Proto-Indo-European Deities Contents

The Proto-Indo-European word for “deities” is "Déiwōs" (sing. Déiwos) "the shining ones," or "the celestial ones." This leaves no doubt both as to how the Proto-Indo-Europeans thought of them and where they believed they dwelt. There are also chthonic deities, those of the Underworld, but the celestial ones set the tone. The deities are also the ghutom, "to whom libations are poured" (> "god"), telling us one way in which they are to be worshiped. They are dotores weswām, "givers of goods," telling us what they do in return for this worship.

The Déiwōs are ṇmrtōs, "undying." They may have had a beginning (perhaps as long ago as the beginning of the universe itself), but they will have no end. This is because they drink a beverage called Nekter, the ambrosia or nektar of the Greeks, the soma of India, the haoma of Iran. A version of it may be drunk by us in ritual, giving us power and long life, but even that won't keep death from us forever. We are not gods.

We are not gods. This is one of the articles of the Indo-European faith. We are related to them, made from similar stuff, and even able to interbreed with them. But they are a different kind of being, as different from us as we are from the animals. We are ontologically different.

The gods are beings who are powerful, holy, and good. They are not archetypes, and in no way are mere projections of psychological reality. They certainly correspond to archetypes. This should be no surprise; one of the ways in which psychologists determined archetypes was by investigating myths.

More important, the gods we know are those who are relevant to us. This explains why so many of them are good to us, because we wouldn’t tend to encounter deities who weren’t. Even those deities who aren’t good can be dealt with in such a way that they are as good to us as possible, because they fit into the Xártus, which is the ultimate good. There may well be other gods, but the ones we worship are the ones suitable for us. This is just another way of saying that each corresponds to an archetype – corresponds to it, but not identical with it.

The gods are not simply personifications of natural laws, either; the laws and the gods co-exist. The gods are both the servants and the guardians of natural law. They enforce it, but are not the same as it. The gods uphold the Xártus. In part this is simply by being who they are, in part it is by performing their functions. In part it is in a deliberate sense, by opposing the forces that would destroy the Cosmos – the Outsiders.

The gods are individual beings, separate from us and from each other. As individuals, each has their own interests and preferences. This is necessary if they are to take part in the Xártus, which is a relationship between separate elements. Knowing and acting by the Xártus perfectly, they are much wiser and more powerful than us. This means that their interests and preferences will sometimes seem mysterious to us, or even be unknown. Our ancestors, through thousands of years of experience, by thousands of different people, came to understand them pretty well, and we therefore should rely pretty heavily on the records our ancestors left us.

The deities are not omnipotent. They are constrained by both their nature and by the Xártus. For instance, Dyḗus Ptḗr is a god of justice. It would be against his nature to act unjustly. The gods cannot act against their nature because it is their nature that defines their existence. This does not mean that Dyḗus Ptḗr will always act in a way that seems just to us. He has more concerns than each of us, and more wisdom to understand what is necessary. It also does not mean that he chooses between acting in accord with the Xártus and acting not in accord with it. The question simply doesn't occur to him; he is a being whose actions correspond to the Xártus.

Because they are constrained by the Xártus, the deities are similar to natural forces. Each is part of the working of the universe, and each fulfills their part to perfection. That is what makes them gods.

Neither of these two constraints – their nature and the Xártus – are external to the gods. They are both what the gods are. There is thus nothing above the gods (except for other gods). There is something within them and behind them. Notice also that one of these constraints – the Xártus – is within and behind everything. Notice also that it might be said that the nature of a deity is the same as the Xártus for them. Another way of putting this is that each "rides" a branch of the Xártus, the one that corresponds to their nature, expressing it, affecting it, governing it.

Judging from the descendant traditions, the Proto-Indo-Europeans must have worshiped a large number of deities, and honored a number of lesser divine beings as well. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be reconstructed by both name and function. Others are clear in their functions, but lack names.

