An enigmatic stone from Aberdeenshire, Scotland caused a scientific debate that lasts for almost two centuries. Scholars identify it as a tombstone/headstone, meaning that its text is an epitaph. But what exactly does it say remains a mystery to this day. There are two types of writing on this stone. One is an early medieval Ogham, written in a series of lines and cuts. As for the other, the theories range from Phoenician, Gaelic, Latin, Grek, Gnostic to Brahmi, Scythian, Runic and various others.
The usual dating of the Newton stone is between late antiquity and the ninth century, but some consider it a more recent forgery.
Different readings of the markings
As I do not have access to the Newton stone I had to rely on the published sources. In general, most of these sources share similar prints of the alphabet, but there are small differences. But sometimes these small details make a world of difference for decoding the individual letters. Here are the two most common versions:
Transliteration of the Newton stone inscription
Now that we have the basics, we can start decoding. My approach is very simple. Considering the usual dating of the stone, I started with the Latin alphabet. However, I quickly realized that a few letters look rather Greek than Roman. Indeed, the Greco-Roman theory already exists among scholars. But as we will soon see, my reading is unique.
Those who follow the Greco-Roman approach usually offer the transliteration that sounds like this:
ETTE EUAGAINNIAS CIGONOVOCOI, UR (Filfot) RELISI MAQQI NOVIOGRUTR (By Donal B. Buchanan) or ETTE | EVAGAINNIAS | CIGONOVOCANI | URAELISI | MAQQI | NOVIOGRUTA (By an unsigned author, here)
Following these ideas, I added transliteration on both previous images. You can see that the small differences do matter.
Reading of the Newton stone inscription
The reason that most of the researchers see the word MAQQI is because this word comes from OI “maqi/mac” meaning “son of”. This word is common on many other similar tombstones and there is no reason to question it. But this is also the only word that I have in common with other researchers.
My real breakthrough started with the word REGISI, on the right of the swastika symbol. I got it by simply reading the first and the third letter as “R” and “G” in the Greek alphabet (“Р” and “Г”). Indeed, the Latin word “regis” is a genitive singular of “rēx” – king. Furthermore, on one of the two images, there is a dot between the letters “S” and “I”. In that case, we get REGIS I, or REGIS the first.
Searching for the name of this king I looked to the left of the swastika. One of the images states WIL, the other just WL. (Again, the “L” is Grek, “Л”) To my surprise, this was a very good match for Wiliam the conqueror. And as we can see in the following image – his coins of the later period have both, the Latin title REX I, and the cross instead of a swastika.
As we saw, the rest of the text contains the word MAQQI – son of. William had two sons, but the important one was William II – Rufus, his successor. The nickname “Rufus” comes from Latin “red” and refers to his red hair. Amazingly, on one of the two images, the last line reads something like LOYOYRUFIS.
The first part LOYOY is impossible to translate. But as we saw, other scholars read this line as NOVIOGRUTA, or NOVIOGRUTR. And the starting letter “N” is clear on the second image I posted. The word “novo/novos/novio” is a common IE word and means “new, young”.
Therefore, I believe that the second half of the text reads:
WIL REGIS I MAQQI NOVOI RUFUS – or William the first (and his) son, young Rufus.
This discovery would firmly fix the inscription to the late 11th century AD. In other words, it comes from the time when young William II Rufus took over the crown, but William I was still alive, just like on the coin above.
Who was buried under the Newton stone?
The most common reading for the first word of the epitaph is ETTE. As this word does not have any parallels in the Indo-European languages, most researchers see it as a personal name. In this view, Ette is a variant of the name Edward, Ed, Aeth, Etha, and similar. One of the theories suggests that this was the tombstone of the Pictish king Aed (Edus). However, he lived in the late 9th century, so the timeline is not matching.
But there is another person who fits better this timeline. His name was Edgar Ætheling. In this case, the word ETTE could be an abbreviation of Edgar, as well as Aetheling. Edgar was a descendant of the Hungarian royal bloodline. During the reign of William the first, he fought both for and against him. He was declared a king of England but never crowned. It is precisely in Scotland that he spent the last years of his life. He passed away around the year 1025/1026, but the location of his grave is unknown.
And finally, this could be just any noble person, named Aed, Edgar, or even Aetha, female. In this case, the mention of the kings would be just a marker for the general timeline in which they lived. (in place of the year which is absent)
The rest of the inscription
There are only two more lines left, and I left them for the end as they are the most problematic. Тhe most common reading is EVAGAINNIAS/EUAGAINNIAS. The theories I read take it for another personal name. Indeed, there is a similar Gaelic name – Eógan. It comes from ancient Greek and means “noble-born”. At first glance, the literal translation “noble-born” is more appropriate. But this would mean that we need to include Greek words among Gaelic and Latin and that is a bit of a stretch. Alternatively, this is the name of a parent or spouse of the deceased – a template that exists in other inscriptions.
And finally, we have the word CIGONOVOCANI / SIGONOVOCANI and even CIGONOVOCOI. I am not sure what to make of this one, but the part NOVO could mean “young” once again, referring to an offspring. (Dedicated by wife and children). In that case, CIGO / SIGO would refer to another personal name, as other authors suggest.
In fact, in this line, I would expect to see words like “placed this tombstone”, in the context of the first line of the text, or “who lived during the rule of”, referring to the second half. But being very limited in my knowledge of Gaelic I decided to leave this part open to interpretation.
The text of the Newton stone probably dates to the late 11th century. The scribe was probably not very experienced and he used a mix of Greco-Roman letters. Some of the letters are clear, but some a bit strangely shaped. These were the two main challenges, and the cause of all the incredible theories of the past centuries.
Without a doubt, the tombstone belonged to an individual that had certain elements of nobility. But the inexperienced scribe probably hints to local nobility, not someone who wore a crown. In any case, the Newton stone is an important monument from a very turbulent period of Scottish history. It marks the very moment when the first Norman kings challenged the great old Caledonia.
The art of the Renaissance is full of symbols and hidden messages. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were exciting and dangerous times for those who thought differently, especially those who challenge religious dogma. To some extent, the church did tolerate the return of the Greek and Roman pagan gods and ancient philosophy. But we must not forget that Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in the year 1600. A whole century before that, the great masters had no other choice but to encode their ideas in the language of symbolism.
Raphael’s “Resurrection of Christ” (1499-1502) is a perfect example. At first glance, this painting looks similar to many other religious works of the period. But behind this Christian facade lies a whole plethora of ancient astronomical symbols, just waiting for the right observer.
Orion and the four seasons
The constellation of Orion is one of the largest constellations in the night sky. It was of paramount importance to the ancients, and most of the old Indo-European myths revolve around it. The hunter, archer or a giant; Dyonisus, Horus or Arjuna – he is always the main protagonist of the night sky – replacing the invisible Sun. His quests and journeys affect life on Earth and determine the four seasons, the course of Yin and Yang.
I used the free astronomical software Stellarium to illustrate the four key moments – the solstices and equinoxes. In other words, these are the four seasons.
The main direction is East. In Winter, Orion appears on the horizon right after the sunset. The summer picture is the same but the opposite. This time Orion appears right before sunrise. Orion in Autumn appears only around midnight. In Spring, it is the opposite of autumn. He appears during the midday, and is therefore invisible to the naked eye.
Now, the postures of four figures around the broken tomb of Jesus match perfectly those of Orion. They represent the four seasons. This is also obvious from the color of their clothes.
The person representing spring wears orange and white. These are the colors of the Sun and day. It is a season in which Orion is completely invisible. The person representing summer wears red and blue. These are the colors of the sky during sunrise. The two other figures wear red and black, colors of sunset and night.
In fact, the representations of the four seasons around Christ, the Sun, are not new. A much older idea exists in the form of the four evangelists, representing the four cardinal zodiac signs. The “innovation” is that Raphael uses Orion as a marker, instead of the usual zodiac symbolism.
The holy grail
In the image below, we see an old representation of the seasons. In the period between 4,700-2,500 BC, the spring equinox was in Taurus, and the autumn one in Scorpio and Aquila (eagle). However, Christianity comes from a different time, and the star configuration is still the same as 2,000 years ago. The spring equinox is in Pisces, the symbol of Jesus, and the autumn one is in Virgo.
Easter, of course, marks the Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the spring constellations are the crucial elements for our story.
During spring, the Sun is in the zodiac of Pisces, making them invisible to the naked eye. And as the day and night are equal, the first constellation of sunrise and the last constellation of sunset is the one that is opposite to Pisces – Virgo. Moreover, Virgo stands next to the constellation Crater. The name of this constellation comes from the way the ancients saw it – like a cup or grail.
The following image shows the star configuration of sunrise/sunset 2020, during the spring equinox and Easter. I paired it with a Christian motif of the holy grail. It is a clear representation of Virgo and Crater, and the four evangelists as the zodiac/seasons, are also present between the Virgin Mary and Christ.
The goddess and the grail
Before the equinoxes moved to the region of Crater constellation, Crater marked the month after the autumn equinox. This is the period of winemaking. The cup in the sky probably meant that it is time to finally relax from the agricultural work and enjoy some good wine. Such a symbol is of course, more appropriate for the Dionysian cult than Christianity, although the latter surely borrowed the whole wine symbolism.
Another evidence that the ancients saw Crater as the cup comes from the Heracles myth. His twelve labors represent the circle around the zodiac. In one of the labors, the Erymanthian Boar, the king Eurystheus hides in a jar. This episode was very popular in Greek art. And right before this labor, Heracles visits a centaur Pholus, who had only one jar of wine, a gift from Dionysus.
But as the equinox moved towards Virgo and Crater, the myth changes. The holy grail is the central element of the King Arthur myth. His knights of the round table represent the zodiac.
The Phrygian goddess Cybele was one of the main prototypes for the Virgin Mary. She too comes out of her sacred rock. The iconography is similar to the labor of Heracles. In Christianity, this very popular motif became Virgin Mary, holding baby Jesus. It is the Sun rising on the background of Virgo and Crater constellations.
But funny enough, even the Bodhisattva Guanyin – a Buddhist version of the Virgin Mary, shares the similar iconography.
Raphael’s “Resurrection of Christ” explained
Now that we have the basic vocabulary in place, we can proceed with the main topic of the article – Raphael’s “Resurrection of Christ”.
The central figure is Christ. His raised arm hints at the Orion iconography. And even though this is true of the night sky, during the day he represents the Sun. For both reasons, Raphael places him right above the horizon line – where we would expect to see the sunrise or Orion rising.
There are two angels on each side. Their body posture is identical to that of the Virgo constellation. Moreover, one is light and the other one dark. This is an allusion to sunrise/sunset in Virgo, during the Easter – Christ’s resurrection.
Underneath, there are four seasons, determined by the positions of Orion. This is the spring time, and the natural cycle of life on earth starts all over again.
And finally, the tomb of Christ resembles the iconography of the holy grail. As a constellation of the autumn, Crater marks the entrance to the cave/tomb. But in the springtime, it is rather an exit from the grail/womb.
This is the secret of eternal life. It exists, but we need to die before being born again.
The messages of Raphael are hidden, but not too obscure and difficult to comprehend, at least in our modern times. Of course, if he stated publicly in the 1500s that the Christian story is a modernized star-lore, he wouldn’t have lived very long. And yet, so many works of Renaissance hide similar messages. There were always those who knew.
And even though these ideas could be considered as heresy or blasphemy, here is the question: If all of the myths and religions tell the same story, using the similar language of symbolism – is it a proof that God does not exist… or that He does?
The Mesolithic culture of Lepenski Vir, Serbia is one of Europe’s oldest. Discovered in 1960 and dated to 9,500–6,000 BC, the site became an instant sensation in scientific circles. What makes it special are its unique trapezoid houses, mysterious stone idols, and strange burials. Also, one of the first European contacts between the local hunter-gatherer community and the agricultural newcomers happened here.
But in the shade of all these important finds, a small object made of animal bone lies on display in the National Museum of Serbia. Unsure of its purpose, archaeologists label it an “amulet”. But perhaps this label is wrong. Perhaps what we had in front of our eyes this whole time, is the world’s oldest jew’s harp?
A brief history of jew’s harp
The jew’s harp is one of the world’s oldest musical instruments. It’s variations exist all over the globe, particularly in the Northern hemisphere. The term “jew’s harp” probably relates to European Jews, whose origins were Khazar (Euroasian steppe). But there are roughly 1,000 other local names for this instrument.
Indeed, the jew’s harp is still extremely popular in the Euro-Asian region, from Siberia and the horse-riding communities of Mongolia and neighboring “stan” countries to countries like Japan and Vietnam.
The choice of the material varies, with metal being the youngest invention. Asian jew’s harps are commonly made of reed or wood. But obviously, this type of material cannot survive in the archaeological record. The oldest jew’s harp we know of dates to the 4th century BC, and it is made from a bone of an animal. Another recently discovered harp from Siberia dates to 3rd-4th century AD, and it is made by “splintering the ribs of cows or horses”, while in the Mongolian regions the horns of deer are the material of choice.
