Armenian gods and goddesses from Armenian mythology form the most important and interesting part of Armenian pagan culture. Before becoming the first Christian nation, Armenians used to have a huge pagan culture. Let’s discover it!
Armenian mythology was formed with ancient Indo-European and Urartian origins. It incorporated Iranian, Mesopotamian, and Greek ideas and deities.
Some signs indicate that the ancient Armenians were nature worshipers that transformed to the worship of national gods. If you want to learn more about Armenian gods and goddesses, just keep on reading.
Armenian mythology: Armenian Gods and Goddesses
The pantheon of Armenian gods and goddesses was formed during the nucleation of the Proto-Armenian tribes. They inherited the essential elements of paganism from the Proto-Indo-European tribes.
The original cult worship was a kind of higher power and embodiment of intelligence called Ara. He was the physical embodiment of the sun (Arev) worshiped by the ancient Armenians. Armenians called themselves “the children of the sun”.
Since those times, the cult of sun worship had a special place in Armenian mythology. Among the most ancient types of worship are also the cults of eagles and lions, and the worship of heaven.
Later the Armenian pantheon was updated and new deities of Armenian origin appeared. Interestingly, during this period the supreme god of the Armenian pantheon, Vanatur, was replaced by Aramazd.
Similarly, Armenian goddess of fertility, Nar, was replaced by Anahit. During the period of 3rd to 1st centuries BC (the Hellenistic age), ancient Armenian deities identified with the ancient Greek deities, such as:
- Anahit with Artemis,
- Aramazd with Zeus,
- Astghik with Aphrodite,
- Vahagn with Hercules,
- Nane with Athena,
- Tir with Apollo,
- Mihr with Hephaestus.
The pantheon of the pagan deities of Armenia involved both local gods and goddesses, and some that were adopted from surrounding neighborhood. Among the gods that were worshiped was the god of writing, Tir and this fact offers an interesting argument that the Armenians had a written culture before the creation of the Armenian alphabet in the 5th century.
Although after the adoption of Christianity a lot of the ancient Armenian culture was swept away there is still some pagan influence today. This kind of reflection can be found in Tir as well who was in charge of recording good and evil deeds and transmitting souls to the afterlife.
Nowadays, it is not unusual in Armenia to hear the curse, “Groghe tani!” (“may the writer take it away!”). Not to mention that the Armenian Church still accepts offerings of sacrificed animals as a sign of giving thanks that are known as “matagh”.
Some other customs that date back to pre-Christian times and are still widespread in the modern religion in Armenia include Vartavar and the Feast of the Presentation of Christ to the Temple, known as “Tyarnuntarach” that includes jumping over bonfires.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #1 Aramazd
Aramazd was the chief god in pre-Christian Armenian mythology. His name is derived from the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda.
Aramazd was regarded as a generous god of abundance, fertility, rain and the father of the other gods. Aramazd was generally identified with Zeus as the two often shared specific titles concerning to bravery, greatness and strength.
Worshiped as a sun-god, the father of all the gods and goddesses, Aramazd is believed to be the creator of the earth and heavens. His main sanctuary was one of the most important cult centers in Ancient Armenia.
The celebration in his honor was called Amanor (New Year) that was celebrated on March 21 in the old Armenian calendar.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #2 Anahit
The daughter of the great Aramazd, Anahit was the most honored and beloved goddess in Armenia. The mother-goddess was depicted with the child on her hands and with the specific hairstyle.
She was titled “Great Lady Anahit”. As ancient Armenians believed, the land was existing by Anahit’s will. Furthermore, she was the cult of maternity, healing, wisdom and fertility.
Her worships were established in Eriza region as well as in Armavir, Artashat, Ashtishat cities and a mountain in Sophene district was known as Anahit’s throne.
In Armenia, you come across many girls with the name Anahit. Even though the golden statue of Goddess was destroyed by Roman soldiers, the bronze head from another statue is in the British Museum.
Notably, the king of Armenia Tiridates III was a huge supporter of the cult before his conversion to Christianity and prayed officially to the triad Aramazd-Anahit-Vahagn. But as it is said he showed a special devotion to Anahit: mother of all knowledge and the benefactress of the whole human race.
The annual festivity of the month Navasard was carried out in honor of Anahit. It was the occasion of great gatherings and interesting festivities accompanied by music, dance and competitions.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #3 Vahagn
Vahagn Vishapakagh (Vahagn the Dragon Reaper) is the third god of the Armenian Pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning. During Ancient history, he formed a “triad” with Anahit and Aramazd. He is a herculean hero noted for fighting against dragons and was identified with the Greek deity Heracles.
