301 AD was a remarkable year in Armenian history. Under the rule of Tiridates III, Armenians adopted the Abrahamic religion, thus becoming the first Christian country in the world.
It was a historical event and the page of Armenian pre-Christian era was turned. However, that pagan era is one of the most interesting, mystical and rich pages of Armenian history.
Studies of those times uncover the hidden miracles of ancient Armenia and reveal how rich and powerful pagan Armenian culture used to be. There were number of temples, monuments, statues, etc. In other words, gigantic cultural heritage.
Sadly, after 301 AD, Christians destroyed most of pagan Armenian heritage.
Today, we’re going to spread light on Armenian mythology, believes and traditions.
So, let’s discover Armenian gods of the past!
Armenian Mythology | The Pre-Christian Era
In ancient times people believed in supernatural powers. They were sure that those powers created and at the same time controlled the world.
Those entities were known as gods or goddesses, who mirrored the values of a certain culture. The gods of the ancient world fulfilled their function in the areas peculiar to them only. However, in different parts of the world, people perceived the same thing quite differently.
- According to Mesopotamian beliefs, for instance, human beings were co-workers with gods. They labored not only for them, but also with them to hold back dark forces emerged by chaos.
- Ancient Egyptians combined mythology, magic, science, medicine and spiritualism. The notion of harmony was of great importance in Egyptian life.
- Greeks consulted their gods on different occasions. Those matters varied from state affairs to personal decisions regarding love, marriage, or job.
- In Rome, the worship of gods was connected with state affairs. But the stability of the Roman society also depended on Gods. The way people revered Roman gods and participated in rituals, which honored them, was quite important.
- And after all, that most interesting here is that these cultures were influenced by one another. So, now let’s uncover the Armenian pre-Christian era as well.
Briefly about the Armenian Mythology
In the pantheon of Armenian gods, cult worship was the higher power called Ara. He was the embodiment of the sun (Arev) worshiped by the ancient Armenians.
Accordingly, Armenians called themselves “Children of the sun” (in Armenian “Arevordiner”).
Since ancient times, the worship of Sun occupied a special place in Armenian mythology. The worship of eagles, heaven, etc. was quite common as well.
According to some signs, during Armenian pre-Christian era, ancient Armenians were nature worshipers.
National gods appeared at the times of Armenian Hellenistic period. So, here is the list of Armenian Gods.
The Pantheon of Armenian Gods
The pantheon of pre-Christian Armenia changed over the past centuries. It was modified through Semitic, Iranian and Greek influences.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #1 | The Urartian Gods
Ḫaldi or Khaldi represents the Armenian mythology which dates back to Urartian times.
Khaldi was the chief of the pantheon during its earliest stages. He formed a triad with his sons Shivini and Teisheba. The latter was the God of storm. As for his brother Shivini was worshiped as the God of Sun.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #2 | Aramazd – The Creator of Earth and Heaven
In Armenian mythology Aramazd was considered the father and master of all Armenian gods. He was the creator of heaven and earth.
Great and brave Aramazd was the main source of fertility on Earth. To honor the God, ancient Armenians celebrated New Year on March 21 according to the old Armenian calendar.
The main sanctuary of the chief god of Armenian mythology was located in Ani Kamakhym.
It was one of the cult centers of ancient Armenia. Aramazd in Armenian mythology is like Zeus in Greek.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #3 | Anahit – The Mother Goddess
Have you ever come across an Armenian girl with the name Anahit? Did you like the name? In Armenian it really sounds very feminine.
Do you know where it comes from? This is how the mother goddess of Armenian mythology was called.
She was the most loved and honored Armenian goddess. The way ancient Armenians imagined Anahit was quite unique and typically Armenian.
She was always sculptured with the child in her hands. Besides, she wore specific hair style typical of Armenians mothers. She was responsible for maternity and fertility.
Unfortunately, the golden statue of Goddess was destroyed by Roman soldiers. According to the legend, even the Emperor Augustus was afraid that the wreckers of Anahit’s statue would be punished by the wrathful Goddess.
By the way, the bronze head from another statue of this Armenian Goddess is in the British museum. In Greek mythology Anahit stands for Artemis.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #4 | Vahagn – The Armenian Heracles
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!
This small but extraordinary poem describes the third God in Armenian mythology. Vahagn was the God of war, lightning and thunder.
His name derives from “vah” meaning god and “agne”, meaning fire. During ancient times Armenian kings were at war quite often.
They always sought for Vahgan’s support before all fights. They strongly believed in this fiery headed God and all victories were dedicated to him.
According to Armenian mythology Vahagn fought against dragons and gained the name “Dragon Reaper”. Even today you may come across the statue of Vahagn in Yerevan choking a dragon.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #5 | Astghik –The Beloved of Vahagn
If you happen to come to Armenia in summer then you will be lucky to witness Vardavar. This Christian holiday is devoted to transfiguration of Christ and is celebrated all over Armenia. During the festival people drench each other with water.
But did you know that the holiday has pagan origins? This fest was celebrated in honor of the goddess of love, beauty and water Astghik.
In Armenian pre-Christian era people used to release doves and pour water and wish good luck during Vardavar. Besides, Astghik was the beloved one of Vahagn.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #6 | Nane –The Goddess of Wisdom and Family Protection
All gods and goddesses in Armenian mythology were quite influential in spiritual life. However, Nane- the daughter of Aramazd was all about wisdom, common sense, motherhood and protector of home.
She was closely connected with Anahit. Even after thousands of years her influence is still evident in Armenian family life.
Today Armenians use to call their grandmothers nane, nani or nan. Besides, Armenian grandmothers are a big source of wisdom.
Still a part of pagan culture exists in Christian Armenia! Nane was also the Goddess of war.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #7 | Mihr –The Master of Garni Temple
The only preserved pagan temple in Armenia is Garni. If you have already been there then you should have known Mihr.
He is the son of Aramazd and the god of heaven light and sun. He occupied quite a high place in pantheon. Unfortunately, very little is known about his worship.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #8 | Tir – The God of Literature
The fact that Armenians are true warriors of education, science and literature needs no proof. And that is not a characteristic feature which has emerged recently.
It has its roots back in the Armenian pre-Christian era.
Even back then locals worshiped Tir- the God of literature, schooling and science.
Besides, Tir was responsible for interpreting dreams. In other words, he was the secretary of the father of Armenian Gods.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #9 | Tsovinar – The Goddess of Sea
Goddess Tsovinar was sometimes called Nar. She was the Goddess of Sea, water and rain. In Greek mythology she was similar to the God Poseidon.
Her name immediately prompts that she has something to do with the sea. In Armenian “tsov” means sea and Tsovinar means “Nar of the sea”.
Tsovinar was known as a fierce Goddess and she could force the rain and hail to fall from heavens.
Armenian Mythology & Gods #10 | Spandaramet – The Goddess of Hell
This goddess of underworld is similar to Hades. She was the god of hell.
As she was the goddess of dead, after the Christianity, the word Spandaramet gained the meaning of hell. In modern Armenian language “Spand” means “massacre”.
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