 411; West, 2007, 460), from which Indra’s weapon, the vájra, draws its name. Perkʷū́nos throws his wágros, and it returns to him to be thrown again. It does not take much imagination to see in a club or an aerial weapon an image of lightning.

An attribute which does not seem to be a weapon is the wheel (although the deity on the Gundestrup cauldron may be using it as such; perhaps it has been broken in the battle). This is commonly found in British and Gaulish representations which appear to combine Jupiter and a Celtic god, presumably Taranis. There are inscriptions which identify the two, such as one from Chester, to Jupiter Optimus Maximus Tanarus (Green, 1986, 130). There are also images which combine the two, with a wheel in one hand and a thunderbolt in the other (e.g., MacCana, 1970, 35). One intriguing image is on a pottery stamp from Corbridge (Ross, 1967, pl. 65a), which shows a helmeted god carrying a shield and leaning on a crooked club. A wheel is on the ground to his right (since this is a mold, in the formed version it would have been on his left). The helmet and shield may link him with Mars, who is a protector and agricultural god, and the club with the snake-killer Hercules. That the club is crooked may be an attempt to portray a lightning flash. We would therefore have a Taranis-Mars-Hercules, and a god who is a protector, agricultural, a slayer of serpents, and connected with lightning, accompanied by a wheel.

We have already seen how the wheel can be a sun symbol, and there are those, such as Miranda Green (see, for example, her 1986, 130-1), who identify the wheel found with the thunder god (and, indeed, all wheels) that way, and believe that its connection with the thunder god is as a celestial symbol. It must be remembered, however, that a symbol can have more than one meaning. I don’t see, however, why a sun would be an appropriate symbol for a god of the cloudy sky. More likely is that the wheel is a representation of thunder, which even today we describe as “rolling.” This seems to have been the Germanic concept as well; thunder in both Old English and Icelandic is referred to as “travelling or moving” (Turville-Petre), and thunder-gods often move in chariots.

There is a possible connection between columns and thunder gods. In Gaul (particularly eastern France and western Germany) and Britain we find the Jupiter columns. “Thurstable,” the name of a place in England, had the original meaning of “Thor’s Pillar” (Turville-Petre, G., 1962, 21; Turville-Petre, E. O. G., 1964, 99). Thor was the god of house pillars (Turville-Petre, 1964, 88). In India, there are poles used at certain festivals that are identified with Indra (Gonda 1980, 427; Kuiper, 1975, 111). Indra was also connected with the sacrificial pillar, the yūpa (Woodard, 2006, 95). The close connection between Odin and Yggdrasill (he hangs on it to gain the runes, his horse is tied to it) may be relevant; although Odin is not a thunder god, he is the chief one. In fact, perhaps it is being chief god, rather than being the thunder god, that makes the connection; the god of the pillar is the god of the axis mundi. Might “the pillars of Hercules” be connected here? There is certainly a myth explaining them, but the use of the word “pillar” to describe them is suggestive; other words could have been used.

In European folklore, Neolithic axes, often turned up by farmers when plowing, were believed to be actual thunderbolts. Proto-Indo-European *H2ekmon applies to a constellation of ideas including the sky, thunder, and stone axes (Maher, 1979, 161). This connects with a belief held of Perkunas that the first thunderstorms of spring fertilized the fields (Gimbutas, 1973, 471).

Perún was a god of truth, specifically of oaths. He was invoked in treaties; in one case it was said that oath-breakers, who had thereby become accursed by him, would be slain by their own weapons (Jakobson, 1969, 582; Turville-Petre, 1964, 96). Thor was also a god who enforced law (Davidson, 1969, 613). The enforcement of law by Perkʷū́nos is a natural outgrowth of his role of slaying forces of disorder.

Perkunas is described by Simon Grunau in the Prussian Chronicle (dating from c. 1520), (West, 2007, 240), as “an angry-looking middle-aged man with a fiery face and a dark crinkly beard. He spits fire, and hurls an axe or (less often) a hammer, which returns to his hand.” Perún has a tawny (West, 2007, 242) or copper (Gimbutas, 1971, 165) beard. Indra also has a tawny beard (RV 10.23.4, in Macdonell, 1897, 55) as well as tawny hair (10.96.5, 8 in Macdonell, 1897, 55). Herakles flashes fire from his eyes (Apollodorus 2.4.9).

Indra’s arms are long and far-extended (Macdonell, 1897, 55), lining up nicely with “Lug of the Long Arm” (Rees & Rees, 1961, 52). The epithets likely refer to the two deities’ throwing ability.

The sacred animal of Perkʷū́nos is the bull, an animal of great power, rampant sexuality, and danger (For Perkunas, Gimbutas, 1973, 470.) Only Mars was offered a bull specified as fertile (Puhvel, 1978b, 360). The Umbrians sacrificed bull-calves to Mars Hodius (“The Bronze Tablets of Iguvium” I b 3; in Poultney, 1959, 162; Weiss, 2010, 248) and three bulls to Mars Grabovius (VI b 1, Weiss, 2010, 248, n. 7). Poultney (1959), 251, had previously translated this as “three oxen.”) Cato (On Agriculture, 83) relates a ritual for the health of cattle directed towards Mars Silvanus. Bulls are also not the only animals sacrificed to Mars in Rome; in Cato’s famous suovotaurilia prayer (On Agriculture, 141), he is offered a calf, a lamb, and a pig (probably a piglet).) Procopius (De Bellico Gothico 3.14) tells us that bulls were sacrificed to the Slavic thunder god, and, indeed, bulls were sacrificed to St. Elias, his Christian replacement, into modern times (Polomé, 983, 546) (although Elsie, 2001, 84, says oxen). In Armenia, a black bull was associated with the thunder god (Petrosyan 2011, 346). Black bulls were also offered to the Lithuanian and Hittite thunder gods (Petrosyan, 2011, 347). A plaque from Thrace with a horseman similar to the three-headed one depicts a bull sacrifice (Schiltz, 1987, 298). Indra eats many buffaloes (Macdonell, 1897, 56), and may take the form of a red bull (Hillebrandt, 1980 (1929), 132). In sacrifices to him, the dakṣiṇā (the gift to the priest) was a bull (Hillebrandt, 1980 (1929), 132). In the triple sacrifice, the sautrāmaṇi, of a ram, a bull, and a buck, the bull is sacrificed to him (Mallory and Adams, 1997, 138). Parjanya is sometimes called a bull, who fertilizes the earth (RV 5.83.1; Macdonell, 1897, 83). The hoof beats of a running bull suggest thunder. One of the Proto-Indo-European words for "bull," *wisontos, means "the one who urinates." The combination of bellowing and urination brings to mind the god of thunderstorms.

Some of his reflexes are connected with goats. The car of Perkunas is drawn by one or more (West, 2007, 240; Gimbutas, 1980, 165; Gimbutas, 1973, 466). A 16th century sacrifice to Percuno(s) included a goat (Turville-Petre, 1964, 97). The infant Zeus, who has acquired the thunder and lightning power of Perkʷū́nos is fed with goat’s milk. Zeus sits on a goat skin when he produces rain (Gimbutas, 1973, 471). The Gallehus figure has a goat on a leash. An image of Thor described in the late 12th or early 13th century is seated in a chariot drawn by goats, which is how is described in the Haustlong as well (Turville-Petre, 1964, 81-2). He is even called “lord of goats” (Turville-Petre, 1964, 82). There was a Roman festival of Jupiter at the Caprae Palus, “Marsh of the She-Goat” (Evans, 1974, 103). The Ossetes set up a pole with a black goat’s skin on it by the grave of someone who had been struck by lightning (Evans, 1974, 103, n. 2).

Bulls and goats are, of course, animals connected strongly with male sexuality and fertility.

It is probable that rituals in honor of Perkʷū́nos involved dancing. In Rome the Salii priest danced in honor of Mars through the city each March 1st (Mars’ birthday (Kershaw, 2000, 122)), 9th, 19th, and 23rd in armor; one of their shields was that which had been cast down from the sky, and the others were duplicates (Scullard, 1981, 85-6, 93). (Hercules also had Salii (Macrobius 3.12.5-8); Macrobius says this is because Mars and Hercules were the same god.) The crying of the infant Zeus was drowned out by the Kouretes, dancing with spears and shields (Apollodorus, 1.1.7); Hesiod (Fragment 6, in Hesiod, 1937, 277) calls them “sportive dancers.” Perkons himself is said to have danced (Ogibenin, 1974, 33, n. 11), as is Zeus (“The Epic Cycle” 5, in Hesiod, 1936, 481). Indra and the Maruts were called nṛtu, “dancers” (Dumézil 1970a, 211).

The Thunder God is a glutton. Thor in the land of giants downs three barrels of mead and the Dagda eats a cauldron full of eighty gallons of milk, eighty gallons of oats, eighty gallons of fat, goats, sheep, and pigs (“Cath Maige Tuired,” Gray, 1982, 89-92). Indra can eat up to three hundred buffaloes (Keith, 1989, 124-5) and drinks more soma than he should.

There is an ancient connection between Perkʷū́nos and Dyḗus Ptḗr (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 694), (possibly pre-dating the rise of the social division seen in the ideology of the three functions), as gods of the stormy and of the sunny sky, respectively. This is well expressed in the comparison between their usual sacrificial victims, the unpredictable, passionate bull (the stormy sky), and the placid, rulable ox (the clear sky).

There is an interesting parallel between two myths told of Thor and of Indra. Loki has stolen Thor’s hammer and given it to the giants. To get it back, the two travel to the land of the giants, with Thor dressed as a woman. A comic tale follows, with Thor supposedly there to marry one of the giants. Indra, on the other hand, falls in love with an Asura. He goes to live among them, in the form of a woman among the women, and a man among the men (Macdonell, 1897, 57). The combination of taking a female form among Outsiders is interesting and suggestive, but we can’t go any further.

It is possible that being on horseback was a characteristic of Perkʷū́nos. As well as the Jupiter columns, there is an altar dedicated to Perún? (found at Peryn’, near Novgorod, where he is on horseback, and the Hittite Pirwa also rode a horse (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 474). The Roman horse sacrifice was dedicated to Mars, and the Vedic one originally to Indra. However, this remains only a possibility.

There is some question as to whether his name should be translated as “Striker” or “Oak God.” The *perkʷ- in his name may be that which is the root of “percussion,” or the source of words meaning "oak," perhaps because oaks were believed to be often struck by lightning (Gimbutas, 1973, 467; Polomé, 1983, 546). (This has, in fact, been shown to be the case in reality (Hillebrandt, 1980 (1929), 398-9)). The root has reflexes meaning “strike” in Lithuanian (perti), Slavic (prati), and Armenian (harkanem) (Gimbutas, 1973, 466, n. 1). In Latin (quercus) and Celtic (hercos), on the other hand, the meaning is “oak” and “oak forest,” respectively. Other descendants are linked with "mountain" (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 526-527), such as Hittite peruna and Sanskrit párvata, both meaning “mountain top” (Gimbutas, 1973, 466); this is also the case in the Gothic fairguni (Jakobson, 1972, 6). Maximus of Tyre provides the additional information that the Celts venerated oaks as a symbol of Zeus (Davidson, 1988, 23; Ross, 1967, 33). There was an oak grove dedicated to Thor at Dublin.

This complex of ideas – striking, lightning, oak, and mountain – identifies Perkʷū́nos with the axis mundi. This fits with his position as defender of truth; he is the support of the universe. The oak connection also emphasizes his strength, integrity, and tenacity. The root *dreu-, from which comes English "tree" and "true," formed the root for "oak" in some languages. Perkʷū́nos is hard, even stubborn. But stubbornness in defense of truth is a virtue.


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Diwós Sunú
The "Sons of God" are twins who are third function deities (Dumézil, 1970b, 57-8). Their worship survived among the Greeks and Romans (Castor and Pollux, called the Dioskouroi, "Zeus's boys", as well as the Theban Zethos and Amphion (Burkert, 1985, 212, Polomé, 1980, 160; Ward, 1967, 234)), the Vedic Indians (the Aśvins, also called the Nāsatyas ("Those who bring together/bring home;" Bailey, 1975, 15)or the Divó nápālā (“Sons of God”), and the Balts (the Latvian Dieva dēli and Lithuanian Dievo sūneliai (Parpola, 2004-2005, 6)). Tacitus writes of the Alcis, a pair of deities worshipped by the Naharvali (likely in Silesia) "as young men and brothers, and whom he identifies with Castor and Pollux (Germania, 43). Other deities have been suggested as Germanic reflexes, such as Njörðr and Freyr (Ward, 1968, 36-8). Among the Iranians they have become a demon, Nânhaiθya (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1969, 331, 333), but also may survive in the form of the linked Haurvatāt-Amərətāt. Diodorus Siculus (4.56.4) tells us that the Celts along the sea worshipped the Dioskouroi above all, because they believe the Dioskouroi came from the ocean, but unfortunately doesn't tell us their names.

