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Dievs

by Aldis Putelis
Dievs ("god") is the supreme deity of the Latvians, with the same position Zeus has in Greek religion. The word was later also used to denote the highest Christian deity and the main question is that of Christian influences included in Dievs' image. The Finno-Ugric (Finnish and Estonian) loan words derived from the Baltic mean "sky" or "heaven" (compare: Finnish and Estonian taivas, taevas and Old Prussian deiwas). For the first time as a Latvian (i.e. non-Christian) deity Dievs is mentioned in Stenders' Lexicon (1783). It is likely that the previous authors simply overlooked this deity not willing to contaminate the Christian notion.

Dievs is the most frequently mentioned Latvian deity (counting all the usage of the word), and a sky and fertility god. In some cases he is the suitor of Saule. There is no explicit hint to his wife, only his sons -- Dieva deli -- are mentioned frequently (they in fact are the most frequent counterparts of Saules meitas). The main concept of Dievs's appearance is that of a plain-looking wise old man with a white beard, who appears in everyday-life situations. This concept is more poetic than that to be found in the song texts and it comes mostly from fairy-tales. In song texts God is more militant and harsh, giving orders and even using his sword to maintain the order in the world. Therefore it is possible to speak about several independent concepts of Dievs. Either because of predominance of Christianity or any other reason in accounts of Latvian religion in the Middle Ages, the leading position is given to Perkons ("thunder"). Latvian mythology students of the mid-war period have opposed it at great lengths, sometimes even overlooking the fact that the sky-god is very much connected with thunder, allowing the name to be substituted. Whether this attitude can be related to some ideas of Dievturiba remains inexplicable.


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