The oldest musical instruments we know of are made of animal bones. For example, the Divje Babe flute, from modern-day Slovenia, dates to 41,000BC.
And finally, the jew’s harp has deep connections to prehistoric shamanism. Most of the Euro-Asian shamans still use it in their rituals. In certain countries, there is even evidence of a “language” made of its sounds. This secret language is similar to the better-researched “whistling languages” of highlanders or the “speaking drums” of Africa. In Siberia, it mimics the horse gallop and their shamans use it to greet the Sun.
The technique of playing the jew’s harp
To create the sound, we need to place the harp horizontally and gently bite it with our teeth. While doing so, our jaw (and our skull) become the resonance box. Next, we need to create the vibration, by moving the “trigger” of the “tongue” (mobile middle part) of the harp with the other hand. Different positions of the mouth and throat create different vibrations.
In this light, it is interesting that the object from Lepenski Vir has engraved lines on its “legs”, where the teeth should be placed. Some of the modern harps have very similar lines in the same place. And its arms also appear on modern harps, their purpose is to provide better support for fingers or mouth.
When archaeologists discover a harp, they usually find it without the middle part or “tongue”. In other words, they find only the “frame”. The reason is obvious – the reed has to be flexible, so it is not attached very firmly to the frame. Moreover, it is most likely to break even while the harp is in use.
And interestingly, the object from Lepenski Vir has a very carefully perforated hole in the middle. Was its real purpose to hold a reed?
Indeed, if the object represents an amulet, this hole would hardly have any practical use. Most of the modern reconstructions attach the object from the top, ignoring this middle hole completely.
The reason that archaeologists label this object as an amulet is probably due to its anthropomorphic form. And indeed, the association was probably a deliberate one, even for the ancients. Many old musical instruments have anthropomorphic or zoomorphic forms. In fact, before this discovery, I also explored the possibility that the object represents a goddess. (see the article at the end of this text)
But these two theories do not necessarily cancel each other out. We see a similar figurine on shamanic drums of the Northern hemisphere.
Obviously, this imagery has something to do with the shamanic three-fold World, the Earth Goddess, and the Sky-father, the cycle of life and death. The access to this spiritual realm was possible only in the state of trance, and the music was the “vehicle” on which shamans traveled there.
And while we can debate on the meaning behind this ancient symbolism, the suggestion that this Mesolithic object represents the world’s oldest “jew’s harp” seems quite plausible?
In the previous article, I established a connection between the “weeping” Ikom monoliths of Nigeria and the weeping figurines of the Neolithic Balkans. But there is one more example worth mentioning – the weeping figurines of Cycladic islands, modern Greece. They date to 2500BC, or the Early Cycladic II period.
The mourning figurines?
Only a dozen of these figurines have been discovered so far. Luckily, some of them still have traces of paint: blue from azurite, and red from cinnabar. On some, the paint is just barely visible. This led archaeologists to the conclusion that there could have been many more similar figurines, but as the paint is long gone, we more often see just a stylized, colorless face.
But most importantly, lab analysis had shown that most of these figurines were painted and repainted numerous times, meaning that they were in use before being deposited as grave goods. Here we may see another connection with the Ikom monoliths. They are being repainted every year, during the autumn harvest festival.
The figurines are present only in one-tenth of all the excavated graves. (meaning that they were not an important part of the burial rites) And 2. They were in use for quite some time, before being buried.
Mr. Hoffman mentions dozens of other scholarly theories on their purpose: ancestral worship, Mother Goddess, spirit guides, and even toys. But he makes an argument against each one. He concludes that the strongest associations are with mourning and with burial rites, but adds that the question remains open and that we may never know their true purpose.
Indeed, observing these figurines out of any other context, ie examples from other cultures, we have to reach a dead-end sooner or later. But perhaps a comparative approach can take us a bit further?
For example, the Cycladic figurine alone might really look like a mourning figurine. But the Neolithic figurines from Bulgaria clearly show association with water, as the wavy lines, representing water, are painted all over them, not only on the face. The same goes for the Ikom monoliths, which are still being worshiped during the harvest season, or in other words, in the rainy autumn.
Moreover, in Indo-European mythology, autumn is usually associated with the entrance to the underworld or the land of the dead. So the mourning aspect remains.
But strangely enough, it seems that scholars have missed the most obvious place to look for clues – the Greek mythology.
Niobe, the weeping goddess
The myth of Niobe is really ancient, she was mentioned already in Homer’s Iliad. According to the myth, Niobe was a mother of fourteen children – seven sons, and seven daughters. She was so proud of this fact that she boasted to goddess Leto herself. Leto in turn had only two children – Artemis and Apollo. Of course, the vain goddess Leto took this boasting as an insult, and her children decided to take revenge.
Artemis and Appolo, both excellent archers, took their bows and slew all of Niobe’s children. Devastated, Niobe stood rigid until she turned into stone. But even then, tears wouldn’t stop pouring from her eyes.
In modern Turkey, where this myth might have originated, there is a stone known as The Weeping Rock. It is located in Mount Sipylus, Manisa. Its association with Niobe myth dates to antiquity.
Now, we know of this myth from ancient Greek sources. But the truth is that Niobe was the daughter of a Phrygian king. In fact, one of her main epithets is “Phrygian”. Modern scholars associate her with Lydians too. And Herodotus tells us that the origins of these people are not in modern-day Turkey, but rather in the Balkans. We don’t know exactly when their migration took place, but it was certainly long before Herodotus, or in other words, long before the 5th century BC.
Could they have brought the story of the weeping lady from the Balkans?
As interesting as this theory is, it is still based on a weak argument. But what if I can prove that the origins of the Niobe myth are Neolithic? In other words, that the Niobe myth existed at the same time when the Neolithic Balkan figurines were made? After all, the Neolithic connections between the Balkans and Turkey are well-attasted in archaeology.
The Niobe myth decoded
In its essence, the myth of Niobe is just another astronomical allegory, as most of the ancient myths are. The great masters of the past centuries were quite aware of this fact. A few examples of Niobe themes are below. Nicolas de Pattemontagne clearly shows Apollo as the Sun, and Artemis as the Moon. In a more concealed manner, Abraham Bloemaert accomplishes the same effect by dividing his painting into day and night. The medieval woodcut shows only the Sun, Apollo.
So, the two main protagonists, Apollo and Artemis represent the Sun and the Moon. This is why there is a clear division of light and darkness in the Renaissance paintings. But this is also how the ancients divided the year – the light part, from spring to autumn, and the dark one, from autumn to spring.
So who are the Niobe’s children then? To answer this question we need to determine where were the two most important markers – the spring and the autumn equinox.
If we assume that the myth is Neolithic, then the spring would be in Taurus and the Autumn in Scorpio. The summer solstice was in Leo and the winter in Aquarius. Here is an illustration from an older article.
Appolo and the children of Niobe
In the Neolithic, the “bright” half of the year, the realm of Apollo, the Sun, started with the constellation of Taurus. If we look at this region of the sky, right next to the Taurus, we see the constellation of Orion. Orion is represented as a hunter, sometimes with a club in his hands, but more often he holds a bow. In ancient mythology, he was the “substitute” for the Sun, invisible during the night time.
Moreover, his arrow is pointing towards the Pleiades, known as seven sisters in the Greek myth. (In other Indo-European myths they can be seven brothers, or seven wise men, seven goddesses, cows, etc…)
The “dark” part of the year started with the Scorpio constellation. Right next to it, we see Sagittarius, shooting arrows towards it. And even though Scorpio does not have seven stars, the constellation Ara, positioned right underneath Scorpio, has seven stars exactly. Could these be the other seven children of Niobe?
So, if my interpretation is correct, the myth of Niobe is truly Neolithic, as this kind of star arrangement worked only during the Neolithic period. The spring and the autumn, of course, refer to the rainy season, which we can interpret as the tears of the mourning Niobe.
Indeed most of the Neolithic figurines of the Balkans, including the famous Vinca, have stylized tears underneath their eyes…
The Pleiades as the spring marker
Numerous ancient cultures were aware of the Pleiades constellation. One of the examples is the Nebra sky disk, from 1,600 BC. But the stars were known even in Babylon, as they marked the spring equinox during the 3-2 millennia BC.
Without a doubt, we have a direct connection between the Pleiades, or the seven sisters, and the spring equinox. And Orion, the archer pointing towards them. But the Slavic mythology is equally interesting, although far less known in the west.
In Slavic mythology, the Pleiades are known as Vlascici. This name probably meant “little cows”, as they are almost an integral part of Taurus, the bull (or sometimes a cow). The myth of Hermes stealing the cows from Apollo relates to the same idea. In Slavic myth, the trickster is the god Veles. He steals the cows from the thunder god Perun (Orion, Apollo). These myths speak the same language and relate to the rainy season in the springtime.
But there are other Slavic myths in which the stars of the Pleiades represent brothers or sisters. Their seven names vary from place to place, and the options are too numerous to list here. This fact only supports the antiquity of the myth.
And finally, another Slavic myth tells of the story of the abduction of a young maiden. Her weeping mother pleads to God to punish them, and as a result, the thieves become chained to the sky, as the Pleiades.
Moreover, the Pleiades would disappear from the horizon during the springtime, and return in the summer. For this reason, Slavs believed that: “they open the summer and they close the winter“
Another way to interpret the Niobe myth
There is another way to interpret this myth, and I realized it while observing its representation on a Roman sarcophagus. However, I believe that this is an “upgrade” of a later date.
In this version, the sons and daughters of Niobe would be the zodiac signs, the twelve standard signs, plus Ophiuchus and one more. This “other one” is not represented here so it is hard to determine.
Now, it is beyond my will and power to make a separate image for each constellation, but if you refer to their astronomical shapes, you can quickly understand the following:
Orion / Apollo – self-explanatory. He holds a bow in his hands and marks the spring equinox. Taurus / the first son – the hand position along with the torso reminds of the Taurus star cluster. Gemini / two brothers – self-explanatory. Cancer / the youngest brother – Cancer is the smallest constellation in this region. It looks like the Y letter, and in India, it was seen as a stick of a rishi. We see a stick above his head. Leo – a “guardian” of a young boy – the whole body posture is similar to that of Leo, and he wears a lion’s skin on his back. The official interpretation is that this was the guardian of a young boy, but I disagree. I believe that he represents the husband of Niobe – Amphion. His name means “native of two lands”. This could be a poetic way to describe the summer solstice when the sun is at the highest point in the sky and starts to descend. Virgo / daughter – The first female in the group of siblings, and the same is true for the zodiac. Her posture is almost identical to the Virgo constellation. Libra / the second daughter – her hands remind of the scales, balance… Scorpio / the third daughter with the “guardian” – This is the autumn equinox, the descent into the underworld. The female figure is lower than all others, and together with an old woman perhaps reminds of the Scorpio cluster. We see an old lady, who I believe represents Niobe herself. This is the entrance to her realm, but Niobe represents Aquarius, standing opposite to Leo, and not shown on this sarcophagus. The Slavic term for an old lady is “baba”, and rocks similar to that of Turkey are known as “baba” too. Moreover, in Bulgaria, the first of March, the month of the spring equinox, belongs to “Baba Marta” – or Grandma March. In Romania, she is known as Baba Dochia. Ophiuchus – two daughters – The shape of this constellation looks like a square with a separate line underneath it. Perhaps this was seen as one daughter holding the other. Sagittarius – Artemis holding a bow – self-explanatory
In conclusion, the constellations match almost perfectly the characters depicted on this sarcophagus – and also, we see the same polarity, the light, and the darkness, represented by the male and the female, beginning and ending with a figure of an archer.
Niobe, finally revealed
From everything we have seen so far, it is clear that Niobe represents the Mother Goddess. She is related to water/rain, and the Earth’s fertility cycle. The rainy seasons of spring and autumn mark the “borders” of her realm, but her true house is in Aquarius, represented by the zig-zag lines – just like those of the Neolithic figurines. The summer season is the realm of her husband, Amphion / Leo.
And as we know from the other Indo-Europan myths, she is a young girl in spring and gets old and grumpy in the autumn. Then, come March, she transforms into the young maiden again.
The association with the rain and fertility explains why the figurines were in use for a long time before being buried. The association with the burials brings the symbolism of resurrection. (!) Surely, this would be a very good reason to place her figurines in the graves of loved ones.
Baba Dochia and Baba Marta, or… Niobe of the Balkans
Wikipedia link on Baba Dochia lists a few popular legends. Here is one:
Baba Dochia’s son marries a girl that she didn’t like. Baba Dochi is angry and sends the girl to wash black woolin the river until it turns white. The girl quickly realizes that this is an impossible task. Desperate, and with frozen hands from the cold river, the girl starts crying. Jesus appears and gives her a red flower to wash the wool with it. The wool finally turns white and she returns home. When Baba Dochia hears about the magical red flower, she thinks that spring has come. She puts on her nine coats and ventures to the mountain. On the way up it gets warmer, so she starts throwing one by one of her coats, until she throws them all away. But then the weather changes again, and Baba Dochia freezes on the mountain.
