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Auseklis

by Aldis Putelis
Auseklis (ausma, "dawn"; aust "to dawn") is a Latvian stellar (masculine) god. In astronomic interpretations usually understood as planet Venus (there is proof that Venus was called Lielais Auseklis - the Great Auseklis). He is connected with Meness (the moon), but also with Saule (the sun). In the myth of the heavenly wedding, he is one of the suitors of Saules meitas (along with Dieva deli, Meness, and other gods), but in some versions he is just one of the bride's party. He might also be the only suitor, the mythic material is not clear enough because there is also a great number of texts with an obscure hint to Auseklis as the original bridegroom of Sun's daughter, which is later stolen by Meness (Moon), in turn being punished by Saule or Perkons.

There are other motives in which Auseklis has disappeared and the Moon, counting the stars, discovers this. The structure itself is the same as that of the motif of the youngest daughter who is discovered being lost by the mother, counting her children late in the evening. In this motif the girl enters the otherworld through death. Whether this is a contaminated motif of some solar myth (where the sun passes the underworld by night to rise fresh and alive in the morning) is not clear. It could also be a hint to a different original gender of Auseklis (there are also some feminine forms of the name) cannot be stated, but there are signs that some gender shift due to linguistic or other causes might also have taken place in the case of other deities like Saule and Meness (some 18th century dictionaries - Lange 1773, Stender 1761 - indicate Meness as feminine; this is allowed by the grammatical structure of Latvian). Still Auseklis in these cases may be found making a dress for the sun or going to visit his bride.

Auseklis also appears in other functions explicable as some servant (such as the motif of the "heavenly bath" where he supplies the water). There are texts allowing to assume that at least in some cases Auseklis may have substituted Meness, as it can be proved by astronomic explanation of the texts (disappearance of Auseklis for three days - true about the moon). What could have caused such change of functionality and importance is difficult to establish.

Auseklis was chosen as a pseudonym by one of the Latvian poets of mid-19th century - Mikus Krogzemis. He was among the first nationally oriented learned Latvians who in his poems greatly added to the Latvian pantheon, with this being regarded as one of his greatest achievements at that time, while later his voluntary additions where seriously criticized.


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