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The article in which I try to give an alternative etymology of the name of the Eastern-Slavonic god Xors (Hors)  has finally been published in Studia Mythologica Slavica.SMS

It is the result of several years of research and I consider it an important event in my academic work.

You can read it at my Academia.edu  page

The paper examines the traditional explanation of the Eastern-Slavonic deity Xors as an Iranian loan from the Persian xwaršēδ/xoršid ‘sun’ and advances an alternative etymology via the Indo-Aryan root hṛṣ-, Indo-European *ghers/*g’hers and its cognates in other Indo-European languages. Based on the linguistic and mythological comparative analysis Xors is interpreted not as an abstract ‘solar god’ but as a ‘sun fertility hero’ viewed as the development of the ancient archetype of the ‘dying and resurrecting god’ comparable in role to Dionysus. The paper closes with a brief outline of some new venues for research following out of the proposed re-interpretation of Xors.

The traditional explanation of Xors as a late Iranian loan from the Persian xwaršēδ/xoršid ‘(radiant) sun’, conceived in the era when the Historical Linguistics was in its infancy, has now become an anachronism. It is not viable linguistically and is also a methodological dead-end because declaring Xors as an abstract generic ‘solar god’ or the ‘god of the solar disc’ does not really explain anything. Slavonic mythology and pre-Christian religious cults directly continue the Indo-European and Proto-Indo-European traditions so we should view the character and nature of Slavonic deities not as detached ‘exotic’ entities or endless ‘borrowings’ from surrounding peoples but as local developments of the common ancient base-myths. The new etymology of Xors as a relic of the I-E *h(V)rs-, preserved to this day in toponyms in the Balkan and Circumpontic areas and  in numerous cognates in the principal I-E language branches, integrates Xors-Daž’bog into the mainstream of the pan-European and Eurasian mythology. It also helps to understand the intricate deep connection of the multitude of seemingly diverse Eurasian cults and myths which may all decent to the same fundamental Palaeolithic archetypes of the ‘Great Mother’, ‘Divine Marriage’ and the eternal ‘wheel’ of birth and dying repeated at all levels from plants, animals, humans to the seasonal and cosmic cycles.

Russian summary

Неиранское происхождение восточнославянского бога Хърса/Хорса.

Константин Л. Борисов

Несмотря на то, что в древнерусских исторических и религиозных источниках Хорс является вторым по частоте упоминаний после верховного языческого бога Перуна, о его роли в пантеоне древних славян практически ничего не известно. В этой статье делается попытка нового осмысления функции Хорса через метод сравнительного лингвистического и мифологического анализа.

В самых ранних исторических исследованиях Хорс описывался как славянский аналог греческого Бахуса (Дионисия), а также сравнивался с древнепрусским божеством плодородия Curcho. Однако, с середины девятнадцатого века прочно утвердилась теория об иранском происхождении имени Хорс, как прямого заимствования из персидского xwaršēδ/xoršid ‘солнце-царь’. На этом основании Хорс представляется как ‘солнечный бог’ или как некое абстрактное ‘божество солнечного диска’. Такая интерпретация Хорса и сегодня является общепризнанной среди историков. При этом игнорируются объективные сложности произведения имени ‘Хорс’ из иранского xoršid. Такая радикальная трансформация звучания не характерна для известных иранских заимствований в славянский. В частности, необъясним предполагаемый переход иранского š в s. Кроме того, слово xwaršēδ появилось в средне-иранском языке относительно поздно (не ранее IV в. до н. э), как сокращённый  вариант Авестийского hvarə хšаētəm ‘солнце сияющее, правящее’, и не является собственно теонимом. С последующим развитием  Зороастризма функции солярного бога Hvar перешли к переосмысленному Митре (Mihr), и само его имя стало уже использоваться как синоним солнца. В современных иранских языках xoršid также имеет значение ‘солнце’, но без какого-либо религиозного подтекста.

Наряду с лингвистическими есть и культурно-исторические препятствия иранского происхождения теонима ‘Хорс’. Несмотря на то, что образ солнца занимает важное место в славянском фольклоре, зачастую солнце представлялось как  ‘девица’. Однако главной проблемой в теории об иранском происхождении Хорса является вопрос о том, когда и при каких условиях славяне вообще могли заимство­­­вать солнечный культ и название солнечного бога у иранцев.