In this short story, we see all the main elements of the previous discussion. The black and the white wool symbolize the “dark” and the “bright” half of the year. The proof for this claim is that the wool turns white in the springtime. The girl and the grandmother represent the two different aspects of the Mother goddess. And taking the “nine coats” as months, and starting from the spring, we end up in Aquarius, the home of Bava Dochia, where she gets “frozen” on the top of the mountain, during the winter solstice, just like Niobe turns into stone.
In another version of the myth, she actually turns into stone. And just like in the case of Niobe, this stone, shaped like an old woman, is still visible in Romania. It is a “sphynx” of a region called Babele (plural of grandmother) in the Bucegi mountains.
Dochia was the daughter (or sister) of Decebalus, King of the Dacians. Roman Emperor Trajan conquered Dacia and wanted to marry her. Dochia hid in the Carpathian Mountains, disguised as a shepherd. But this was not enough to save her, so she asked the god Zamolxes to turn her into stone. This is how she became Babele peak.
In fact, the toponyms that relate to Baba, grandmother, are numerous in the Balkans. For example Babin zub (baba’s tooth) in Serbia, or Velika baba, (great-grandmother) – two mountains, one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one in Slovenia, Babina Greda, Croatia. But similar toponyms exist even further in the Slavic countries, especially Poland. There, we see the Babia Góra (grandmother’s mountain), Babin, Babiac, Babice, Babienice, Babieta… Interestingly, even the name of the famous stone stelae of the steppe, is “balbal”, although they more often represent the men.
In Slavic cases, however, the links between the grandmother, weather, and mountains are deeply rooted in tradition. And the same goes for the stories of people turning into stone. Dozens of other toponyms speak of devils, weddings, thieves and many other characters, that turned into stones.
The Neolithic weeping figurines probably relate to the cult of the great-grandmother. One of her aspects is related to the astronomical phenomena, represented by the constellations, equinoxes, and solstices, the cycle of the seasons, and the rain.
Her other aspect relates to Earth and fertility, the process of birth, death, and resurrection. As such, she was worshiped practically all over the globe, since times immemorial. Neolithic Turkey is not an exception.
However, the motif of a weeping goddess, that turned into the stone is a bit specific, and no similar parallels were found apart from the Cycladic islands and Neolithic Balkans. As the Balkan figurines predate the Cycladic for several millennia, could we assume that the origins of this cult are in the Balkans?
From there, they would be brought to Turkey, around the first half of the 3rd millennia BC, and then sometime later, from Turkey to the Greek islands. The people who brought the cult were Phrygians, whose origins were surely in the Balkans. Or the Lydians (In Slavic lyudi – people)
I believe that this theory is not too far-fetched. As we saw, the Balkans have much deeper and stronger connections to such worship. But the fact that we see the same ideas as far as Russia means that the origins of this cult were Slavic, and not of some other (made-up) Balkan population, now “lost” to history. Take a moment to think about that fact.
Connections to the Ikom monoliths of Nigeria
In the end, one question remains unanswered, what is the connection with the Ikom monoliths of Nigeria. When I first saw them, I thought that the idea comes from Africa, following the mainstream history view, with which we are all programmed. But the fact is that there are only a few hundred of these monoliths, in a specific region of Africa – they are not a part of a wider African culture.
Moreover, the scholars date Ikom monoliths to 500AD, and indeed, they are not discovered underground, as they are still in use, but the weathering process did not leave much traces on them. As the stone is impossible to date, I would still assume that they are a bit older and that they relate to the period of the first seafarers. The connection with the Cycladic islands supports this claim.
In fact, on several occasions, I wrote of Nigeria as being the first station towards the Americas, if one was to follow the ocean currents. And over there, in South America, we have another myth of the weeping lady. This is probably the most famous “weeping lady” in our modern times. She is known as Llorona, the weeper, but her original name was Maria, just like the Christian version of Mother Goddess. She too weeps for her dead children, and she too is associated with rivers and lakes. The only difference is, in fact, that she has killed her children by herself. Is this small difference enough to label it as “unrelated”?
Since the earliest of times, the ancients associated the Moon with the mind. For example, the word “lunatic” comes from the belief that the full moon (Luna) can make humans crazy. Even the Vedic texts are full of references on connections between the mind and the Moon. The first calendars were lunar, and in most Indo-European languages the words for “Moon” and “month” are similar. For example, Sanskrit “Masa” meant both – “moon” and “month”, and the Slavic word “Mesec” meant the same. The English word relates to another Vedic name for the Moon – Manas.
But indirectly, the word “moon” could also relate to Sanskrit “Manyate” – to think. In Vedas, this ever-changing character of the Moon symbolizes the process of thinking and it relates to the lower, inconsistent mind. And the Slavic word “menyati” means “to change”.
And while the Moon represented the mind, the Sun represented the human soul. Its path through the circle of the zodiac determines the length of the day and the change of seasons, the vital aspects of life on Earth.
Aware of the importance of their movement, the ancients invented numerous myths. Constructing the story around each zodiac sign (month) they facilitated the transmission of this sacred knowledge to the new generations. But we will not discuss these myths in this article. We will talk about the universal matrix that underlines all of them. No matter where you come from, you know the main idea already. It is a story of birth, death, and resurrection.
Our story starts with Aquarius. In astronomical terms, Aquarius rules the month of January, the first month of the year. Or the first month after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The return of the light from the darkness signalized the beginning of a new cycle.
Indeed, most ancient myths start their creation myths with endless water and the appearance of light. It is a “water” that contained the “seeds” of all creation.
The astrological symbol of Aquarius sometimes shows a man spilling water from a jug, and sometimes simply – waves of water.
The ancients believed that the first phase of creation was the “mingling” of the waters. Such a story exists in Babylonian in Enuma Eilish for example. This “mingling” reflects the idea that the process of conception started with male and female exchanging their fluids. Aristotle had the same ideas in his famous “conception theory”. And even though he is nowadays regarded as the first to propose it, it is evident that the idea is much more ancient.
In philosophical terms, this “mingling” of the opposites, a (sexual) union of male and female, reminds us of the idea of Yin and Yang. Moreover, the astrological symbol of Pisces also looks like this symbol.
Perhaps this is too far-fetched, but the Latin word “pisces” probably originally ended in “sh” sound, as in English “fish”, a direct descendant. As such it could be related to the verb “peccare”, to sin. This word too, probably ended in the “sh” sound. The similarities are most obvious in French – péché, to sin and pêcher, fishing.
The astrological symbol for Aries looks surprisingly similar to the female reproductive system. This fact has already been noted by numerous authors in the past.
However, I have something more to add. The name for this constellation in Slavic languages is “ovan” or “oven”, depending on the language. These words sound similar to the Latin “ovum” – egg. Perhaps even the name “Eve” is not far.
But there is more – the Slavic words “ovan” and “oven” sound like Old Germanic “ovan” and English “oven”. Even the Latin word “fornication” comes from the Latin “fornus” – oven. And the Vulgar Slavic word for vagina sound like a Slavic word for the oven – “pech”.
In short, one might question the connections between Slavic words for Aries and Germanic word for oven, but what is unquestionable is the fact that the ancients compared the female reproductive system to an oven. And that the astrological sign of Aries really looks like it.
This phase represents the travel from the vagina to the ovaries – we are still not talking of “pregnancy”.
The spring equinox falls in late March. In the past, this event had happened between the Aries and Taurus constellations. In the spring, mother Earth becomes “pregnant”. It is a season of sawing. And nine months later, on the winter solstice, a new Sun is born.
The astrological sign of Taurus looks like the moment of conception. (the third week of pregnancy) Interestingly, the English words “bull” and “belly” have a common root – “to swell”. The Slavic word for stomach, “zhivot” can mean both “belly” and “life”.
If you think about it, the astrological symbol of Gemini represents two beings sharing a single body. In our story, this would be an equivalent of the first month of pregnancy.
The next month belongs to Cancer, the crab. The astrological sign looks like a fetus in the first stages of development. But there is something even more interesting. In this stage, the baby starts developing the head and the hands first. The lower body is still undeveloped. We could maybe say that it looks like a crab?
The rest of the zodiac
From here onwards, the story gets difficult to illustrate, but nonetheless we can follow its symbolism.
LEO Officially, Leo’s mane represents the Sun rays of this time of the year. However, in terms of fetal development, this is where the first hair and nails start to grow. The teeth grow too and the baby can open its mouth for the first time.
VIRGO Baby enters this month fully formed and it is officially a “fetus”. The reproductive organs are developed and it is possible to determine the gender.
LIBRA The baby begins to move since he or she is developing muscles and exercising them. This first movement is called quickening. But also, the inner ear is now fully developed. The baby now has a sense of balance and may be able to sense being upside down in the womb.
SCORPIO Baby’s finger and toe prints are longer and visible.
SAGITTARIUS The only one I am not sure about. I will update it later.
CAPRICORN The peak of the pregnancy. Baby starts kicking and moving in the stomach.
Aquarius – a new cycle of life begins
Finally, after nine months of “pregnancy”, we are back in Aquarius, the winter solstice. The water breaks and the baby enters the world.
Pisces – an exit from the womb
The Vesica Pisces (fish bladder) is a famous symbol of sacred geometry. It is an intersection of two disks with the same radius, intersecting in such a way that the center of each disk lies on the perimeter of the other. It is an extremely popular motif in sacral artworks.
In Christianity, we often see Christ coming out of this shape. It represents his birth (or resurrection) from the cosmic womb. There is no doubt that we are dealing with astronomical allegory, as he is also surrounded by the symbols of four evangelists, who in fact represent the solstices and equinoxes, the four seasons: Aquarius, Taurus, Leo, and Aquila.
The same, but an older idea, exists in Buddhism and Hinduism. And the Freemasons too, “borrowed this symbolism, positioning the square and the compass, symbols of the Creator in its center.
Another word for Vesica Pisces is “mandorla” or “almond, due to its shape. Almond is an ancient symbol of the vulva in the east, but also virginity and immaculate conception. The Phrygian god Attis was conceived when an almond fell in the lap (or sometimes bosom) of goddess Nana.
Aries, the Passover and the new circle of the zodiac
As after the Pisces we are entering the spring-time, it is also very likely that the original etymology of Hebrew Pesaḥ – the Passover, relates to Pisces. Passover is a spring holiday, predating the Exodus. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord knew to pass over the first-born in these homes, hence the English name of the holiday.
This is of course, not an official etymology of the holiday, just my interpretation. Wikipedia lists many others with a note that they are all disputed.
Anyhow, the “spring lamb” could refer to the next constellation – Aries, in which the spring equinox happened in the past. Nowadays it falls in Pisces, the symbol of Jesus. And through this example, we see that the spring equinox can be seen as both, the moment of conception, and the moment of birth.
Further parallels can be made, following a new cycle on the wheel of the zodiac. With the new spring, we enter the world of the “living”. But this time everything speeds up. In Gemini, the baby is already a child, holding his parent’s hand. The words “June” and “young” have the same etymological root. In Leo, he or she is in its prime. In autumn, old age comes, and with winter, death (and resurrection).
It is a fact that the ancients divided a year into two parts – the white, symbolizing life, and lasting from spring to autumn equinox. And the dark, symbolizing death, lasting from autumn to spring. This “dance” of Yin and Yang is in a nutshell, an underlying thread of all ancient cosmological myths.
The twelve number also relates to years. The age of thirteen is a usual age for circumcision or other rites of passage in ancient cultures. It is the biggest number of the “cosmic order”, hence thirteen is an unlucky number.
An immaculate conception
As we saw, Christ was not the only figure born of a virgin. The same was true for the Phrygian Attis. But even Buddha was born in the same way. His mother Maya, had a dream of a white elephant. Zeus impregnated Lada in the form of a swan. And the spirit came down on a Virgin Mary in the form of a dove. The idea is clearly ancient and widespread. Its origins are at least Neolithic, as we will now see.
In most Indo-European myths, the sky god was a male figure, and the mother Earth was female. Life came to Earth from the sky, in the form of the spring sun rays.
There is an amazing cave in Bulgaria, known as “Utroba” (the womb). In a very distant past, someone had noticed its perfect orientation towards the east and enhanced its natural characteristics to take the shape of a phallus and a vagina. In short, the cave looks like a vagina from the outside. But the light imprint on the ground looks like a phallus. Only during the spring equinox, the ray of the light reaches the end of the cave – symbolizing the moment of conception.
The cave is probably Neolithic (at least) as the same logic exists in Newgrange, Ireland, as well as in many other Neolithic structures of the world. However, nowhere else is this idea of union between the Sky and Earth so beautiful and clear.
And once we grasp the symbolism of this astronomical event, it is hard to miss out on the Christian parallels.
