Dyaus; Deva, Deus, Tyr: Many Gods, One Sky Father

Despite His centrality to our mythology, the Indo-European Sky Father is probably one of the most misunderstood Gods of our pantheon(s). You will semi-regularly hear people make all manner of outlandish claims about Him. The most common of which tend to be either that the Sky Father ‘withered away’ and was superceded by another God or Gods; or, going the other way, that some God of different mythic and etymological derivation than He is the ‘true’, ‘authentic’ Sky Father. Occasionally, you even see some bizarre attempts at conflationism or simple misidentification – proclaiming Thor to be the Sky Father, for instance, as a recent book did. 

He Deserves Better. And so, we’re going to be taking a look at some of these mythconceptions about the Sky Father – with a view to explaining what’s actually going on, and hopefully setting them to rest. So that we may more properly understand Him – and the rest of the Indo-European religion accordingly. 

So, with that in mind, here’s a brief look at two parallel chains of linguistic derivation – the Indo-European terms for the Sky Father (the ‘Sky’ that is the Heavens, ‘Bright Sky’), and for ‘God’ (as in ‘Shining One’ – there are an array of other ways to speak of the concept of Gods, which we’ll take a look at in ‘dieu’ time). These DO have a common ultimate etymological root – Proto-Indo-European ‘Dyew’ [‘Bright/Shining Sky/Heaven’ – ‘The Radiant Daylit Sky’]; however the relevant derivations – PIE ‘Dyews’ (the Sky God and His Sphere) and PIE ‘Deywos’ (‘God’ in a more general sense – ‘Shining One’) distinguished themselves early on. A distinction maintained across subsequent Indo-European languages and religion.

Which makes sense, after all – there may be many Gods (‘Deva’, ‘Deus’ / ‘Dei’, ‘Tyr’ / ‘Tivar’), but there is only one Sky Father. [Subject, of course, to the fact that the Sky Father has a bit of a habit of appearing as many Aspects, Forms, Faces in any given Indo-European pantheon – hence part of the occasional opacity around His Persistency.] 

But why is this relevant for our purpose of clearing up ‘mythconceptions’ as to the Sky Father deific? Well, one of the major ones which we seem to keep running into from time to time .. is a peculiarly persistent postulation that Tyr is somehow the ‘original’ Sky Father of the Nordic/Germanic mythology – with Odin a comparatively late interloper that has allegedly displaced and supplanted Him. We’ll take a look at how the comparative Indo-European mythology further disproves this position in a future article; but for now, we’ll just focus on the linguistic side of things. Not least because it is the confusion around the linguistics that appears to have ‘opened the door’ to the whole thing in the first place. 

People have erroneously presumed that ‘Tyr’ is phonetically, functionally, linguistically and mythically coterminate with ‘Zeus’ or ‘Dyaus’. As we can see from the chart – that is not the case. Instead of referring to the ‘Sky (Father)’, it simply means ‘God’. As in, ‘God’ in a general sense – ‘one of the Gods’, or ‘the God of -‘ when utilized as a suffix. In this it is basically the same as Sanskrit ‘Deva’,and to a slightly lesser extent, the Latin ‘Deus’ (I say ‘slightly lesser extent’, largely because Latin doesn’t tend to make use of ‘Deus’ as an appended part of a theonym as frequently as occurs with ‘-deva’ or ‘-tyr’ in Sanskrit and Old Norse respectively; whilst Roman religion also preferred utilizing direct theonyms rather than more generalized ‘to (the) God’ in invocations).

Which is exactly what we should expect given its derivation from PIE ‘Deywos’ … and which further shows that it has little to do with PIE ‘Dyews’. 