Most Indo-European deity names are transparent in meaning, originating as descriptions, as titles. Woden is "the ecstatic one," Rudra is "the howler," Hermes "the god of the cairn." Certain of these titles became the main ones, promoted to the status of names, but the poets and priests still took delight in inventing titles. The Homeric Hymns praise the “Far-Shooter” (Apollo), the “Shooter of Stags” (Artemis), and the “Fulfiller” (Zeus).

For the deities who survive in function but not in name, I have therefore felt free to construct my own names, or rather titles by which they might be addressed. I will specify which names are my own creation. All others are reconstructions. It is possible that I have by luck or inspiration struck on an actual primary Proto-Indo-European title for a deity. It is even more possible that I have constructed a title which the Proto-Indo-Europeans would have recognized. What matters most, of course, is that the gods to whom they refer will recognize them. Given the Indo-European love for such titles, I feel sure the gods will know whom we are talking to.

Like their descendants the Romans, the Proto-Indo-Europeans had deities of abstractions. They believed that the existence of an idea assumed the existence of a deity to rule over it. This comes from the belief in the Xártus; the reality we perceive reflects the structure of the universe. If we perceive an idea, there must be a something in the structure of the universe that corresponds to it. That something is personal. That something is a deity. So rather than turning an abstraction into a deity, the Proto-Indo-Europeans were noticing the preexistence of a deity of that abstraction. This means that if you have something you want to pray for and there is no reconstructed Proto-Indo-European deity that seems appropriate, ask yourself what abstraction best expresses your desire. You can then use that as your deity name. (Translating it into Proto-Indo-European would be nice, but not necessary.)

The Gods

Many of the Proto-Indo-European male deities may be assigned to particular functions. There are very few male deities who cross the line between the three functions, and these probably originated as gods of one of the functions who acquired the other functions in a secondary sense. In this way the gods can slop over a bit into other functions. For instance, Thor is a second function deity. However, through his connection with thunderstorms he was prayed to by farmers for rain. He becomes thereby a god of fertility. Sometimes this slopping over comes as a result of patronage. Because someone might have developed a particularly close relationship with Xáryom̄en, Xáryomēn would be expected to have a particularly close interest in them. Although he is a god of social unity, then, they might pray to him for fertility or protection. Warriors who pray to a second function figure for courage and protection might end up praying to him for prosperity as well. This sort of thing creates a little wiggle room in the system.

The third function is connected religiously with fertility cults. It is difficult to find evidence for Proto-Indo-European religion of this type for two reasons. First, most of what we can reconstruct of Proto-Indo-European religion is from the works of first function writers, composed either for their own function or for the second function warrior aristocracy. The members of these two functions did not care about the third function’s cults as much as their own, and may even have viewed them with suspicion as possible sources of subversion against the established order.

The other reason is less sinister. As the Indo-Europeans migrated, they would naturally absorb local agricultural religion, leaving their previous agricultural cults behind. This is because the fertility of the land is connected with the spiritual inhabitants of the land. It behooves us to make friends with the local fertility deities. Trying to impose our own on the land may offend both sets of beings. Under this interpretation, the lack of knowledge about Proto-Indo-European cults shows a great respect for the deities of fertility, not a lack of it.

the There is a video with the pronuniciation of these deity names here.

Dyḗus Ptḗr
"The Shining Sky Father" is the most important deity of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. His very name is related to déiwos – he is the god. It is recognizable in the Roman Jupiter, Oscan Dípatír, Umbrian Iupater (Weiss, 2010, 211), Sabellian Dipoteres, Marrucinian Ioues patres, Greek Zeus Pater, Illyrian Dei-paturos (or Dei patyro: Winn, 1995, 22), Vedic Dyaus Pitar, Baltic Dievas, Luvian Tatis Tiwaiz, Palaic Tiyaz Pāpaz, and Germanic Tiwaz (later Týr). (Some of these are from West, 2007, 166-7.) Among the Scyths he was just Papaeus, "Father" (Herodotus, 4.59). The Russian Svarog may be a calque, since it seems to derive from Iranian origins with a meaning of “Shining One” (Zaroff, 1999, 51); regardless of the Iranian form of the name, the deity is clearly Slavic. In other words, memories and versions of him survived in almost all the IE cultures, which shows how important he was.