On the examples of Utroba cave and the Newgrange we see that the main ideas of Christianity were known in Europe thousands of years earlier. In fact, the floor plan of Newgrange and other Irish monuments is in the shape of a Christian cross. The Sun enters from the east, following its longest side.
But these ideas are not limited to Europe only. The same symbolism lies behind the Hinduistic Shiva Lingam and Yoni, as well as the Egyptian obelisks. We see them as far as Mexico.
So let us summarize. The ancient people were fully aware of the seasonal cycle and especially of the rebirth of nature in spring. That was not a difficult task. The difficult part was tracking it down. And so the wise men observed the stars and shaped the constellations in order to easier follow the path of the Sun and the Moon.
They quickly noticed that certain star clusters are related to seasons and defined the four key moments – the solstices and the equinoxes. They used wooden poles or large stone boulders as ground markers. And for a while, everything was perfect.
But unfortunately, the path of the Sun is elliptical, not circular. That means that after a while everything will shift – 2160 years, for one sign of the zodiac, to be precise. In other words, during the Neolithic, the spring equinox was in Taurus. For the last two millennia BC, it was in Aries, and currently, it falls in Pisces.
Knowing this, we can determine that the symbolism of birth, death, and rebirth in relation to the zodiac signs, dates somewhere in the period of 4500-1000BC. As we saw, the spring (or birth) starts between Aries and Taurus.
Indeed, Neolithic archaeology proves this. During the “Age of Taurus”, Neolithic houses typically had the bull skull hanged above their door or facing the entrance. Here are just some of the dozens of examples. These images come from the Balkans, Anatolia, and Sardinia. In Sardinia, the principle is the same as in the Utroba cave of Bulgaria, but instead of a phallus, we see the bull’s head. The symbolism is clear – it is a spring equinox in Taurus.
However, as the spring shifted to Aries, the myths had to be adjusted. Numerous ancient myths talk about the lamb, ram’s horns or the golden fleece. But in terms of symbolism, the best example is an image of Saint George. This image is often depicted above the church door, which is, of course, always facing the east.
From everything we have seen so far, we can be certain that we are dealing with something truly ancient. The whole northern hemisphere shares this common language – from India to Europe, and from Egypt to Mexico. But should that really surprise us? The stars have been up there longer than us, and we’ve been here for quite some time now. In fact, it seems that even the Neanderthals had built mysterious structures, 176,000 years ago. Here is a link from National Geographic.
Were these mysterious stone circles similar to Stonehenge, or even better, Gobekli tepe? It is hard to say. But the symbolism of the womb and the phallus-shaped stalactites is certainly there. In fact, the essence of our myth comes from the cave-dwellers, not the sedentary people.
Perhaps then, it is really ancient. And perhaps these people that we consider primitive, had better understood their culture than an average civilized man.
The Mesolithic culture of Lepenski Vir, modern-day Serbia, ranks amongst Europe’s oldest. Its origins date to 9,500-7,200 BC. Today it is best known for its unique, trapezoidal houses and enigmatic stone sculptures. The symbolism of these sculptures is unknown. There are many theories, ranging from the ancestral cult to the worship of river gods. The connection to the river gods comes from the fish-like mouth, fish scales on some of the figurines, and the specific position they took in the house shrines.
From Lepenski Vir to Neolithic France
“Progenitor” or “Foremother” is one of the most famous sculptures of the Lepenski Vir. Interestingly, almost an identical sculpture has been discovered in Capdenad le Haut, France. It dates to 3200-2800 BC, meaning that it is at least 3000 years younger. Still, the similarities are so striking that they did not go unnoticed by the scholars.
Unfortunately, this sculpture is not on display, but the Occitanie Musées have an image on their website, mentioning the Lepenski Vir connection on the same page.
Modern scholars nowadays suggest that the Balkans were one of the main stations for the Neolithic spread of agriculture, from the Middle East to Europe. Genetic samples taken from the younger layers of the Lepenski Vir seem to confirm this theory. The Danube river, on which Lepenski Vir site is located, was one of the main “highways” towards Northern Europe. Could this be a possible explanation of how these two figurines are connected?
The similarities between the sculpture are striking – a similar overall shape and the facial expression, the “V neck”, the stylized breasts, and the hands with three fingers are on each sculpture. However, the overall impression is that the French figurine looks like a lower quality copy of a much older original.
From Lepenski Vir to America
Now, besides the agricultural route, we could propose a few other theories on connections between these two ancient European cultures. But whatever we come up with would not be enough to explain the links with the indigenous cultures of America. And this is, as you will see, another important piece of this puzzle.
The indigenous culture of Taino nowadays dwells in the area of the Caribbean and Florida. At the time of European contact in the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage.
And while the French figurine is only a single exception, the Taino culture has dozens of them. It almost looks that the religious system of the Lepenski Vir is still alive over there. The examples are so numerous that I struggled with which one to choose. Here is one:
But there are many more. In the enlarged detail below you can see that the facial expression – the eyes, the nose, and the so-called “fish-mouth” by the Serbian archaeologists, is almost identical.
Here are some more examples:
The three-fingered hands
On one of the Taino images above you can see not only the similar hand position but also the “three-finger hand”. This is not the only example. The three-finger representations are very common in Taino art, in sculpture, as well as in tattoos and petroglyphs:
From Lepenski Vir to Africa
The similarities between the art of Mesolithic Balkans and indigenous America are mind-boggling and no agricultural spread theory will help us explain them. But this is not the end of the rabbit hole. It seems that the Ikom monoliths of Nigeria, Africa show the same symbolism.
Perhaps this is the solution? An older African origin, a common ancestor of both cultures? Well, not likely. These African monoliths seem to be an exception in African art, a specific cultural heritage of Nigeria, and the surrounding area. But most importantly, they are dated to 500-600 AD. (!)
Originally, there were only around 500 of these monoliths. Unfortunately, nowadays only around 250 remain. And almost all of them show similar symbolism to that of Lepenski Vir. Here are some more examples:
In the case of the “Foremother” of Lepenski Vir, it is not so easy to determine if she has male or female attributes (or both). Perhaps this was the intention of the artist. A similar ambiguity exists in Nigerian monoliths. Moreover, they quite often have “tears” pouring from their eyes. This could be an association with rain, fertility, and water. Perhaps this fact can give us a deeper insight into the universal symbolism of all these sculptures.
Similar figurines, with tears pouring from their eyes existed in the Neolithic Balkans. Here are two pictures from the archaeological museum in Sofia:
Behind the symbolism
The British museum page on the Ikom monoliths describes them as “phallus-shaped” with stylized human features, the main emphasis being the head. They also have linear geometric motifs, of unknown meaning. Locals call them Akwasnshi or Atal and usually place them in the center of the village, or a place where the elders gather. Most often, they are arranged in circles.
And as for their interpretation, the theories vary from places of sacrifice to meeting places, memorials of deceased or spirit worship. But most common associations are with the god of harvest and fertility, and the god of war. Each year, during the Yam festival the monoliths are being painted.
This last comment is particularly interesting, as even the figurines of Lepenski Vir contain the pigments of paint. They too, were painted at least once, but perhaps it was also during some yearly event?
Yam, an agricultural festival
As we just saw, the African monoliths were painted during the Yam festival. This festival marked the end of the rainy season, in early August. It was the end of harvest and as such shares many similarities with the Asian Mid-Autumn festival. Both festivals relate to harvest and are determined based on the lunar phases.
Now, this last sentence is an important piece of a puzzle. The lunar calendar is without the doubt the oldest and goes deep in prehistory. And the association with the rain and harvest can help us understand the main symbolism of these sculptures, at least in their role as the fertility gods and goddesses.
Until recently, the Autumn equinox happened in Virgo. This is why Virgo is represented as a woman with the shaft of grain. But around 12000 years ago, the autumn equinox happened in Pisces, on the opposite side of the zodiac circle. Is this the real reason for the fish-like mouth and scales of the Lepenski Vir sculptures?
The only problem is that there was no agricultural society back then in the Balkans… or was it?
The connections between these stone sculptures are evident and without a doubt extremely ancient. If we take the Lepenski Vir as a starting point, we see similar cultural traits in the north (France) on the south (Africa), and the west (America). But it is in fact in the east that we see the most of the similar stone sculptures. They are known as balbal or the Kurgan stelae. And even though they are deeply rooted all over Asia, dominating the steppe, but reaching as far as Korea, I did not include them in this article as they are not as strikingly similar as the examples we saw.
But in any case, it is not an overstatement to say that we are dealing with an ancient global culture. Its main traits are as follows:
The stone sculptures, with the primary focus on the head
Circular eyes, separated by a straight line, symbolizing the nose
A circular or elongated, fish mouth
Hands carved on the side of the body, often with three fingers only
Stylized breasts, genitalia, and tears in case of Africa – symbols of fertility
Ceremonial painting / anointment / sacrifice
In the case of African monoliths, we saw that the purpose may differ. They may be the representations of gods, but in other cases, they represent the ancestors. The same was probably true for all of these cultures. But in the case of the particular figurine from Lepenski Vir, the intuition of the archaeologist was probably spot on – the fertility was the main attribute.
But probably the most shocking part lies in the connections between these cultures. When and how could they happen? Or is it all just a coincidence? I don’t believe that it is. Take for example the sculpture from Vinca – a culture that came after the Lepenski Vir. Why does it look so much like the ancient sculpture from Panama? It rather seems that many chapters of our history simply need to be re-written.
Learn more on “Lepenski Vir” culture
If you would like to learn more about the Lepenski Vir culture, here are two affiliated links from Amazon. The first one comes directly from Mr. Dragoslav Srejovic, a leading archaeologist on the project. The second is more of a general, museum handbook.
Slavic pantheon knows many twin-deities. But the four most important couples are Yarilo–Yarila, Kostromo-Kostroma, Lado-Lada, and Kupalo-Kupala. In astronomical terms, these four couples relate to the solstices and equinoxes, or the four seasons of the year. We have already seen the connections between Yarilo and the spring equinox. The next couple, Kostromo and Kostroma relate to the summer solstice and the constellation of Gemini.
According to the Wikipedia article, the etymology of these names comes from костёр (kostyor), the Russian word for “bonfire”. The bonfire is made of shives – kostra in the Russian language.
Now, the Gemini constellation comes from Greek and Roman mythology, and famous brothers Castor and Pollux. Sometimes, both of them were called Castores. Etruscans knew them as Kastur and Pultuce. They were the patrons of sailors, and also great healers.
The name Castor apparently comes from the Greek “kastor” – the beaver. (?) But here is the rest of the explanation:
It has been assumed that the hero’s name was given to the animal because Castor was a noted healer and the odorous reddish-brown secretions of the animal (Latin castoreum), were used medicinally in ancient times. But the animal did not live in Greece in classical times (the closest beavers were north of the Black Sea), and the name probably was borrowed from another language, perhaps influenced by the hero’s name.
Borrowed from the hero’s name that belongs to another language? Black sea? Hm… Anyhow, let us now see what is the connection between the Slavic Kostroma twins and the Gemini constellation.
First of all, the date of the celebration. It falls around the 29th of June or the Christian Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This date is just a week off from the current summer solstice (the 21st of June). But even more importantly, these two saints are in fact the same astrological myth in disguise. They represent the Gemini constellation, and Paul, Apollo is the same as Pollux.
In Slavic rites, jumping over the bonfires symbolized purification and cleansing from bad energies and disease. In an astronomical sense, the fire represents the Sun, which is at its highest point on the horizon. Slavs believed the sunrise of this day is special, as the Sun will dance and change colors.
Also, a village maiden representing the deity would be ritually bathed in a stream and then worshipped for an evening of feasting and dancing. In some cases, the maiden was substituted by a doll made of straw (kostra) who would then be ritually drowned. The celebrations of Kostroma are tightly related to Rusalka and Mavka, Slavic versions of water nymphs.
And finally, the rites were not only related to people. On the eve before this day Serbs make the special smudge sticks, known as lile. They are usually made from the birch or cherry tree. People gather around the large bonfire and take some of the flames. Then they wield them around, saying: “Wherever the lila goes, the cattle will follow”.
In short, all of these motifs clearly relate to the summer solstice in Gemini. The large bonfire represents the Sun. Kostroma twins are the Gemini. The association with the cattle comes from the Taurus, the previous constellation. And the association with the river and nymphs from the Milky Way, in which the Gemini twins are “standing”.
In fact, the Milky Way is probably one of the main reasons for their name. It is seen as “straw” in Slavic mythology. In Christian symbology too, Jesus was born in the hay, with the three wise men (Orion’s belt) and the bull (Taurus) surrounding him. However, this imagery does not relate to the solstice, it is a memory of an ancient image of the spring equinox in Taurus.
Based on all the evidence presented so far it is clear not only that the Kostroma twins represent Gemini, but also that the Greco-Roman name Castor probably comes from the Slavic etymology.