Изначальная проблематичность теории прямого заимствования из иранского заставляла многих исследователей искать альтернативные объяснения. В частности, были попытки использования фонетической близости восточнославянского ‘хорошо/хорош’. При этом, как правило, не подвергался сомнению постулат о солярной сущности Хорса и его иранском происхождении. Основная трудность на этом пути состоит в том, что отсутствует надёжная этимология самого слова ‘хорошо/хорош’ и его конкретный иранский источник. Возможность прямого родства с практически полностью фоно-семантически совпадающим древне-индийским hṛṣu ‘радостный, довольный’ не рассматривается a priori, ввиду якобы невозможности прямого контакта древних славян с индо-арийскими языками в силу их географической удалённости и установившимся предубеждением, что любые схождения сакральной и религиозной лексики славянского с индо-иранским следует рассматривать исключительно как заимствования из иранских языков посредством скифского.

Данная работа опирается на возможность сохранения в Северном Причерноморье этноса или языковых реликтов прото-индо-иранского языка, восходящего ко времени Ямной культуры (3600—2300 до н. э.), до его предполагаемого разделения на индо-иранскую и иранскую ветви. Отталкиваясь от кардинального значение корня hṛṣ в древне-индийском, как ‘ощетинивание, эрекция’, возводимому к праиндоевропейскому этимону *ghers(*ghers-) ‘ощетиниваться’, теоним ‘Хорс’ интерпретируется как божество плодородия, сочетающее функции ‘солнечного героя’ и ‘хтонического бога’, сравнимого по функции с греческим Дионисом и его аналогами в других европейских и восточных  культах.

В заключительной части коротко описываются некоторые перспективы сравнительного мифологического анализа, которые открываются благодаря новой интерпретации образа Хорса как отражения древнего ‘дионисийского комплекcа’.

I have decided to upload a draft of my RUSSIAN – SANSKRIT DICTIONARY OF COMMON AND COGNATE WORDS which is the result of some eight years of work. This dictionary has been conceived as a practical reference book with the objective of providing factual material for researchers in the field of the Indo-European linguistics or anyone interested in etymology, semantics and the origin of the Indo-European, particularly, Slavonic languages. Compiling a dictionary is time-consuming and it is a mammoth task to do for a single person. The first draft published here is only a rough approximation. It contains only 488 entries, which is about a quarter of the planned volume, and still lacks some essential parts in the Introduction section. The entries have not yet been properly proof-read and I am constantly updating the comments.

 Index of entries

You may access the text at my page on Academia.edu

title
Although this work is titled ‘Dictionary’ it is neither a traditional Russian-Sanskrit dictionary nor a formal etymological dictionary, but rather a catalogue of various cognate, common or otherwise connected Russian and Sanskrit words, arranged is a systematic way with cross-references, explanatory notes, links to other Slavonic and Indo-European languages, indexes and other features aimed at making it a valuable and convenient reference book. The specific task called for employing both Cyrillic and Devanagarī scripts throughout the book because transliteration, however elaborate, cannot fully replace the native writing system. Since it is unlikely that every reader would be proficient in both scripts, each word is accompanied by a conventional transliteration.

In writing this book I endeavoured to go through all major works dedicated to this issue starting from the discovery of Sanskrit and its relation to the European languages in general, and particularly to Slavonic, covering the period from the 17th century up to the modern days. Each proposed cognate word has been carefully evaluated, checked through various dictionaries and, sometimes, re-linked or rejected. This method provided some eight hundred pairs that made the back-bone of the dictionary. The rest of the cognate pairs (about another thousand two hundred) are the result of many years of scrupulous research.

Many cognate pairs are obvious, some need more or less detailed explanations and might be difficult to apprehend without some basic knowledge of the principal linguistic concepts and terms. This is why the dictionary is prefaced by an Introduction containing some essential information about the Russian and Sanskrit languages and their phonetic and grammatical features with particular attention to the principal rules of sound correlation. This section is now in work and it is not included in this draft.