The Twins are strongly connected with horses. They often appear in battle, riding on white horses (West, 2007, 483). Aśvins means "horse-men." They are conceived when their mother Saranyū is in the form of a mare (Ward, 1968, 12). Pindar (Olympia 3.39) describes the Dioskouroi as "having good horses;" elsewhere (Pythian 5.10), Castor is "gold-charioted," and in Pythian 1.66 they are leukópōloi, "having white horses." The two of them are "the mightiest of hero charioteers" (Pindar, Isthmian 1, p. 121). Alkman (Fragment 12, in Ward, 1868, 12) calls them "skilled riders." The horses of the Baltic Twins are often mentioned, and they are even sometimes themselves called "the horses of God" (Ward, 1968, 12).

Echoes of the twins may also have survived among the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons, and the continental Germans (see O’Brien, 1982; Ward, 1968). In Wales we have Pryderi, son of the horse goddess Rhiannon, who is born on May day (a holy day), at the same time as a horse. This horse is raised with him (Ford, 1977, 50-4). In Ireland, the hero Cú Chulainn is also born at the same time as a horse, which also is raised with him. When one form of the horse goddess Macha dies, she has just given birth to twins. In Germanic tradition, we find the heroes Hengist and Horsa, both of whose names mean “horse” (Ó Brien, 1982, 119).

Their most important connection, then is with horses, to the point of having a name which means “horse,” or even having the form of a horse.

Like Indo-European warriors in general, the Twins are dancers (Littleton, 1970, 231; O'Brien, 1982, 118). The Dioskouroi are the inventors of the war dances (Burkert, 1985, 212). The Vedic twins are dancers (RV 6.63.5). The Dieva dēli are described in a daina as "leading the dance" (Ward, 1968, 25).

The Twins are connected with stars. The Dioskouroi are in fact called "stars" (Burkert, 1985, 213). Golden stars were set up to them at Delphi in thanksgiving for the Athenian victory in the sea battle of Salamis (Skutsch, 1987, 191).

The Dioskouroi are associated with oaths (O'Brien, 1982, 118), as are the Aśvins (Parpola, 2004-2005).

Although twins, they are not identical in nature. Although they are both associated with horses, and both are warriors, one is more so, a god for riders, owners of horses, and warriors, especially cavalrymen. The other is more peaceful, and associated with cattle. This is the case with the Aśvins. They may also have different parentages or births. In RV 1.81.4, one is said to be the son of a particular prince, and the other the son of heaven, or one can be the son of dawn and the other the son of night (Macdonell, 1897, 49). Among the Greeks and Romans, the difference is parentage results in a difference in mortality: Castor, as the son of Tyndareus, is mortal, while Zeus’s direct son, Pollux, is immortal. When Castor died, Pollux chose to share half of his immortality with him so that half of the time the two live in heaven, and half of the time with the dead (Pindar, Nemean 9, 115-7). In the Iranian pair, Haurvatāt is connected with water, and Ameretāt with plants (Dumézil, 1970, 57). In the Mahābhārata, of the twins Nakula and Sahadeva (who are likely to be epic versions of the Aśvins), Nakula is a warrior and breaker of horses, and Sahadeva a keeper of cattle and not so much as a warrior (Littleton, 1970, 235).

Even though they have these different function and personalities, they are invoked together. In fact, their separate names are not recoverable.

As a pair, the Twins guide mankind, especially sailors, farmers, and riders, and may be prayed to for healing, fertility, and prosperity. (The Aśvins are the phy-sicians of the gods (Hillebrandt, 1980, 318; Macdonell, 1897, 51). They are also prayed to for progeny (Knipe, 1975, 103).) As we have seen, they were thanked for the naval victory of Salamis. They are divine rescuers from all sorts of immediate crises. The Twins may not help you get that project done on time, but they will be there in the midst of a hurricane. In Menander, The Dyskolos (l. 192, p. 15), a character cries out, "Apollo, Castor, Pollux! Heal me - save me!" (Apollo being a god of healing, the saving is left for Castor and Pollux.) Násatyā probably means "saviors" (Ward, 1968, 14). In both Greece (Euhemerus 6, in Grant 1953, 76) and India (Parpola, 2004-2005, 30), they are especially rescuers for those at sea. In the second Homeric hymn to the Dioskouroi (33), they are called "deliverers of men on earth and of swift-going ships when stormy gales rage over the ruthless sea." According to Ammianus Marcellinus (19.10.4), in 359 CE a storm that was keeping grain ships from the Roman port of Ostia was stilled while Tertullus was sacrificing in the temple of Castor and Pollux.

The sea is a common connection of theirs. The Aśvins drive their chariots on the sea, and the Baltic Twins their sledges (Ward, 1967, 235-6). In one verse of the Rig Veda (1.46.2) the Aśvins are said to be the sons of the ocean (although, as is typical for Vedic myth, other verses given them other parents (Macdonell, 1897, 51)). St. Elmo's fire, which gathers around the masts of ships, was considered by the Greeks to be the manifestation of the Dioskouroi (Burkert, 1985, 213). In the Greek, Baltic, and Vedic traditions the Twins are found at sea, either in the chariot or on winged horses (Ward, 1968, 11).

The connection between horses and the sea might be relevant. The Dioskouroi's mother Leda Poseidon is Poseidon Hippios (Burkert, 1985, 138; Diodorus 5.69). More important, Poseidon conceived three sets of twins while in the form of a horse. (Adams, Mallory, and Miller, 1997, 277). The Welsh Manawydan, cognate with the Irish Manannán son of Sea, is the husband of the horse goddess Rhiannon, waves are horses throughout folklore and the Indic fiery horse head is hidden under the sea.

As might be expected of deities who are turned to in moments of dangers, the Twins are close to mankind. They are, in fact, the deities who are closest to us. Because of this, the Aśvins were originally excluded from the soma, only gaining it in turn for healing the sacrifice (Hillebrandt, 1980, I:318). In Greece there was a form of offering called theoxenia, in which offerings were laid out for a deity in front of their image; a non-sacrificial (at least not in the sense of killing an animal) meal with the god as guest. Of all the deities, the Dioskouroi were the most common guests in this intimate rite (Parker, 2011, 142). Ward (1968, 19) thinks that this reflects a connection with the harvest, but I think it is the intimacy that is being expressed. The closeness is likely because in some cases, such as the Dioskouroi, one was in fact originally mortal. The Aśvins were the brothers of Yama and Mannus (see Yemós and Mannus, below) who were human (Panikkar, 1984, 34, n. 36) (at least in the case of Yama, originally human).

The Twins are closely related to the sun and mare goddesses (see below), and are often found in the same stories as them and related to them in some way. Thus Helen is the sister of the Dioskouroi; she was perhaps originally a sun goddess; she was worshiped at Sparta, shown between her brothers (Dexter, 1984, 139, or accompanied by Menelaus (Richer, 2010, 237), and in some sources she is the daughter of Helios (Ward, 1967, 235). (The Dioskouroi were the major deities at Sparta (Richer, 2010, 239)). The Welsh Pryderi is the son of mare goddess Rhiannon and the husband of the daughter of "Fair Shining One." The Aśvins (“Horsemen”) are the husbands and/or brothers of Sūryā duhite or Duhitā Sūryasya (“Daughter of the Sun”) (Ward, 1967, 235; 1968, 11; West, 2007, 227); in RV 10.85.8-9 they are Sūryā’s suitors and it is Soma who is their husband. Sūryā rides in their chariot (e.g. RV 1.34.5). The Lithuanian and Latvian "Daughter of the Sun" (Saules Dukterys and Saules meita, respectively) is wooed by her brothers the Dieva deli ("Sons of God"), who accompany her through the sky (Ward, 1967, 234) or draw her in their chariot (O'Brien, 1982, 118). They also sail with her in a boat made of apple wood (Ward, 1967, 234). Castor and Pollux also accompany the sun, and in some versions of their myth are the sons of a mare goddess. In RV 5.77.1, the AśvinsAśvins are the ones who “come in the morning” (Hillebrandt, 1980, II:308), and in RV 8.35.19-21 the Asvins are called to drink soma with Surya (Sun) and Uṣas (Dawn). According to Steven O'Brien (1982, 117), the connection is due to the image of the sun being drawn by horses across the sky.

The two most common relationships are that either the three are siblings or the Twins are the suitors or husbands of the goddess. Of course, we are dealing with deities here, so these are not mutually exclusive.

They may also, but less commonly, be connected with the dawn goddess. The Aśvins follow Uṣas (RV 8.5.2), and she is born when they yoke their chariot (RV 10.39.12) (Macdonell,1974, 50), or she wakens them (RV 8.9) (Macdonell, 1974, 48). They are gods of the dawn (Aitareya Brāhmaṇa 2.15; Macdonell, 1974, 51).

Whichever goddess they are associated with, they sometimes serve as her rescuer. They perform this function in the Greek, Baltic, and Indian traditions (Grottanelli, 1986, 126). Castor and Pollux rescued Helen when she had been kidnapped by Theseus son of Aegeus and Pirithous son of Ixion (Hyginus, 79). Grottanelli suggests, however, that the goddess is their superior, in part because of the two to one relationship.

Another connection is with swans. The sister of Hengist and Horsa is Swana; the Norse Swanhild is the sister of two brothers (Ó Brien, 1982, 119-20); Helen and Castor and Pollux are born from a swan’s egg after Leda has been impregnated by Zeus in a swan form (Apollodorus 3.10.7, Hyginus, 77). One of the kinds of animals variously described as pulling the car of the Aśvins is a swan (Macdonell, 1897, 50). I have to wonder if the connection is because swans are the largest water bird, and the twins are connected with water. O'Brien (1982, 119-20) says that the connection is that the swan is the epiphany of the solar goddess.

They are so connected with horses that one or both might appear in horse form. Such is the case in with Pryderi and Cú Chulainn. The Baltic Twins appear as horses, pulling the chariot of the sun (Ó Brien, 1982, 118), while the Theban twins are called "The White Colts of Zeus” (Ward, 1968,12). And Aśvins means “Horsemen.”

The father of the Twins would have been Dyéus Ptér, as for instance among the Greeks, where Castor and Pollux are the sons of Zeus, or the Balts, where they are the sons of Dievas. The Aśvins are sometimes the sons of Dyaus Pitar, although sometimes only one is. Their fatherhood by Dyéus Ptér is only found in the easternmost families (Greek, Baltic, and Indo-Iranian), so it may not have been a common Indo-European belief. Nevertheless, Pryderi is fostered by Teyrnon, whose name means “Lord;” with such a name it is possible that he is a reflex of Dyéus Ptér (although it must be pointed out that Ford, in the notes to his translation of The Mabinogi (1977, 12) suggests instead that he is a sea god). Pryderi is later the foster son of Manawydan uab Llyr, the Welsh version of the Irish Manannán mac Lir, “Son of the Sea” (one more connection between a Twin and the ocean).

The Diwós Sunú are connected strongly with third function values; Dumézil (1970, 31) calls them, along with Sarasvati, “the canonical deities of the third function – the function of health, fecundity, and abundance.” Perhaps that is why the (randy) goat is sacrificed to the Aśvins (SB, in Macdonell, 1897, 51). In RV 10.40, after invoking the Aśvins as helpers of various people, they are described as rescuing the “worshiper and the widow” (vs. 7-8), they are asked to be involved in happy marriages. The Dioskouroi are shown on coins and reliefs with cornucopia and grain, and wear hats shaped like eggshells (Ward, 1968, 19). The Latvian Twins have a gold plough and silver seeds (Ward, 1968, 20). The Asvins bring lovers together (AV 2.30.2, in Macdonell, 1897, 51). There is a connection with weddings; both the Aśvins and the Baltic Twins have complicated relationships with weddings to sun goddesses (see below), and Pryderi give his mother as a wife to Manawydan. In Gaul, statues of the Dioscuri, who may be standing in for a Gaulish pair of deities, are almost uniquely represented in the inexpensive terracotta rather than the more expensive bronze or stone (Wightman, 1986, 548), indicating that they were more popular among those in the lower levels of the economy.

When described physically, the Twins are always youthful. The Aśvins are described as bedecked with gold (RV 8.8.2), and Pryderi, when he was fostered with Teyrnon, was named Gwri, “Golden Hair” (Ford, 1977, 53). This is not a rare attribute for a deity, however, and may not be significant.

Riding on your well-matched steeds,
Come to me, Diwós Sunú.
Come with your blessings for house and land.
Come with your blessings for men and cattle.

Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Proto-Indo-European Sun Maidens and Gods of the Moon. Mankind Quarterly 25:1 & 2 (Fall/Winter, 1984), 137-144.

Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. The Religion of Ancient Iran. In Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions. ed. C. Jouco Bleeker. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969.

Dumézil, Georges. The Destiny of the Warrior. tr. Alf Hiltebeitel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970 (1969).

Ford, Patrick K. (ed. and tr.) The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. tr. and ed. Patrick K. Ford. Berkeley, CA: University ofCalifornia Press, 1977.

Grant, Frederick C. (ed.) Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953.

Grottanelli, Christiano. Yoked Horses, Twins, and the Powerful Lady: India, Greece, Ireland, and Elsewhere. Journal of Indo-European Studies 14: 1 - 2 (Spring/Summer, 1986), pp. 125 - 152.

Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica. tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Hillebrandt, Alfred. Vedic Mythology. tr. Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1980 (1929).

Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Aitareya and Kaustakin Brahmanas of the Rigveda. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998 (1920).