Kresnik and Trot – Slovenian version of Gemini
Slavic nations consist of numerous tribes and therefore the Slavic mythology is not unified. It is equally complex as that of Ancient Greece, or Egypt, although by far less studied, even by Slavs themselves.
Slavs around the Alps, nowadays mainly Slovenians, have their own divine twins. They are Kresnik and Trot. The highlighted Wikipedia article states:
Kresnik (Kersnik and Krsnik) is a Slavic god associated with fire, the summer solstice, and storms. His mythical home, a sacred mountain at the top of the world, represents the axis Mundi. The name of Kresnik has no clear etymology. Possible connections with Russian Khors and Indian Krishna. Perhaps a cognate with the Iranian *krs-/kars-, and Slavic *krst- »cross«. It could also come from Balto-Slavic: festival of Kresze is known among Balts and an old Slavic word *krěsδ has the meaning of »fire«.
Kresnik is described as having golden hair and golden hands or arms. He was born either with horse earlaps, horse hooves, or a birthmark shaped like hooves, and he frequently is said to be able to take the form of a horse. Castor and Pollux are usually associated with horses. Also, just like in the case of Kostroma, the bonfires are lit with the same idea of cleansing.
The Wikipedia article tries to connect Kresnik with several other deities of the Slavic pantheon but without success. It seems that the connection with the Gemini constellation has not been established by the scholars, so I decided to share it here. It seems pretty obvious?
Also, Kreshnik’s connections with Vedic Krishna are extremely interesting. We will get back to that a bit later.
Veles – Hydra (and Cancer)
Veles was a Slavic chthonic god shaped like a dragon or a giant snake. He ruled the earth, water, and the underworld. His attributes are wet, wooly, hairy (bearded), dark, He is associated with cattle, the harvest, wealth, music, magic, and trickery. His cult is recorded in all Slavic nations and numerous toponyms testify of his importance.
The etymology of its name is hard to determine, as there is more than one logical choice. Firstly, it could relate to the Proto-Indo-European root *welg- also meaning “humid, wet”. As Wikipedia states – nothing is more connected with Veles than humidity and wetness. Secondly, it could relate to cattle, “вол/vol/wół” in Slavic languages. His cult was closely related to cattle.
And finally, scholars have already noticed the similarity with the Vedic god Vala. Apparently, this Sanskrit word means “enclosure”, as Vala is blocking the access to water. Indra has to slay him to release “the seven rivers”. Rigveda mentions him 23 times. In most of these cases, he is also associated with cows. “Lord of the thunder (Indra), thou didst burst the cave of Vala, rich in cows.” R.V. 1.11.5
Numerous Indo-European myths share this theme. However, in the case of the Hercules myth, we can clearly see that Veles can be identified with Hydra. Hydra is a seven-headed snake (dragon) whose name means “water”. In ancient myths, it usually took place of the far insignificant Cancer constellation. Perhaps these two constellations should be joined together, with the stars of Cancer representing the rest of the Hydra’s heads.
The association of this cosmic snake with the water is due to its proximity to the Milky Way.
Simargl – Leo constellation
Simargl (Semargl) is a winged lion (or dog) deity of East Slavic mythology. His wife is the goddess of night Kupalnitsa, his children Kupalo and Kostroma. Simargl is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor. If he breaks free, the world will end. Simargl is also the father of Skif and the founder of Cythia. It may be the equivalent of Simurgh in Persian mythology, a griffin with a dog body.
It is quite obvious that Simargl, the winged lion, relates to the constellation of Leo. The fact that it is chained to the constellation Ursa Minor only confirms this notion. However, I haven’t seen even a Russian text that makes such a connection. Scholars most commonly relate Simargl to Persian Simurgh. But this is a false etymology, an error caused by the similar-sounding names. The Persian Simurgh is clearly a bird.
Russian Wikipedia on Simargl mentions an interesting fact. The name Simargl was first mentioned in Nestor’s chronicles of the XII century. However, another XIV century text on Slavic paganism states: “They believe in Sima and Ergla” ( «веруют… и в Сима и в Рьгла (Ерьгла)» ) Russian scholar, А. С. Фаминцын assumed that Cyrylic letters «ь» and «г» were wrongly copied instead of the original “ы” letter. Therefore, the text should state: “They believe in Sima and Erila”. Here, Erilo would be none other than the spring god Yarilo – a theory which I also find extremely plausible.
However, this same scholar explained the word Sim as a Sabynian word for “genie”, “half-god”. I don’t agree with this view. In my opinion, this word is related to Sanskrit “siṃhá” and means simply “the lion”. (also the name of Leo constellation in Sanskrit)
By the way, the Sanskrit word is a softened version of “siṅgh”, still present in Hindi. Singidunum, the most ancient name of Belgrade, Serbia probably meant “lion-hill”, and Singidava was an important city of Dacia, modern-day Romania.
Lada – Virgo
The goddess Lada and her counterpart Lado are another important set of twin deities in Slavic mythology. They were gods of fertility, planting/harvesting/grain, beauty, and weddings. From Wikipedia:
By the eighteenth century, Lada assumed the role of a mother goddess, with Lado (Dido or Dida) as her son or consort. Boris Rybakov proposed that Lada, spring goddess, was a Slavic version of the Greek Leto. David Leeming writes that Lada, like Iarilo, is a dying-and-rising deity. Serbs call her ‘Fiery Mary’, and consider her the sister of Elijah the Thunderer, that is the Slavic thunder god Perun.
Now, all of these concepts clearly relate to the Virgo constellation. Virgo is a goddess of beauty, a mother goddess. She holds the shaft of grain in her hands, as the rising of the Virgo constellation marked the harvest season.”Dying and rising” obviously relates to the constellation’s appearance on the night sky. Virgo’s counterpart in Christianity is the Virgin Mary. And just like Virgin Mary conceived by the holy spirit, the Greek Leto had conceived by Zeus, in the form of a swan.
The etymological similarities between Slavic Lada and Ancient Greek Leto are obvious, and we need to ask ourselves how could they happen.
The constellation Virgo lies directly opposite to Orion and Taurus. When the Sun is in Taurus, Virgo dominates the night sky, when the Sun is in Virgo, the opposite happens. This is why Serbs saw Virgo as the sister of Perun (Orion). This is also why Lada is sometimes seen as the spring goddess, although her season is actually the autumn harvest.
But there is more:
The seventeenth-century text names Lada as the mother of Lel and Polel, the Slavic equivalent of the twin brothers Castor and Pollux, and the sons of Greek Leda. In Polish myth, the twin brothers are Zizilia and Didilia, also associated with love and fertility.
Here again, we see the clear identification between Lada and Leto. But we also see something much more interesting. I identified the Gemini constellation as the Slavic god Kreshnik, whom some scholars relate to Krishna based on similar-sounding names. In Hinduism, Krishna’s counterpart is Radha. The name Radha sounds like the original name of Lada, before the rhotacism change, from R to L sound.
And while the Slavic etymology of Lada is uncertain, the Sanskrit term Rādhā (Sanskrit: राधा) means “prosperity, success” – an appropriate name for the goddess of harvest and weddings.
Now, the connection between Krishna and Kreshnik alone may sound dubious. But adding the Radha – Lada connection leaves no doubt that the Slavic pantheon is closely related to the Vedic / Hindu one. In the following image from Slavic folklore, we see the goddess Lada shielding her twins, Kostroma/Kreshnik. And just like Krishna in Hindu art, one of them is playing the flute.
Sud and Sudenicy – Libra
Sud means “Judge”. His consort (or daughter) is Sudenica – “She who Judges”. She is a triple goddess who determines the fate of men at their birth.
From the astrological aspect, the idea of “judge” inlines perfectly with the symbol of the scales of the Libra. Across Libra, lies the Orion constellation, whose belt has the three prominent stars. These are the three Sudenicy who determine the fate of men at birth. In Christian symbolic, they are the three wise men.
This idea of a “Judge”, represented by Libra, is closely related to the Slavic idea of “justice” – Pravda. Both Slavic and English words are related to the “just” – even scales. Hence, the heavenly world and the cosmic law of Slavs is Prav.
Triglav – Scorpio
Triglav literally means “three-headed”. Not much is known about him, although numerous toponyms, such as mount Triglav in Slovenia confirm that he was worshiped. Scholars usually assume that he was a fusion of three major Slavic gods, or that he represented the three main realms: the world of the living, dead, and the cosmic order: Prav, Yav, and Nav.
However, I have a different opinion. Triglav is sometimes represented as a man with three goat heads. According to my previous research, the constellation of Scorpio, with its three most prominent stars, and the Lupus (the wolf) constellation bellow, was often seen as a three-headed animal. This is especially valid for those nations that did not have scorpions in their Inhabitat.
Here is an image from my other article. The best-known representation of a three-headed animal is the Cerberus, the guardian of the underworld, or the darker half of the year. He is the same as Egyptian Toth, who holds the scales of justice. (Libra). By this analogy, Triglav could be a Slavic equivalent of the Egyptian god Toth. Moreover, the three-goat heads of Triglav match perfectly with the “griffin” image of the Harrapan civilization.
And to put it in a clearer perspective:
Svetovid – Capricorn
The name Svetovid is a compound, made out of the words “vid” – to see, to know, and “svet” which could mean both “world” and “bright, holy”. In South Slavic countries he was known simply as Vid. He was the protector of the knights (vitez), and became St. Vitus with Christianity.
Svetovid is a god of war and divination with two heads looking forward and two back. Sometimes each one looks in a separate direction, as the four directions of the compass, and also perhaps the four seasons of the year. He holds a horn of abundance, filled with fresh mead each year by his priests.
The two pairs of heads, looking forward and back, remind of the Roman god Janus who had two heads looking left and right. But even in the case of the four directions, relating to the four seasons, the symbolism is the same. It relates to the winter solstice, between December and January, or Capricorn and Aquarius in astronomical terms.
The symbol of the “horn of plenty” clearly relates to the horns of the Capricorn. Namely, I have already shown in a previous article that one of the labors of Heracles, relates to the same constellation. Here is that image again.
The symbolism is the same. The “refilling” of the horn of plenty just reinforces the notion that we are dealing with the New Year cycle. In fact, taking into consideration the mead, the feasting and the horn of plenty symbolic, the name of Radegast and hospitality seems more appropriate here. Perhaps the myths have changed with time, adapting to the new astronomical cycles.
Vid was especially revered amongst Serbs, as the most epic battle in Serbian history, the battle of Kosovo, took place on his day. This date is the 28th of June or six months before the winter solstice. As in June, the Sun stays in the Leo constellation, the Capricornus dominates the night sky.
Kupala – Aquarius
God of the summer solstice, joy, and water. On Kupala Night there are rituals of purification through water and fire. The name Kupala / Kupalo comes from the verb kupati, “to bath”. The cult was Christianised as that of John the Baptist.
The new Sun is “born” on the winter solstice, as that is the shortest day of the year. Days become longer after that, and the Sun is reborn or “resurrected”. As Aquarius is the first constellation after the winter solstice, it is not surprising that it matches perfectly the Christian symbolics of baptism. But when Sun is in Aquarius, this constellation is invisible, as it travels across the sky during the daytime. It is best seen during the summer solstice when Sun is on the opposite side. Hence, Kupala is a summer solstice celebration.
Wrapping it up
There are many challenges in reconstructing the original Slavic pantheon.
First, just like in any other large nation, there were numerous tribes, sharing common ideas, but also developing their own, unique local deities. Take for example Greek mythology. The Sun’s travel through constellations is described through numerous myths. For example, the labors of Heracles, Jason’s voyage, the twelve Olympians, the stories of Theseus and Dyonisus, and probably even the Illyiad and Oddisee…
Although all of the gods listed here are Slavic, that does not mean that there are no other versions of the same gods, who would fit the story equally well. I have used only the best-known ones to prove a point.
The second challenge is the fact that the stars are moving, and the myths were being adjusted accordingly. The first task is to understand the meaning of the symbols and the second to sort them according to their time periods.
And the third challenge is that so much knowledge has been lost to time. Christianity had played an important role in this process, even though many pagan gods were demoted to saints and apostles, to fit the new narrative. And reading modern scholars can often be more confusing than productive as they too often neglect the astronomical aspects, making absurd connections between different gods.
However, I think that the point is proven. The Slavic pantheon belongs to the same language of the myth that existed all over the Indo-European areal. And it is also one of the oldest, numerous connections with Vedic culture prove that. No other European culture can compare to that.
And finally, not all of the deities were connected to the stars. We will deal with them in some of the future articles.
Imagine that some man-made or a natural calamity had wiped out a large part of the human population. The remaining survivors were pushed back to the stone age. In a couple of generations, most of the memories of the “golden age” have already faded. After many centuries, new civilizations develop, and one such civilization discovers the painted walls of a Christian church. In marvel, they look at all those frescos representing different saints and angels. And they unmistakably conclude that this religion was polytheistic.
Sounds ridiculous, right? And yet, this is precisely the view that we have of the ancient religions.
