A bronze mirror of Meotian-Sarmatian period (1st - 2nd c. A.D.) was found in the Chernyshov barrow, Republic of Adygea, Russia (Leskov and Lapushnian 1987: 138, fig. 63, the right lower photo). The symbols depicted on it (see figure 1) are a key to the ancient cultures of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Sindi (Meotians), and their descendants, Russians and Circassians.
The signs of the round mirror apply to a calendar, too. Let us examine it. First, the circle with 12 rays is placed in the centre. It is a symbol of the sun as well as of a year (12 months). The "sun" is surrounded by another circle from which the four groups of triple short lines are drawn. It is the division of a year into four seasons.
I think that the signs read in a clockwise direction. The three signs resemble the Greek letters beta, psi and eta (2). The two signs of a "spiral" read as modern Russian vertet' 'to turn round and round', (solntse)vorot 'motion of the sun', vershina 'top', varit' 'to boil', and Etruscan verse 'fire'. If the first "spiral" represented on the right side of the figure 1 denotes the winter solstice, December 22, then the "round" (the solar sign) denotes the summer solstice, June 22. The "spiral" precedes the Egyptian hieroglyph anh 'eternal'. This hieroglyph may correlate with the name of the Egyptian god of vegetation Osiris, a designation of the death and resurrection. On the other hand, the Scythian god Goitosiros corresponds to the Greek god Apollo (The History of Herodotus: Book IV). In this name one can pick out the Russian word goi associated with the fertility (Rybakov 1987: 70). I read the name Goitosiros as Goi t Osiros 'The Fertility is Osiros (Osiris)' (3). It is no wonder because the Egyptian god Osiris was worshipped in a part of the North Black Sea coastal area (Reder 1992: 268). This name looks like Russian yashcher 'lizard'. Perhaps it is related to the name of the West Slavonic chthonic power Iasse which helps the sun to rise in compliance with ancient beliefs (Rybarov 1994: 423). Besides, the main pagan god of the Circassians was Sozeris or Sozeresh, who was the patron of agriculture. Both variants of the name are also connected with the name of the god Osiris. The "spiral" may denote Russian kolo 'round' (4) as well (cf. Russian koleso 'wheel', kolobok from a Russian fairy-tale, lit. kolo bok 'round side', i.e. 'the sun'), cf. also the name of the pagan feast Kolyada (Belyakova 1995: 68). Interestingly, December 25 near the winter solstice corresponds to the day of Spiridon-povorot (Spiridon-Solntsevorot) in the Russian folk calendar (5).
The Greek letter beta corresponds to the March and September. I believe that this letter denotes the Proto-Slavonic word sounding approximately as bi, cf. Russian bit' (the root bi-) 'to beat'. It is possible that it is a designation of the Scythian god Papaios (= the Greek god Zeus per the History of Herodotus: Book IV), cf. Russian bah, babah 'bang!', bahnut', babahnut' 'to bang', Circassian bzh''yh'e 'autumn' and Old Indian payate 'he gives to drink'. The deity fits the Russian pagan god thunderer Perun 'The one who beats' (Vasmer 1987a: 246). The Scythian goddess of the earth, Api, is the wife of Papaios. One can compare the name Api with Russian pit' (the root pi) 'to drink'.
The Greek letter eta corresponds to July. So it is safe to assume that this word e- is associated with Russian eda 'food' (cf. also est' 'to eat').
