THE URARTIANS believed in a supreme being, the god of heaven, whose name was Khaldi. If not the whole, at least a large part of the population called itself Khaldian, a name which survived the final downfall of the Urartian state in a province situated northwest of Armenia where evidently the old inhabitants were driven by the Armenian conquerors. In their ancient non-Aryan pantheon, alongside of Khaldi stood Theispas, a weather-god or thunderer of a very wide repute in Western Asia, and Artinis, the sun-god. These three male deities came to form a triad, under Babylonian influence. From the fact that in one Babylonian triad composed of Sin (the moon), Shamas (the sun) and Ramman (a weather-god), Sin is the lord of the heavens, scholars have concluded that Khaldi may have been also (or become) a moon-god.
Whether this be the case or not, the Urartian pantheon contains a secondary moon-god called Shelartish. Besides these no less than forty-six secondary, mostly local, deities are named in an official (sacrificial ?) list. The original Khaldian pantheon knew no female deity. Thus it stands in glaring contrast with Asianic (Anatolian) religions in which the mother goddess occupies a supreme position. But in the course of time, Ishtar of Babylon, with her singularly pervasive and migratory character, found her way into Urartu, under the name of Sharis (1).
One may safely assume that at least in the later stage of its political existence, long before the arrival of the Armenians  on the scene, Urartu had made some acquaintance with the Indo-Iranians and their Aryan manners and beliefs. For the Medes had begun their national career long before 935 B.C., and a little later the Scythians had established themselves in Manna, an Eastern dependency of Urartu (2).
As an undeniable evidence of such influences we may point to the fact that in Manna, Khaldi had become identified with Bag-Mashtu (Bag-Mazda) a sky-god and probably an older form of the Iranian Ahura Mazda.
It is in the midst of such a religion and civilization that the Armenians came to live. Their respect for it is attested by the fact that the ancient Urartian capital, Thuspa (the present Van), was spared, and that another (later) capital, Armavira in the North, became a sacred city for them, where according to the national legend even royal princes engaged in the art of divination through the rustling leaves of the sacred poplar (Armen.Saus). On the other hand the vestiges of Armenian paganism conclusively show that the newcomers lent to the Urartians infinitely more than they borrowed from them.
The Thracians and Phrygians, with whom the Armenians were related, had in later times a crude but mystic faith and a simple pantheon.
Ramsay, in his article on the Phrygians (3) assumes that the chief deity whom the Thracian influx brought into Asia Minor was male, and as the native religion was gradually adopted by the conquerors, this god associated himself with, and usurped certain functions of, the Asianic goddess. At all events the Phrygians, who had a sky-god called Bagos Papaios, must have had also an earth-goddess Semele (Persian Zamin) who no doubt became identified with some phase of the native goddess (Kybele, Ma, etc.). The confusion of the earth-goddess with the moon seems to have been a common phenomenon in the nearer East. Dionysos or Sabazios represented the principle of fertility of nature, without any marked reference  to the human race. He was a god of moisture and vegetation. The corn that sustains life, and the wine and beer that gladden the heart, were his gifts. These things sprang from the bosom of mother earth, through his mysterious influence, for the earth and he were lovers.
Further the Thracians and Phrygians at the winter solstice, held wild orgies (Bacchanalia), when naked women, wrought into frenzy by music and dance, and driven by priests, wandered in bands through fields and forests, shouting the name of the deity or a part of it (like Saboi), and by every barbarous means endeavouring to awaken the dead god into reproductive activity (4). He was imagined as passing rapidly through the stages of childhood, adolescence and youth. And as he was held to be incarnate in a bull, a buck, a man, or even in an infant, the festival reached its climax in the devouring of warm and bloody flesh just torn from a live bull, goat, or a priest. Sabazios under the name of Zagreus was thus being cut to pieces and consumed by his devotees. In this sacramental meal, the god no doubt became incarnate in his votaries and blessed the land with fertility (5).
We have no clear traces of such repulsive rites in what has been handed down to us from the old religion of the Armenians in spite of their proverbial piety. Whatever they have preserved seems to belong to another stratum of the Phrygo-Thracian faith (6).
A careful examination of this ancient material shows among the earliest Armenians a religious and mythological development parallel to that observed among other Indo-European peoples, especially the Satem branch of the race.