Polytheism, or monotheism in disguise
The Vedic religion is probably the oldest religion that we know of. And already there, we see a clear definition of one God (with triple manifestation). And even though modern Hindusim probably has the largest number of deities known to men, this notion of one God behind all of them has never been forgotten.
Indeed, in Indo-European languages, the words for gods, “devas” in Sanskrit, and “deux” in Latin, are related to the number two. They imply dualism – an eternal battle between the opposites, of the lower realms than that unimaginable root where everything is one. And all Indo-European nations constructed their pantheons around this “lower” heaven – the realm of stars, constellations, planets, and Sun. Around the battle of good and evil, life and death, day and night.
Now, I am not implying that all ancient people were aware of this fact. In fact, it is quite likely that most of the ordinary people weren’t. They surely did not have access to the information that we have today. And their shorter life spans were occupied by the basic needs for survival. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine how these philosophical concepts were degraded to the level of superstition.
But what I am implying is that there were always those who knew. And the druids involved in the creation of the Slavic pantheon were not an exception.
Svarog – the sky god
The ancients understood that anything that moves is affected by time, and therefore not permanent. And the only immovable point in the sky was the Polar star. Hence, it was seen as the gateway to the absolute. In all Indo-European myths, the polar star was the peak of the cosmic mountain or the world tree.
The name of the Slavic god Svarog is related to the Sanskrit svarga, meaning “heaven”. His main symbol was made of two intertwined Swastikas. According to some modern theories, the shape of Swastika comes from the movement of the Ursa Minor constellation, where the Star Polars is located. The four different positions mark the four seasons and the passage of time. In this light, the swastika is an appropriate symbol for the god of heaven.
Modern scholars, however, do not consider Svarog as the chief god of Slavic pantheon, and he certainly wasn’t the Creator god. A 15th-century manuscript identifies him with Hephaestus. Hephaestus was a lame blacksmith god of Greek mythology. But besides this manuscript, no other parallels exist between Svarog and the blacksmiths. However, Wikipedia on Haphestus states: “In some myths, Hephaestus built himself a “wheeled chair” or chariot with which to move around, thus helping him overcome his lameness.” One must remember that Ursa Minor is often seen as a chariot in ancient mythology.
The twelve gods of the Slavic pantheon
Another commonplace in Indo-European mythology is the importance of number twelve. Many ancient nations had mythical twelve tribes, with Hebrews being the best-known example. The Greek pantheon had twelve Olympians, there were 12 labors of Heracles, and even Jesus had twelve apostles. Of course, number twelve primarily relates to the zodiac and twelve months of the year.
Applying the same principle on the Slavic pantheon, I came to some interesting conclusions. It is a unique and fresh view of the Slavic pagan pantheon. But before we get to the twelve minor deities, we must define the main protagonist that connects them all – the Sun.
Rod – Koleda – Sun
Due to the lack of written records, very little is known of the old Slavic pantheon. But Rod was, without doubt, one of the most important deities. In Slavic languages, the root “rod” appears in many words. Such examples are: “roditi”, to give birth, “roditelj”, parent, “porodica”, family, and perhaps even “priroda”, nature. But the scholars are still debating this etymology. Wikipedia adds:
Early sky-god of the Slavs was *Deiwos or *Div, later replaced by Rod. “Deiwos” is the same as PIE Dyeus, Sanskrit Deva, Latin Deus, Greek Zeus, Old High German Tiwaz…
In any case, based on the little evidence that we have, we can deduct that Rod was indeed one of the most important gods of Slavs. He was related to life, nature, harvest, and sky.
There are not many images of Rod, and the most popular one comes from the “L’Antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures”, by Bernard de Montfaucon, 1722. Here, he was depicted as a man, standing on a fish, with the wheel in his hand. His name states “Chrodo”, which is another variant of his name.
Now, as someone who does a lot of research on the relationship between astronomy and Indo-European mythology, I immediately noticed something very interesting in this image. This is a nice representation of the Sun in Pisces. The fish, of course, stands for Pisces, while the wheel could symbolize the Sun.
Indeed, for the past two millennia, the beginning of the year, or spring equinox, started with the Sun in Pisces.
As Pisces constellation is just one of the twelve zodiac signs, this made me think that Rod is in fact related to Sun, and represented here by a wheel. And indeed, one of the most common Indo-European words for the wheel is *Hróth₂os. (Celtic and Greek *rotos, Britonic *rodd)
Now, Hrothos and Chrodo do sound very close, don’t they? Also, many Indo-European myths really do connect the Sun with the wheel or a chariot. But there is much, much more…
As we saw in the examples above, this word for wheel sounds Germanic above all. The true Slavic cognate was “kolo“. It means: “a circular object, a wheel, a chariot”
And this is particularly important because Koleda (Koliada) was a Slavic pagan equivalent of Christmas, the birth of the new Sun. There is not enough space in this article to go into more detail, but you can refer to the highlighted Wikipedia article. Moreover, there is a Slavic Deity Koliada, which clearly symbolized the new-born Sun. And finally, kolo is an archaic circular dance of the South Slavs. Its original meaning was probably to imitate the rotation of the zodiac.
Therefore, I present you with a unique and fresh perspective: Rod is a northern variant of the original name Koliada, kolo, referring to the Sun “wheel”. The association with “birth” could have been a later folk etymology, but also in line with the main purpose of the Solar deity.
Rodzanica (Rozanica) – Moon
The god Rod had a female counterpart known as Rodzanica. She is described as “young lady”, “beautiful lady” and “old lady” (baba). Based on these epithets scholars see her as an aspect of a triple goddess of birth and fate. However, in the light of the above identification with Rod with the Sun, she could easily be the Moon goddess. The different epithets could, therefore, reflect the different phases of the Moon.
Morana (Marzanna) – Pisces
There are two reasons to start the circle of the zodiac with the Pisces. Firstly, because as I already mentioned, for the past 2000 years, the spring equinox was in Pisces. And the spring equinox marked the beginning of the New Year to the ancients. Secondly, because upon seeing the above image of Rod, I realized the connection between Morana and the Pisces.
Namely, the large fish that Rod is standing on, looks like Beluga (sturgeon), or Moruna in the language of South Slavs. Reaching the size of more than seven meters, it is the largest freshwater fish in the world. Beluga can live in both, fresh and salty water. The Black Sea beluga lives on the sea bed but goes into to fresh Danube river to spawn. The main spawning place and Beluga’s last stop on the Danube is next to the Iron Gate, modern-day Serbia. The famous Mesolithic civilization of Lepenski Vir was located there, and there indications that this fish had played an important role in their diet and their beliefs.
Now, Beluga has two spawning periods, one in spring and one in autumn. They are perfectly inlined with the appearance of Pisces in the sky. In March, Sun rises in Pisces. Six months later, the Sun rises on the other side of the zodiac, making the Pisces visible on the night sky. Moreover, the constellation that comes before Pisces is Aquarius. This could represent the sea from which they came, while the two-fish symbol of the Pisces could relate to their spawning cycle. Therefore, Beluga is really a perfect fish to represent this constellation.
As for the Slavic goddess Morana, traditional etymologies relate her name to the words signifying “death” or “water”. But in South Slavic languages, the linguistic similarity between Moruna, the fish, and Morana, the goddess is quite obvious. And there is more. According to Wikipedia:
Marzanna is associated with the idea of death and rebirth of nature. In Slavic rites, the death of the Goddess Marzanna at the end winter becomes the rebirth of spring…
And a bit later, a description of the rite of “drowning” the figure of Marzanna:
…a figure of a woman made from rags and clothes is thrown into a river on the first day of the spring. On the way to the river, she is dipped into every puddle and pond …
From what we see, it is clear that the Slavic goddess represents the last month of the winter and the first day of the spring. And the constellation of Pisces relates to the months of February and March. Moreover, the connection to the rivers and the bodies of water is quite evident. The Marzanna doll is sometimes burned instead of drowned (or both). The fire could represent the passage of the Sun through the zodiac. When we add the similarity of the names on top of that, I believe that the connection between Morana / Moruna (Beluga) and Pisces becomes quite evident.
Jarilo (Yarilo) – Aries
For the last two millennia, the spring equinox happens in Pisces. But for the two millennia before that, it was the Aries marked the beginning of spring. Indeed, all Slavic traditions connect Jarilo to the beginning of spring. And just like in the case of Morana, the straw figurines are made. From Wikipedia:
A male doll made of straw, adorned with green branches, or a girl dressed like a man, riding on a horse. Songs were sung and their subject was Juraj/Jarilo’s return from a distant land across the sea, the return of spring into the world…
Obviously this is a very ancient tradition but still celebrated today, together with the more appropriate Morana rites. However, the link to the constellation has never been truly forgotten. Namely, even though the rites are related to spring, they usually happen in early May. This is roughly where the Aries constellation is now.
As a spring god, mounted on a horse, Jarilo was a god of vegetation and fertility, but also a god of war. Throughout history, spring has been the most preferred time to start campaigns, and even more so in the case of nomadic, horse-riding nations.
The name Jarilo can be etymologically connected to the constellation Aries together with Ares, the Greek god of war. Another connection comes from the word “jar” (yar) – heat, summer. But as the year began in spring, the Germanic “Jahr” and “Year” are also possible connections, as well as the medieval title “earl”, warlord.
The cult of the horse riding Jarilo is closely related to Thracian Heros, and together, they influenced the Christian tradition of Saint George. The iconography is virtually identical in all cases and relates to astronomy. But their roots definitely come from the Sarmatian steppes.
The image of Jarilo is the first one that I have discovered in the stars and to this day one of my favorites. In short, the constellation Perseus represents Jarilo, with his spear facing Coetus constellation – the dragon of Babylonian mythology. Aries constellation is in between, representing the front part of the horse.
Obviously, the name Yarilo is the oldest form of this hero. Softened “Y” sound gave Thracian Heros (Egyptian Horus), Greek Ares, and finally, English “hero”.
Perun – Orion (and Taurus)
Most of the scholars consider Perun as one of the most important gods of Slavic pantheon. In the 6th century, an Eastern Roman historian Procopius described the beliefs of a certain South Slavic tribe as follows:
“They acknowledge that one god, creator of lightning, is the only lord of all: to him do they sacrifice an ox and all sacrificial animals”.
Modern scholars agree that he was the god of the sky, thunder, lightning, storms, rain, law, war, fertility and oak trees. His weapons are bow and arrow, a hammer and the Perun’s axe. As you can see in the highlighted article, this ax is a direct counterpart to Thor’s Mjölnir. However, the Slavic myth must be older, as even the Wiktionary lists this etymology as Slavic, from molnya – lighting. In Nordic languages, this word has no meaning. In ancient art these axes are identical.
As for the etymology of the name Perun, Wikipedia states:
Perun is the near-identical of Perkūnas from Baltic mythology, suggesting either a common derivative. The root *perkwu probably meant oak, but in Proto-Slavic this evolved into per- meaning “to strike, to slay”. The Lithuanian word “Perkūnas” means both “thunder” and the name of the thunder god.
However, I am pretty sure that this etymology is incorrect. Slavic Perun is directly related to Vedic Parjanya, another god of thunder, rain, and lightning. And just like Perun, Parjanya is associated with oxen. And finally, Wikipedia article on Parjanya gives us the true etymology. It means “rain/raincloud” in Vedic Sanskrit.
The description of Parjana fits perfectly that of Perun:
It is a Vedic deity of rain, thunder, lightning, and fertility. The Atharvanic poet claims Parjanya and Prithvi, father and mother of all beings. His other wives are Bhūmi and the sacred cow Vasa. It is assumed Parjanya is the udder and lightning is the teats of the rain-cow, the rain representing her milk. He is sometimes seen as a rain-bull of the superior god Indra. The thunder is his roar.
And a Vedic chant describes him in a quite Dyonisian fashion:
Sing with these songs thy welcome to the Mighty, with adoration praise and call Parjanya. The Bull, loud roaring, swift to send his lays in the plants the seed for germination.
Moreover, Perun had a wife Perperuna. She was a goddess of rain, often identified with other Slavic rain goddesses, such as Dodola.
Now, in Indo-European mythology, the constellations of Orion, the hunter, and Taurus the bull are always closely related. Such examples are many and I will surely forget some. For example, Shiva and Nandi, Ymir and Auðumbla, Zeus and his white bull, or Hurrian storm Teshub, standing on a bull, holding an ax and lightning. On the side note, the Hattic counterpart of Teshub was god Tari, whose other names were Tarhun / Tarhunt / Tarhuwant/ Tarhunta. Scandinavian Thor is his direct descendent.
In all these cases, the association with bulls, rain, thunder, and lightning comes from astronomy. The bull is, of course, the Taurus constellation, while the storm god with his raised hand, holding a hammer, ax or a bow, is nothing but the representation of Orion.