Dyḗus Ptḗr’s name has “father" in it. This is the most common title of Dyaus pitar in the Rig Veda. Dyḗus Ptḗr is not, of course, the biological father of humans. After all, Zeus is called “our common ancestor” (Pindar, Pythian 3, p. 60) as well as “father of heaven’s inhabitants” (Pindar, Pythian 3, p. 61), and although Zeus was certainly the biological father of plenty of heroes he was certainly not the biological father of everyone, human or deity. No, he rather performs the role of father. He is not, in fact, the only deity who can fulfill this role. Apollo Patroōs (“of ancestry”) is invoked in the oath-taking of Athenian archons (Aristotle, in Rice and Stambaugh, 1979, 140; Howie, 1989, 67), Poseidon Father was worshiped at Eleusis (Pausanias 1.38.6), and Dionysos was at least once called πάτερ. That this was also the case in Rome is shown by other deities such as Mars and Janus also being called pater (Cato, De Agricultura 134.2 f., 141.2-4; Macrobius, 1.8.15, 1.12.8, 1.19.3 (Marspiter); Varro, De Lingua Latina 8.33, 8.49, 9.75), as are Liber (Macrobius, 1.18.1, 1.19.3), Silvanus (Horace, Epodes, 2.2.21-2), Neptune, Saturn, Dis, and even the Tiber. The Oscan Euclus, equated by Hesychius with Mercury, was sometimes called pater as well (Salmon, 1967, 159). In Iran, any of the male deities could be called “Father” (and any of the female ones “Mother,” for that matter) (West, 2007, 140). Agni, Bṛhaspati, Tvaṣṭṛ, and Varuṇa are also called “father” (West, 2007, 131), as is Parjanya (Macdonell, 1999, 104). It is significant, however, that in RV 1.164.33 “Dyaus,” “father,” and “genitor/begetter” are equated. The Hittite Sun God is called “Father” (attaš; Watkins, 1975,5)(although, as we will see, Dye´us Pte´r is closely connected with the Sun). Each of them could perform the divine paternal role. Nonetheless, the title “father” belongs supremely to Dyḗus Ptḗr; the other gods may each be a father, but he is the father. With all the Roman gods who may bear the title, it is still only Jupiter who has it as part of his name.

Týr was identified with Mars rather than with Jupiter, as is seen by “Tuesday,” the Germanic version of the Roman “Mar’s day.” Because of this, many have seen Týr as primarily a god of war. However, Mars was himself not solely a god of war. Further, Týr was the god of the Thing, the law assembly, as is seen in the German and Dutch words for “Tuesday,” Dienstag and dinsdag, respectively, which include the word thingsus, “protector of the thing or assembly” (Lindow, 2001, 203). Further, we have an altar from Hadrian’s Wall to Mars Thingsus (Turville-Petrre, 1964, 181). So however the Germanic peoples saw Mars, it was not necessarily as a god of war, but as a god of law; perhaps as the god of law he was the defender of society, and therefore identifiable with Mars.

From the beginning Dyḗus Ptḗr was the highest deity. His importance is emphasized by his name being the only one of the major Indo-European gods that survived in Greece (Burkert, 1985, 17). The best example of this in the descendant traditions of his magnificence is the Roman Jupiter, the most supreme form of whom was Jupiter the Best and Greatest (Jupiter Optimus Maximus). Jupiter was known in Italy as rector, “ruler” (Dumézil, 1970, 108) and as rex, “king” (Livy 3.39.4). Zeus is to be revered above all other gods, Pindar says (Pythian 6, p. 70). In Greece, a land made up of many city-states, each with their own versions of the gods, there was a shared Zeus, Zeus Hellanios, ”god of the Greeks,” with a temple on Mt. Oros (Howie, 1989, 68). The 12th century Helmold of Bassau, although he does not name the deity, says that there was one “in the heavens ruling over the others” (in Zaroff, 1999, 51). This well describes the Zeus found in the Iliad 1.526-7, where he says that “no word of mine may be recalled, nor is false, nor unfulfilled, / once I bow my head to it” (tr. A. T. Murray, in Khalaf, 2011, 63).

