There is an odd feature in “Indo-European” cultures, a divide between east and west.
In the ancient Indo-Iranian system there are two categories of gods:
- Asuras / Ahuras
In India, the Asuras are the old gods displaced by the devas
In Iran, under the influence of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda is the good guy, and the daevas are the demons.
We see in Rome and Greece that Dyaus-Pitar is Zeus and Jupiter, the king of the gods. He is a deva. We have the words Deo, Deus, divinity. In other words, the fringes of Europe follow the Indian system, not the Iranian.
- Sanskrit Dyaus and Deva
- Baltic Dievas
- Old Germanic Tiwaz or Ziu
- Greek Zeus
- Latin Deus
In the Gathas, the oldest hymns of Zoroastrianism and thought to have been composed by Zoroaster himself, the poet exhorts his followers to pay reverence to only the ahuras, and to rebuff the daevas and others who act “at Lie’s command”. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura>, accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
In the Younger Avesta, three divinities of the Zoroastrian pantheon are repeatedly identified as ahuric. These three are Ahura Mazda, Mithra and Apam Napat, and hence known as the “Ahuric triad”. Other divinities with whom the term “Ahuric” is associated include the six Amesha Spentas and (notable among the lesser yazatas) Aredvi Sura of The Waters and Ashi of Reward and Recompense.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahura>, accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
In early Vedic texts, both the asura and the devas were deities who constantly competed with each other, some bearing both designations at the same time. In late-Vedic and post-Vedic literature the Vedic asuras became lesser beings; whilst in Avesta, the Persian counterpart of the Vedas, the devas began to be considered as lesser beings. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asura>, accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
While it is likely that the daevas were once the “national” gods of pre-Zoroastrian Iran, “no known Iranian dialect attests clearly and certainly the survival of a positive sense for [Old Iranian] *daiva-.” This “fundamental fact of Iranian linguistics” is “impossible” to reconcile with the testimony of the Gathas, where the daevas, though rejected, were still evidently gods that continued to have a following.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daeva>, accessed Sept. 20, 2013.
War between Aesir and Vanir.
In the religious mythology of the Nordic-Germanic people, there is fascinating evidence for the interaction between the Indo-European Kurgan invaders and the Old European cultures.<http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/alien_humanitymanipulationalien04.htm>, accessed Sept. 10, 2013.
We find this in the myths of the prolonged warfare and eventual peacemaking between two families of deities, the Aesir and the Vanir. The clashing and hybridizing of religions and worldviews between Indo-Europeans and Old Europeans is clearly discernible here, even although the later Indo-European layer is obviously dominant. In that sense Nordic-Germanic mythology serves as an example of a pattern of cultural transformation that occurred all over Europe, and the Near East, over the course of many centuries. For a detailed reexamination and interpretation of the Nordic-Germanic myths, including the conflicts between the Aesir and Vanir deities, in the light of Marija Gimbutas’s concept of hybrid mythologies, see John Lash, The Well of Remembrance – Rediscovering the Earth Wisdom Mythology of Northern Europe (Shambhala, 1994).<http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/alien_humanitymanipulationalien04.htm>, accessed Sept. 10, 2013.
The Aesir are primarily sky- and warrior-gods, including Odin, Tiwaz or Tyr, and Thor the Thunderer. On the other hand, the Vanir, including Nerthus, Njörd and the brother-sister pair Freyr and Freyja, are primarily earth- and nature-deities. Archaeological evidence in the form of carved inscriptions and images on stelae or ornaments, indicates that both the Aesir and Vanir deities were worshipped at particular sites. They are portrayed in the myths as two different families or clans of divinities who are often at odds and even at war. <http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/alien_humanitymanipulationalien04.htm>, accessed Sept. 10, 2013.
Presumably this reflects the conflict, drawn out over many centuries, between the invading Indo-Germanic tribes from the East and the aboriginal populations of Old Europe who resisted the attempted assimilation. It seems probable that after the Indo-Germanic people had settled in Central Europe, the Vanir continued to be the gods of the farmers and fishermen, while the Aesir were worshipped by the military aristocracy, who had appropriated the land and established their domination.<http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/alien_humanitymanipulationalien04.htm>, accessed Sept. 10, 2013.