Macdonell, Arthur Anthony. Vedic Mythology. New York: Gordon Press, 1897 (reprinted 1974).

----A Vedic Reader for Students. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1999 (1917).

O’Brien, Steven. Dioscuric Elements in Celtic and Germanic Mythology. Journal of Indo-European Studies 10:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1982), 117-136.

Panikkar, Raimundo. The Vedic Experience. Berkeley, CA: University of Califor-nia Press, 1977.

Pindar. The Complete Odes. tr. Anthony Verity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Ward, Donald. Solar Mythology and Baltic Folksongs. In Folklore International: Essays in Traditional Literature, Belief, and Custom in Honor of Wayland Debs Hand. ed. D. K. Wilgus. Hatboro, PN: Folklore Associates, 1967, 233-42.

---- The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1968. (The classic treatment.)

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Wightman, Edith Mary. Pagan Cults in the Province of Belgica. Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II:18:1 (1986), 542-589.

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Xákʷōm Népōt
"Close Relative of the Waters" (sometimes called just "Neptonos") guards a well which contains a fiery liquid. (*Xákʷōm Népōt (*H2ékwō'm népōt) is Jackson, 2002, p. 82; Edgar Polomé and J. P. Mallory (in Mallory and Adams, 1997, p. 203, suggest Apom nepots (*h2epom nepots).) This liquid grants rule, wisdom, inspiration, or prosperity to those who drink it. There's a catch, though. (There always is.) Those who wish to drink from the well must deserve the well's gifts. They cannot have any moral flaws, and they must approach the well in the appropriate ritual manner. In other words, the gifts of the well are available only to the virtuous.

In the myths of the well some sort of disaster arises that demonstrates this. In Ireland, the reflex is Nechtan, whose well contained a fiery liquid which only he or his three cupbearers could draw. His wife, Boand, committed adultery with the Daghda, and to purify herself (or to prove her innocence in another version of the tale) went to take water from the well. She went about it counterclockwise (the wrong direction to circle Irish holy wells) three times, and each time the well overflowed, destroying in turn an eye, a hand, and a thigh. This trifunctional destruction was completed when the last eruption chased Boand to the coast, drowning her and forming the river Boyne.

The Roman version is in the form of history. This is typical; before their contact with Greece, they had turned much of their myth into history. In the 4th century BCE, during the feast of Neptune, the Alban lake, fed by a spring and enclosed within an extinct volcano, overflowed. The oracles said the lake was offended because improperly created magistrates were conducting rituals. Once again there is a spring-fed body of water, associated with fire and a water god, offended by a breach in sacred law.

The Greek god Poseidon, equated with Neptune by the Romans, had a holy salt-well in Mantinea. Anyone unauthorized who looked into it would be blinded.

The Zoroastrian Apam Napat was the guardian of a sacred lake in which the Xvarenah, the glory of God and the source of sovereignty, was stored. Frangasyan tried to lay claim to it because that would have given him the kingship. He was not, however, qualified to be king, so although he tried three times, each time the water escaped him. Finally, both Xvarenah and water flowed out through three channels and surrounded the earth (Littleton, 1973, p. 425). These waters are personified as female spirits. This lake may have been what is spoken of in Yasna 10.4, where a well that is the source of Truth is described.

In India the Son of the Waters is so closely related with fire that he was even addressed as “Agni.” His liquid nature was not forgotten, though; he is also connected with Soma, the god of the sacred drink of the same name.

The waters of which Xákʷōm Népōt is both guardian and relative are the source of all that is good in all three functions plus the transfunctional sovereignty. It makes sense, then, that he doesn't fit into any single function. His well is the one at the world's center. "Relative" does not necessarily mean in a genetic sense; it is likely to have meant "connected in a very close way" or "dweller in." The waters themselves appear sometimes as cows (prosperity) and sometimes as young women (such as Nechtan's cupbearers).

With such widespread survival of his name and myths, Xákʷōm Népōt was clearly an important figure to the Proto-Indo-Europeans. The "Fire in Water" theme is one of the mysteries of Indo-European myth and religion. It will be discussed in depth in chapter 16. For now it is important to note that Xákʷōm Népōt provides immense power, but only to those who approach him in a morally pure state and with the proper ritual.

It’s worth remembering that even though Neptune was identified with the Romans as a god of the sea, that was not his original function, nor is it a function of Xákʷōm Népōt. The Proto-Indo-Europeans did not, so far as we can tell, have a god of the sea.

Keeper of the flaming water
Lord of Power, Lord of Truth:
Keep us pure and strong and holy,
Make us fit to drink from the well.

Findly, Ellison Banks. The "Child of the Waters": A Reevaluation of Vedic Apam Napat. Numen 26:2 (1979), pp.164 - 183.

Ford, Patrick K. The Well of Nechtain and "La Gloire Lumineuse." In Myth in Indo-European Antiquity. Ed.Gerald James Larson. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.

Littleton, C. Scott. Poseidon as a Reflex of the Indo-European "Source of the Waters" God. Journal of Indo-European Studies 1:4 (Winter, 1973), pp. 425 - 440.

Puhvel, Jaan. Aquam Extinguere. Journal of Indo-European Studies 1:3 (Fall, 1973), pp. 379 - 386.

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Yemós and Mannus
Yemós ("Twin") and Mannus ("Man") are another set of twins found throughout the Indo-European world, in myths from the Germanic peoples (Norse Ymir, and German Tuisto and Mannus), as well as from the Celts (the Irish Donn) and the Romans (Romulus and Remus). Yemós really comes into his own in the Indo-Iranian area, where as Yama/Yima he is the god of the land of the dead.

These deities are bound up in the origin of the Cosmos. In the primordial time, Mannus sacrificed Yemós and formed the world from his body. In RV 1.26.4, Manu’s sacrifice is given as the model for the modern one. Mannus was therefore the first priest, and Yemós the first to die. Yemós (or his soul) went to the land of death and became its ruler. In so doing, he established the pathway to death.

These twins didn't just establish the Cosmos and then go away. After their deaths they were both deified, although Yemós is definitely "more divine" than Mannus, a first among equals. Yemós gets into the very structure of the world, while Mannus stays behind and starts history rolling.

Although they are twins, then, they are not the same in either rank or function. Of the two, Yemós is higher; his name describes both of them. He is the twin. He is the first king, succeeded by his brother.

The most important aspect of Yemós is as god of death. He may be prayed to by those about to die, or on behalf of those who have just died.

As the offerer of the first sacrifice, Mannus is the first priest. He treats his brother as if he were a sacrificial bull. This may explain why the Irish Donn, first to die in the invasion of Ireland and lord of a land of the dead, shares his name with the great bull of Cuailnge whose story is told in the Irish epic The Táin Bó Cuailnge.

Yemós and Mannus, king and priest,
Sacrificed and sacrificer,
I pray to you.
May the path be clear to the land of the dead.
May the funeral rites be properly performed.

Lincoln, Bruce. The Indo-European Myth of Creation. History of Religions 15:2 (1975), pp. 121 - 145.

--The Lord of the Dead. History of Religions 20:2 (Nov.,1980b), pp. 224 - 241.

Plutarch. Plutarch's Lives. tr. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1914.

The Tain: Translated from the Irish Epic Táin Bó Cuailnge. tr. Thomas Kinsella. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1969.

Ward, Donald. The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition. Berkeley, CA: Universityof California Press, 1968.

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"The Protector" or "Shepherd" has a famous descendant - Pan (<Πάον (Skutsch, 1987, 190)). Páxusōn (*PéH2usH3en), genitive *PuH2s(H3)nés (West, 2007, 282) is also the source of the Vedic Pūṣan (Skutsch, 1987, 190), god of herds and roads (Macdonell, 1987, 35-6), (and the Kalash version of Pushao (Schetelich, 1998, 97)), and may have a functional cognate in the Gaulish Cernunnos (Fickett-Wilbar, 2009). Originally probably a god of herds, from the location of the pastures outside the homestead and the nature of the herds as between properly domestic and wild because of where they are herded, he early, apparently still in the Proto-Indo-European period, became a god of bidirectionality. He is the one who stands between. He guards travelers, merchants, and other go-betweens. He guards herds, source of wealth, as well. He may thus be prayed to both as an opener of the ways and as a giver of prosperity.

It was certainly the case that Pūṣ was a god of prosperity (Houben, 1991, 125, n. 121); for instance, in RV 1.89.5 (in Schetelich, 1998, 95) his is asked to “further the growth of our properties.” As a god of herds, Pan is also a god of prosperity.

Pūṣ and Pan both also protect. Pu?an, in RV 1.89.5, is called “the unswerving protector and guardian.” Pan served to protect warriors by sowing “panic” among their enemies. He contributed to the victory of the Athenians over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (Herodotus 6.105, in Borgeaud, 1988, 133). Philippe Borgeaud (1988, 98), holds that this panic role was late, and acquired from Phobos, as a result of the fear of wild places that Pan was god of, but it may simply have been a natural outgrowth of his role as a protector, applied specifically to a field in which protection was especially desired. After all, his name means “Protector.”

In the horse sacrifice ritual the first animal sacrificed is a goat to Pūṣ (RV 1.162.3), who is asked to announce the sacrifice to the gods. In the agnihotra a goat is sacrificed to Agni instead (Hillebrandt, 1980, I:62), but then he’s someone who prepares the way as well, this time for the dead person. Combining the two, we can see Pūṣ as the psychopomp, the deity who guides the souls of the dead on their way, as is Pūṣ (Keith, 1989, 70; Macdonell, 1897, 35). That this is the case with Páxusōn is indicated by goats being sacrificed in both Greek and Indic funerary ritual (RV 10.16; Adams and Mallory, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 230). It is therefore appropriate to pray to him in the funeral ritual.

In the morning and evening offerings, Pūṣ is offered to on the threshold (Macdonell, 1897, 36), a double dose of liminality, both figurative and literal.

Even putting aside the possibility the Cernunnos was a deity of this type, deities of the path or road exist outside of the Graeco-Indian world. When Caesar tells us (GB 6.17) that the Gauls worshiped Mercury above all other gods, he also tells us he is "leader of ways and journeys" (uiarum atque itinerum ducem (West, 2007, 283)). We have a dedication to a god of roadways from another part of the Celtic world, North Yorkshire, from 191 CE: deo qui uias et semitas commentus est (CIL vii. 271; Birley, 1986, 10; West, 2007, 283), "to the god who invented paths." (I would give much to know the name of this deus.) We also have evidence from the Balts in a sixteenth-century report of a Keliū diēvas, "god of roads", and later Matthaeus Praetorius writes of "Kellukis, who has concern for ways" (West, 2007, 283). Pūṣan (RV 6.53.1) is "lord of the paths," -, which may be a title descended from a Proto-Indo-European *pontos-potis.

There is also the Greek Hermes, who is the father of Pan. He is in many ways a god reciprocity: messenger of the gods, psychopomp, god of thieves and a finder of thieves, protector of travelers, watch over roads, patron of tracking (Watkins 1970, 345-6).

In RV 10.85, the Vedic “wedding hymn,” Pu?an is asked to arouse the sexual longings of the bride. Pan also arouses sexual desires, to the point where he can give an erection to all the men in a city (Borgeaud, 1988, (85) and “presides over sexual union” (Borgeaud, 1988, 75).

Pan is, of course, part goat, continuing the goat connection. The half-animal nature of Cernunnos is certainly relevant here; the point is that both Pan and Cernunnos are in-between human and animal.

Páxuson, guardian of the borders,
Open up the gate
and let our prayers through.
Bless all our beginnings
so our acts may be done rightly.

Páxuson, guardian of the borders,
Open up the gate
and let our prayers through.
Bless all our beginnings
so our acts may be done rightly.

Birley, Anthony. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1987.

Fickett-Wilbar, David. Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way. Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 23. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. An expanded video presentation of this can be found on youtube

Hillebrandt, Alfred. Vedic Mythology (2 vol.). tr. Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1980 (1929).

Houben, Jan E. M. (tr. and notes). The Pravargya Brāhmaṇa of the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.

Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989 (1925).

Macdonell, Arthur Anthony. Vedic Mythology. New York: Gordon Press, 1897 (re-printed 1974).

Mallory, J. P., and Adams, D. Q. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Schetelich, Maria. Sheep and Goat in the Religious Beliefs of ?gvedic People. Recent Research on Ladakh 3. ed. L. Icke-Schwalbe and G. Meier, 1998, 90-9.

Skutsch, Otto. Helen, her Name and Nature. Journal of Hellenic Studies 107 (1987), 188-193.

Watkins, Calvert. Studies in Indo-European Legal Language, Institutions, and Mythology. In Indo-European and Indo-Europeans: Papers presented at the 3rd Indo-European Conference at the University of Pennsylvania. ed. Cardona, George; Henry M. Hoenigswald, and Alfred Senn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970, 321-54.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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"The Moon" - yes, the Indo-European moon is male, as shown by the gender of the word in Celtic and Germanic. The female moon of Greece and Rome seems to have been an eastern Mediterranean invention. The Man in the Moon is a good Indo-European figure. "Mēnōs" means "Measurer" (Matasovič, 2009, 122); the moon measures the sky in space, while measuring out time as well. In RV 10.85.18, the moon measures the “order of the seasons” (O’Flaherty, 1981, 269), and in verse 19 it is the “span of life” that is measured.