Dyḗus Ptḗr is the transcendent lord. He is the protector of the Xártus, the enforcer of natural law. At Sparta there was a temple to Zeus Cosmetas, “Zeus the Orderer” (Pausanias 3.17.4). Dyḗus Ptḗr may therefore be called Xártupotis, "Lord of the Xártus." (The vocative form, that used to address him, is Xartupotei; the vocative of Dyḗus Ptḗr is Dyeu Pter.) Horace says that Jupiter is the one who “directs the destinies of men and gods, who rules the sea and lands and the sky with its shifting seasons” (Odes 1.12.13-6). He is not, however, the one who forms the Xártus, and is as constrained by it as anyone is. Zeus is still bound by fate (Aeschylus, Prometheus; although Pausanias (1.40.4) says that he "is the only god obeyed by Destiny” (Moira); according to Khalaf (2011, 66), it is Zeus who gives the Fates their power), and all of the Vedic gods are constrained by ṛta. Odin’s sacrifice of an eye is not made to gain the power to control wyrd, but to know it. Armstrong (1989, 82), discussing an incident in the Iliad (22.208-13) expresses it thus: “Zeus balances the scales and sets the weights in them. But he does not choose the weights, or make the scales tip.” Al-Maini (2009, 96) points out that in deciding the fate of Persephone, “at no place within the Hymn is Zeus able to unilaterally impose his will on any of the other gods.” Zeus, and by extension Dyḗus Ptḗr, is not a tyrant, but his rule is constrained both by the Xártus and by the necessity to interact with the other deities; he must keep the parts of the cosmos they represent and control in proper relationship with each other. According to Al-Maini (2009, 98), “More than any of the other gods, Zeus’ interests coincide with the interests of the whole;” compare this with Týr’s willingness to betray his status as god of the oath in order to save the cosmos from the ravages of the Wolf, Fenrir (Lokasenna, 38-9 (Hollander, 1962, 98); Snorri, Gylfaginning, 25, 34).

Jupiter is also a god of the oath (Dumézil, 1970a, 285). It is likely because of his connection with both natural and social law that oaths are sworn by Dyḗus Ptḗr. For instance, Zeus is called to be a witness to an oath in Pindar, Pythian 4, p. 60, Hippolytus swears by Zeus, “god of oaths,” in Euripides, Hippolytus, and the ancient Olympic athletes and athletic judges swore an oath by Zeus that they had followed and would follow the rules (Pausanias 5.24.9-11). In the Iliad 3.276-80, Agamemnon calls upon Zeus and Helios (and the rivers, the earth, and “those who punish the dead who have sworn a false oath” (presumably the Erinyes)) to witness his oath (in Sick, 2004, 434). Jupiter (along with Earth) is called as witness of the devotion of an enemy army to destruction in Macrobius (3.9.9-13). Oaths, particularly peace treaties, were sworn by Jupiter Feretrius (Palmer; 1974; 141, 146), and a dedication on the Tiber Island mentions a Iovi Iurario, “God of Oaths” (Palmer, 1974, 146). Roman oaths may also be sworn to Dius Fidius, likely a form of Jupiter (Dumézil, 1970, 180), while out of doors (Poultney, 1959, 195).In the vow devoting Carthage to the gods of destruction, the witnesses called on at the end were Jupiter and Tellus (the Earth) (Macrobius 3.9.11). It is interesting that the Roman Flamen Dialis was forbidden to make an oath (Plutarch, Roman Questions, 44). It makes sense that the priest of the god of oaths couldn’t take an oath himself, since that would imply that he might not keep it.

The best-known story of Týr, the binding of Fenris wolf, tells how he lost his hand through swearing a false oath (Snorri, “Gylfaginning,” 34). The gods knew that the wolf needed to be bound because otherwise he would destroy the world. They made a game with him of tying the wolf up, with him breaking the bonds each time. Finally, they brought a slight cord, which had been given the magic power of being unbreakable. After having been bound with stronger ropes, he was suspicious. Týr swore that that if the wolf couldn’t break this tie he would be released, and as a pledge placed his hand in the wolf’s mouth. Of course, the bond could not be broken, the world was saved (until Ragnarøk, when the wolf will break free and play a major part in the destruction of the cosmos), and Týr lost his hand. He, the god of oaths, ironically swore a false oath to save the world, knowing that he would be punished by losing his hand. Even gods must suffer from false oaths, no matter how nobly made.