Several earlier scholars had proposed that the myth of the war between Aesir and Vanir reflects the actual historical conflict, in the 2nd millennium BCE, between the indigenous “Megalith culture” of Southern Scandinavia and Western Europe, whose gods were the Vanir, and the invading Indo-Aryan “Battleax culture”, whose gods were the Aesir. Snorri Sturluson, the Icelandic author who in the 13th century compiled the Prose Edda (also called Younger Edda), one of our main sources for Germanic myth, himself stated in his introduction, that the Aesir were the (human) leaders of warrior bands who came from Asia. The etymological connection he made between “Aesir” and “Asia” is however regarded as spurious by contemporary scholars. See Rudolf Simek, Lexikon der Germanischen Mythologie, (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 1984), pp 460-461. See also The Well of Remembrance, op. cit. pp. 165 – 172.<http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vida_alien/alien_humanitymanipulationalien04.htm>, accessed Sept. 10, 2013.
War between Formorians and De Danaan.
War between Horus and Set (Tryphon).
**Haéus(ōs)*, is usually a Sun Goddess (p. 409, 410, 432, Oxford Introduction) with forms in Hittite, aššu ‘lord, God’; Sanskrit, Ushās, Goddess of Dawn, but later the Ashuras are demonized; Avestan, Ahura Mazda, the good god of the Zoroastrians, and ahura, a good spirit; Greek, Éōs, a Dawn Goddess; and Latin, Aurōra, a Dawn Goddess. Gallic Esus is a God of Hearths; and Old Norse, Aesir (pl.), and Old English Ôs (m.sg.) and Ose (f.sg.), are general words for ‘a god, any god or goddess.’ Slavic, Jarilo or Iaro, is a God of Summer; and Lithuanian Aušra is ‘dawn’; while both Latvian Auseklis, and Lithuanian Aušrinė are Goddesses of the Morning Star, i.e. the planet Venus. The form Arap Ushas appears in Albanian folklore, but there it is a name of the Moon.
Deva or Deos, ‘god’ (masculine) is reconstructed as **deiwós-*, (p. 408, Oxford Introduction and G&I, Vol. I, p. 196, but from *dhy-, according to Jaan Puhvel) from Hittite sius ‘God’; and Sanskrit Devá ‘God; His/Your Majesty.’ In Avestan, the daēvas ‘demons’, (later Persian divs, who are seen also in Armenian folklore) were demonized by Zarathustra, but Armenian also has tir, tiwr ‘God, idol’ (p. 150, Mann in An Indo-European Comparative Dictionary). Greek, dios ‘god’ (but usually theós); Oscan, Diovis; Latin, Jove, a particular God, also with forms deus, dives, ‘a god, a rich man.’ Other forms are Welsh dewi; Irish dia, a God; Old Norse Týr; Old High German Ziu; Old English Tīw, a particular God; Old Polish Żywie; Lithuanian Dievas; and Latvian Dievs, a God who causes the rye fields to ripen.
Deus Pater or *dyēus pHatēr is believed by Christians to have been the “original name of the god of the daylit sky and the chief god of the Indo-European pantheon.” This was based (p. 409, 431, Oxford Introduction) on Sanskrit Dyáus Pitā; Greek Zeus with a vocative form Zeu patēr; Illyrian Dei-pátrous; and Etruscan Jūpiter, borrowed into Latin alongside the native form Dispater, cf. also deus pater in the Vulgate, e.g. Jude 1:1. However this appears to be merely a descriptive appositive in the form of a kenning: “Kennings drawn from family relationships are extremely common” p. 34, Olson and Sens in Archestratos of Gela. An additional problem is that these deities lack corresponding features in the various languages. For example Dyáus Pitā is mentioned in the Rig Veda mainly as the husband of Prthivi (the Euphrates River) and that is almost all that is known about him. The Illyrian form is actually a mountain.
- Jackson Crawford, “The Indo-European Languages (An Overview)“, YouTube (May 24, 2018).
- Michael York, “Toward a Proto-Indo-European vocabulary of the sacred“, Word, 44:2 (1993), 235-254.
Draft; updated Oct. 29, 2019; Nov. 3, 2019 to add link.