Examples of ‘Tyr’ in broader use than to refer to the specific god Tyr, include the frequent utilization of ‘-tyr’ in Odinic theonymry [e.g. ‘Sigtyr’ – God of Victory; ‘Hangatyr’ – God of the Hanged or ‘Valtyr’, God of the Slain;,and, of course, Geirtyr, the Spear-God. Amidst many, many more], its turning up in terms and kennings for Thor [e.g. ‘Reidhartyr’, the Chariot-God; or the complex kenning in Thorsdrapa built around ‘Tivi’], and its plural formulation – ‘Tivar’ – to refer to ‘The Gods’. 

This mirrors how we use ‘Deva’ in Sanskrit – as seen, for example, in terms like ‘Mahadeva’ [‘Great God’], ‘Vayudeva’ [‘Wind God’], ‘Agnideva’ [‘(Living) Fire God’]; the use of ‘Deva’ in the singular to mean ‘the God’ (and occasionally Lord Indra in particular); as well as as a designation, particularly in the plural, for the class of beings ‘The Gods’. 

Now, on the linguistic side of things, I’ve deliberately kept matters overly simple. So the chart below does not include a few intermediate forms between words (e.g. Old Latin – ‘Deivos’ – preceding ‘Deus’ and deriving from Proto-Italic ‘Deiwos’); and I have also slightly aggregated some definitional fields (e.g. Proto-Helennic ‘Dzeus’ doesn’t tend to have the generalized ‘Heaven’ sense that is retained in Proto-Italic ‘Djous’ or Proto-Indo-Aryan ‘Dyaws’) or omitted some entirely (such as the interesting broadening out of Sanskrit ‘Deva’ to the point wherein it can now also be utilized for a mortal lord of seriously great quality upon occasion, for example, in a manner perhaps not dissimilar to some of the PIE ‘Diwyos’ (‘Heavenly’) derivatives … and which also has some resonancy with the other Nordic uses of ‘Tyr’ to refer to a man bearing the exemplary qualities associated with the Deity Himself; as well as the intricacies of Sanskrit ‘Dyu’ that more strongly emphasize the ‘radiant’ qualities of the Heavens). For reasons of both space and clarity, I have also chosen to focus on only a pretty limited spread of languages and cognate terms. 

In summation, ‘Tyr’ is not an equivalent term to ‘Dyaus’, ‘Zeus’, ‘Ju(piter)’, etc. It is used differently, and a lot more broadly in potential scope – precisely because it is differently derived from the specific terms for the ‘Sky (Father’). The fact that its more proximate Proto-Indo-European root – ‘Deywos’ – bears some resemblance (and a shared ultimate point of origin) to PIE ‘Dyews’ does not render these terms equivalent. In fact, the opposite is true; as they differentiated in PIE precisely because they were intended to refer to different (but somewhat related) concepts. Meanwhile, the actual usage-pattern for ‘Tyr’ and ‘-tyr’ in Germanic/Nordic mythology matches up closely with ‘Deva’ and ‘Deus’, all of which are identically derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘Deywos’ (‘God’). 

The idea that ‘Tyr’ or ‘Tiwaz’ could somehow mean ‘Sky (Father)’ would be a rather radical departure from the clearly prominent pattern attested not only in these other Indo-European languages and religions – but would also fly flat in the face of how ‘Tyr’ is used with great prominence and frequency elsewhere in Nordic/Germanic mythology and languages. 

Despite the occasional assertions to the contrary, the linguistics do not support Tyr as ‘Sky Father’ – ‘original’, or otherwise. 

In the next installment of the series, I’ll be taking a brief look at how the relevant comparative Indo-European mythology further demonstrates that Odin has not somehow ‘displaced’ Tyr to ‘become’ the Sky Father. 

8 thoughts on “Dyaus; Deva, Deus, Tyr: Many Gods, One Sky Father

  1. Could it means that this is start of Vedic Aryan Monotheism which was lost due to veil of ignorance and division between vedic followers

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    • Tyr could be Zeus, Djaus, when you mention his south-germanic Name: Ziu! From Ziu it is not far to Zeus. Also listen to the sound of Teiwaz! Teiwaz – Ziu – Zeus – Djaus could still be. Also to mention is celtic Teutates.