This is not to say that ancient oaths were only sworn by reflexes of Dyḗus Ptḗr. The Greek oaths by the river Styx are well-known. Horace, Odes 2.8.9-12, mentions oaths by “the buried ashes of thy mother, the silent sentinels of night, with the holy heaven, and by the gods.” And the oath of the ephebes in Athens was sworn by the impressive list of “Aglaurus, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalius, Ares and Athena Areia, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, the territory of the fatherland, the wheat, barley, vines, olive-trees, and fig-trees” (M. N. Tod; in Mikalson, 2005, 155).)

Dyḗus Ptḗr is a god of justice. He does what is right, ensures that others do likewise, and punishes those who do not. Laws had their origins in Zeus, as did kingship (Burkert, 1985, 130). This is implied in Hesiod’s prayer that Zeus “make judgments straight with righteousness” (Works and Days 10). Hesiod also tells us (Works and Days, 256-64) that Justice is Zeus’ daughter, and makes sure that he knows the sins of men so he can judge and punish rightly. Zeus’s close connection with justice is shown by his first wife being Themis, “Good Order," on whom he sires both Justice and Order (Hesiod, Theogony 901-2. As we have seen, Themis is from dhétis; not only is Zeus the guardian of natural law, but the giver and enforcer of societal law; the dhétis literally lives in him.

The famous oracle at Delphi proclaimed the words of Apollo. It is significant that Apollo is Zeus’s son; he proclaims the order of things (Armstrong, 1986, 84). The Sibylline Books, the closest thing the Romans had to the Delphic oracle, were kept in the Capitoline temple (Dumézil, 1970, 285), which was dedicated primarily to Zeus.

A transcendental lord with the erotic stories told about Zeus doesn’t make much sense. It’s possible that the many loves/lusts of Jupiter were goddesses of their areas, and his uniting with them both validated his rule over all places, and connected them with the head god. Win/win; one became the local head god, and the other was tied with a god with great prestige throughout all of Greece. Many of the objects of his sexual interest are identified as human in the myths, however. They may be local goddesses who were demoted because they didn’t have the prestige of the Olympians. The stories may also have originally been told to validate a dynasty by linking the local ruling family with the king of the gods. Whatever the reason, this is a Greek phenomenon, not an pan-Indo-European one. We learn very little of a mythology of Dyaus Pitar, and the pre-Greek influenced Jupiter is, as Georges Dumézil (1979, 56) puts it, “a serious and completely respectable gentleman.”

As god of the bright sky, Dyḗus Ptḗr was probably connected with the sun, although not in the sense of being the sun. Rather, the sun was his symbol. The sun sees all, is lord of the bright sky, and performs functions according to the unfailing law of the universe, the Xártus – just like Dyḗus Ptḗr. The Vedic sun god Sūrya, is the son of Dyaus Pitar. We will later see how Dyḗus Ptḗr’s daughter was called “the Daughter of the Sun.”