Indeed, the Wikipedia article on Perun mentions an old Serbian folk song from Montenegro:
“…He grabbed three golden apples and threw them high into the sky… …Three lightning bolts burst from the sky…
Taking the poem literally, they explain that these “apples” are a poetic way to describe lightning. However, in the light of what we have seen here, I believe that these apples relate to the three prominent stars of Orion’s belt.
Now, the reason that Orion and bull are related to rain, lightning, and fertility is the same as in the case of the two previous constellations. They date to the time when spring equinox was in Taurus when the appearance of Orion marked the rainy seasons of spring and autumn. The best time to see these constellations is during the winter. They disappear in spring and reappear in autumn. As their disappearance and reappearance relate to the stormy season, it is not hard to imagine how the ancients created the myth.
Orion is also one of the largest constellations in the sky, and one of a few that has a human form. It is not an overstatement to say that it was one of the most important sky-images in Indo-European mythology. This fact explains the significance of Slavic Perun, but that fact alone still does not make him a “chief” god, or a Creator.
In fact, the Indo-European Orion myths show him in a “hero on a quest” role, sometimes a tragic hero, a quite often as the guide of the souls. Namely, the Milky Way usually represents the river or a bridge that carries the souls to the underworld. And Orion “stands” next to the Milky Way.
Unfortunately, Slavic scholars seem completely oblivious to these connections. But we can see the clear image of Orion – Perun, even on the medieval tombstones of the Balkans (Stecak)
The bull worship cults are Neolithic, and the proofs for this claim lie both in astronomy and archaeology. This was one of the most important periods of human history, so it is not surprising that some of the main symbols remained encoded to this day.
The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish is one of the oldest creation myth that we know of. In the beginning, there was no earth and sky. There was only a void, in which Apsu, freshwater, and Tiamat, the primordial ocean had “mingled” their waters. At first glance, this Babylonian description of the 2nd millennium BC does not seem very far off from what the modern science labels as the Primordial soup of elements. But there is more…
Myths of the Cosmic Ocean
Numerous ancient cultures began their creation stories with the “cosmic ocean“. The idea is extremely ancient and it exists in all corners of the world. And the most popular version comes from the Book of Genesis 1:2. There was no earth, just darkness… “and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.”
It seems that even Orpheus had a similar idea as that of Enuma Elish. There was something in this “cosmic water” that was able to solidify and create the first earth. In Theogonies, Fragment 54, from the 3rd century BC we read:
“Originally there was water and mud, from which the earth solidified: These are the first principles, Hydros and Ge…”
Hydros and Ge? By the bizarre coincidence, these two words together sound like hydrogen, the first element of the periodic system.
Hydrogen and the primordial waters
Of course, the word “hydrogen” does not mean “water-earth” but rather “the creator of water”. The second part, “gen”, relates to the word “genesis” – to create, to give birth”. Hydrogen got this name because it is a gas, not a liquid, but it produces water when burned.
Due to its simple structure, (one proton and one electron), it is the first and the lightest element in the periodic table. It is also the most abundant chemical substance in the Universe, constituting roughly 75% of all baryonic mass. By the way, this amount of hydrogen in the universe is similar to the proportion of the water on our planet, as well as water in our bodies. From this perspective, the ancients were not wrong when they proposed water as the first principle.
Modern science claims that hydrogen dates literally to the dawn of time – it was there before anything else in the universe. After the “Big bang” Hydrogen moved through space in the shape of warm, foggy clouds. Again, one cannot help but think of the Genesis verse: “…and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters…”
Let there be Helium
Another commonplace in the ancient creation myths is the separation of light and darkness. Enuma Elish does not directly imply this connection, but the “mingling” of the water (sometimes represented as dragons) does remind on the image of Yin and Yang.
The book of Genesis, however, gives us a clear idea. We already saw the verses one and two. The next two verses go as follows:
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light…and God divided the light from the darkness.”
Interestingly, the second element of the periodic system of elements is Helium. Its name comes from the Greek word Helios, meaning Sun and light.
The mingling of the water, or nuclear fusion for dummies
The first atoms of helium were formed already in the Big Bang. But it is still produced by the stars, in the process of nuclear fusion. Our Sun is one of those stars.
In short, the gravitational force is moving the atoms of hydrogen. As these atoms are being drawn closer to the gravitational point, they begin to collide. These collisions create heat. The atoms become unstable and start losing their electrons. In the end, the accumulated heat leads to fusion, in which two hydrogen cores join into one core of Helium.
This process is known as nuclear fusion (nucleus = core). The mass of the new core of helium is smaller than the mass of two individual cores of hydrogen before the fusion. The remaining mass is released in the form of energy and light.
This is how the stars are made. Their size depends on the gravitational force as the stronger force will attract more of the Hydrogen gas. And then as a consequence create more light.
Now, this was a scientific explanation, but we have to admit that it sounds eerily similar to the stories of the mingling “water” that will result in the creation of light?
The world egg, or the primeval matter
Another commonplace in the ancient mythologies is the motif of the world egg. There are already numerous examples in the highlighted Wikipedia article, so we will only name a few. A 5th century BC work, Birds, by Aristophanes, states:
In the beginning, there was only Khaos… Firstly, black-winged Nyx (Night) laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebos (Darkness), and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings.”
Once again, we see something that sounds almost like a poetic depiction of nuclear fusion. In the dark, chaotic space, the Hydrogen atoms started to collide producing stars and light.
We see a similar idea in Ancient China, Egypt, Scandinavia, and numerous other places. In fact, this tradition is still alive in some of the Orthodox Christian Easter traditions. However, one of the oldest mentions certainly comes from Vedas. (see Hiranyagarbha). The main principle is always the same: there were darkness and chaos through which the primordial egg floated. Then, the egg broke, and its pieces created the universe.
Now, besides being the perfect description of the first Hydrogen atoms floating through the chaotic universe, the egg is also a perfect symbol of galaxies, the Earth’s layers, and finally the fertilized egg from which we all came from. We must pause here, and give credit to the wise men of the old, as there could have hardly been a more perfect symbol for the beginning of creation, in both macro and microcosmos. But of course, the atoms, the shape of the galaxies, the Earth’s structure and the process of conception – all of these things were supposed to be unknown to them.
The myth of the world egg was quite popular in the scientific circles of the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, it gave birth to the theory of the Big Bang and the ever-expanding universe. Albert Einstein was one of the supporters of this theory.
The cosmic serpent and the world tree – starting the motion
We cannot speak of the common archetypes of ancient stories without mentioning the serpent and the world tree. Sometimes, these two symbols have their separate stories, but often they belong to the same narrative, as in the case of the Vedic “Churning of the ocean of milk“.
In the briefest of explanation, the story goes as follows: The Devas (gods) and the Asuras (demons) tied the gigantic snake Vasuki around the mount Mandara, and used it as a churning rod. By pulling the snake back and fort they churned the ocean of Milk, producing the nectar of immortality. In the process, they created numerous other things.
The story of the ocean of milk is a cosmological creation myth in disguise, although most of the symbols are quite obvious. The devas and the asuras represent days and nights. The snake is the constellation Draco, located in the vicinity of the polar star. The polar star, or the point around which the night skies rotate, is the top of the Mount Mandara. And the “milk” is obviously the Milky Way. The churning results in the creation of stars, planets, and constellations.
If we go back to Enuma Elish, we see a similar notion of the “churning” or “mingling”. Also, the snake or dragon-like deities are the first to emerge. In other Indo-European myths, the snake is sometimes wrapped around the egg or a tree. In the west, we see it every Christmas in the form of a long ribbon, wrapped around the Christmas tree, with the Polaris star on top.
As I mentioned, in ancient art the snake is sometimes wrapped around the egg instead of the mountain or a tree. And once again, with the knowledge that we have today, we see that there could have hardly been a better symbol than the serpent. Not only because of the obvious connections with the Draco constellation, in terms of the macro cosmos. Even in the microcosmos, the egg is fertilized by the snake-like spermatozoids. And the latest theories of quantum physics state that in the essence of all matter are vibrating “strings”. There is nothing truly “firm” around us. Everything is a product of vibration of the countless snake-like energies.
DNA, Kundalini and the Caduceus of Hermes
The story of the snake symbolic would not be complete without the Caduceus of Hermes and its similarity with the DNA helix. Of course, it would be very easy to label these similarities as a pure coincidence, especially for those who consider themselves men of science. However, we must not forget that the DNA helix discovery was a result of an LSD experience. Could it be possible that the ancients had their own ways of reaching the same place?
The cosmic spindle
Another common motif of the origins myths is the spindle and the weaving goddess. During the middle ages, it was a common belief of Christian tradition that Eve was spinning. Ariadne, the wife of the god Dionysus, possessed the spun thread that led Theseus to the center of the labyrinth and safely out again. The weaving was often related to destiny, and among the numerous other goddesses of weaving, we can list the Slavic Mokosh, Norse Frigg, Greek Penelope, Athena, Arachne, and many, many others. (look here for more examples) The Greek Arachne was connected with spiders, and the list grows even longer if we add some of the spider-goddesses from even more primitive folklore, with the same function.
In short, like most of the ancient crafts, weaving has been a magical process. It is hard to say what drove our ancestors to such a conclusion, but as it is clearly related to the myths of creation, we can perhaps assume that the logic is similar to the one described above. The spindle represented the invisible axes that set in motion our universe. In this light, this is a truly appropriate symbol, especially when we see our universe from afar.
The word of God
The book of John 1:1, states:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The word “universe” means one-verse or one word. Indeed, most of the ancient myths begin the creation with the voice of the creator. Enuma Elish starts: ” When on high the heaven had not been named…”. The god of Genesis follows the same path. Moreover, the Kabalistic tradition considers the name of the creator, YHVH as this all-powerful word. (see Tetragrammaton). In ancient Greece, this word was Logos, while in the Vedic tradition it is the sound of the mantra OM.
In short, these are just some of the ancient traditions that believe that the universe was created with one word. That word made a sound that set the whole universe in motion, and consequently, in existence.
This ancient idea is once again in unity with modern science. This time we are dealing with physics. Namely, Sonoluminescence is a phenomenon discovered relatively recently. Scientists have discovered that the water bubbles can emit small bursts of light when stimulated by sound. In short, the sound creates the motion, which causes the bubbles to implode. The movement results in heat and light.
This discovery is once again eerily similar to the ancient myths. In them, we saw how the word of the creator makes the light, out of the dark, watery void.
Moreover, in most Indo-European languages, the word for “mother” is related to the word for the sea. At the same time, the word for “son” is related to the word for “Sun”. And the father sets it all in motion, with the snake-like vibration of his voice.
Wrapping it up
We have discussed in brief, the most common symbols of Indo-European creation myths. They depict the creation of the universe and the four elements. In the beginning, there was a “watery” abyss that contained the “mud” with seeds of all creation. Stimulated by the moving air it created the heat and fire, that helped create the first matter. This order of the four elements should not be taken for guaranteed, as they all came into the existence more or less simultaneously. This fact caused many headaches to ancient Greek philosophers, who were determined to sort the elements in order. Modern science calls this idea “initial singularity“.
We also saw that the universe was a result of the “mingling” of the two opposites, one male and one female. The vocabulary of all creation myths is rich in allusions to sexual intercourse, whether we are talking about “mingling”, “churning”, “seeds” or “milk”. Aristotle conceived the formation of new individuals through a fusion of male and female fluids, completely in accordance with much older Enuma Elish.
But the ancients also understood that this duality first had to exist in One, just like in the symbol of Yin Yang. For this reason, some of the ancient gods were depicted as hermaphrodites, or two-headed. There are speculations that even Jahve had a wife in the most ancient scriptures.
The idea of a sole, male creator is much younger. I like to think that it would have caused a great deal of laughter to the ancients, who were practical and seemed to have a clearer idea of how the basic biology works.
The idea of this article was to provide a different perspective on the ancient creation myths. They are usually seen as primitive fairy tales, but as we saw, their symbolism is so potent that we can still use it to describe our world. In fact, it seems that we have just slightly modified the language, in order to make it sound more rational and scientific. But in doing so, perhaps we have lost a great deal of magic, and sometimes, it is precisely this magic that stimulates the imagination and takes us further and faster than our sterile, rigid world view.
The first record of the mystical land of Hyperborea comes from Herodotus (5th century BC). He informs us that there were at least three earlier sources before him, now lost, Homer and Hesiod included. Judging by his writings, it seems that Herodotus had a pretty clear idea of the location of Hyperborea. However, only a few centuries later, this knowledge had vanished without a trace. Hyperborea became a mystical place, with various authors assigning it to the various parts of the map – a tradition still alive today.
“Hyperborea” is a compound word. The first part comes from the Greek “hyper” – over, above. The second part relates to the northern wind, Boreas. Therefore, this name simply means: “land located above the northern wind”.
Hyperborea of the North
So where is this northern wind then? Virtually all ancient sources agree that the home of Boreas was in Thracia or Dacia – on the Balkan peninsula. The real problem lies in the prefix “hyper-“. In other words, in which direction is this “above”?
