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Copyright © 2002 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

As has been shown by the author earlier (The Interpretation of Scythian, Sarmatian and Meotian-Sarmatian Motifs and Records), the Sarmatian records on cauldrons discovered in Sarmatian burials, Rostov-on-Don Territory, Russia, tell of the sun/thunder god and the sun. Recently Y.A. Prokopenko (2001) made the analogous inference regarding cauldrons from the piedmonts of the North Caucasus in Sarmatian times.

Now I should like to study the name Safa of the Ossetic deity of the chain of the hearth as well as the name Affy of the Abkhazian deity of thunder and lightning (also associated with the chain of the hearth) which are mentioned in the article by Y.A. Prokopenko (2001: 164-5). Apparently both names (*S(o)-af-, *Af-) have the common base, *af-, cf. Old Indian av 'to protect'. Scythian/Sarmatian s(o) signifies 'bright; look; eye; heat; shine; to shine'. In accordance with medieval sources, Alanian afsad means 'army' (Afanasyev 1993: 142). In my opinion, this word is comparable with Old Indian av 'to protect', Scythian/Sarmatian sad, Old Indian sathan 'connection'. It is possible that Russian ovtsa 'sheep' (ov-ts-a) (1) correlates with Old Indian av 'to protect'. Interestingly, some Scythian stands of hearths discovered in different places, the Crimea, Ukraine (Dashevskaya 1991: 60, table 8, figures 1 - 8), are decorated with heads of rams. I connected these symbols with the Scythian fire god. Moreover, candles (fires, the sun) are connected with sheep in a Russian song kolyadka (2).

On can examine the unclear Abkhazian expressions etlar-chopa (associated with a lightning that killed a person), atlar-chopa, Ossetic terms tsoppay, atlar choupar, etlar choupar, Karachai and Balkar terms chappa, choppa (associated with a lightning) (3). In my opinion, the words chopa, tsoppay, choupar, chappa and choppa are comparable with Russian tsep' 'chain', Old Indian cap 'to rub' (perhaps associated with fire). At the North Caucasus the Russians made fire (so-called "fire of life") by rubbing of two pieces of wood (Butova 1889: 55). Let us study the Scythian/Sarmatian name Briksaba 'The Forehead of a Ram' of a mountain near the Don river (4). In my opinion, this name reads Bri ksaba 'The Guardian/Ram - the Rub (Fire)/Chain', cf. Old Indian para 'highest; supreme; guardian; keeper', Russian baran 'ram', Old Indian cap 'to rub', Russian tsep' 'chain'.

So the name *Af/*Av 'Protector' is an epithet of the Scythian/Sarmatian deities of the sun, fire, hearth, thunder and lightning.


1. Russian yaytso 'egg', kol'tso 'ring', kryl'tso 'porch' also contain the archaic suffix ts. Cf. also Latin ovis 'sheep'.

2. See Chistov and Chistova 1984: 53.

3. See Salakaya 1974: 23-4.

4. See Kuznetsova 1992: 170.


Afanasyev, G.E., 1993. Sistema sotsial'no-markiruyushchikh predmetov v muzhskikh pogrebal'nykh komplexakh donskikh alan. Rossiyskaya arkheologiya, 4: 131-44.

Butova, E., 1889. Stanitsa Borozdinskaya Terskoy oblasti Kizlyarskogo okruga. Sbornik materialov dlya opisaniya mestnostey i plemen Kavkaza. Tiflis. Vol. 7, part 1: 3-156.

Chistov, K.V. and B.E. Chistova (eds.), 1984. Russkaya narodnaya poeziya. Obryadovaya poeziya. Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaya literatura.

Dashevskaya, O.D., 1991. Pozdnie skify v Krymu. Arkheologiya SSSR. Svod arkheologicheskikh istochnikov. Vol. D 1-7. Moscow: Nauka.

Kuznetsova, T.M. (ed.), 1992. Skify: Khrestomatiya. Moscow: Vysshaya shkola.

Prokopenko, Y.A., 2001. Elementy kul'ta ochaga v pogrebal'noy obryadnosti naseleniya Predkavkaz'ya v sarmatskoe vremya. Rossiyskaya arkheologiya, 4: 162-7.

Salakaya, S.K., 1974. Obryadovy fol'klor abkhazov. In: B.N. Putilov (ed.) Fol'klor i etnografiya: Obryady i obryadovy fol'klor. Leningrad: Nauka, pp. 19-26.

Copyright © 2002 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 11 March 2002.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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