Specifically, the sun can be the eye of Dyḗus Ptḗr, with which he looks down from the sky. (This sort of belief is not unique to the Indo-Europeans; Sick (2004, 434) lists several other cultures, as far apart as the Fuegians and the Samoyeds, in which the sun is the eye of the head god.) In some Indo-European languages, the word for “sun” has become that for “eye;” the sun is the eye of the sky (e.g., Irish súil (Matasovic, 1996, 45, n. 28)). Macrobius (1.21.12) says that ancient people called the sun the “eye of Jupiter,” although he may be attributing this belief to the Egyptians). It is a common comment in Greek literature that the sun god Helios “sees all that goes on on earth.” In Hesiod (Works and Days, 267-9), it is the “eye of Zeus” who sees all and punishes injustice, but Helios is sometimes called the “eye of Zeus” (Sick, 2004, 434), so that amounts to the same thing. In Romania the sun was traditionally called “God’s eye” (Ionescu and Dumitrache, 2012, 161). The sun in Zoroastrianism is called the eye of Ahura Mazda, who, as the supreme god there, would be the equivalent of Dyḗus Ptḗr (Sick, 2004, 449). Throughout Vedic ritual the sun is constantly referred to as an eye (Gonda, 1980, 309). Like Helios, Surya, as the “lord of eyes” (AV 5.24.9; Macdonell, 1897, 30), sees all things, including the good and bad actions of mankind. He conveys this information to the gods and is called the eye of Mitra (Sick, 2004, 436) and Varuṇa (Macdonell, 1897, 30), both gods of the law, social and cosmic respectively. Now Mitra is a god more connected with the function of Xáryomēn (whom I will discuss next), but as both Xáryomēn and Dyḗus Ptḗr are gods of the oath, as is Mitra, it is likely the all-seeing nature that is being invoked here. There is also Uṣas bringing the eye of the gods (RV 7.77.3). The sun is, therefore, not often found to be a god in the descendant cultures. There have been attempts to find solar deities in those that are depicted with wheels, which as we will see are associated with the sun, but this sometimes relies too heavily on this equation, with deities of thunder, such as Taranis (whose name means “thunder”), i.e., of the dark and stormy sky, being somehow solar because they carry wheels (e.g., Green, 1990, 20-1). The Umbrian version of Dyḗus Ptḗr, who has acquired the lightning aspects, was sacrificed to while the priest held some sort of disk-shaped object in his hands (Poultney, 1959, 198-9).

Dyḗus Ptḗr dwells in great splendor, and is almost unapproachably sacred. For instance, the Ossetes considered their highest god, Khutsau, too remote for human interaction (Minns, n.d., 573). And the Greek playwrights might include Apollo, or Herakles, or Mercury as characters in their plays, but not Zeus (Burkert, 1985, 131). This is why Aristotle (Magna Moralia 1208 b 30, in Burkert, 1985, 274; Dowden, 2010, 54) says that it would be absurd (or bizarre) for anyone to say he loves Zeus. He was simply too magnificent to be relevant to most people’s ordinary lives (Armstrong, 1989, 82). (Fronto says the same about Mars Gradivus and Dis Pater (Birley, 1987, 81).) Burkert, is right when he says of Zeus that “to be man-loving in general would be beneath the dignity of Zeus” (Burkert, 1985, 274); Dyḗus Ptḗr is concerned not with the individual but with the Xártus. He’s concerned about all, not necessarily with the each. This is common among the highest of gods in polytheistic traditions.

The remoteness of high gods may explain why in several traditions his worship has been so attenuated. The Greek high (and sky) god Ouranos gets replaced by Zeus. Even though the god Varuṇa, who has replaced Dyḗus Ptḗr in the sense lord of the ṛta (< Xártus), has numerous verses to him in the Rig Veda, he has temples to him only in Bali (Bailey, 1975, 1, n . 1). By the time our records appear, Týr has become a lesser god, although still keeping some of his attributes, as a result of the rise of the cult of Odin, which was a later development (Dubois, 1999, 57). We can’t say that there was a reflex of Dyḗus Ptḗr among the Celts; even when we find statues of Jupiter combined with a Celtic god in Gaul, it is with Taranis, the thunder god, rather than with any god of the bright sky.

This replacement is an example of what has been called a deus otiosus, a “retired god,” something found in many non-Indo-European traditions as well. The worship of the highest of the gods becomes replaced by ones who are closer to the concerns of humanity. We can even see this in Christianity, where Christians spend far more time relating with Jesus, who, having been incarnated, can be assumed to understand us, than with God the Father, who has always been transcendent.

We may say, then, that paradoxically, the small role of the reflexes of Dyḗus Ptḗr is evidence of his original importance. We are early looking at the worn-down survivals in the descendant traditions.

It may also have been explained by the fact that in all the traditions in which it survives, the reflex of Dyḗus, in the form déiwos, becomes the name for simply “god.” This is seen already in Proto-Indo-European; Dyḗus Ptḗr has become almost the generic deity.