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      • it’s probably worth noting that Teutates / Toutatis is likely from an entirely different PIE stem – the one which gives us Proto-Celtic *Touta , as in a ‘people’. The sense being communicated is likely a ‘God of the People’ – perhaps in the sense of the People coming together [ref: various Greek epithets that are functional correlates with this, for example]

        Meanwhile, as applies ‘Ziu’ – no, that’s precisely the issue. Ziu is a direct cognate with Tyr, Tiw, etc. all from Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz. It, too, is a term ‘God’ that is again cognate with Deva, Deus, etc.

        Simply because it starts with a ‘Z’ doesn’t abrogate that – it’s simply a regular Germanic sound-shift (T => Z) , of the kind that you can also see with ‘Zwei’ vs ‘Tveir (Old Norse), or ‘Two’ (English) etc., all of which come from Proto-Germanic *Twai.

        Another example is Zehe … or, as we would say in English – ‘Toe’, (Old Norse is ‘Ta’) all from Proto-Germanic *Taihwho.

        So – ‘Ziu’ is a local form of ‘Tiu’ … the Z turns up as a later development upon hte ‘T’ (with the particular sound-shift pattern in question occurring in the middle 1st millennium AD).

        It is, again, from a different PIE term than ‘Dyaus’, Zeus, Ju(piter).

        The fact that it may sound a bit like ‘Zeus’ when you say it [although that’s a modern English pronunciation like ‘Zoos’ rather than, I presume, something more archaic and closer to the Greek, like ‘Zay-uhs’ ] is a case of what a linguist would term a ‘false friend’ – a word which bears some cosmetic resemblance to another, yet whihc is actually unrelated etymologically and in terms of meaning.

        English ’embarrassed’ and Spanish ’embarazada’ constitute a good example of a ‘false friend’. They *look* similar terms, and yet not only are they etymologically unrelated, but ’embarazada’ actually means ‘to be pregnant’

        [-C.A.R.]

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  2. Pingback: Who is Teiws, the Gothic god of war? | Athanaricus

  3. There are two points that seem to counter your argument that Tiw can’t be the sky father because it’s descends from *deywos. The first is the Baltic sky father, Dievas, also descends from the same root as Tiwaz.

    The second is the Luwian deity Tiwaz, which also descends from *deywos. While he wasn’t the king of the gods in the Luwian mythology, he still had a clear connection to the sky (he was the sun god) and the oldest referenced to him revert to him as “Father Tiwaz”. He is also associated with oaths, like Tyr is.

    I’m just curious how you feel these gods fit into your argument here. I look forward to hearing back from you!

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    • I should perhaps clarify what I was getting at with this piece.

      The argument we have frequently encountered all over the place is that Tyr “has to be” the “real” Germanic Sky Father – because people think that the Sky Father should have a ‘Dyaus’ style theonym.

      The idea that the Sky Father should have a ‘Dyaus’ [or, more properly, PIE *Dyews descended] theonymic is not un-understandable. It’s very prominent as applies Zeus (Pater) and Jupiter, after all, and certainly occurs viz. Dyaus Pitar in the Vedas. Although it is ‘missing something’ insofar as people often appear to presume that in the *absence* of a ‘Dyaus’ labelling … that there is no Dyaus present.

      By which I mean, if a deific turns up that bears various key hallmarks of being a Sky Father deific expression, if there isn’t a ‘Dyaus’ theonymic directly attached, people may be disinclined to accept that this is, in fact, a Sky Father facing. Which gets rather problematic – because oddly enough, in the well-attested Indo-European religious canons we have available to us (and that’s uh .. well, that’s not many, to be honest) … it’s *only* the Greeks & Romans that really have very prominent *Dyews theonymics for the figure in question.

