Wind Gods

In most branches of the tradition we find evidence for the personification of the wind or winds, and in some cases for their receipt of religious honours. The onomatopoeic PIE root *h2wehl 'blow' was the basis for two words for 'wind', *h2wehl-yu- and *h2w(e)hl-nt- (MIE *h2wehlnt-o-). Both were of the animate gender, implying active forces, and after the differentiation of a feminine gender both remained masculines. Hence Hittite huwant-, Vedic vayu- and vata-, Avestan vayu- and vata-, Lithuanian vejas; Tocharian A want (B yente), Latin uentus, Germanic *windaz, Welsh gwynt.

In the Hittite god-lists the Winds are often included among the cosmic powers that conclude the catalogue: Mountains, Rivers, Springs, the Great Sea, Heaven, Earth, Winds (IMMES-us' = huwantus), Clouds.82 However, they are written without the divine determinative, the sign that normally accompanies a god's name.

80 K. Wais in Hermann Schneider (ed.), Edda, Skalden, Saga. Festschrift zum 70. Geburtstag von Felix Genzmer (Heidelberg 1952), 229-34, 247-50; W. Burkert, Würzburger Jahrbücher für die Altertumswissenschaft 5 (1979), 253-61 = Kleine Schriften, ii (Göttingen 2003), 87-95.

81 Thiodolf, Haustlçng 14-20; HârbarSzliôS 14 f. and other Eddie allusions; Skâldsk. 17; compared with the Ullikummi narrative by K. Wais (as n. 80), 211-29.

82 Gurney (1977), 5; Beckman (1999), 47, 58, 63, 86, 92.

In the Rigveda both Vayu and Vata, but much more often the former, appear in personified form as divine powers, occasionally in the plural. A few hymns are devoted wholly to one or other of them (1. 134; 4. 48; 7. 92; 10. 168, 186). Vayu is associated with Indra (e.g. 1. 2. 1-6; 4. 46 f.; 7. 90 f.), Vata, who represents a more violent sort of wind, with Parjanya. Vayu rides, sometimes with Indra, in a chariot drawn by red horses (1. 134. 1, 3, 135. 1-3, etc.).83

Both Vayu and Vata are recognized also in the Younger Avesta. One or other or both tend to appear in litanies among objects of reverence.84 They are associated with the bringing of victory or success. Vayu in this role is the recipient of one entire hymn (Yt. 15). In Slh rocak 1. 22 and 2. 22 Vata is named and then detailed as '(coming) from below (i.e. from the lowlands), from above, from in front, from behind', in other words 'the westerly, the easterly, the southerly, the northerly'. These Iranian texts confirm Herodotus' statement (1. 131. 2) that the Persians 'sacrifice to Sun and Moon and Earth and Fire and Water and the Winds'.

In Greek the old words for 'wind' were lost, though the epic language still has the verb â(F)npi and derivatives such as ayry, aeWa. As the standard word for 'wind', avepos prevailed. Already in Mycenaean Knossos a cult of the Anemoi is attested (KN Fp 1 + 31). In the classical period there is sporadic evidence for cults of the Winds, some of them involving animal sacrifice, as well as for occasional offerings in time of need.85 Hesiod (Th. 378-80, 870 f.) recognizes three divine winds, Zephyros, Boreas, and Notos, sons of Astraios and Dawn, contrasted with the evil, irregular, nameless winds that come from Typhoeus. Achilles prays to Boreas and Zephyros with libations and promise of sacrifice (II. 23. 194-8), and they are represented as anthropomorphic figures who hear the prayers and respond. Elsewhere in the Iliad (16. 150, 20. 223) they are said to have fathered horses, and later Greek and Latin poets speak of them as riding through the air with horses or perhaps even in horse form.86

The old word did survive in Latin; poets personified the Venti, or individual winds, in the Greek manner. Evidence for any Roman cult, however, is scanty and not early. Seafarers traditionally propitiated the Tempestates.87

83 For further particulars see Macdonell (1898), 81-3; Oldenberg (1917), 227 f.; Hillebrandt (1927-9), ii. 294-8; Oberlies (1998), 217-19.

84 Y. 16. 5, 25. 5; Sih rocak 1. 21 f., 2. 21 f.; Nyayisn 1. 8; cf. also Y. 70. 3, Yt. 10. 9, 11. 16, 21, 12. 4, 13. 47, 14. 2; Vd. 19. 13.

85 R. Lantier in Daremberg-Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquités s.v. Venti, 717 f.; H. Steuding in Roscher, vi. 513-15; M. P. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion i.3 (Munich 1967), 116 f.

86 Cf. H. Lloyd-Jones, CQ 7 (1957), 24 = id., Greek Epic, Lyric, and Tragedy (Oxford 1990), 383 f.

87 Venti: Lantier (as n. 85), 718 f.; J. B. Keune in Roscher, vi. 181-3. Tempestates: H. Steuding in Roscher, v. 360 f. Georg Wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Romer (2nd edn., Munich 1912), 228.

No wind-gods play a significant part in the mythology of the North, but the instinct to personify and systematize operated here too. Vindr 'Wind' appears in a twelfth-century verse catalogue of giants quoted by Snorri (Skaldsk. 75, verse 421. 7). One genealogy grouped Sea, Fire, and Wind (Kari) together as the three sons of the primal giant Forniotr.88

In medieval Russia too the Winds could boast a pedigree, for in Igor 48 we read of Vetri StriboZi vnutsi, 'the Winds, Stribogu's grandsons', that blow (veyutu) from the sea against Igor's army. The god Stribogii is mentioned in two other texts; his name, as noted in Chapter 4, perhaps means 'Father God'. In Slavonic folklore the wind is variously pictured as an old man blowing through iron teeth, with a brother and sisters who also affect the weather, or as a white horse. Propitiatory offerings are sometimes appropriate. In Slovakia the ruler of the winds drives a cloud chariot drawn by fiery horses.89 Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers report that the Baltic heathens worshipped a god of the winds, or the winds themselves. The name Wejo-pat(t)is, Wejpons, or Wejdiews is given, and for the Letts Weja Maat; that is, in more modern spellings, Vejopatis, Vejpons 'Master of wind', Vejdievs 'God of wind', Veja mate 'Mother of wind'.90 Praetorius met a fisherman who had made an image of Vejopatis and set it up on his boat: it was winged, with two faces facing opposite ways, and the fisherman would raise his arms in homage to it. Veja mate appears dozens of times in the Latvian songs. Sometimes she is addressed as if in prayer, though there is no longer a real sense of her as a divine power. One song speaks of the wind's horse.91

The Gaels of the Western Isles of Scotland, whose hymns to the Sun and Moon were noticed in the last chapter, are recorded as having had others addressed to gods of the sea, the wind, the storm, lightning, and thunder.92

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