Another possible name for the moon would be Louksnos, “The Shining One” (Matasovič, 2009, 122).

There are Indo-European stories, such as in Baltic folk songs, in which the Sun Maiden and the Twins are romantically involved with the Moon (Dexter, 1984). It's possible that "Menelaus," the name of the husband of Helen (who, as we will see, is a reflex of the Sun Maiden), is from *mēn (Dexter, 1984, 139-40). The Moon may also be the son of Dawn (Dexter, 1984).

In the west, at least, the moon was associated with healing. This is the case in Lithuania, where Menulis is connected with health, vigor, and youth (Greimas, 1992 (1979), 106). As far as the Celts are concerned, Pliny (Natural History 16.95) says that the Gauls call the moon by a name which means “all healing.”

This idea might have been represented in the east by the moon god being identified as soma, the ritual that brings vigor, long life, and power. The image was of the moon filling with the drink as it waxes, and then wanes. The identification is late, found only in the later books of the Rig Veda, but may represent a reflection of an earlier idea.

The connection between the moon and health would be via the lunar cycle. The moon gets old, and then recovers its youth. That this is the case is shown in Lithuania by the waxing moon being a source of life but the waning moon the opposite. Note as well that the druidic ritual Pliny describes is held on the sixth night of the moon – it is waxing, and is no longer a crescent; it has become substantial.

Often cosmic deities don't make much impact in personal worship. In the case of Mēnōs, however, the metaphorical connection between measuring and thinking (as in "reckoning") and the homonym of *men- "think," connects us with him as a god of thinking and memory

Shining Wheel turning, rolling through the night,
Continue to measure the far-flung sky.
Continue to measure the days' steady passing,
Continue to measure with the Xártus in mind.

Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Proto-Indo-European Sun Maidens and Gods of the Moon. Mankind Quarterly 25:1 & 2 (Fall/Winter,1984), 137-144.

Greimas, Algirdas J. Of Gods and Men: Studies in Lithuanian Mythology. tr. Milda Newman. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992 (1979).

Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Creation and Destruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Matasovič, Ranko. "Sky" and "Moon" in Celtic and Indo-European. Celto-Slavica 2 (2009), 154-162. (Differently paginated on-line, from 121-27).

O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. The Rig Veda. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.

Pliny the Elder. Natural History. H. Rackham, tr. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1945.

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PIE Goddesses (An Overview)

While gods can generally be assigned to specific roles and Dumézilian functions (with some fuzziness, of course), the goddesses are more difficult to pin down. This is due in part to the patriarchal nature of Proto-Indo-European society. Most goddesses were less important than the gods.

What is more interesting is that some goddesses are more important than the gods. This is because while men were associated with doing things (the three functions), women were associated with being things. They are associated with natural phenomena, locations, weather conditions, times, etc., rather than with roles. Because many of the goddesses were associated with locations, the Indo-Europeans left many of them behind as they migrated, replacing them with the goddesses of the new lands. The gods came with the Indo-Europeans because they could. The goddesses stayed behind because they had to. The land couldn't move with the Indo-Europeans, and the land's goddesses stayed with it.

What made some of the goddesses so important is that proper worship of the new goddesses validated the Indo-European possession of the land. The Indo-Europeans knew that without the approval of these goddesses they had no business being in their new lands. Such approval was approval by the land itself. This belief was repeated in the home life, where the hearth fire was a goddess, and it was the establishment of a hearth fire that made possession of the house legal.

The Indo-Europeans did, however, pour the new goddesses into the Indo-European mold. Thus, although we can’t always be sure of the original Indo-European goddesses, their shapes have been left behind in the descendant traditions. This means that we can make some good guesses as to what those goddesses must have been like.

Because of the adoption of local goddesses by the early Indo-Europeans, it is most proper for Indo-European worshipers to learn the goddesses associated with the land in which they live, and to worship them in the manner preferred by those goddesses. This is the Indo-European way.

There are some Proto-Indo-European goddesses that did survive. Two are astronomical goddesses - locations that are accessible from everywhere. One is a portable location. Two are not so much particular goddesses as categories into which local goddesses can fit, and two are with us no matter where we go. One is a very special case.

Functionally speaking goddesses tend to fall into one of three categories. They may belong to no function at all, they may fall into the third function, or they may be trifunctional.

Trifunctional goddesses may in turn be classified as Cow Goddesses and Mare Goddesses. A cow goddess is maternal, safe, and protecting. Her sexuality is at the service of the tribe. A Celtic example is Brighid. She is the patron of poets (first function), smiths (second function), and healers (third function). She is attended by a white cow with red ears, and is given offerings of dairy products. In her Christian form, St. Brighid, called the foster mother of Christ, her maternal aspect is clear.

The mare goddesses are more dangerous. Because of this, they tend to be harder to identify, their stories having been toned down by Christian recorders, or even by their own worshipers. An Irish example of her would be Medb. She practices magic (first function), leads an army (second), and is sexually promiscuous (third). It is this latter that is frequently emphasized. Mare goddesses usually have many mates, and are not faithful to any of them. This is a goddess whose sexuality is in service only to herself. She is great, but she is dangerous.

While the mare goddess may seem to be more appealing to moderns than the cow goddess (macho goddesses are in), the ancients were quite clear that she was not someone to be trifled with. Medb sends most of her lovers to their deaths in battle against Cú Chulainn, for instance. The ancients by far preferred cow goddesses; this is only to be expected, since they were more concerned with the survival of the tribe than the sexuality of the individual.

O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Sacred Cows and Profane Mares in Indian Mythology. History of Religions 19 (1979-1980), pp. 1 - 25.

-- Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Robbins, Miriam. Indo-European Female Figures. Dissertation, UCLA, 1978. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International.

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The exemplary “Horse Goddess.” (The sound in the middle of this is indeed [ḱw], not the usual [kʷ].) The Gaulish Epona bears a name which is an exact reflex. Another possible name would be Medhuna “Intoxicator” (“Goddess of Mead”). This is a fairly well-reconstructed name found in Ireland (Medb < *medhw-ā (West, 2007, 416)), Gaul (Meduna) and India (Mādhavī). Another possible reflex is Mycenean po-]ti-ni-ya i-qe-ya = Potnia Ikkweīa (in the dative), “Mistress of horses” (Dexter, 1990a, 286; West, 2007, 145-6). Numerous Greek goddesses are surnamed “horse,” including Athena, a number of times, such as in Pindar, Olympian Ode 13.82, and Sophocles, Oedipus at Coloneus, 1070-1, and Hera (Pausanias, 5.15.5-6). The Welsh Rhiannon, whose tale is told in the Mabinogi (Ford, 1977), and who also appears in the Triads (Bromwich, 1978), is connected with horses in several ways; her son is born at the same time as a foal, she first appears riding, she is sentenced to serve as a horse by carrying people on her back, and during a period of captivity has to wear ass harnesses around her neck.

Héḱwonā is the goddess who provides sovereignty through mating with the one who would be king. If refused or mistreated, though, she can be vicious in her reprisals. The Irish Cú Chulainn, having rejected the mare goddess Morrígain, (she is described in Fíanaigecht as throwing her mane over her back (Muhr, 1999, 195)), was sent to his death. Even not refusing her can be no treat, since she often appears in the form of a hag who demands sex. Those who give her what she wants are delighted when afterwards she turns into a beautiful women who gives them the kingship. In the story of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the hag he encounters is described in horsy terms, her hair like a mane.

Rhiannon comes from *Rīgantonā “Great Queen” (Ford, 1977, 5). Epona sometimes bears the title “Queen” or “Augusta,” but all of these inscriptions are from eastern Europe (Jufer and Luginb&umul;hl, 2001, 39-40), which may mean she was only seen to have a sovereignty function by a small part of the Gaulish world. More likely, perhaps, is that the inscriptions were set up by the members of Roman cavalry unit made up of Gauls, stationed in the area, who wanted to pay special honor to the imperial family by linking them with the goddess. Epona was particularly, and not surprisingly, popular among Roman cavalry units (Webster, 1986, 71), many of whom were Celtic auxiliaries.

This goddess has a reflection in our world, both in a ritual and a secular form. Gerald of Wales (102) describes a ritual involving this goddess. According to him, in northern Ireland a king was inaugurated by having intercourse with a mare. The mare was then killed and cooked. The king bathed himself in her broth and drank it without using his hands. There are parallels with the Vedic Aśvamedha, a horse sacrifice performed to make a king a universal sovereign. In turn, "Aśvamedha" is cognate with the name of a prince, Epomeduos, found in a Gaulish inscription" (Puhvel, 1955).

Although we don’t see any horsey characteristics in them, it is nonetheless the case that even into historical times a dependable way for someone to become a king in Germania was to marry the queen of the previous king (Enright, 1996, 69). Presumably she in some cases or ways represented the kingdom.

A figure who preserves the characteristics of Héḱwonā is the Indian Mādhavī (from *medhu-), whose story is found in the Mahābharata. There was a rule in India that after “graduating” from his training, a disciple was to offer a gift to his teacher. When Gālava asked his teacher Viśvamitra what he wanted, the teacher asked for eight hundred horses, each white but with one black ear. In despair over where to find so many of such a rare kind of horse, Gālava asks advice from Yayāti. He doesn’t have the horses, but he gives her his daughter Mādhavī. Gālava brings her to a king named Ayodhya, who has such horses. He offers the king Mādhavī, but Ayodhya has only 200 of the horses. Mādhavī then pipes up and says that she has the magic power of restoring her virginity, which means that she can bear this king a son, but still be qualified to marry other kings. The deal is made, and after a son is born Gālava and Mādhavī make the same deal with two other kings. Now with 600 horses, Gālava is appalled to learn that that is all there are. He returns to Viśvamitra, and offers Mādhavī to him as a substitute for the missing horses (we have, after all, already learned that she is equivalent to 200 of them), for his own conception of a son. Viśvamitra replies that if only Gālava had brought her to him in the first place, he would have engendered four sons, and they would have been even. Mādhavī is returned to Yayāti, who gives her the choice of a final husband. Turning down the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men, sages, spirits, and even animals, who present themselves to her, she chooses instead to “marry” the forest, and disappears into it to live as a sage (Dumézil, 1973, pp. 70-78; West, 2007, 416).

Even with the elements inserted by later patriarchal society, the identity of Mādhavī as a horse goddess shines through. Although Gālava comes up with the idea of trading her for the horses, it’s she who suggests only giving the first king a son, and then regaining her virginity so she can do this more times. As well as showing that she has control over her own sexuality (no matter how limited is the degree to which society can allow her this), her serial marriages are, for Hindu society, downright promiscuous. Add in the facts that not only is she the equal of 800 rare horses, but that she is, through bearing kings, the founder of royal dynasties, and then topping this with the source of her name in *medhu-, and we have clear reflex of Héḱwonā.

The sequential matings are also found in the Irish Medb (also < *medhu-), a wife and mother of kings, who never had a man without another in his shadow. The Irish story of the “Cattle Raid of Cooley” (Táin Bó Cuailnge; Kinsella, 1989) tells of a war she starts a war to gain an especially fine bull. Her nemesis in this war is Cú Chulainn, whom we have already seen having troubles with a mare goddess. At the end of this war, one of her men complains that they’d lost the war because they had followed a mare. We are also told that wherever she plants a horse goad, a bile grew. A bile was a sacred tree which mythically symbolized a territory and the right of its king to rule, and ritually a common spot for inauguration rituals. That we have here a goddess who isn’t just Irish, but pan-Celtic is shown by the Meduna in Gaul, about whom we would dearly love to know more.

Héḱwonā is not exactly a one-man woman, then. She is partial to warriors, whom she makes into kings. On a divine level, her natural mates are the warrior Perkʷū́nos, with whom she conceived the Twins in some versions of the myth, or the kingly lawgiver Dyḗus Ptḗr, the father of the Twins in others, or, of course, both.

The Mare Goddess has both benevolent and malevolent sides. In her malevolent aspect, she is a bitch goddess, in both senses of the word. There is, for instance, the Irish Morrígain, with her love/hate relationship with Cú Chulainn ("Hound of Culann").

Her malevolent side is due to the untamed nature of her sexuality. Sexual force is dangerous, both to individuals and to society, if it is not channeled into constructive outlets. With the Mare Goddess we are dealing with pure power, which is beyond our ability control. It is only by playing according to her rules that her power can be harnessed. (O’Flaherty (1980, 237) puts it well when she writes, “The Indo-European mare was dangerous in her erotic powers precisely because they were untamed; as raw forces of a Goddess, they were overpowering.”

Héḱwonā overlaps the sun goddess Sawelyosyo Dhugət̄́r somewhat to the point that in some of the later descendant traditions they have become identified with each other. Sawelyosyo Dhugət̄́r is connected with horses(especially through the Diwós Su:nú), and Héḱwonā is described with solar imagery. Héḱwonā is particularly solar in her power and the danger of approaching her. In Proto-Indo-European times, they seem to have been different goddesses, though.