The Greek letter psi corresponds to May - June. The word like ps is included in the name of the Scythian goddess Argimpasa (= Celestial Aphrodite per the History of Herodotus: Book IV). The name Argimpasa can be split into the three words, Ar gim pasa. The first word, ar, correlates with Russian ariets 'Aryan', yary, yarostny 'furious', yarovoy sev 'spring sowing', bychok-yarovik 'bull', Yarila 'the Russian pagan god of the fertility of the spring-time; associated with the day of Yury' (see Tokarev 1992: 686-7). The word gim is comparable with Russian zima 'winter' (cf. also Old Indian himas 'winter' (Vasmer 1986: 97)) and Russian gumno 'barn'. The term pasa is comparable with Russian pasti 'to pasture'. The expression ar gim may be translated as 'the transformation from the winter to the spring', otherwise it signifies 'the beginning of the works in the fields and of the pasture of cattle'. The name of this goddess is preserved in the name of the Circassian pagan goddess of the water of all the rivers, Pseguash. Here pse is Circassian psy 'water', cf. also Greek psakas, psias 'drop; fine rain'. The pair of the words, Russian pasti 'to pasture' and Circassian psy 'water', is comparable with the pair of the words, Russian vodit' 'to lead' and voda 'water'. Thus, the ancient word *pas might mean 'to pasture near the water'. One can read the determinative HEAD OF A HORNED ANIMAL of the Linear A as *pas, besides the Greek letter psi represents a horned animal. The name of Argimpasa is also similar to the name of the Greek giant Argos, the herdsman of the cow (goddess) Io.
According to a Scythian myth (The History of Herodotus: Book IV), the first man Targitaos begat three sons. Another myth reports (the same source) that the Scythian equivalent of the Greek god Heracles met a woman with features of a serpent instead of the legs. So this semi-serpent bore him three sons. On these grounds, I think that Targitaos is equal to Heracles (Raevsky 1994: 206), and his name reads Tar gita 'The giving (god)' (cf. Russian dar 'gift', god 'year', Lithuanian guodas 'honour, glory, entertaining'), it is the Russian pagan god Dazh'bog 'The giving god' (Rybakov 1987: 76) and the Proto-Slavonic god Dar 'The giving (god)' of the Phaistos disk.
I think that the Greek god Heracles (Erakles) has the Scythian origin, as the Russian kolo associated with the sun (see above) is included in his name (the segment kl). Really, the name Erakles is Er(os) Kles 'The hero (demi-god) Kl(es)'. This character fighted against the women-warriors Amazons (Amazones in Greek) lived in a region of the foot-hills of the Caucasus and of the Sea of Azov (Taho-Godi 1991: 63), and their name was associated in my opinion with Circassian myzh''o 'stone'. The latter term is written down on the Maikop slab (the 3rd c. B.C.) with the help of the signs of the Linear B (Linear A) as maza (Rjabchikov 1998a: 23). It is an Indo-European word, cf. Latin massa 'lump, piece' and German Masse 'thickness, layer'.
Let us examine the names of Targitaos' children, and then we shall search for the name of the semi-serpent goddess. Their names are Leipoxais, Arpoxais and Kolaxais. They received a golden plough, yoke, battle-axe and cup from the sky. These items show that the names of the sons denotes estates (farmers, cattle-breeders, and nobility) of the Scythians indeed. The common form -xa- means 'people'. As Old Russian yazyk means both 'language' and 'people' (Ilarion 1994: 115), I suggest the root kaz- (cf. south Russian kazati 'to speak') means 'people', too (6). The term leipo 'farmer' is comparable with Russian lapot' 'bast shoe' (< lapa 'foot' in Vasmer 1986: 459). Tleps is the name of a Circassian pagan god, the patron of smiths, it signifies lit. t leps 'this is a farmer, i.e. a Meotian (not a nomad)'. The term arpo 'cattle-breeder' is comparable with Russian rabota 'work' (the root rab), and German Arbeit 'work'. Then the term kola 'nobleman' denotes lit. 'the sun' (see above).
Auchatai is the nation of Leipoxais; Katiari and Traspians are the nations of Arpoxais; Paralatai (the Royal Scythians) is the nation of Kolaxais. The term auchatai correlates with Russian ohotnik 'hunter', and ohota 'hunt' (7); the term katiari compares with Russian skotovod 'cattle-breeder', skot 'cattle' < s kot (kosh) 'near a carriage', and the term traspian may be restored as t raspian 'this is razboynik 'robber' (who steals cattle)' (cf. Russian razboy 'robbery', razboynik 'robber'). At last, the term paralatai means '(the people of the god) Perun (and Lada (?)). Thus, the structure of the Scythian society is detailed.
