Armenian mythology originated in ancient Indo-European and Urartian traditions, gradually incorporating Mesopotamian, Iranian, and Greek ideas and deities. There are signs that the ancient Armenians were initially nature worshipers and in time came to worship national gods, many adopted from neighboring cultures.
The pantheon of Armenian gods (ditsov) formed during the nucleation of the Proto-Armenian tribes which inherited the essential elements of paganism from the Proto-Indo-Europeans of the Armenian Plateau. Historians distinguish a significant body of Indo-European language used by Armenian pagans as sacred. The oldest cult worshiped an unfathomable higher power or intelligence called Ara, embodied as the sun (Arev); the ancient Armenians called themselves "children of the sun". Also among the most ancient types of Indo-European-derived worship are the cults of eagles and lions, and of the sky.
Over time, new deities of Armenian and not Aryan origins appeared. Furthermore, the supreme god of the Armenian pantheon, Vanatur, was later replaced by Aramazd. Aramazd was the Parthian form of Ahura Mazda. The latter, though, has appeared under the influence of Zoroastrianism (see Ahura Mazda), but with partially preserved traditional Armenian features. Similarly, the traditional Armenian goddess of fertility, Nar, was replaced by Anahit.
Zoroastrianism had a major influence on the Armenians and their mythology. Until the late Parthian period, the Armenian lands doubtless adhered predominantly to Zoroastrianism.
In the Hellenistic age (3rd to 1st centuries BC), ancient Armenian deities identified with the ancient Greek deities: Aramazd with Zeus, Anahit with Artemis, Vahagn with Hercules, Astghik with Aphrodite, Nane with Athena, Mihr with Hephaestus, Tir with Apollo.
After the formal adoption of Christianity in Armenia, new mythological images and stories were born as ancient myths and beliefs transformed. Biblical characters took over the functions of the archaic gods and spirits. For example, John the Baptist inherited certain features of Vahagn and Tyre, and the archangel Gabriel that of Vahagn.
Basic information about Armenian pagan traditions were preserved in the works of ancient Greek authors such as Plato, Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo, Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesarea, as well as medieval Armenian writers such as Moses of Chorene, Agathangelos, Yeznik of Kolb, Sebeos and Anania Shirakatsi, not to mention oral folk traditions.
The pantheon of pre-Christian Armenia changed over the centuries. Originally Urartian in nature, the pantheon was modified through Semitic, Iranian, then Greek influences.
Zoroastrian influences penetrated Armenian culture during the Achaemenid Empire, though conversion was incomplete and syncretistic, and the Persians and Armenians never appeared to identify with each other as co-religionists despite both referring to themselves as "Mazda worshipers."
These figures are mainly known through post-Christian sources, but may have belonged to the pre-Christian mythology.
Anahit (Armenian: Անահիտ) was the goddess of fertility and healing, wisdom and water in Armenian mythology. In early periods she was the goddess of war. By the 5th century BC she was the main deity in Armenia along with Aramazd. The Armenian goddess Anahit is related to the similar Old Persian goddess Anahita. Anahit's worship, most likely borrowed from the Iranians during the Median invasion or the early Achaemenid period, was of paramount significance in Armenia. Unlike Iranians, Armenians incorporated idol-worship into the cult of Anahit. Artaxias I erected statues of Anahit, and promulgated orders to worship them.Ara the Beautiful
Ara the Beautiful (also Ara the Handsome; Armenian: Արա Գեղեցիկ Ara Geghetsik) is a legendary Armenian hero. Ara is notable in Armenian literature for the popular legend in which he was so handsome that the Assyrian queen Semiramis waged war against Armenia to capture him and bring him back to her, alive.
Ara is sometimes associated with the legendary King of Armenia, known as Arame of Urartu, who ruled the Kingdom of Urartu Biainili during the 9th century BC.Aramazd
Aramazd was the chief and creator god in pre-Christian Armenian mythology. The deity and his name were derived from the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda after the Median conquest of Armenia in the 6th century BCE.
Aramazd was regarded as a generous god of fertility, rain, and abundance, as well as the father of the other gods, including Anahit, Mihr, and Nane. Like Ahura Mazda, Aramazd was seen as the father of the other gods, rarely with a wife, though sometimes husband to Anahit or Spandaramet. Aramazd was the Parthian form of Ahura Mazda.Armenian eternity sign
The Armenian eternity sign (Armenian: հավերժության նշան, haverzhut’yan nshan) or Arevakhach (Արևախաչ, "Sun Cross") is an ancient Armenian national symbol and a symbol of the national identity of the Armenian people. It is one of the most common symbols in Armenian architecture, carved on khachkars and on walls of churches.Azhdahak (Armenian mythical being)
In Armenian mythology, Azhdahak (Armenian: Աժդահակ) was a man-vishap (man-dragon). Vishaps are believed to live in high mountains, in big lakes, in the sky, and in the clouds. They are believed to roar and sweep away everything in their path, especially when descending onto lakes. It is believed that a thousand-year-old vishap can absorb the whole world.