Horse goddesses are often accompanied by or in some other way associated with birds. The Welsh horse goddess Rhiannon had birds which could wake the dead and lull the living to sleep (“Culhwch and Olwen,” The Mabinogi, 139). The Dioscuri and Helen of Troy were conceived when Zeus raped Leda in the form of a swan; she then gives birth to an egg from which her children hatch.

Although primarily connected with sex separated from motherhood, Héḱwonā’s descendants nonetheless sometimes do have children. When she does become a mother, she is a dark one. She may destroy her children, as Rhiannon was accused of doing, or simply abandon them, as Mādhavī and Saranyu did. She may even die giving birth, such as Medusa (Hesiod, Theogony 276 ff.). The story of one of the Machas, referred to earlier, tells of a mysterious woman who appears at the home of Cruinniuc and marries him. She becomes pregnant, so when Conchobar calls him to court for a festival, she stays behind. After a horse race, Cruinniuc brags that his wife was faster than any of the king’s horses. Despite her pregnancy, Macha is forced to race. She wins, gives birth to twins and dies. Another Macha, the one who had Emain Macha created with pin of her brooch, who was the daughter of Aed, is called Mongruad, “red mane.”

She may also have conceived through rape, as Leda and Medusa did. Demeter of Phigalis was lusted after by Poseidon. To escape him, she changed herself into a mare and ran away. He changed himself into a stallion, followed her, and raped her. Because of her rage over this she was given the name "Fury." She gave birth to either a foal, Arion, to a goddess, Despoina, or both (Dexter, 1990a, 287). A similar tale is told of Medusa, who lay with Poseidon (in Hesiod, Theogony, 276 ff), which is described as a rape in Ovid, Metamorphoses (4.798; p. 135), and from whom, when she is killed, a human, Chrysaor, and a horse, Pegasus, spring. Compare with this Macha, who also gives birth to twins (they are both human, but they are still different from each other, male and female; there are some who replace them daughter with a mare, Liath Macha “the Grey of Macha” (Dexter, 1990, 289)). Compare also Rhiannon, who gives birth to Pryderi at the same time that a foal is born; she doesn’t die, but is accused of killing Pryderi, and is punished for this crime she hasn’t committed. The Hindu Samjñā left her husband the sun, leaving behind a double. When her husband eventually figured things out, he went after her. She turned herself into the form of a horse and ran, but he caught up with her and ejaculated into her mouth. She vomited the semen out through her nose, giving birth to the Aśvins who, as we have already seen, are forms of the divine twins, associated with horses.

In another version of the myth (Polomé, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 232), the Aśvins are born to Saranyu and Vivásvat (who was a mortal (Dexter, 1990, 287). After giving birth to Yama and Yami, she had turned herself into a mare and run away, leaving in her place a human woman, Savarna. Vivásyat had sex with the replacement, who gave birth to Manu. Figuring things out, Vivásvat turned himself into a stallion, caught up with Saranyu (now called Aśvinī), and mated with her. The result was the Aśvins. Note here how divine Yama (< *Yemos) comes from a goddess, and the human Manu (< Mannus) from a human. Usually in myths with twines there is one human mother, with two fathers, one human and one divine.

It is common to interpret such myths as a reflection of the conquest of goddess worshiping peoples by the Indo-Europeans. The goddess worship aspect of the pre-Indo-Europeans has been greatly exaggerated, though, and there are other myths in which the pre-Indo-European goddesses are assimilated peacefully. Perhaps the rape versions arose in areas where the Indo-European migrations were particularly violent, or were invented later to support patriarchal institutions. The story of Mādhavī makes me think that it was the latter; in her story we see a transition from a woman who chooses her own husband to one who is treated as property to be traded for horses. Whatever the reason for it, the rape myth adds emphasis to Héḱwonā’s insistence that sex will always be on her terms, making her a deity to pray to for defending against or punishing sexual abuse of any kind.

The Demeter/Poseidon connection illustrates another association, with the sea. Waves are called "horses" throughout Europe, one of the Irish Machas is daughter of Sainrith mac Imbaith, "Nature of the Sea," and Rhiannon is married to Manawydan, the Welsh version of the Irish sea god Manannan. India, as usual, has developed the connection into a complex image, involving a fiery mare that must be kept submerged lest she destroy the world. Eventually, she will do just that.

Because of her immense power and ambiguity of motivation, Héḱwonā is not a "fun" goddess, and is not one to be lightly approached. Her approval is vital in inauguration rituals, but in general she is better propitiated than invoked.

Héḱwonā, great and powerful,
Wielder of power great and dangerous,
Giver of gifts, giver of kingship,
Provide the power to protect the just.

Bromwich, Rachel (ed. and tr). Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978).

Dexter, Miriam Robbins. The Hippomorphic Goddess and her Offspring. Journal of Indo-European Studies 18:3-4 Fall/Winter, 1990), pp. 285 - 307.

Dumézil, Georges. The Destiny of a King. tr. Alf Hiltebeitel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Enright, Michael J. Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tène to the Viking Age. Portland, OR: Four Courts Press, 1996.

Ford, Patrick K. (ed. and tr.) The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977.

Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis). The History and Topography of Ireland. tr. John O'Meara.Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1982 (1951).

Grottaneli, Christiano. Yoked Horses, Twins, and the Powerful Lady: India, Greece, Ireland, and Elsewhere. Journal of Indo-European Studies 14: 1 - 2 (Spring/Summer, 1975), pp. 125 - 152.

Herbert, Maire. Goddess and King: The Sacred Marriage in Early Ireland. Cosmos 7 (1992), pp. 264 - 275.

Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica. tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Jufer, Nicole, and Thierry Lugingühl. Réertoire des deiux gaulois: Les noms des divinitès celtiques. Paris: Editions Errance, 2001.

Mallory, J. P., and Adams, D. Q. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Muhr, Kay. Water Imagery in Early Irish. Celtica 23 (1999), pp. 193-210.

O Maille, Tomas. Medb Cruachna. Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 17 (1978), pp. 129 - 146.

O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Ovid. Metamorphoses. tr. Horace Gregory. New York: Penguin Books, 1960.

Pausanias. Description of Greece. tr. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926.

Pindar. The Complete Odes. tr. Anthony Verity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Puhvel, Jaan. Vedic Asvamedha- and Gaulish IIPOMIIDVOS. Language 31:2 (1955), pp. 353 - 354.

--Aspects of Equine Functionality. In Myth and Law Among the Indo-Europeans. ed. Jaan Puhvel. Berkeley,CA: University of California Press, 1970.

--Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins Press, 1987.

Sophocles. The Complete Plays of Sophocles. ed. Moses Hadas. New York: Bantam Books, 1967.

Webster, Graham. Celtic Religion in Roman Britain. Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble Books, 1986.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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It should come as no surprise that the Proto-Indo-Europeans, herders of cattle, should have a cow deity. A possible name for her, Gʷouwindā (reconstructed from Irish Boand and Indic govinda-, in Campanile, 1985), means either "White Cow" or "She Who Provides Cows" (Campanile, 1985). There was likely more than one Proto-Indo-European goddess who could be categorized as cow goddesses.

The Cow Goddess is a completely benevolent character. Like the Mare Goddess, she is a highly important deity; unlike her, her sexuality is dedicated to the maintenance of the social order. Gʷouwindā is wife and mother, and directs her sexual energy in those directions. She grants the wishes of her worshipers; in the Irish, Norse, Iranian, and Indian cultures there are stories of magic cows that grant wishes.

Cow goddesses are scattered throughout the Indo-European world. Perhaps the most famous is "cow-eyed Hera," from Greece. There were cow herds dedicated to her at Argos and Croton (Parker, 2011, 89, n. 65). A mother of many of the gods (Hephaestus and Ares parthenogenically), she is called the origin of all by Alcaeus of Mythilene. Her Roman equivalent, Juno, is also honored as a mother. In a trifunctional form, Juno Seispes Mater Regina (“Savior Mother Queen,” i.e., first, third, and second functions (Puhvel, 1978, 357-8)) she was invoked by women about to give birth. In Noricum a statue of her (or perhaps a Celtic goddess under that name) was carried on a wagon pulled by cows (Kos, 2008, 13).

An interesting link between the horse and cow goddesses appears in Greece. Poseidon seduces Melanippe ("Black Mare"). She gives birth to twins. Following her mare nature, she exposes them on a mountain, where they are found by a cow, who raises them. This is a good illustration of the difference between a horse and a cow goddess.

It is at the ends of the Indo-European world, where the old cattle herding days were preserved the longest, that the best examples are found. Ireland, land of cattle raids, gives us Boand and Brighid. We have heard Boand’s story already; how she committed adultery with the Dagda and was destroyed by a fiery liquid, creating the river Boyne in the process. The pairing with the Daghda pairs her also with his other mistress, the Morrígain. In this myth we see a cow goddess acting like a horse goddess and being punished for it.

The fire and water mixture appears with Brigid as well. Her water connection comes through in the many healing wells associated with her. Since she is primarily a hearth goddess, she will be dealt with in full later. For now though, her cow connections are important. She travels with a white, red-eared cow. She causes cows to give milk three times a day. Offerings of milk are set out for her. Although a virgin, she serves, in later Gaelic folklore, as the foster mother of Jesus. Her water connection comes through in the many healing wells associated with her.

At the other end of the Indo-European world, India gives us an embarrassment of cow goddesses. The most striking is Sarasvati, goddess of a sacred river whose actual geographical identity has been unfortunately forgotten. Perhaps it doesn't really matter; her river comes from heavenly sources.

There is much maternal and cow imagery about Sarasvati. She is prayed to for children (RV 2.4.17), she pours forth milk and ghee (a form of clarified butter) (RV 1.164.49), she is prayed to for a safe pregnancy (RV 10.184.2). Throughout the Rig Veda, waters are described as cows. Sarasvati is portrayed as white, dressed in white garments, like a sacred cow. In most descriptions, she is calm and peaceful, although she can show a dangerous side if necessary to protect her worshipers.

Sarasvati is trifunctional; a goddess of purity who inspires speech, a consort of heroes, and a giver of gifts, fertility, and healing. She causes the success of all prayers (RV 6.3.8), defeats enemies (RV 6.61.7), and is the best of mothers (RV 2.41.16).

Another Vedic cow goddess is Danu. She will be discussed in greater depth later. For now it is enough that she is described as laying down with her son like a cow with her calf (RV 1.32.9).

In the nearby Iranian field we find Aredvi Sura Anahita - “Moist, Heroic, Immaculate” - clearly a trifunctional goddess. I am not aware of any specifically bovine features of hers, but otherwise she fits this slot well. She may have had a sovereignty role, however, as the last Sassanid king, Yazdakart III, was inaugurated at her temple at Istaxr (Duschesne-Guillemin, 1969, 330).

Although connected with all three functions, Gʷouwindā operates mainly in the third (giver of fertility, prosperity, and healing). She is associated with purity, including sexual purity. This led to the magnitude of Boand's transgression. Gʷouwinda is, in fact, the image of the perfect wife and mother, loyal to both husband and children.

There are enough cow goddesses to raise doubt that there was one Proto-Indo-European cow goddess. It is quite likely that the cow goddess is a classification rather than an individual deity. Even if this is so, however, she may be treated as an individual goddess by the principle of the deification of abstractions.

Pray to Gʷouwinda for protection and for blessings, then. Approach her as you would a beneficent mother. Ask her to pour out her blessings.

Mother of Cows, Mother of People,
whose stream of blessings is everflowing,
whose shining body delights the eyes,
whose holy purity blesses all:
Praise to you, honor to you, love to you.

Campanile, Enrico. Old Irish Boand. Journal of Indo-European Studies 13:3 & 4Fall/Winter, 1985), pp. 477 - 479.

Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. The Religion of Ancient Iran. In Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions. ed. C. Jouco Bleeker. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969.

Kos, Marjeta Šašel. The Story of the Grateful Wolf and Venetic Horses in Strabo’s Geography. Studia Mythologica Slavica 11 (Sep. 24, 2008), 9-24.

Parker, Robert. On Greek Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.

Puhvel, Jaan. Victimal Hierarchies in Indo-European Animal Sacrifice. American Journal of Philology 99:3 (1978b), 354-362.

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"Rising," the goddess of the dawn, the source of the Greek Eos, Roman Aurora, Vedic Uṣas, Avestan Ušā, Lithuanian Aušrine and Ausra, and Germanic Eostre (Friedrich, 1979, 291-2) (although it has been argued that Eostre was a name for Easter first, and that Bede is the one who create a goddess from the name (Polomé, 1989, 57)). (A possible reconstruction of the Proto-Germanic form of this goddess' name is *Austrōn (Friedrich, 1979, 292).) Baltic Aushrine, and Germanic Eostre. She is the most confidently reconstructed of the Proto-Indo-European goddesses, both by name and by function. This is no surprise; dawn, after all, travels with the tribe. Her importance is reflected in Uṣas being the most-invoked goddess in the Rig Veda (Dexter, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 148)

Matasovič (2009, 122) reconstructs Xáusos from *H2ues- “kindle,” which would make her the kindler of the light of the sun.