The Scythians are called Skoloti, i.e. S koloti '(The people) near the sun' (8), or Skoloti 'warriors' associated with Russian zakolot' 'to stab', cf. also Lithuanian kalu 'I strike (with a hammer or a axe)' (Vasmer 1986: 296). At last, the term Skoloti can be associated with Russian sokol 'falcon', cf. Russian cherkas 'Cossack' and cherkes 'Circassian' (9) < Ossetic charkas 'eagle' (Vasmer 1987b: 344); the term sokol 'falcon' signifies 'prince' in Slovo o polku Igoreve (The Song of Igor's Host), a masterpiece of the earliest Russian literature. Interestingly, the ancient term ant 'Slav' is equal to Etruscan antas 'eagle'. So, the names of the Slavs, Cossacks and Circassians has the common origin.
The names of the three sons in the version of the myth about the semi-serpent goddess are Agathyrsos, Gelonos and Skythes. The term agathyrsos correlates with Russian bogatyr' 'bogatyr (cavalryman)'; the similar term bagatar was registered among Alani (Ossets) in the 10th - 11th c. A.D. (Sakharov and Novosel'tsev 1997: 54). The term gelonos 'farmer' is split into ge (Greek ge 'earth') and lono (cf. Russian lono 'bosom'). The term skythes 'Scythian' is comparable with Russian skitat'sya 'to wander'. So the word 'Scythian' means lit. 'nomad'.
The structure of the Scythian society is registered in a Russian fairy-tale, Ivan Bykovich, as well. Three brothers were born from the golden fish (the Russian Dazh'bog, the Scythian Targitaos). Their names are Ivan-charevich (Ivan, the son of a tsar (king)), Ivan, kuharkin syn (Ivan, the son of a cook), and Ivan Bykovich (Ivan, the son of the bull). The brothers were driving to the river Smorodina (*S moro 'Near the sea/death'), i.e. Kuban.
Now one can find the name of the semi-serpent goddess. This character is represented on a Scythian gold horse frontlet (Galanina, Domansky and Smirnova 1981: 67, 68, photo). The goddess stands on the border of two worlds; the World Tree with 12 branches or petals (they are 12 months, i.e. a whole year) is depicted above her head. Her legs are replaced by two serpents. According to Y.A. Shilov's (1995: 189-90) investigation of the archaeological cultures of the Indo-Aryans, the team of a bull was presented together with the two snakes and symbol of fertility in a burial. On the other hand, the Indo-Aryan bull god Rudra 'Howling' was associated with snakes (Shilov 1995: 192). On these grounds I conclude that Argimpasa [Ar gim pasa] is this semi-serpent goddess. There is a good probability that an image of the goddess is a cow, too. Some features of this goddess are reflected in the Russian pagan gods Yarila and Veles.
Circassian g''ethe 'spring-time' is comparable with Russian gad 'reptile (snake)', gadyuka 'snake species', Serbo-Croat gad 'dirtiness, mud', and Old Indian gad 'to crawl'.
One can reconstruct the name of the Scythian god corresponding to the Greek god Ares. According to Herodotus (The History: Book IV), this god was incarnated in an iron sword akinakes placed on the top of a "temple" (a big heap of brushwood). The victims to this god were cattle, horses, and even captives. Obviously this historian reported the god's name, and it was consonant with the word akinakes 'sword'. I think that it is the god Agin (Agni) = the Indo-Aryan god Agni 'Fire'. This name is preserved in the Circassian pagan god's name Ahin 'the protector of cattle'. A priest holding a knife is represented on a seal of the Aryan state Mitanni; here the sign of the god Agni is shown, too (Shilov 1995: 266).
