Latvian Sky Deities

Dievs (God):

The word dievs word originally derived from an old (i.e. Proto-Indo-European) root deiw- meaning 'to shine'. It gave rise to the noun deiwos, the name of a sky god. From this also derived the Latin word Jovis 'Jove, Jupiter', the Greek Zeus, Old Norse Tyr 'the sky god', and the Anglo-Saxon word Tiw 'the god of war and sky' (whose, day, incidentally, is celebrated on the day after Monday!) In Latvian this developed into the word dievs.

When Christian missionaries were attempting to convert the pagan Latvians, they chose the name of the sky God, Dievs , to represent the Christian God. It is still used in this meaning to the present day. However, in Latvian tradition this symbol originally represented the sky, conceived of as a roof over the earth.

Note that the second version of the Dievs (God) sign shown below has a Saule (Sun) sign inside it; the Sun sign is discussed immediately below:

Saule (The Sun):

The Sun was one of the most important deities in Latvian folklife. She is described as being driven across the sky in a horse-drawn chariot of gold. The sun was the goddess who looked after the soul, and the life beyond.

The symbol for the sun is the most enduring image found in Latvian decorative arts, not surprisingly since it is the symbol of perpetual life. It is often incorporated into jewellery design, as well as textile design and embroidery. It is considered lucky to wear this symbol.

Pērkons (The Thunder God):

Pērkons is a deity of fertility and weather. He controls the thunder (the word pêrkons means thunder), the lightning, and the rain. In any primarily-agrarian society, rain is considered all-important, equal with if not greater than the sun. Sacrifices were periodically made to appease him - to prevent droughts and floods and sickness/plague.

Sacred forests were the domain of Pērkons. These forests were always those of predominantly oak trees, the groves of which were fenced off either naturally or by man. The tall oak trees symbolized the god.

Pērkons' connection with fire from lightning is evident in the folk songs, which dictate an ever-burning fire for the god, constantly fed by oak logs. If the fire happened to go out, it had to be restarted with oak, ceremoniously struck with grey fieldstones.

The sign of Pērkons, called the Sign of Fire (ugunsraksts) or the Thunder Cross ( pērkonkrusts), symbolizes light, fire, life, health, and prosperity. The symbol is a development of crossed lightning bolts. It is also known as the swastika, but note that this symbol was used for thousands of years before the Nazi's blackened its significance.

Mēness (The Moon):

Mēness was a god of war. He, himself, participated in battle. As evident from folk songs, he wielded a sword of diamonds and wore clothes woven of stars. Stars, in this sense, represent Meness' war-like powers.

Mēness' power in battle became a symbol for warriors, who wore his symbols (Moon signs) for protection. The Moon Sign has been found on men's bracelets dating back to the Iron Age. Sword embellishments also boasted Moon Signs, as did pendants and pins.

Auseklis (The Morning Star):

Auseklis is the Morning Star (Venus). Her rays protect sleeping souls from the forces of evil. The eight-pointed symbol of the star is used in magical rites, and you must draw this symbol without lifting your hand (in one go) if your spell is to have the desired results!

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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised September 19, 2008