Numerous ancient authors had searched for Hyperborea north of Thracia, focusing mainly on the meaning of the name. For example, Antimachus of the 4th century BC suggested that Hyperboreans are Helvetii, a tribe that dwelled in the foothills of the Alpes. His contemporary, Hecataeus of Abdera saw it even further, in Britain. Ptolemy (Geographia, 2. 21) and Marcian of Heraclea (Periplus, 2. 42) both placed Hyperborea in the North Sea which they called the “Hyperborean Ocean”.
Around the first century AD, some five centuries after Herodotus, many other famous names had joined the debate. Strabo suggested France. Plutarch also saw Gauls as Hyperboreans. Posidonius saw them among the Western Celts. And Pomponius Mela placed them even further north – in the vicinity of the Arctic, as north as possible.
In a nutshell, no one was truly certain where should we look for it. It also seems that the new theories appeared in direct proportion with the new information on the Northern-European geography.
Hyperborea of the east
But the fact is, Boreas was not really the god of the “northern wind”. The ancient authors were very specific that he rules the direction of north-east. And there were also numerous ancient authors who were looking for Hyperborea in much more eastern regions…
The ancient grammarian Simmias of Rhodes in the 3rd century BC connected the Hyperboreans to the Massagetae. The Massagetae were an ancient Eastern Iranian nomadic tribal confederation, who inhabited the steppes of Central Asia, north-east of the Caspian Sea in modern Turkmenistan, western Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan. They were part of the wider Scythian cultures.
The 2nd century AD Stoic philosopher Hierocles equated the Hyperboreans with the Scythians and the Riphean Mountains with the Ural Mountains. Pliny the Elder had similar views. Clement of Alexandria and other early Christian writers also made the Scythian equation.
And this is where things become really interesting…
Thrace – home of Boreas?
One thing that virtually all ancient sources agree on, is that the home of the wind god Boreas was in Thrace. Now, even today in this region, the name of the north-eastern Adriatic wind is Bora.
On its etymology, Wikipedia states the following:
Greek, Italian and English word is bora. The Serbo-Croatian bura and Slovene burja are not etymologically related to bora. They come from Common Slavic “burja” – storm.
The same root is in Boreas, the North Wind of Greek mythology. Linguists assume that his name comes from Proto-Indo-European *gworhx- ‘mountain’, which gave Germanic burg/berg.
Interestingly, the author of the above text understands that the names “Bora” and “Boreas” are one and the same. However, not finding a satisfying Greek etymology, he chooses “gworhx-, burg or berg”, meaning “hill”, over the Slavic “burja”, (pronounced burya) meaning “windy storm”. Moreover, it is the South Slavic people that now inhabit the region of Thracia, a homeland of Boreas. Is the author’s statement illogical or malicious, it is hard to tell.
The Wiktionary explanation of the name Boreas (here), also derives it from the word “gora” – mountain. But here this root is labeled as Proto-Slavic. Indeed, this word has the same meaning in Sanskrit, Persian and Slavic languages, so there is no need to label it as “Proto-Indo-European”. The same goes for Slavic “breg” and Germanic “berg”.
Anyhow, the word “bura“, is definitely a more appropriate choice, and it is still alive and well in the Serbo-Croatian language. It means simply north-eastern wind. And as an adjective “buran” it describes something turbulent. From the Wiktionary page on “bura”:
Proto-Slavic *buřa, Serbo-Croatian *bura, Bulgarian, Russian, Slovene burya, … Non-Slavic cognates include Old Norse byrr (“fair wind”), Latin furō (“I rage, rave”), Sanskrit भुरति (bhurati, “to stir, palpitate”).
Now, the fact that this word is common Slavic, and that Sanskrit best describes its meaning means that we should perhaps really look more towards the east. And indeed, there is another Boreas there…
Buran, Boreas of the east
We saw that everyone agrees that the home of Boreas was in Thrace. However, there was another ancient north-eastern wind with a similar name, further to the east. His name was Buran. From Wikipedia:
The buran is a wind that blows across Iran and eastern Asia – specifically Xinjiang, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. It is a cold wind, sometimes very strong, characteristic of the steppes of the Sarmatic plain, to the west of the Urals.
So, this other north-eastern wind comes from the steppes of Asia, west of the Urals – the land of Scyths and Sarmatians. Were some of the ancient authors aware of this fact? Could this be the reason that they mention specifically Urals and Scythians? Also, isn’t it interesting that Slavs rank among the descendants of these peoples, and that only Slavic languages still preserve the original word – burja or bura?
Boreas, the horse-god
In Greek mythology, Boreas was closely associated with horses. He was said to have fathered twelve colts after taking the form of a stallion, to the mares of Erichthonius, king of Dardania. Pliny the Elder (Natural History iv.35 and viii.67) thought that mares might stand with their hindquarters to the North Wind and bear foals without a stallion.
Of the same opinion was Aelian. In his work On Animals 4. 6 (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) we read:
“Horse-keepers frequently testify to mares being impregnated by the Wind, and to their galloping against Notos, the South Wind or Boreas, the North. And the same Homer knew this when he said ‘Of them was Boreas enamored as they pastured.’
What we see here is a clear indication that the cult of Boreas was closely related to the horse-keeping culture. Even nowadays, the largest horse-riding nations are located in the Sarmatian plain. In northern Europe, France could still be one of the candidates, but this fact alone takes Britain and the Arctic region out of the equation.
Indeed, ancient Asian coins have striking similarities to those of Celtic Europe and Thrace.
Dzungarian Gate, the true home of Boreas?
The story of Boreas, the personified cold north winter wind of Greek legend who lived in a cave north of Greece, parallels that of the buran, a strong winter wind said to blow into the Kazakh steppe out of a hole in a mountainside in the Dzungarian Gate.
The Dzungarian Gate is a straight valley which penetrates the Dzungarian Alatau mountain range along the border between Kazakhstan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It currently serves as a railway corridor between China and the west. Historically, it has been noted as a convenient pass suitable for riders on horseback between the western Eurasian steppe and lands further east, and for its fierce and almost constant winds. It served as an important pass on the silk road, a road that stretched from the Balkans to China.
Ildikó Lehtinen writes that “the story of the cave of the stormwinds somewhere near the Dzungarian Gate” has been known for 2500 years, by travelers from Aristeas in the classic era, to Giovanni di Piano Carpini in the Middle Ages (before Marco Polo), and to Gustaf John Ramstedt in the 20th Century.
Carruthers reports the story of the buran, a ferocious winter wind said to sally from a hole in the side of a mountain:
Apparently, the natives believed that the northern wind originates in the Dzungarian Gate. Many myths of central Asia describe the cradle of the wind as a “hole in the mountain” or an “iron gate in the lake”. In the Dzungarian Gate, the wind called “ebe’ or “yube” by the locals came out of the extinct volcano, but when it reaches its maximum velocity, the locals call it “buran”.
Hyperborea of Herodotus
Now let us go back to Herodotus, whose mention of Hyperborea is the oldest one we have. He describes it behind the land of the Issedones, Armaspians and the gold-guarding griffins. What does it mean?
Herodotus first quotes an even older source – the 7th-century BC poet Aristeas. He wrote of the Hyperboreans in a poem (now lost) called Arimaspea. It is a poem about a journey to the Issedones. Today, scholars assume that this tribe lived in the Kazakh Steppe. They are the same as the Wusun of Chinese sources. Their other names include Asii, and finally Ossetians. As they were the first “exotic” tribe for the Greeks, the whole region of Asia was named after them.
However, for the Issedones, Herodotus states that they are the only ones who might know something about the Hyberborans, although even this is unlikely. (Herodotus, Histories 4. 32 – 36)
Herodotus further states that beyond the Issedoenes lived the one-eyed Arimaspians. Heroditus labels Armiaspians “one-eyed” as he tried to translate their name with Greek words, arima – one and spou – eye. Modern scholars assume that the words are actually Iranic and mean “horse lovers”, from ariama – love and aspa – horses.
There are numerous tribes in this region that could be called “horse lovers”. It is hard to pinpoint them, but their name was probably different in the local language, as even the Iranian name is just a label.
As for the gold-guarding griffins, it is hard to tell what was the tribe in question. But what is sure is that the griffins were one of the favorites motifs of the Scythian art.
Now, Herodotus believed that Hyperborea lies even further, behind these nations. Hyperborea of Herodotus was a land in the northeast, behind the place where griffins guard gold and the North Wind issues from a mountain cave.
Of the same opinion is Pausanias, in his Description of Greece 1. 31. 2. Here he describes the way in which “the first-fruits of Hyperboreans” reach Delos. Starting with the Hyperoborans, each nation hands them over to their neighbors, until they reach Delos. The whole route goes like this: Hyperborans – Arimaspians – Issedones – Scythians – Greeks – Athenians
Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, 7. 10 mentions that in the land of Scythians, there is a place “where Boreas rises, and a cave that bears his name”. The Arimaspians call this place “Earth’s door-bolt”. Obviously, even Pliny believed that the home of Boreas is in the Dzungarian gate?
China – the true Hyperborea?
Hyperborea of Herodotus is a land blessed with eternal spring, the land producing two crops of grain per year, but most of the countryside was wild and covered with beautiful forests – the so-called “garden of Apollon.” Grain was their main source of diet. Back to Wikipedia:
Based on both Herodotus and more modern accounts, scholars such as Carl Ruck, J.D.P. Bolton and Ildikó Lehtinen proposed that Dzungarian Gate is the home of Boreas, the North Wind of Greek mythology. As the people who lived on the other side of this place are described as peaceful and civilized, who eat grain and live by the sea, some authors have identified Hyperboreans as the Chinese.
Indeed, after everything we have seen so far, the connection between China and Hyperborea seems like the most plausible one. But even though the connections are already established by a handful of scholars, they still remain unrecognized and virtually unknown to the general public. Here is a brief summary of the facts:
The earliest of the sources locate Hyperborea on the east, behind the land of the Scythians, griffins and the “horse lovers”. (Eurasian steppe)
The gateway to Hyperborea are the Rihepean mountains. Their location is uncertain, but based on the facts presented so far, they could easily refer to the Dzungarian gate.
Behind this passage lies a land that produces grain (rice), covered in lush forests, and whose inhabitants do not get involved in wars with the rest of the horse-riding tribes, who are always in war with each other.
Besides these facts, very little is known about this land, and even the closest of the tribes are not well informed.
In short, this indeed seems like a description of China from the half of the first millennium BC.
Later on, as the new lands were being discovered to the north, the focus of the ancient authors could have easily shifted towards the more rational explanations. Hyperborea became a label for these newly discovered territories as these explanations seemed more logical than the magical griffins and one-eyed people.
As we saw, the correlations between Hyperborea and China are not new. However, there is something else that remained absolutely under the radar, even to the scholars who proposed these theories. And that is the Slavic connection.
Namely, if we accept the fact that Hyperborea was in China, and that the name of the north-eastern wind comes from the Eurasian steppes, we also have to ask who brought it to Thrace, more than 2500 years ago. Because, if the Serbs and Croats had settled the Balkans only in the 6th century AD, according to the official history, why do all Slavic languages, from Russia to Balkans, have the same word for wind in their dictionary?
Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume that back then, just like nowadays, it was the Slavic people that connected the area stretching from Kazakhstan to the Balkans? Especially if we have in mind that the connections between Slavs and the horse riding Sarmatians are already established.
Moreover, the Massagetae, said to be in the neighborhood of the Hyperboreans, are often connected with the Getae of Dacia, modern-day Romania. The same goes for the ancient Balkan Iaziges, who are often connected to Yuezhi of the east. (article linked below).
And finally, the fact is that the region of the Balkans was the first station of the silk road, that ended in China. Obviously, this ancient highway had witnessed migrations of people since the dawn of time.
Could it be that some of those tribes brought the name of their wind god, and as a consequence, Thrace became his homeland from the Greek point of view?
It is an interesting thought to consider. But what is sure is that even today there are a few toponyms in Balkans that might relate to this ancient story. Here they are:
Horgos, a village on the border of Serbia and Hungary. Etymology is unknown. It sounds like Horgos, the main city-hub of the Dzungarian gate.
Iron Gates, a gorge on Danube. Nobody knows how it got its name. Perhaps as the “iron gates on the lake” were a place where the winds are born? The alternative name is Djerdap, meaning whirlpool, vortex. This is a synonym for “burya”.
Ripanj, a neolithic village near modern-day Belgrade, Serbia. Etymology derived from a large rock, called “ripa”. It sounds like Riphean mountains.
Zeta, a river, plain, and a Serbian medieval state in modern-day Montenegro, on the Adriatic sea. Etymology is unknown. It sounds like Zetes (Ζήτης) – a son of god Boreas.
And maybe the last one is far-fetched, but even the exclusively Slavic given name Boris, whose etymology is unknown, might be related to the Boreas.
Could all of these connections truly be just coincidences or there is so much more about the history of the Balkans waiting to be discovered?