The sign of the mirror corresponding to October - December is the head of a horse. A Scythian silver amphora (Galanina, Domansky and Smirnova 1981: 43, photo) is decorated with the sign of a winged horse. 11 petals (months) is depicted above its head. Hence a horse symbolizes a certain month of the Scythian (Sarmatian) calendar. Interestingly, in conformity with the data of the excavations of the Indo-Aryan burials (Shilov 1995: 205), the skulls of horses indicate the sunsetting in winter. It is known that the Indo-Aryan god Agni 'Fire' became like a horse and a man (Shilov 1995: 203). Russian loshad' 'horse' is comparable with Old Church Slavonic l'shchati 'to shine' (Rjabchikov 1998a: 8). The horse Dadhikra of the Indo-Aryan mythology played a role of the sun swimming through the ocean of the other world (Shilov 1995: 202). This horse was closely connected with the deity Agni (Toporov 1991a). The wise man Dadhyanc who was closely connected with this horse received the enclosures for cows (Toporov 1991b). An Indo-Aryan symbol, number 5, is associated with the horses in several burials (Shilov 1995: 202). On the other hand, the Scythian tip of the sheath of a sword (Galanina, Domansky and Smirnova 1981: 104, photo) is covered with 5 signs of the sun (fire). Conceivably mech-samorub 'the sword which hews itself' mentioned in Russian fairy-tales conforms to the Scythian sacral sword.
Relying on such data, I conclude that the images of the Scythian (and Sarmatian) god Agin/Agni are iron sword and horse, cf. the wordplay in Russian: rezat' 'to cut' and rezvy kon' 'fast horse'. Later this god was replaced by the goddess Makosh' (or Mokosh') in the Russian mythology. This name is associated with Russian kosh signifying 'carriage' and 'military transport' (Schilov 1995: 358). On the other hand, Russian skot 'cattle' means lit. s kot (kosh) 'near a carriage'. The component ma- in the goddess' name belongs in my opinion to the Indo-European root *mei- denoting ideas "agreement" and "consent". Perhaps the word ma- is the reflex of the name of the Indo-Aryan sun god Mitra (Toporov 1992a: 154). Makosh' is the solar deity, too (Belyakova 1995: 101). According to ancient beliefs (Rybakov 1994: 390, 392), the Friday before November 21 is dedicated to the goddess Makosh'. This goddess is represented together with two horsemen on a Russian embroidery (Rybakov 1994: 391). The record of the Phaistos disk tells of the girl Kyat (Makosh') who whips up horses to the winter solstice (Rjabchikov 1988: 9). Moreover, this deity is presented among the pagan Circassian deities as Kodes 'the god of the sea'. It is not wonder, because the ancient Indo-European god of the sea was incarnated in a horse or a bull (Losev 1992: 323). Besides, the Russian fairytale character Koshchei Bessmertny may be related to the goddess Makosh'.
Herodotus (The History: Book IV) also reported the name of the god Thagimasados who was equal to the Greek god Poseidon. I split the name Thagimasados into three parts, Ta gima sad 'This is the winter, (the god) Sad'. This chthonic deity Sad is preserved in the character Sadko from the Russian traditional heroic poem of the same name. Sadko is the sea god. One can compare the morpheme sad with the name of Seth, the enemy of Osiris in the Egyptian mythology; German Sand 'sand'; Russian syad' 'sit down!'; and Eglish '(sun)setting'. The name of the Circassian pagan goddess, the girl of the sea water Hepeshuash, is divided into Hepe shuash, where hepe is associated with Russian gibnut' 'to perish', gubit' 'to destroy', and shuash is associated with the name Sad. I suppose that the name of the girl means 'The destroying Sad'.
So one can define more precisely the srtucture of the Scythian religion (see Raevsky 1994: 206-10). The goddess Tabiti (Indo-Aryan Tapas (Raevsky 1994: 205); cf. also Russian topit' 'to heat', teply 'warm'; cf. the name of the Russian pagan supreme god Svarog < Old Indian svar 'the sun' and ruh- 'to grow; to be born') begat the god Papaios/Perun with the epithet "Wind" and goddess Api, they begat the god Goitosiros, goddess Argimpasa, god corresponding to Ares (Agin/Agni) and god Targitaos. Then Targitaos and Argimpasa begat the Scythians.
Let us examine the bronze mirror again. The sun represented in its centre is Tabiti. On the mirror one can pass a line between points of the vernal equinox (March 22) and of the autumnal equinox (September 22). It is worth noting that both corresponding signs are the letter beta symbolizing the god Papaios (cf. Russian bab'e leto 'warm time in September', and even babay 'an oral fetish to frighten a child'). The "round" (the solar sign) denotes the god Targitaos. The certain months of this calendar are specified by the signs of the deities Goitosiros (December, the winter solstice), Argimpasa (May - June), Agin/Agni (October - December) and Targitaos (June, the summer solstice).
