VelesU Velinas and others a dubious equation

Old Russian sources attest an important divinity Velesu or Volosu, described as a god of cattle; he also had to do with the harvest. The famous poet Boyan is said in the Lay of Igor (17) to have been his grandson. There is evidence for the name in Czech, as a devil somewhere beyond the sea. This Slavonic deity has been brought into connection with the Lithuanian Velinas (Latvian Vflns), the Vedic Varuna, the Gaulish Vellaunos, the Nordic Ullr or Ullinn, and a Hittite Walis, all supposedly from the root *wel 'see'.89 If this could all be substantiated, it would add a significant member to our Indo-European pantheon.

We met the *wel root in Chapter 1 in connection with the Irish fili and the German prophetess Veleda, where it referred to vatic 'seeing'. None of the gods in question, however, is connected with prophecy. Varuna is noted for being all-seeing (see pp. 171 f.), but this is not expressed with the *wel root (which is unknown to Indo-Iranian), and his name is more convincingly

86 PY An 1281. 1. There is also a po-ti-ni-ya a-si-wi-ya = Potnia Aswia (PY Fr 1206), usually interpreted as 'of Asia (Assuwa)', but it has been suggested that aswia is an Anatolian (Luwian?) equivalent of the Greek ikkweia: K. T. Witczak ap. V. BlaZek, SIGL 2 (1999), 22. In theory it could equally be an Indic form from Mitanni, with Potnia Aswia = Indic asvapatni. There is also a man's name a-si-wi-yo = Aswios.

89 See especially F. de Saussure in Cahiers F. de Saussure 21 (1964), 115 f.; R. Jakobson in Studi Linguistici in onore di Vittore Pisani (Brescia 1969), 579-99 = id. (1962-88), vii. 33-48; Puhvel (1987), 234; Bader (1989), 46-8. On Velesu see also Vaiia (1992), 76-8.

explained, as the Vedic poets and commentators understood it, from var(-u-) 'cover, protect'.90 Velinas is primarily the god of the dead, and located below the earth; hence forest pools are said to be his eyes. But this does not justify the *wel etymology. His name (with the *-no- suffix) relates directly to the Veles, the spirits of the dead.

Both Velinas and Varuna had connections with cattle, and this is the one thing that they have in common with Velesu. It is hardly sufficient to establish an underlying identity. As for Vellaunos and Walis, they are mere names to us. Ullr is usually etymologized as *Wulpuz 'glory, splendour' and this is favoured by what appears to be a theophoric name Wl^u^ewaR on an early runic inscription. His essential nature is hard to make out. He carried a bow and travelled on skis, and was invoked by warriors in single combat. In place-names his name is often attached to fields and pastures, but there is no evidence for any specific connection with cattle.91 All in all, there is nothing in this whole ragtag assemblage that we can trace back with any confidence to the Indo-European past.

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