We see him maintaining his prominence in the Greek and Roman traditions. In Rome he retained (or possibly regained) his lofty position under the influence of the Greeks. The Greeks in turn were influenced by the Near Eastern chief gods who were thunder gods; Zeus acquired the thunder function from them, and by it retained his relevance.

Dyḗus Ptḗr is the god of priests, the embodiment of the way rituals are to be performed. In Dumézilian terms, he is the magico-ritual half of the first function.

Another connection of his might be with purity. In Rome, purification rituals were performed outside, that is, under the sky (Plutarch, Roman Questions 5).

The sacred animal of Dyḗus Ptḗr, that which is sacrificed to him, is the ox. The Umbrians sacrificed an ox to Jupiter Grabovius (“The Bronze Tablets of Iguvium” Ia 2, Poultney, 1959, 157). An offering for the sake of oxen before ploughing described by Cato (On Agriculture 132) is directed to Jupiter Dipalis. The ox is power under control.

It is appropriate to worship Dyḗus Ptḗr on mountain tops. Thus Epicharmus (in Macrobius has Zeus dwelling on top of Mt. Gargara, and Olympos, although the home of all the gods, belongs to Zeus above all. In Iliad 8.48, he has a temenos and an altar on Mount Ida. According to Herodotus (1.131), the Persians sacrificed to “Zeus,” who they considered the entire sky, on mountain tops.

The reflexes of Dyḗus Ptḗr were not worshiped only on high places, or even solely under the open sky. Zeus was worshiped in a cave on Mount Ida (Burkert, 1985, 26); while this is a high place, it is also, as a hole, a low place, and certainly not one under an open sky. In this case Zeus has perhaps taken over a site sacred to an earlier non-Indo-European deity with a similar function or status.

Dyḗus Ptḗr doesn’t have a wife whom we can identify, although he must have had at least a mate in order to be the father of the Diwós Sūnú and Sawélyosyo Dhugətḗr (see below). Because he is a sky father, it may be tempting to link him with an earth mother, and indeed his Vedic version, Dyaus Pitar, is so linked. (In fact, the name of Dyaus is almost always found in a dvandva with that of Pṛthivī, the earth.) However, the Earth Mother fits more easily with another deity, Perkʷū́nos (even the Vedic Parjanya is identified as the husband of the Earth), so Dyḗus Ptḗr’s wife is unfortunately unknown. Jackson (2002, 73), wants to identify her as Diwōnā (diuōneh2). There is a Diwija in Mycenean, but there is also a Posidaeja to match with Poseidon (Trzaskoma, 2004, 446), so this may just be like providing Indra with an Indraṇī; i.e., a deity specifically created as a match, rather than one that was inherited. That both of these goddesses had their own temples supports a belief that they were seen as definite personalities, but not that they are descended from Proto-Indo-European times. Aphrodite is called the “daughter of Zeus,” with Dione given as her mother (Burkert, 1985, 154). Diwōnā is just a female form of diḗus, thus meaning simply “goddess,” and therefore useless for our purpose here.

Or maybe not; it may be the solution. As chief of the gods, Dyḗus Ptḗr was the counterpart of the chief of the Indo-European tribes. And just as the incoming tribes would intermarry with the local people, with the men of the patriarchal Indo-Europeans taking command over the women of the locals, so Dyḗus Ptḗr would “marry” the chief local goddess, the Diwōnā. Perhaps, then there never was a Proto-Indo-European consort of the chief god, but instead she was always the local goddess.

Perhaps, as West (2007, 192) points out, since we are dealing with mythology we shouldn’t look too hard for biological niceties. Still, although virgin mothers abound in world mythologies, virgin fathers are considerably rarer. Perhaps the “Sons of Dyḗus Ptḗr” we’ll be encountering were “sons” in the same way that Dyḗus Ptḗr was a father; that is, as an office, an existential relationship rather than a biological one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lord of the wide and shining sky,
Guardian of the well-laid law,
Dyeu Pter, preserve my people,
may their way conform to Right.

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