According to Movses Khorenatsi, Azhdhak was a king of the Marrs (also known as the Medes), and the grandfather of Cyrus; i.e., Astyages. Movses Khorenatsi wrote that Azhdhak was killed by Armenian king Tigran Orontid. Khorenatsi wrote: "Azhdahak means dragon in our language".Dev (mythology)
In Armenian mythology and many various Armenian folk tales, the Dev (in Armenian: դև) appears both in a kind and specially in a malicious role, and has a semi-divine origin. Dev is a very large being with an immense head on his shoulders, and with eyes as large as earthen bowls. Some of them may have only one eye. Usually, there are Black and White Devs. However, both of them can either be malicious or kind.
The White Dev is present in Hovhannes Tumanyan's tale named 'Yedemakan Tzaghike' (Arm.: Եդեմական Ծաղիկը), translated to 'The Flower of Paradise'. In the tale, the Dev is the flower's guardian.
Jushkaparik, Vushkaparik, or Ass-Pairika is another chimerical being whose name indicates a half-demoniac and half-animal being, or a Pairika—a female Dev with amorous propensities—that appeared in the form of an arse and lived in ruins.Giant
Giants (from Latin and Ancient Greek: gigas, cognate giga-) are beings of human appearance, but of prodigious size and strength common in the mythology and legends of many different cultures. The word giant, first attested in 1297, was derived from the Gigantes (Greek: Γίγαντες) of Greek mythology.
In various Indo-European mythologies, gigantic peoples are featured as primeval creatures associated with chaos and the wild nature, and they are frequently in conflict with the gods, be they Olympian, Celtic, Hindu or Norse. Giants also often play similar roles in the mythologies and folklore of other, non Indo-European peoples, such as in the Nartian traditions.
There are also accounts of giants in the Old Testament. Some of these are called Nephilim, a word often translated as giant although this translation is not universally accepted. They include Og King of Bashan, the Nephilim, the Anakim, and the giants of Egypt mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11:23. The first mention of the Nephilim is found in Genesis 6:4; attributed to them are extraordinary strength and physical proportions.
Fairy tales such as "Jack the Giant Killer" have formed the modern perception of giants as stupid and violent monsters, sometimes said to eat humans, while other giants tend to eat the livestock. The antagonist in "Jack and the Beanstalk" is often described as a giant. In some more recent portrayals, like those of Jonathan Swift and Roald Dahl, some giants are both intelligent and friendly.Hayk
Hayk the Great (Armenian: Հայկ, Armenian pronunciation: [hajk]), or The Great Hayk, also known as Hayk Nahapet (Հայկ Նահապետ, Armenian pronunciation: [hajk nahapɛt], Hayk the "head of family" or patriarch), is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene (A.D.410 to 490).Heinrich Gelzer
Not to be confused with the German classical scholar Matthias Gelzer, who wrote on Julius Caesar and the Late Roman Republic.Heinrich Gelzer (1 July 1847, in Berlin – 11 July 1906, in Jena) was a German classical scholar. He wrote also on Armenian mythology. He was the son of the Swiss historian Johann Heinrich Gelzer (1813–1889). He became Professor of classical philology and ancient history at the University of Jena, in 1878. He wrote a still-standard work on Sextus Julius Africanus. He worked out the chronology of Gyges of Lydia, from cuneiform evidence, in an 1875 article.List of knowledge deities
A knowledge deity is a deity in mythology associated with knowledge, wisdom, or intelligence.List of love and lust deities
A love deity is a deity in mythology associated with romance, sex, lust, or sexuality. Love deities are common in mythology and may be found in many polytheistic religions. Female sex goddesses are often associated with beauty and other traditionally feminine attributes.List of war deities
A war god in mythology associated with war, combat, or bloodshed. They occur commonly in both monotheistic and polytheistic religions.
Unlike most gods and goddesses in polytheistic religions, monotheistic deities have traditionally been portrayed in their mythologies as commanding war in order to spread their religion. (The intimate connection between "holy war" and the "one true god" belief of monotheism has been noted by many scholars, including Jonathan Kirsch in his book God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism and Joseph Campbell in The Masks of God, Vol. 3: Occidental Mythology.) The following is a list of war deities.List of water deities
A water deity is a deity in mythology associated with water or various bodies of water. Water deities are common in mythology and were usually more important among civilizations in which the sea or ocean, or a great river was more important. Another important focus of worship of water deities has been springs or holy wells.