Their language contains an important fund of Indo-European religious words such as Tiu (Dyaus = Zeus = Tiwaz ), "day-light," and Di-kh (pl. ofDi, i.e. Deiva = Deus, etc. ) , "the gods." When the ancient Armenians shouted, "Ti (or Tir), forward," they must have meant this ancient Dyaus  Pitar who was also a war-god, and not Tiur, their much later very learned but peaceful scribe of the gods. Even the name of Varuna appears among them in the form of Vran (a cognate of Gr. ouranos) and in the sense of "tent," "covering." It is not impossible that astwads, their other word for "God," which in Christian times supplanted the heathen Di-kh, "Gods," was originally an epithet of the father of the gods and men, just like the Istwo of Teutonic mythology, of which it may well be a cognate (7).
The Perkunas of the Lithuanians and the Teutonic Fjorgynn, one as a god of heaven and of weather, and the other as a goddess of the earth, are still preserved in the Armenian words erkin, "heaven," and erkir (erkinr?) "earth" (8). The word and goddess, iord, erd, "earth," seems to survive in the Armenian ard, "land," "field."
Another ancient Armenian word for Mother-earth is probably to be found in armat, which now means "root." But in its adjectival form armti-kh, "cereals," it betrays a more original meaning which may shed some light upon the much disputed Vedic aramati and Avestic armaiti. The word hoghm, "wind," may have originally meant "sky," as cognate of Himmel. The Vedic and Avestic vata (Teut. Votan?) is represented in Armenian by aud, "air," "weather," "wind," while Vayu himself seems to be represented by more than one mythological name. Even the Vedic Aryaman and the Teutonic Irmin may probably be recognized in the name of Armenak, the better-known eponymous hero of the Armenians, who thus becomes identical with the ancient Dyaus-Tiwaz. To these may be added others whom we shall meet later. And in the Vahagn myths we see how, as in India and Teutonic lands, a violent storm-god has supplanted the grander figure of the heaven-god.
The oak (which in Europe was sacred to the sky-god) and water played an important part in the Armenian rites of the  sacred fire. The sacred fire was, as in Europe, often extinguished in water. This religion was quite agricultural. In view of the general agreement of the Slavic and old Armenian data on this point, one may well ask whether the Thraco-Phrygian mysteries just described were not a localized development of the lightning worship so characteristic of the Slavic family to which the Thraco-Phrygians and the Armenians probably belonged (9). In fact, according to Tomaschek (10) the lightning-god had a very prominent place in the Thracian religion.
Lightning worship, more or less confused with the worship of a storm-god, was widely spread through Indo-European cults, and it is attested in the Thracian family not only by the name of Hyagnis, a Phrygian satyr (see chapter on Vahagn) and Sbel Thiourdos, but also by the title of "Bull" that belonged to Dionysos and by such Greek myths as make him wield the lightning for a short time in the place of Zeus (11).
Soon after their coming into Urartu the Armenians fell under very strong Iranian influences, both in their social and their religious life. Now began that incessant flow of Iranian words into their language, a fact which tempted the philologists of a former generation to consider Armenian a branch of Iranian. When Xenophon met the Armenians on his famous retreat, Persian was understood by them, and they were sacrificing horses to the sun (or, perhaps to Mithra). But we find in the remnants of Armenian paganism no religious literature and no systematic theology, or cult of a purely Zoroastrian type. It would seem that the reformed faith of Iran penetrated Armenia very slowly and as a formless mass of popular beliefs which sometimes entered into mesalliances in their new home (12). In fact the names of the Zoroastrian gods and spirits found in Armenia bear a post-classic and pre-Sassanian stamp.
Finally the contact with Syria and with Hellenistic culture  in Macedonian times and especially under Tigranes the Great (95-54 B.C.), brought into the religion of the country a new element. Statues of Syrian and Greek gods and goddesses were acquired in some way or other and set up in Armenian temples. Thus a small group of Semitic deities came into the Armenian pantheon, and interesting comparisons were established between the Armenian deities and the Olympians. Evidently under the influence of the Greek West and the Syrian South, the Armenians of the upper classes found the number of their gods inadequate and set themselves to create a pantheon of an impressive size. It was a time of conciliations, identifications, one might say of vandalistic syncretism that was tending to make of Armenian religion an outlandish motley. Their only excuse was that all their neighbours were following a similar course. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Sassanians during their short possession of Armenia in the middle of the third century seriously undertook to convert the land to the purer worship of the sacred fire. However, all was not lost in those days of syncretism and confusion. Most of the ancient traits can be easily recovered, while the tenacious conservatism of the common people saved a great amount of old and almost unadulterated material. This is, in short, both the historical development and the background of Armenian mythology. We should expect to find in it Urartian, Semitic, Armenian, Iranian, and Greek elements. But as a matter of fact the Urartian faith seems to have merged in the Armenian, while the Greek could only touch the surface of things, and the Semitic did not reach very far in its invasion. Therefore Armenian paganism, as it has come down to us, is mainly a conglomerate of native and Iranian elements.
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