Notably, Vahagn was also worshiped as a sun-god, a god of courage and a god of war to whom Armenian kings would pray before engaging in battle. His main sanctuary was located in the Ashtishat.
Armenian famous historian Khorenatsi’s report of an ancient song gives us a clue about the nature and origin of Vahagn.
In travail were heaven and earth,
In travail, too, the purple sea!
The travail held in the sea the small red reed.
Through the hollow of the stalk came forth smoke,
Through the hollow of the stalk came forth flame,
And out of the flame a youth ran!
Fiery hair had he,
Ay, too, he had flaming beard,
And his eyes, they were as suns!
Other parts of the song noted that he fought and conquered dragons, hence his title Vishabakagh (“dragon reaper”).
Armenian gods and goddesses: #4 Astghik
Goddess of love, beauty and water, wife of Vahagn, Astghik is still honored today by Armenians worldwide. It is the Vartavar feast (that has pagan origins) where people celebrate by Water fights.
The festival was transformed into the Christian holiday of the Transfiguration of Christ. And today as in pre-Christian times, people sprinkle water on each other with wishes of health and good luck.
Her name derives from the Armenian word astgh meaning “star”. Astghik’s temple in Astishat was called “the room of Vahagn”, where she met her beloved one. Most of the time, Astghik was sculptured without clothes during swimming.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #5 Mihr
The god of light, heaven, sun and truth, Mihr was the son of Aramazd and the brother of Anahit and Nane. His worship center was located in Bagaharich and the only preserved pagan temple in Armenia, Garni was dedicated to him.
He occupied quite a high place in the pantheon. Unfortunately, very little is known about his worship.
Mihr is the root of many Armenian proper names such as Mihran, Mihrdat and Mehruzhan. Moreover, the Armenian pagan temple Mehian also has the same source. The month of February was dedicated to Mihr and it was called Mehekan.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #6 Tir
Tir is the god of wisdom, science, rhetoric, studies and an interpreter of dreams. Being a secretary of Aramazd his temple was located near Artashat and was called “Aramazds grchi divan” (Mehyan for studying sciences).
He was associated with Apollo. This god of literature proves that Armenians were true warriors of education since pre-Christian times. The 4th month of the ancient Armenian Calendar was named after him.
The mountain Tirinkatar, the villages Tre and Tirarich, the city Tirakatar and some Armenian names such as Tiridates, Tiran, Tirots are also named after him.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #7 Nane
Nane’s cult was closely connected with the cult of Anahit and it’s not surprising that her temple was located in Ekegyac region near the temple of Anahit. She was the daughter of Aramazd and was considered the goddess of war, motherhood, wisdom and family protection.
Even after many years, her influence is still evident in Armenian family life and still, a part of pagan culture exists in Armenia today. Armenians usually call their grandmother nane, nani or nan that means that Nane was an influential goddess in Armenian’s spiritual life.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #8| Tsovinar
The Goddess of the sea, water and rain was sometimes also called Nar. In Greek mythology, she was similar to the God Poseidon.
Her name in Armenian already prompts that she has some connection with the sea. In Armenian “tsov” means sea and Tsovinar means “Nar of the sea”.
Unfortunately, only a few myths and tales about this goddess survived since the destruction of the pagan temples. But according to some stories Tsovinar was such a fierce goddess that forced the rain to fall from the heavens with her fury.
She was the guardian of the three largest lakes of ancient Armenia; Urmia, Van and Sevan. In modern times there is a village near Lake Sevan in Armenia named in honor of this Goddess.
Armenian gods and goddesses: #9 Amanor
Amanor or Vanatur (the same god with different names) was the deity of the new year of Armenians and lord of the new yield. The celebration in his honor, Navasard, was held at the end of July.
His main worship was located in Bagavan city. If Amanor was the goddess of new year and new yield, Vanatur was considered to be the god of hospitality and bountiful hosts.
According to the legend, the god of nature Amatour confessed his love for the goddess Amanor, who later became his wife, and gave her an apple. This legend became the basis of the tradition of forgiving and giving each other apples on New Year’s Eve.
Check Out Other Posts Related to Armenian Gods & Goddesses: Discover Armenian Pagan Culture
- Armenian Mythology | Interested in Armenian pre-Christian Era? Meet 10 Armenian Gods & Goddesses
- Armenian Family Culture | Find 8 Features that Define Armenian Family Life, Values & Traditions
- Soviet Armenia VS Modern Armenia | Discover What Has Changed in Armenian Culture, Lifestyle & Thinking