As we have seen in the discussion of the Diwós Sunú, Xáusōs overlaps somewhat with Sawélyosyo Dhugəté̄r. In the RV, Uṣas sometimes appears as the daughter of the sun god Sūrya. She (and only she) is called duhitā divas, "daughter of Dyaus" (Matasović, 1996, 32). In Greece, Eos was the sister of other celestial objects; Helios (the Sun) and Selene (the Moon) (Apollodorus, 1.2). Among the Balts, Greeks, and Indo-Iranians, she was called "the daughter of heaven" (PIE *dhugH2tḗr diwós) (Dexter, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 149), and the Vedic Uṣas is even the sister of the Aśvins (Ward, 1968, 11).

Although a beautiful maiden, Xausó̄s is not all sweetness and light. Dawn is ambivalent. It is neither night nor day. The dark has been safely navigated, but the light is not yet here. And it might not come. Xausó̄s is the keeper of the gates of dawn. Will she open them? There is always the chance that she might not. And even when she does come, her gift is ambivalent. Each day brings us closer to death. The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 218-38 gives a poignant example. Eos asks for eternal life for her lover Tithonos, and Zeus grants it. Unfortunately, she has forgotten to ask that he be given eternal youth, so he grows older and older, shut up in a room where he "babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all, such as he once had in his supple limbs." Less poignant, but more direct are RV 1.92.10: "The ancient goddess, born again and again, dressed in the same color, causes the mortal to age and wears away his life-span, as a cunning gambler carries off the stakes" (O'Flaherty, 1980, 136), and TS 'Bringing old age, thou hast come, O unageing Dawn … Unageing, thou dost make to age all else' (West, 2007, 225). Xáusó̄s is therefore a goddess to be welcomed, but with care.

Even with the ambiguity, Xausó̄s is an upholder of order, of the Xártus. Uṣas (together with her sister, Night) is a "shining mother of order) (RV. 1.142.7; in Macdonell, 1897, 129).The sun does rise, and as long as we continue our own proper behavior it will continue to do so.

The ambiguity has another source. Since dawn is neither night nor day, it's between one thing and another. It doesn't really belong; despite taking part in the Xártus, and even being an important part of its operation, it doesn't really belong to the Xártus, because it doesn't have a definite identity. It thus shares in both the promise and danger of Chaos. As a result, dawn rituals express some hopeful thinking and try to work a little magic. Through them it will be the promise we get, not the danger.

Xausós is connected with birch trees. The birch is one of the first trees to reawaken in the spring, and thus an apt symbol for a dawn and spring goddess. Its white bark connects it with purity (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 522-3). According to Paul Friedrich (in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 65), "The birch was a symbol for the feminine and specifically for young, virginal femininity in PIE times." He also suggests that PIE *bherHxgyos "birch" might have been formed from a root meaning "bright," or that the two might have become connected via folk etymology. The Hittite parku "ritually pure; innocent" comes from the Proto-Indo-European word for birch, and in the Baltic languages "birch" has connections with purity and innocence (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 532-3). There may be another reason; "birch" may be connected with a root meaning "to shine" (Friedrich, 1970, p. 27). Uṣas was transfunctional; she was "endowed with knowledge," "strong with strength," and "bestowing all treasures" (Robbins, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 149).

Hillebrandt (1980,I: 24) points out that RV 10.29.2 refers to the dance of Uṣas, and West (2007, 221) relates that Uṣas was described as "like a dancer" (RV 1.92.4), Eos has dancing places (Odyssey 12.4), and the Baltic Saule is described as a dancer. This may be connected with descriptions of the sun dancing on the horizon. Dances might therefore be something good to include in rituals in her honor.

In a number of stories, the Dawn is plural. This especially clear in the Rig Veda, as in 1.92.1, "the Dawns have made their bright appearance" (Panikkar, 1997). The idea might be that all of the dawns of the year (or from that point on) are referred to; Friedrich (1979, 296) suggests that this might refer to Dawn and her maidens. West (2007, 224) suggests that the 350 cows and 350 sheep of the god Helios in the Odyssey were the days and nights of the year. This comparison of dawn with cows is widespread. For instance, "[Uṣas] uncovers her breast as a cow her udder" (RV 1.92.4) (West, 2007, 224).

Shining and young, she appears on the horizon.
Baring her breasts, she spreads her light.
With singing maidens, with streaming cows,
she dances over the earth disk's edge.
You who precede the shining wheel,
perform great deeds according to the Xártus.

Friedrich, Paul. Proto-Indo-European Trees. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Gamkrelidze, Thomas V. and Ivanov, Vjačeslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mounton de Gruyter, 1995.

Mallory, J. P., and Adams, D. Q. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Matasovič, Ranko. "Sky" and "Moon" in Celtic and Indo-European. Celto-Slavica 2 (2009), 154-162. (Differently paginated on-line, from 121-27).

Matasović, Ranko. A Theory of Textual Reconstruction in Indo-European Linguistics. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Panikkar, Raimundo. The Vedic Experience. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977.

Polomé, Edgar C. Divine Names in Indo-European. Essays on Germanic Religion (Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph 6). Washington, DC: Institute for the Study of Man, 1989, 55-67.

Ward, Donald. The Divine Twins: An Indo-European Myth in Germanic Tradition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1968.

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Sawélyosyo Dhugət̄́r
"Daughter of the Sun" - yes, the figure connected with the Indo-European sun is female. She is not necessarily the sun herself, though, but rather the daughter of the sun as a symbol of Dyḗus Ptḗr, or a maiden who conducts the sun through the sky. Her name has survived as Greek Helen, Vedic Sūryā, Lithuanian Sáulės dukrýtė, and Latvian Saules meita ("Sun's Girl," which West, 2007, 228, suggests comes from an older *Saulēs duktē).

Sūryā is the daughter of Sūrya, "Sun." She is also sometimes the daughter of Savitṛ, who is in part a solar deity (Dexter, 1984, 137).

The Greek Helen is not usually thought of as a goddess, despite being the sister of gods and the daughter of Zeus. However, she was worshipped at Laconia and at Rhodes (Dexter, 1984, 139; West, 2007, 230). Rhodes is particularly significant, since Helios was the patron deity there. Her name most likely meant "Sun Goddess" (< *Sweléna < *Swel-nā "Sun Goddess") (West, 2007, 231). (Miriam Robbins, 1980, 21, traces the name of Helen back to *swell- "burn," but this is a minority view that even so does not disconnect Helen from the sun. Skutsch (1987, 189) relates it to the Vedic figure Saraṇyu < saraṇa "swift." Saraṇyu is the mother of the Aśvins.)

Helen's father, Zeus, was the Greek form of Dyḗus Ptḗr, whose eye is the sun. The Dioskouroi (i.e., the Diwós Sūnú) were Helen's brothers (Apollodorus 3.10.7; Dexter, 1984, 139). In Thorikos, Helen and the Dioskouroi received both received full-grown animals (Parker, 2011, 112).

In some of the descendant traditions she has merged with Héḱwonā and become their mother. The merger may have occurred because Sawélyosyo Dhugət̄́r is closely connected with horses. This forms part of her link with the Twins. It is most likely to be seen as describing the sun as either a horse in itself, carried on the back of a horse, or pulled in a chariot by a horse (or by two, who are the Twins).

As well as the Twins' sister, she is the wife or lover of one or both of them. Thus in Wales we have Cigfa, daughter of "Fair Shining One," married to Pryderi (who was twinned with a horse), the Vedic Aśvins as the husbands of Sūryā, and the Baltic Saules Meita being wooed by the Sons of Dievas (Dexter, 1984, 138).

As all this suggests, her married life is not the most conventional. Everyone knows the story of Helen of Troy. Although Menelaus was not twinned with Paris, Helen was "married" to them both at the same time. "Menelaus" may be connected with a word for "moon," however (Dexter, 1984, 142). Sūryā is, in some hymns (e.g. RV 10.85) married to the moon, Soma, rather than the Aśvins. Saule has a love/hate relationship with the moon, Mēnesis, as well (West, 2007, 228-9). The moon might even be her father (Dexter, 1984, 142). Even Cigfa is involved in a difficult marriage situation; when her husband and mother-in-law Rhiannon are magically kidnapped, she is left in an land empty of people with Rhiannon's husband, Manawydan. She's concerned that he might take advantage of her, but he reassures her he will remain as a true friend to Pryderi (Ford, 1977, 81.)

Perhaps because of this, Sawélyosyo Dhugət̄́r is connected with marriage. RV 10.85 is a marriage hymn, and hymns to Saule were sung at weddings. Among the southern Slavs, marriage hymns concerned the wedding of the Sun and the Morning Star (West, 2007, 229). Her marriages were far from successful, however. That of Helen is well-known, and that of the Dioskouroi with Phoibe ("Shining") and Hilaeira ("Genial") began with the wives' abduction from their wedding feast (West, 2007, 232). Pryderi is separated from Cigfa soon after her wedding, leaving his wife in a pseudo-marriage relationship with Manawydan. Under the circumstances, it seems odd to me that she was celebrated at weddings.

Wendy Doniger (1997, 29) sees an equine aspect of Helen in her talking to the Greeks she (rightly) suspected were hiding in the Trojan horse. I think Doniger is going too far here. However, with her connection with marriage it may be signifi-cant that she tries to trick them by impersonating their wives’ voices. Not only does she identify herself with wives, but in a way that could bring harm to the husbands.

There is some overlap with or relationship to Xáusōs. The Baltic Dawn is, in some songs, the grandmother of Saules Meita, and in others is her mother-in-law (Dexter, 1984, 142).

We can see in the stories surrounding Helen, and perhaps Suraṇyu, the confusion among Sawélyosyo Dhugətḗr, Xáusōs, and Heḱwona. All are connected with horses, and all are involved in irregular marriages and/or love affairs. The self-determined sexuality of them is seen in Helen’s going away with Paris; although the match was arranged by Aphrodite, she seems to have gone willingly – a Persian tradition reported by Herodotus (and it is interesting that the Persians would have had a tradition regarding Helen to begin with) held that she would never have left Menelaus unwillingly (Herodotus 1.1, in Doniger, 1997, 30). Euripides, in his play Helen, however, holds forth that she was replaced by a phantom double who was the woman who went to Troy, and that happened precisely because Helen wanted to avoid being carried away (Doniger, 1997, 32). This is a tradition considerably later than Homer, however, and smacks of an attempt to rescue the honor not only of Helen, but of Menelaus, who by this device isn’t really cuckolded.

The sun itself is not an important deity in Indo-European religion. The identification of Apollo with the sun is late, and worship of the sun was not important at an earlier time (Parker, 2011, 77). Helios, although the patron of the city of Rhodes, didn't form a large part of the cult of the other Greeks (Larson, 2010, 68), there is no Celtic deity we can unequivocably identify with the sun, and even though there is a Vedic sun god, Sūrya, many other gods are identified with the sun to the point where we can't say there is a single sun god. It is as the eye of the Sky God that he finds his place.

A phrase *swens kʷekʷlos, "wheel of the sun," is reconstructible from Sanskrit, Germanic, Celtic, Greek, and Slavic (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 624; Orel, 1995, 118; Vytkovskaya, 1992, 105 ). A common symbol of the sun is a circle (not confined to the Indo-European traditions), usually with rays, and sometimes with an equal-armed cross (or more spokes) inside it. This was commonly put in graves (Jones-Bley, 1993, 432), perhaps representing a hope that as the sun emerged from darkness so would the dead person. It was often drawn on the dead in ochre, which would have been put on as a paste. As a red wet substance, the ochre probably signified blood, connecting the return of the sun with a desire for the dead person's return to life (or a magical means of assuring that). This does not necessarily imply a belief in reincarnation, since the rebirth could have been in the land of the dead, but it does suggest that Sawélyosyo Dhugət̄́r was a helper to the dead.

Bright One, who shines in the midst of the dark,
Helper of those on life's final journey:
Watch over those who give you worship.

Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Proto-Indo-European Sun Maidens and Gods of the Moon. Mankind Quarterly 25:1 & 2 (Fall/Winter, 1984), pp. 137 - 144.

Doniger, Wendy. Sita and Helen, Ahalya and Alcmena: A Comparative Study. History of Religions 37:1 (Aug., 1997), 21-49.

Ford, Patrick K. (ed. and tr.) The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977.

Larson, Jennifer. A Land Full of Gods: Nature Deities in Greek Religion. In Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 56-70.

Parker, Robert. On Greek Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.

Robbins, Miriam. The Assimilation of Pre-Indo-European Goddesses into Indo-European Society. Journal of Indo-European Studies 8:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1980), 19-29.

Skutsch, Otto. Helen, her Name and Nature. Journal of Hellenic Studies 107 (1987), 188-193.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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Donu is the special case. According to Miriam Robbins Dexter (1990b), she seems to be a non-Indo-European river and earth goddess who was adopted at an early stage of Proto-Indo-European religion. This makes her Proto-Indo-European enough for our purposes, though. She is found throughout the Indo-European domains, from the Irish goddess Danu to the Vedic Danu to the Danube, Don, Dniester, Donets, and Dniepr rivers. The Greeks were called the Danaans, and the Danes are descended from Dana. She is not found among the Hittites, which may be evidence that she is late Proto-Indo-European, but even to the Hittites the deities of rivers and springs were female.