I would be grateful for any constructive criticism or comments. If you would like to support this project there are several ways of helping me with the work:

  •  report any spelling or other mistakes that you have noticed
  •  suggest any other cognate pairs
  • check the various cognates I mention in Slavonic and other languages if they happen to be in your native language

I would like to demonstrate here the remarkable phonetic affinity between Sanskrit and Russian taking two dozen of unquestionable cognate pairs as examples.  It is well known that all Indo-European languages contain a greater or lesser number of common words but only Slavonic and, to a lesser degree, Baltic languages approximate Sanskrit to such an extent that in me instances the difference between certain Slavonic languages could be greater than between some Slavonic languages and Sanskrit.

Take the  word for `spindle’: Sanskrit  vartana, Russian vereteno, Bulgarian. vretе́no, Slovenian vreténo, Czech vřeteno, Polish wrzeciono, Upper Sorbian wrjećeno and Lower Sorbian rjeśeno.  The phonetic shape of cognates in other Indo-European languages differs considerably.

A good example is the word `alive’: Sanskrit jīva, Russian živ, Lithuanian gývas, Greek bíos, Latin vīvus,  Irish biu,   Gothic qius, Old High German quес, and English quick.

Transliteration notes

Sanskrit: ā, ī, ū – long sounds;  = ri (a short   similar to Rus. soft рь/r‘); c=chj similar to j in “jam”;  ṣ  similar to shś  a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/  as in  ich.

Russian:  š  similar to sh; č = chž = like g in garage , the vowel y  is a sort of  ‘hard’  i  sounding somewhat similar to unstressed i   in Eng. it .  the  sign ‘ indicates softness and stands for a very short i . Vowels with  j are iotated so ju would be similar to Eng.  you and Skr. yu  etc.

Skt. Rus. Lith. Greek Latin Goth. OHG/Ger. Eng
bhrātṛ brat brólis phrátēr frāter brōþar Bruder brother
bhrū brov’ bruvis ophrus brāwa brow
vidhava vdova vidua widuwō Widuwō widow
vartana veretenò Wirtel spindle
viś ves’  viešė oikos vīcus weihs abode, village, home
vātṛ veter vėtra wind
vṛka volk vilkas lýkos lupus wulfs Wulfs wolf
dvār dver’ dùrys thýra forēs daúr turi door
dvaya dvoe dvejì twaddjē two of smb.
devṛ dever’ dieveris daḗr lēvir zeihhur husband’s brother
dina den’ dienà diēs day
dam, dama dom nãmas(?) dō̂ma domus house, home
janī žena gynḗ qino wife
jīva živ gývas bíos vīvus qius quес alive
jñāna znanie žinios gnōsis knowledge
kada kogda kada when
katara kotoryj kuris póteros uter ƕаþаr hwedar which
kumbha kub kýmbos cupa pitcher
laghu ljogok leñgvas elaphrós levis leihts lungar light
roci luč leukós lūх liuhaþ light, ray
madhu mjod medùs méthy metu honey
mūṣ myš’ mŷs mūs mûs mouse
mās mjaso mėsà mimz(?) meat

Note that we compare the attested languages and not hypothetical `reconstructions’ however, according to  Antoine Meillet:

“[..] Baltic and Slavic show the common trait of never having undergone in the course of their development any sudden systemic upheaval. […] there is no indication of a serious dislocation of any part of the linguistic system at any time. The sound structure has in general remained intact to the present.  […] Baltic and Slavic are consequently  the only languages in which certain modern word-forms resemble those reconstructed for Common Indo-European.” ( The Indo-European Dialects [Eng. translation of  Les dialectes indo-européens (1908)], University of Alabama Press, 1967, pp. 59-60).

See also my other posts:

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/russian-sanskrit-verbs-3/

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/russian-sanskrit-nouns/

https://borissoff.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/sanskrit-russian-lithuanian-and-latin-conjugations-compared/

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It is well known that  in Iranian languages  airiia- / airya-  had a clear ethnic meaning which is reflected in the modern name of the country Iran.