Then one can reconstruct all the seasons (season/specific days/actions of the Russian folk calendar):
1st season / November 22 - February 21 / the winter solstice of December 22; the feast Kolyada; the day of Spiridon-Solntsevorot of December 25 (10).
2nd season / February 22 - May 21 / the day of Vlasy (the god Veles, protector of herds) of February 24; the vernal equinox of March 22; the day of Krasnaya gorka of April 25; the day of Yury (Egory) of May 6: the beginning of the works in the fields and of the pasture of cattle.
3rd season / May 22 - August 21 / the day of Yarila of June 17; the summer solstice of June 22; the day of Kupala of June 24.
4th season / August 22 - November 21 / the day called oseniny of September 21; the autumnal equinox of September 22; the day of Fedora of September 24: the end of summer and of season called bab'e leto 'warm time in September'; the day of Egory osenny of October 13: the end of the works in the fields; the main week dedicated to the goddess Makosh' before November 21.
On the basis of present knowledge, I think that Herodotus described the Scythian religious calendar in his History.
Another calendar is inscribed on a mirror of Meotian-Sarmatian period (1st - 2nd c. A.D.) from the same Chernyshov barrow (Leskov and Lapushnian 1987: 138, fig. 63, the left upper photo). Here the left-side swastika (the symbol of the winter solstice according to Shilov 1995: 467) is depicted in the centre of the round. The 28 days are shown as the short radial lines. Number 14 (28:2) is the number of the lunar calendar connected with the god Osiris (Shilov 1995: 200).
Another calendar is inscribed on a mirror of Meotian-Sarmatian period (1st - 2nd c. A.D.) from the same barrow (Leskov and Lapushnian 1987: 138, fig. 63, the right upper photo). The round symbolizes the sun; the four "tridents" denote the four seasons (see above), they are (November 22 - February 21), (February 22 - May 21), (May 22 - August 21), and (August 22 - November 21). The four "spirals" signify the motion of the sun throughout the year.
A calendar record may be inscribed on a mirror of Meotian-Sarmatian period (1st - 2nd c. A.D.) from the same barrow (Leskov and Lapushnian 1987: 138, fig. 63, the left lower photo). Several groups of lines are depicted on this mirror.
The Circassian language is an Indo-European one. I should like to add the following parallels: Circassian h''uray 'round', cf. south Russian horovod 'round', Greek horos 'round dance', Latin gyrus 'round'; Circassian h''uy 'male', cf. Russian goy 'abundant'; Circassian ''etyn, p''etyn 'to raise', cf. Russian den', Etruscan tin-, Latin dies 'day'; Circassian tyg''e, dyg''e 'the sun' (11), cf. Old Indian dahas 'fire, heat', German Tag 'day'; Circassian sh''h'e 'head; top', cf. German hoch 'tall'; Circassian mafe 'day', maf''e 'fire', cf. Latin moveo 'to move'; Circassian nef 'light', cf. Russian nebo 'sky'; Circassian g''ny 'winter', cf. Russian zima, Old Indian himas 'winter'; Circassian nart 'hero in Circassian folklore', cf. Russian narod 'people' (12); Circassian inyzh 'evil ghost', cf. Russian niz 'bottom', nizhny 'lower'.