As a river goddess, Donu is the giver of fertility to the land. "Donu" may have been carried along with the Indo-Europeans as a title rather than a personality, being applied to a river or earth goddess in each new land. She may be worshiped effectively at local rivers, especially the major river in a watershed, and especially at that river's source. The local goddess may be worshiped under her own name, or called "Donu," or even "the Donu" as a title or name. Or she may be called by a combination of names; the Charles river here in Massachusetts, called Quinobequin by the Indians, may be the abode of Donu Quinobequin.

Pure stream, water clearly flowing,
source of life and source of power,
Donu, queen of land extending,
lady of both earth and river:
Here for you this sweet libation,
Here for you our glad oblation,
Back to you our gift is flowing.

Dexter, Miriam Robbins. Reflections on the Goddess *Donu. Mankind Quarterly 31:1 & 2 (Fall/Winter, 1990), pp. 45 - 57

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"She of the Household" (from *wes-, "to dwell" with an extension *-t- and the feminine ending *-ya), or perhaps “Burning One,” (from *H1eus-; Nagy, 1974, 73) is the goddess of the hearth. She is the very basis of the family, its sacred source -- the hearth fire is the heart of the house. Her reflexes include Brigid (Ireland), Vesta (Rome), Hestia (Greece), Gabija (Baltic), Tabiti (Scythia; Herodotus, 4.59), and Nëna e vatrës (Albania, “Mother of the Hearth;” Poghirc, 1987, 179). Miriam Robbins (1980, 21) considers her a “late phenomenon,” by which I presume she means a goddess from after the Indo-European breakup. She bases this on the inability of a reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European name for her. However, as we will see there are such some strong similarities among the hearth goddesses that even without cognate names we can assume her to have existed.

In the Indo-Iranian traditions she has been replaced by a male deity, who nevertheless retains many of the characteristics of the hearth goddess, as we will see. Among these is the Vedic Agni’s title gṛhapati, “lord of the house” (Knipe, 1975, 94-5).

Westyā is the least personified of the Proto-Indo-European deities, being actually present in the flame on the hearth and therefore having little need of personification. For example, in Rome, statues of Vesta were rare and late. The fire in her shrine stood in the location that would ordinarily have been occupied by the cult statue (Beard, 1980, 25).and the Greek Hestia had no myths told about her. Hestia had no myths told about her, and statues of her were, as Nilsson (1940, 75) pointed out, were “artistic inventions, not cult statues.” (There was, however a statue of Hestia in the prytaneion at Athens (Maringer, 1976, 162).) Hestia did have temples, though, for instance in Sparta (Pausanias 3.11.11). Burkert (1985, 170) attributes Hestia’s lack of myths to the hearth’s immobility; if Hestia is the hearth, then she can’t move about and have adventures.

The identification with the flame resulted in her being given titles that referred to the fire – Tabiti, "The Warming/Burning One" (Herodotus 4.59; West (2007, 267) considers this a Hellenized version of an Indo-Iranian Tapatī; Raevskii, 1987, 146), Baltic Gabija, "Little Fire" – without any of them being thought of as a “name.” Rather, new titles were formed separately in the descendant traditions, with the result that, we don't know what name the Proto-Indo-European would have called her. Following the known Indo-European practice, I have constructed "Wéstyā," using the same root as "Vesta," the best-known of the Indo-European hearth goddesses. (Alternatively, both Vesta and Hestia may be from *H1u-eus- < *H1eus “burn” (Mallory, in Mallory and Adams, 1997, 203)). Alternate names would be "Xā́sānoyā" (*xā ́sā, "hearth" + *-no-, a deity name suffix, + *-ya) or "Dṃzpotnī," "Lady of the Household."

West (2007, 145)) will only allow a hearth goddess cult for south central Europe; however, the Baltic and Scythian evidence argues against this, as does the Irish. Even in Zoroastrianism, fire serves a female role in myth, in that Zarathustra is found in fire (Maringer, 1976, 191), as if the fire as given birth to him.

Wéstyā is the holy center of the home, its inside. She is especially connected with women. This is not only because she is a goddess. She, like women, is a source of holy power. She is also identified with the home. (As an aside, it is good to continue the traditional rule that women may wear hats indoors but men may not. For a man to wear a hat indoors is to offend the house spirits, as if the house alone was not enough protection. But a woman is identified with the home, and therefore cannot offend it.)

The character and life events of the Irish saint Brigid are likely a conflation between those of an actual woman who was abbess at Kildare, and a goddess of the same name who preceded her. (Alternatively, the saint could merely be a euhemerized version of the goddess (Bray, 1992, 106).) Many of the miracles surrounding the saint are connected with fire; there is, for instance, one that occurred when she was a baby, and the house burst into flames around her. She was later discovered unharmed (Bray, 1992, 105). I will discuss the details of the fire cult at her convent later.

Hestia is extremely important, to the point where Pindar (Nemean 11) can call her "first among the gods." According to Apollodorus (1.1.5), she was the first born of Cronos. She was offered to first in sacrifice (Nilsson, 1940, 75), to the point where "Begin with Hestia" became a saying for "first things first" (Burkert, 1985, 170; Nilsson, 1940, 75). The Vedic god of fire, Agni, although male, still receives the first offering. Vesta, on the other hand, received the last prayers (Burchett, 1912, 10).

Oaths were sworn by Hestia (Nilsson, 1940, 73); in the Odyssey 20.252, an oath is sworn both by Zeus and the king's hearthstone. It was specifically the king's hearth by which the Persians also swore oaths (Herodotus, 7.43).

"Hearth" and "family" become identified poetically. Herodotus counts hearths when he counts families (Nilsson, 1940, 73). A poignant reminder is the prayer of Alcestis in Euripides (163). As she dies, she asks that Hestia be the mother to her children, and to procure for them good marriages. Den Boer (1973, 5), writes, "The goddess to whom she prays is Hestia, the hearth; with a capital letter or not? The commentators hesitate, and I with them." To the southeast, in Albania, it is the fire on the hearth that confirms the existence of the family through the generations (Poghirc, 1987, 179).

In Greece, the concept "hearth and home" was carried through to the point where the Hestia invented the home (Diodorus, Library of History,5.68.1; in Rice, 1979, 143). In Sparta, there were shrines to not just Hestia but also Zeus Zénios and Athena Zenía, “Hospitable,” i.e., of the home.

If hearth and home are to be identified, it should come as no surprise that Brigid was connected strongly with cattle, especially cows (Ó Catháin, 1999). Cows were blessed by her, and many of her miracles involved cows or milk. (In fact, she has more dairy miracles than any other Irish saint (Torma, 2004).) She is accompanied by a white cow (Ó Catháin, 1999, 238), and she can milk her cows three times a day (Bray, 1992, 108). She is also connected with miracles of hospitality (Bray, 1992, 108) and provision (Bray, 1992, 109), both domestic-related areas.

A hearth, like a temple, with whom it shares the concept of fire, was a place of refuge in Greece. In Palaephatus (On Unbelievable Things, 40), Admetos cannot turn someone over to her pursuer because she had sat on his hearth (in Trzaskoma and Brunet, 2004, 337). Odysseus also seeks refuge at the hearth of the Phaeacians (Odyssey, Book 7; it is significant that in Book 9 he tells the Phaeacians the tale of Polyphemos' violation of hospitality). Signi Auffarth (1992, 200) argues that it was his clutching at the knees of the queen that actually saved him, but since he also points out that the reason is that women can give asylum in their own homes, there's not much difference between the two.

Fire is the means by which natural items are transformed into food. This is true both of our own food and that which we give to the gods - the sacrifice. Fire is a doorway between our world and the next; that which is burned in it goes up to the celestial gods, up the pillar of smoke as if up the axis mundi.

Wéstyā incorporates all of these themes. She is that without which we can not worship the gods, can not even live in our homes. Without her we have no right to live on our land.

We can see this in some Indo-European laws. In Wales, for instance, a squatter gained possession of land only when a fire had been lit on his hearth and smoke had come from the chimney (Owen, 1978, 1980, p. 339). The association between ownership and the fire was so strong that the right of a Welsh heir to occupy his father's land was called "the right to uncover the fire" (Rees & Rees, 1961, p. 157). The stone that was placed at the back of the hearth was left behind even after the home had been deserted, to show that the place had once been occupied (Owen, 1978, 339). We might compare this to the Roman laws against the moving of boundary stones, and the refusal of the boundary god Terminus to allow his stone to be removed from the Capitoline hill when a temple to Jupiter was being built there; a location is defined by either (or both of) its center and its edge. On Lewis families were evicted by their fires being extinguished (Banks, 1947, 303-4). In the story of the founding of Cashel, Corc becomes king by lighting a fire in a particular place (Sproule, 1985, 23); St. Molaise gains ownership of Devenish in the same way (O'Grady, 1892, 24-5). At the far eastern end of the Indo-European realm, under Vedic law new territory is legally incorporated with the construction of an altar to the fire god Agni. A new Vedic domestic fire is lit when a man sets up a household, either after marriage, or after taking over a home upon the death of his father; Smith (1986, 82-3) refers to this as the establishment of "status of lordship over some domain, limited though it may be."

Archaeological evidence from the Romanian Celts hints at a similar belief. Some houses excavated appear to have been abandoned voluntarily. Their hearths, which were in the center of the room, had been deliberately and ritually dismantled (Zirra, 1976, pp. 16 - 17).

In Greece, a fire of Hestia burned in a public building, the prytaneion (<*péH2ur). This was the culture and religious center of the city (Burkert, 1985, 170). When a new colony was founded, the Hestia fire was lit from the prytaneion of the founding-city; this not only provided continuity, but justified the existence of the colony (Nilsson, 1940, 75; Sourvinou-Inwood, 1990, 308). (An offering of cheese, barley cake, olives, and leeks as also made there to the Dioskouroi (Athenaeus 4.137e, in Gill, 1974, 121.) A similar practice was found in Wales, where when a family moved the hearth of a new home was lit from an ember taken from the hearth in the old one (Owen, 1979, 1980, 339).

In all of these cases, the principle is the same - a place belongs to those whose fire burns in it.

This principle sheds light on the most famous fire, that of the Vestal Virgins at Rome. In their round temple (Roman temples were generally rectangular) burned a fire that was not allowed to go out. It was tended by the Vestal Virgins, who were buried alive if they lost their virginity. If the fire went out, they were scourged by the pontifex maximus, and then relit the fire through friction.

The fire of Vesta was the hearth of Rome, and therefore gave the Romans the right to occupy their land so long as it burnt. The Vestal Virgins were the "brides of Rome," even wearing bridal dress.) Similarly, in Greece the eternal fires of Hestia, in her round temples were tended by women past the age of marriage (Plutarch,Numa, IX), i.e., by unmarried women. Pausanias (8.5.12) tells us of a case in which a priesthood held by a virgin was replaced by one held by “a woman who has had enough of intercourse with men.” The two states, virginity and post-menopausal, were therefore equated.

The famous fire of Brigid at Kildare in Ireland, described by Gerald of Wales (81-2, ¶ 67-69; 88, ¶ 77) in the 12th century, is one more example of a non-extinguished virgin-tended hearth, this time outside but within a circular hedge from which men are barred. By the time the existence of the fire is recorded the virgins are nuns ("brides of Christ") and Brigid is a saint. Just as at the temple of Vesta, men were excluded from the area within this hedge.

That these fires are all tended by unmarried women is a natural result of the principle that territory belongs to the person whose fire burns on it. Because the Proto-Indo-Europeans were patriarchal, that meant that it belonged to the husband of the woman or women who tended that fire. The punishment of straying Vestal Virgins is therefore not excessive in Indo-European terms; a man who takes possession of one of the women who tend the hearth of Rome by having sex with her is taking possession of Rome itself. The straying virgin, and the man who has seduced her, are executed for treason. Non-straying virgins weren't separated from the city even in death - they were one of only two groups of people allowed in the early days of Rome to be buried in the city (the other was that of generals who had celebrated a triumph) (Rüpke, 2006, 272). I said earlier that they were the "brides of Rome." This is so in the most literal of sense; they aren't the wives of Rome (as the Irish "brides of Christ" were his wives), but brides. That is, they are eternally in the status of being on their wedding day. This is because in Rome a woman was never free; she was under the manus, the "hand," of her father before marriage, and of her husband once she was. But a bride wasn't under the manus of anyone (Beard, 1980, 21). She was therefore the only sort of person who could tend the fire that could not be under the control of just one man.

In Tegea there was a “Common Hearth of the Arcadians.” On the hill on which it was were found “most of the altars of the Tegeans” (Pausanias 8.53.9). We do not know by whom it was tended, or whether it was perpetual, but it is clearly the center of cult for the region. Thrace gives us a variation of this theme. In the royal palace of 3rd-4th century BCE Seuthopolis was a main hall with a raised hearth in its center. The hearth was square, with a circular depression in its center. There were three snakes coming up from the center, probably with the same purpose as the snakes on the lararium from Pompeii (i.e., they were the spirits of the spot). This is good evidence that the hearth was considered to be an establishment of place. That this was equivalent to the fires of Hestia and Vesta, the common hearth of the people, is shown by the presence of another hearth altar in another room of the place (the royal family's domestic hearth), and smaller hearth altars in many of the city's houses (Maringer, 1976, pp. 178 - 180). The hearth of the people was in the home of the king, where it was presumably tended by his wife and/or daughters. There would be no concern about divided loyalties. The king was the embodiment of the people; loyalty to him was loyalty to everyone and his fire was the people's fire. The same principle might explain the Zoroastrian use of round fire vases inside square enclosures; earlier, outdoor, fire altars were simply square (Stronach, 1966).