      In the Vedic sphere .. it’s *there* , but really quite rare … and we more frequently encounter ‘Rudra’ – and various Roudran theonymics instead. See my recent works here – https://aryaakasha.com/2022/08/17/in-search-of-shiva-as-dyaus-in-subsequent-scripture/ and here – https://aryaakasha.com/2022/08/17/dyaus-inter-alia-on-the-sky-fathers-major-theonym-and-the-relative-in-frequency-of-its-occurrence-across-various-indo-european-spheres/ for interest.

      But I digress.

      The point with my etymological chart and other such commentary elements in the piece you’ve commented on is quite different.

      The claim is that Tyr “has to be” “the real” Germanic Sky Father, because of the theonym. This rests upon the presumption that the theonym is in fact a *Dyews derivative, a Dyaus / Zeus / Ju(piter) cognate. And therefore – Same God, Same Name, in loka-lized format.

      Except as we can see … Tyr *isn’t* a *Dyews derivative. It isn’t cognate with Dyaus / Zeus / (Ju)piter.

      It’s instead a *Deywos derivative, cognate with Deva, Deus, etc. – and also utilized as part of theonymics for Odin, Thor, etc., and in plural (Tivar).

      Therefore, in reply to your point about Dievas … the situation is quite simple:

      A Sky Father deific *can* be referred to as a God (*Deywos / Deva / Deus / (-)Tyr , etc.) … of course He can. That’s what He Is. Albeit we usually see some qualifiers – Shiva is Mahadeva, rather than usually being referred to as simply ‘Deva’, to take one example. Although liturgy may differ – because it’s usually a lot clearer due to context just Whom one is intending to refer (and offer) to.

      Yet it proves nothing about the figure being *the* Sky Father to hail Him using a title that is, ultimately, the generic term for ‘(a) God’.

      That was what I was getting at.

      Now, the situation viz. Dievas / Dievs (if we are speaking Lithuanian or Latvian respectively) is basically this but the other way around.

      Insofar as there’s a generic term for (a) God being utilized as a shorthand for the Sky Father deific. Which is … curious, because the same words are *also* used, as I say, for … well, just exactly that – generic terms for (a) God. It even comes in plural formulations – Dievi and Dievai , respectively. [The Old Prussian, in case one was wondering – is ‘Deiws’ in the singular, ‘Deiwai’ ]

      We would suggest that this is likely the result of the actual nuance and complexity of the religion being steadily eroded over time, perhaps under Christian influence (hence ‘God’ becomes .. well, the way to speak about the Sky Father – just as , in a loose analogy, the Christian God is often thought of as a ‘Father’ in the Sky. Indeed, the Catholics quite literally do this viz. Deus Pater (not to be confused with, well, *Dyaus* Pater … or, for that matter, *Dis* Pater)).

      There may also be some .. curious linguistics going on as applies the Dieva Deli / Dievo Suneliai relative to the Divo Napata / Dioscuri … because ‘Dieva’ *shouldn’t* be the relevant term; and we should instead have a *Dyews style element in the front particle.

      Either somehow *Dyews and *Deywos in the Baltic sphere have wound up with ‘congruent evolution’ to the point of indistinguishability … or a re-dubbing of the Baltic iteration of *Dyews as a *Deywos as a major term of address has lead to a consequent re-formulation for the accompanying Twin Sons.

      This is the trouble when many of our major sources (such as they are) for this sphere are basically folk-songs (and other such impressions) recorded during the Romantic era by people with a … lot of enthusiasm and often some ‘ideas about how things should be’ that things then get wedged into .

      However, rather instructive for our purposes is *another* means to refer to the Baltic Sky Father deific – Debess Tevs.