As a form of animal worship, whales and snakes (hence dragons) have been regarded as godly deities throughout the world (other animals are such as turtles, fish, crabs, and sharks). In Asian lore, whales and dragons sometimes have connections. Serpents are also common as a symbol or as serpentine deities, sharing many similarities with dragons.Middle Eastern mythology
Middle East mythology includes:
mythologies of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Egyptian mythology
mythologies of individual ethnicities of the Middle East
Persian mythologyNane (goddess)
Nane (Armenian: Նանե, Nanė) was an Armenian mother goddess, as well as the goddess of war and wisdom.
Nane was depicted as a young beautiful woman in the clothing of a warrior, with spear and shield in hand,
like the Greek Athena, with whom she identified in the Hellenic period.
She has also been referred to as Hanea, Hanea, Babylonian Nana, Sumerian Nanai or Sumerian Nanai.Portakar
Portakar or navel stones (Armenian: պորտաքար) are traditional ritual stones in Armenia. They are bound up with cult of the fertility goddess, called in ancient Armenia, like the cult of the goddess Anahit.Spandaramet
In the Armenian mythology, Spandaramet, or Sandaramet, was the goddess of death, underworld and hell, and corresponded to the Greek god Hades.
The chief god of Armenia was Aramazd, called the Architect of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Spandaramet was his wife. He was the father of the other gods, and had several daughters, among which Anahit, the most famous goddess of Armenia, which corresponded to the Greek goddess Artemis, and was the mother of Astghik, the goddess of beauty and the personification of the moon, corresponding to the Phoenician goddess Astarte, and the third Nane (nɑnɛ) or Noone, goddess of war.
Spandaramet was the guardian spirit of the land and the vines, the latter meaning, the Christian writers of the fifth century Armenians used to translate this name Dionysius. By associating Spandaramet with the Abyss, this word was used as a synonym for Hades, an idea that already appeared in other mythologies of Zoroastrianism.
Plus, Spand (Սպանդ) means assassination in Armenian.
Sources, oppositely to the information above, also indicate that:
Spandaramet was an Armenian earth goddess whose name comes from the Iranian spenta aemaita, the seven bounteous immortals of the Zoroastrian tradition. She represented both fertility (the fruit of the vine), and the resting place of the dead. She typified the fertility of the ground. Spandaramet was invisible, but her visible symbol was the earth itself. She thus corresponds to the Greek Demeter or Mother Earth. Because She was also seen as the goddess of the dead, with the coming of Christianity, the word Spandaramet took on the meaning of hell.Spenta Armaiti
In Zoroastrianism, Spənta Ārmaiti (Avestan 𐬯𐬞𐬆𐬧𐬙𐬀 𐬁𐬭𐬨𐬀𐬌𐬙𐬌 for "creative Harmony" and later "holy devotion") is one of the Amesha Spentas, the six creative or divine manifestations of Wisdom and Ahura Mazda. Spenta suggests a creative and constructive quality or force while Armaiti means regulative thought originally alluding to the physical laws of nature (i.e. Physics). While older sources present the Amesha Spentas more as abstract entities in later sources, Spenta comes to denote holiness and sanctity and Spenta Armaiti is personified as a female divinity thus its association with the female virtue of devotion (to family, husband, and child). She is associated with earth and Mother Nature.
In the Armenian mythology, her name appears as Sandaramet (Armenian: Սանդարամետ).In the Zoroastrian calendar, she is associated with the twelfth month (Persian: سپندارمذ Spendārmad) and the fifth day of the month. The fifth day of the twelfth month is hence her holy day, Sepandārmazgān. Sepandārmazgān is an ancient festival to celebrate eternal love. Iranian lovers give each other gifts on this day.Vishap
The Vishap is a dragon in Armenian mythology closely associated with water, similar to the Leviathan. It is usually depicted as a winged snake or with a combination of elements from different animals.Mount Ararat was the main home of the Vishap. The volcanic character of the Araratian peak and its earthquakes may have suggested its association with the Vishap. Sometimes with its children, the Vishap used to steal children or toddlers and put a small evil spirit of their own brood in their stead. According to ancient beliefs, the Vishap ascended to the sky or descended therefrom to earth, causing thunderous storms, whirlwinds, absorption of the sun (causing an eclipse). The dragon was worshipped in a number of Eastern countries, symbolising the element of water, fertility and wealth, and later became a frightful symbol of power. According to ancient legends, the dragon fought Vahagn the Dragon Slayer.
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