It is known that the Circassian hero (nart) Sosruko (Sausryk''u) was connected with the solar myths (Kaloev, Mizhaev and Salakaya, 1992: 200). He returned the fire to other heroes as well (Mizhaev 1992). The following record - Mafa narata Sushe-riko - is written down on the Maikop slab (the 3rd c. B.C.) with the help of the signs of the Linear B (Linear A) (Rjabchikov 1998a: 23). The text means 'The fire (day) of the hero (by the name) Dryness/Sun-King'. Here the name Sushe-riko (Sosruko, Sausryk''u) consists of the word sushe (cf. Russian sush' 'dry place', suhoy 'dry' and Old Indian surya 'the sun') and of the word riko (cf. Latin rex, Etruscan luc-, Old Indian rajan 'king', German Reich 'state', and even Polynesian ariki 'chief'). I think that Sushe-[riko] is a variant of the name of the Indo-Aryan god Surya 'The Sun' who is represented as the eye of the deities Mitra, Varuna, and Agni; sometimes this god is equl to Savitar (Toporov 1992b). Interestingly, the fragment of a Tmutarakan' amphora contains the word sush 'dryness' and the picture of an eye (Rjabchikov 1998b: 22-3). On the other hand, the inhabitants of the ancient Russian town Tmutarakan' worshipped, by hypothesis (Vernadsky 1948), the god Hors. The name of Tmutarakan' (cf. Russian t'ma 'darkness, gloom' and tarashchit (glaza) 'to goggle') may be a symbol of the death and resurrection, of the Egyptian/Scythian deities Horus and Osiris. In the Abkhazian mythology Hudysh is connected with Sasrykva (the Abkhazian variant of Circassian Sosruko) (Salakaya 1992). Alternatively, according to the Indo-Aryan mythology, Surya competed with Etasha (Toporov 1992b: 478). The names Hudysh and Etasha are similar. Several features of the hero Sosruko are preserved in the Russian fairytale character Koshchei Bessmertny. In the Circassian mythology there are Thozhey, the horse of the hero Sosruko, and his enemy, the old woman Uorsar (Mizhaev 1992). I read the name Thozhey as T hozhey 'This is a fast (horse) or the sun', cf. Russian hod 'motion; movement', German heiß 'hot', English hot, heat. The name Uorsar can be divided into the two words, Uor sar, cf. Russian vor zari 'thief of the dawn'.
Moreover, the name Zeigut or Zeikuth of a Circassian pagan god (the patron of horsemen) is comparable with Greek zygios 'involved (by horses)', cf. also Russian zagon 'driving in; enclosure (for cattle)' and Greek Zygopolis, Zihia 'Zihia'. Hakustash, the name of a Circassian pagan god, the patron of arable oxen, compares with Russian gustoy 'thick'. Emish', the name of a Circassian pagan god, the patron of sheep, compares with the name of the Indo-Aryan sun god Mitra.
In summary I should like to stress that the data obtained hereabove witness that the Proto-Slavonic culture existed at least in 5th century B.C., when Herodotus had written the History. The region Gerros and the river of the same name (the branch of the river Dnieper) are mentioned in this work (Book IV). The river Gerros divided the land of the nomad Scythians from the land of Royal Scythians. I believe that the term Gerros means Ge Ros 'The country Ros' (cf. Greek ge 'earth'), so that at least a part of the nomad Scythians belonged to the Proto-Slavs (cf. Russian Rus 'Rus', Rossiya 'Russia', and russky 'Russian').
2. The Greek letter beta correlates with sing 72 pe/be of the Linear B (Linear A), and the Greek letter eta - with sign 38 e of the same system.
3. The word t- (or ta) compares with Russian to 'that' and eto 'this' (Rjabchikov 1998a: 19, 22).
4. See (Rybakov 1987: 48).
5. See (Belyakova 1995: 197-228).
6. Cf. also Russian kazak 'Cossack'.
7. Cf. also Old Indian ksayati 'he owns, predominates' (Vasmer 1987b: 271).
8. See also (Rybakov 1994: 434).
9. Cf. also the interpretation of the word cherkes 'Circassian' as 'warrior' (Sakharov and Novosel'tsev 1997: 92).
10. Notice that the real date of a folk fiest (the 16 - 17 c. A.D.) = the date presented in this article minus 3 days (Belyakova 1995: 193). Then, e.g., the day of Spiridon-Solntsevorot corresponds to December 22 (the winter solstice).
11. So Circassian adyge 'Circassian' means lit. 'solar', cf. the Scythian name Kolaxais.
12. It follows that the term kazak means 'bogatyr, hero' (cf. also -xa- 'people').
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Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.
Published 12 October 1999, updated 15 October 1999 (http://slavonicweb.chat.ru/ris.htm: the link The Scythians, Sarmatians, Meotians, Russians and Circassians: Interpretation of the Ancient Cultures: Figure 1).
Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.
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