      Now, somewaht … surprisingly, whilst this *does* translate (broadly) as ‘Sky Father’ … it has no etymological relationship to ‘Dyaus Pitar’ – and instead (and this is the surprising bit), the ‘Debess’ is from, if i recall correctly, PIE *Nebh (a term for clouds, etc. and moisture relating to – c.f ‘Nebula’, ‘Nebel’, etc.) … which Pokorny suggests may have acquired its unexpected ‘D-‘ due to influence from a *Dhengh-1 derivative, ‘Dangus’ (or its predicate) which refers to ‘covering’. ‘Tevs’, meanwhile, is a term for ‘Father’ – in fact, I do believe it may be from the same *Tata (c.f ‘Dada’ – viz. T => D sound-shift) that produces Luwian ‘Tatis’ [or, rather, in a similar fashion to ‘Ma’ / ‘MaMa’, ‘Da’ / ‘DaDa’ … a reduplication occurs viz. Tatis etc. that is not in evidence viz. Tevs] .

      Why do I mention that?

      Because the Luwian Tiwaz that you cite – more properly speaking, as you note, would be ‘Father Tiwaz’ (Tatis Tiwaz).

      Phrased another way … we do not find, unless I am mistaken, ‘Father’ terminology associated with the figure of Tyr. (Odin, however …); and this broader ‘contextual’ view for a term is rather important. If we are looking for a Sky Father – it helps to have the ‘Father’ component, particularly in those scenarios wherein, for some reason, the *Dyews proper has somehow ‘fallen away’.

      Now, as applies Luwian Tiwaz … I’m actually, having just briefly re-examined it again, rather skeptical about this being a *Deywos derivative directly.

      Liberian’s Hittite-English Dictionary has the relevant terminology, it should seem (and yeah, it’s a Hittite dictionary but includes other Anatolian comparanda, including Luwian) , coming from PIE *Dieu (she appears to be using the Pokorny style reconstruction) – that is to say *Dyew(s). She lists Sanskrit Dyut as a direct cognate for the relevant formulation. Which is, needless to say, a rather different specimine to *Deywos. Same ultimate origin, of course – viz. ‘Heavens’, ‘Bright / Shining Sky’ (as one ought expect for the Sun), but from something other than the *Deywos branch. Whether that’s a *Dyews , or perhaps more likely *Dyew directly (although it would be interesting to see where that ‘-az’ might have come from .. ) … well, i’d have to look into that further.

      We would question what you’ve probably encountered as ‘King of the Gods’ in Luwian perspective – as I’m assuming this was Tarhunz / Tarhunt … and in that case, that’s, upon cursory inspection ,a Striker/Thunderer deific, akin to Indra, etc. So a very *prominent* and popular and important God, yes. But in terms of a ‘King’ … well, I would have to do more research in that particular direction; but i would suspect off-hand a situation akin to Indra – wherein somebody’s basically misunderstood a few things about titles and prominence, and gone ‘Thunder = Ruler Over All’ (without pausing to ponder whether other Gods might *also* wield Thunder , or certain other factors that may prove pertinent …) (basically, rather like why people keep trying to claim that Indra is somehow Zeus) ; or, alternatively, it might be a Mesopotamian (or other non-IE) influence viz. what happened with the Hittites. I digress.

      As applies Oaths – this is not a Sky Father exclusive domain. You can find in the Roman sphere, for example, Hercules having such a role (it gets .. complex rather quickly, and we shall averr on the side of … restraint and not go into it for now).

      In any case, I have gone on far too long and have been up since yesterday – so there’ a lot of cogency probably missing here; and I do also apologize for the fact it’s taken me a little over a week to get back to you on this matter.

      Let us know if there are further queries etc. resulting from the above; or if things were unclear in amidst all of that wild tangentialism.

      And thank you for both reading and writing in.

      [-C.A.R.]

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  4. Pingback: Subsequent Comments On Sky Father Theonymy – The Baltic And Luwian Situations Briefly Considered | arya-akasha

  5. Pingback: द्यौस; देवा, देउस , टिर : बहुल देवता, एक द्यौस पिता | arya-akasha

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