In Vedic ritual, there are several fires, among them a round one, the gārhapatyagni, is tended by the wife of the person the sacrifice is being performed for. There’s no conflict there; it is his sacrifice, so it should be his hearth, tended by his wife. If any of the other fires go out, they can be relit from the gārhapatyagni, but if that fire goes out, they all have to be extinguished, and offerings have to be made before relighting the gārhapatya, and then the others lit from it. Like Westyā, the gārhapatyagni is the point of origin.

We have seen how a continuing fire is characteristic of the cult of the Indo-European hearth goddess. The fire of Brigid never went out, nor did that of Hestia. Even into the twentieth century there were hearth fires in Wales that were said to have been burning for hundreds of years (Owen, 1978, 339). The Vestal fire was only extinguished once a year, and any Vestal virgin who allowed it to go out at any other time was severely punished. This concern with an eternal flame makes a lot of sense in the ancient world from a practical point of view; in any culture without matches lighting a new fire would be a very big deal. Religiously, the extinction of a hearth can be seen as the extinction of the family it supports. In Greece (Argos), for instance, domestic fires were extinguished when a family member died, and then rekindled from fire taken from the state hearth, which was sacred to Hestia (Burkert, 1985, 61); this relighting was accompanied by a sacrifice.

We can’t say that eternal flames were dedicated only to hearth goddesses, however. There were eternal fires (of oak) dedicated to Perún? at Novgorod; if any of their slave tenders allowed them to go out, the penalty was death (Simonou, 1997, 106). Several temples to Apollo, including at Delphi (Burkert, 1985, 170) and Athens, had them; one dedicated to Athena went out before Sulla sacked Athens (Burkert, 1985, 61). Another was found Lycosura, in a temple to Pan and the nymph Erato (Pausanias 8.37.11, in Larson, 2010, 64), and Pan also had one at Olympus (Pausanias 5.15.9), some of the ashes of which went into the ash altar of Zeus. There was one at temple of Demeter and Persephone at Mantineia (Pausanias 8.9.2). The Iranian temple fires are dedicated to Ahura Mazda or to Aša. Vedic eternal hearth fires are for Agni; they are hearth fires, however.

I think the message is not that eternal flames aren’t meant to be the presence of the hearth goddess, or even necessarily of the hearth, but rather that the connection of fire with the sacred makes it desirable to have fire, and thus the divine, continually present. Further, an ever-present fire is an ever-present place for sacrifice, certainly a desirable thing to have.

The worship of Wéstyā is centered in the domestic cult. An ever-burning hearth therefore guarantees the constant presence in the center of the home, just as it does in a temple.

For the Indo-Iranians, fire was a male deity, Agni and Atar, respectively. The same was true in Russia, where a healing spell addressed fire as “Tsar-Fire” (Zaroff, 1999, 55). We’ve seen how Zarathustra was born from fire and how the modern fire vase in Zoroastrian temples is round, however, and in India the round fire in the ritual space, the gārhapatya, was tended by the wife of the sacrificer. This suggests that the maleness of the fire is a later, Indo-Iranian, thing, perhaps influenced by the fact that *hn̄́gwnis, the animate word for fire, is masculine in gender. The maleness of the Slavic fire could be one of the many Iranian elements in Slavic Paganism.

It is possible that one of the words for fire, *péH2ur, is related to *peuHx- "purify" (Polomé, 1991, 77) - either fire as the means of purification, or as an expression of the purity of Wéstyā. Hesiod (Works and Days, 733-4) tells us not to expose oneself to the fire after having made love; i.e., in a state of ritual impurity. Servius (1.6) tells us that lustrare can mean either "illumine" or "purify" (McDonough, 2004, 4-55). One of the functions of Agni (although by no means the only one) is to purify from sin (Macdonell, 1897, 18). He is often referred to as “pure” (Knipe, 1975, 99), and even impossible to make impure (Knipe, 1975, 99).

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Mallory, J. P., and Adams, D. Q. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.

Maringer, Johannes. Fire in Prehistoric Indo-European Europe. Journal of Indo-European Studies 4:3 (Fall, 1976), 161-186.

McDonough, Christopher M.; Prior, Richard E.; Stansbury, Mark (trans.). Servius’ Commentary on Book Four of Virgil’s Aeneid. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2004.

Nagy, Gregory. Six Studies of Sacral Vocabulary Relating to the Fireplace. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 78 (1974), 71-106.

Nilsson, Martin P. Greek Folk Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940.

Ó Catháin, Séamas. The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman. Celtica 23 (1999), 231-260.

O’Grady, Standish (ed. and tr.) Silva Gadelica. ed. and tr. London: Williams and Norgate, 1892.

Owen, Trefor. The Ritual Entry to the House in Wales. In Folklore Studies in the Twentieth Century. Proceedings of the Centenary Conference of the Folklore Society. ed. Newall, Venetia J. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1978, 1980.

Pausanias. Description of Greece. tr. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926.

Pindar. The Complete Odes. tr. Anthony Verity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Plutarch. Plutarch's Lives. tr. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1914.

Poghirc, Cicerone. Albanian Religion. In Encyclopedia of Religion. ed. Mircea Eliade. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1987. v. 1.

Polomé, Edgar C. Indo-European Religion and the Indo-European Religious Vocabulary. In Sprung from Some Common Source: Investigations into the Prehistory of Languages. ed. Sydney M. Lamb & E. Douglas Mitchell. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Rees, Alwyn; and Rees, Brinley. Celtic Heritage. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1961.

Robbins, Miriam. The Assimilation of Pre-Indo-European Goddesses into Indo-European Society. Journal of Indo-European Studies 8:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1980), 19-29.

Rüpke, Jörg. Triumphator and Ancestor Rituals: Between Symbolic Anthropology and Magic. Numen 53 (2006), 251-89.

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Sourvinou-Inwood, Christiane. Early Sanctuaries, the Eighth Century and Ritual Space: Fragments of a Discourse. In Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches. Ed. Nanno Marinates and Robin Hagg. London: Routledge, 1993.

Sproule, David. Politics and Pure Narrative in the Stories about Corc of Cashel. Ériu 36 (1985), 12-28.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Zaroff, Roman. Organized Pagan Cult in Kieven Rus’. The Invention of Foreign Elite or Evolution of Local Tradition? Studia Mythologica Slavica 2 (1999), 47-76.

Zirra, Vlad. The Eastern Celts of Romania. Journal of Indo-European Studies 4:1 (Spring, 1976), 1-41.

Not really a guest in my home, little flame on the hearth,
I give you the offerings due a guest.
Not really a guest in my home, Household's Queen:
I am a guest in yours.

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Dhéǵhōm Mā́tr
The “Earth Mother” was probably not a purely Proto-Indo-European deity. Her name does appear in the Balkans (Thracian Zemelā, surviving in the name Semele, the mother of Dionysos (West, 2007, 175)), the Baltic lands (Lithuanian Žemýna, Latvian Zemes Mate), and perhaps among the Slavs Mati syra zemlja (“Moist Mother Earth”) (Gimbutas, 1971, 169; Robbins, 1980, 20) (also called MokoÞ (< mok- “damp” (Kropej, 2003, 130))). In Greece the Earth Goddess is sometimes called χθω ́ν (West, 2007, 174), from *dhéǵhōm. Although the Vedic Earth deity is not usually called by a reflex of this name, she does appear in the dvandva dyā́vākṣā́mā "heaven and earth" (West, 2007, 174).

*Dhéǵhōm survives as such in Hittite and Tocharian; in later dialects the first two consonants have undergone metathesis, to *ghdh-, with the *dh- undergoing subsequent change into a thorn (þ), as in Greek χθω ́ν (Wili, 2007, 180).

That the concept goes far back is shown by the Hittite Daganzipas, “Earth-Spirit” (West, 2007, 174). Earth Mothers in other Indo-European areas bear other names. Among the Slavs, as well as Moist Mother Earth, she also appeared as Mokosh, whose name is likely related to Slavic mokru, “wet.” The Iranian Armaiti may have been an Earth goddess (Duschesne-Guillemin, 1969, 336).

The Earth Mother was most likely either part of the Proto-Indo-European women's cult (with her name thus often replaced when the Proto-Indo-Europeans migrated) or a goddess worshiped by the non-Indo-Europeans among whom the Proto-Indo-Europeans lived, given a name associated with the earth by the Proto-Indo-Europeans. On the other hand, she could, like fire, have lacked personification, and thus had her name re-formed from time to time. Jackson (2002:80-81) suggests the name “Pltwī” (his actual form is *plth2wih2-), “broad one” as a title. This is found in India (Pṛthivī), Greece (Plataia, where she was worshiped (Burkert, 1985, 17), and perhaps Gaul (Litavi) (West, 2007, 174, 175, 177). Pausanias (7.25.13) describes a sanctuary where the Earth is given the title "Broadbosomed." An extended form, *dhéǵhōṃ pḷtu- "wide earth" is found in Sanskrit, Avestan, and Old Norse (Orel, 1995, 119).

In Greece, the Homeric Hymns (XXX) call her the Mother of All, as does Hesiod (Works and Days, 563), and in India she was the womb of all. She is not the only goddess referred to as “mother” – any Iranian goddess might be called that (West, 2007, 140) – so we have to be careful against identifying any “mother goddess” as Dhéǵhōm Mā́tr.

It must be remembered that just because a goddess is a mother that does not mean she is the Earth Mother. The second half of Demeter’s name is definitely mother, but although her cult is essentially that of an Earth Mother, the first meaning of the first half does not seem to be “Earth.” As well as Zemes Mate, Latvian worshiped mothers of cattle (Lopemat), gardens (Darzamat), the fields (Laukamat), the sea (Jurasmat), the wind (Vejamat), and the woods Mezamat (Boyer, 1991, 306). The “Mothers” of Gaul (the Matronae) were mothers of the tribe rather than of the earth.

In the Vedas, Earth and Sky are mentioned almost solely in the dvandva Dyavapṛthivī. The Greek Zeus and Gaia are often paired as well (Larson, 2010, 67), although they are not seen as mates.

Dhéǵhōm Mā́tr is a cow goddess, and similar in many respects to Donu; the giver of fertility, the source of power.

Her most common sacrificial victim is a sow. Demeter receives a pregnant sow, for instance (Grant, 1953, 31). On the other hand, the Greek Erchian calendar prescribes a pregnant sheep for Gaia, and in the Tetrapolis calendar, she is given a pregnant cow and a black ram (Larson, 2010, 67). In the Iliad (3.103), Gaia receives a black female lamb. The use of a pregnant animal or a young animal for the Earth is no surprise; the blackness of the ram and lamb is no doubt because chthonic deities were often give dark animals.

Oaths may be sworn to the Earth (Gimbutas, 1971, 169; for Greece, in Larson, 2010, 67), probably as if "on my mother's womb" or perhaps because, like the Sun, she was always present. Among the Slavs she was called to witness in land disputes (Gimbutas, 1971, 169; West, 2007, 175).

Boyer, Régis. Baltic Myths and Religious Categories. In A Restructured Translation of Mythologies (2 vol.). ed. Yves Bonefoy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, 305-6.

Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. The Religion of Ancient Iran. In Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions. ed. C. Jouco Bleeker. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Slavs. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.

Grant, Frederick C. (ed.) Hellenistic Religions: The Age of Syncretism. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953.

Jackson, Peter. Light from Distant Asterisks: Towards a Description of the Indo-European Religious Heritage. Numen 49 (2002), 61-101.

Larson, Jennifer. A Land Full of Gods: Nature Deities in Greek Religion. In Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 56-70.

Orel, Vladimir. Indo-European Notes. Indogermanische Forschungen 100 (1995), 116-128.

Miriam Robbins. The Assimilation of Pre-Indo-European Goddesses into Indo-European Society. Journal of Indo-European Studies 8:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1980), 19-29.

West, M. L. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Willi, Andreas. Demeter, Gê, and the Indo-European word(s) for ‘earth.’ Historische Sprachforschung/Historical Linguistics, 120 (2007), 169-94.

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“The Coverer” - the goddess of death. Her name survived into the Norse Hel, Greek Kalypso, and Hindi Sarva (Lincoln, 1991, p. 78). We have seen that the land of the dead has a god; Kolyos, on the other hand, is death itself. She drags people down into death with a noose or a snare. She is not a goddess to be friends with, then, but not one to make an enemy of either. Sacrifices to the dead involve a separation, while at the same time honoring; this sort of ritual is definitely appropriate for Kolyos. She is best offered a pig, which is not shared with her worshipers.

Keep far from us your snare,
You who lie in wait for us.
Keep far from us the time
when you will be our Coverer.
We honor you, we acknowledge your power,
but we do not desire your presence.
Take what we give you and do not return.

Lincoln, Bruce. Death, War, and Sacrifice. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991.

[The forms of names of many of these deities have been taken from Jackson, Peter. Light from Distant Asterisks: Towards a Description of the Indo-European Religious Heritage. Numen 49 (2002), 61-101. ]

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