However, in Sanskrit, this word had a more general meaning: ‘a good worthy family man who respects the traditions of his country, who is a good housekeeper and duly performs the rites of yajña’:

This is how  ārya  is  translated in the MW dictionary:

(H1) ā́rya [p= 152,2] [L=26533] m. (fr. aryá , √) , a respectable or honourable or faithful man , an inhabitant of āryāvarta
[L=26534] one who is faithful to the religion of his country
[L=26535] N. of the race which immigrated from Central Asia into āryāvarta (opposed to an-ārya , dasyu , dāsa)
[L=26536] in later times N. of the first three castes (opposed to śūdra) RV. AV. VS. MBh. Ya1jn5. Pan5cat. &c
[L=26537] a man highly esteemed , a respectable , honourable man Pan5cat. S3ak. &c
[L=26538] a master , an owner L.
[L=26539] a friend L.
[L=26540] a vaiśya L.
[L=26541] Buddha
[L=26542] (with Buddhists [pāli ayyo , or ariyo]) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism (» next col.) and lives accordingly , a Buddhist priest
[L=26543] a son of manu sāvara Hariv.
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26544] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. Aryan , favourable to the Aryan people RV. &c
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26545] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. behaving like an Aryan , worthy of one , honourable , respectable , noble R. Mn. S3ak. &c
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26546] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. of a good family
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26547] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. excellent
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26548] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. wise
(H1B) ā́rya [L=26549] mf(ā and ā́rī)n. suitable
(H1B) ā́ryā [L=26550] f. a name of pārvatī Hariv.
(H1B) ā́ryā [L=26551] f. a kind of metre of two lines (each line consisting of seven and a half feet ; each foot containing four instants , except the sixth of the second line , which contains only one , and is therefore a single short syllable ; hence there are thirty instants in the first line and twenty-seven in the second) ; ([cf. Old Germ. êra ; Mod. Germ. Ehre ; Irish Erin.])

One conclusion which can be drawn from the above is that the widespread  translation of ārya only as ‘noble’ or ‘distinguished’   (e.g. in Encyclopædia Britannica) is clearly a simplification. Also the meaning ‘of the race which immigrated from Central Asia into āryāvarta (opposed to an-ārya , dasyu , dāsa)’  my originate in the specific interpretation of Rig Veda by the 19th century European (mostly German) scholars. The key to understanding the  primordial meaning of  ārya could be in the cardinal meaning of the root but  there is a problem with its identification.

The  ār may be considered as a separate root but it may also be a vddhi of the verb having lots of meanings : ‘to go, move, rise, tend upwards; to advance towards a foe, attack, invade; to put in or upon, place, insert, fix into or upon, fasten; to deliver up, surrender, offer, reach over, present, give’ etc. Such conflicting meanings is an indication that there could be several separate verbs merged in this root.

Such a wide range of meanings is a source of conflicting explanations of arya / ārya. Somehow it is often overlooked that there is an obscure verb ār – *āryati ‘to praise’ which may be connected to .  This verb  has been poorly attested only tree times in RV as 3 P, pl. āryanti (RV 8.016.06 & RV 10.048.03 (twice)) but there is also a prominent noun  arka ‘praise, hymn, song; one who praises, a singer’ which may be related here. The final -ka is  a   diminutive/comparative suffix (much used in forming adjectives; it may also be added to nouns to express diminution, deterioration, or similarity e.g. putraka, a little son; aśvaka, a bad horse or like a horse) having clear parallels in Slavonic ( e.g. Rus. znat‘  ‘to know’ > znajka ‘one who knows’ etc.).  Interestingly, in Rus. dialects there is a verb arkat’ ‘to cry, speak loudly’. From this perspective ārya could have originally meant simply ‘the praised one = good respectable person’  being synonymous to śravya  ‘worth hearing, praiseworthy’ (cp. also śravaḥ ‘glory, fame, loud praise’  and its Rus cognate slava ‘fame, glory’).

In Rig Veda ārya is  met about 30 times. I looked at  two RV verses which are often  cited  in the literature on this topic  and tried to translate them as close as possible to the text.

(RV text from  Rigveda )

1.059.02

RV1.59.2
mūrdhā divo nābhir agni pthivyā athābhavad aratī rodasyo |
ta tvā devāso janayanta deva vaiśvānara jyotir id āryāya||

Agni (is) the head of the Sky, the navel  of the Earth. He became the messenger of the two worlds |
Such you were born by Gods. О, Vaishvanara! Indeed you are the (celestial) light for the Arya ||

7.005.06

RV7.5.6
tve asurya vasavo nyṛṇvan kratu hi te mitramaho juanta |
tva dasyūr okaso agna āja uru jyotir janayann āryāya||

Into you the Vasus have put the power of an Asura for they appreciate the strength of your spirit, O, (you) great as Mithra |
You chased away the Dasyu from (his) abode creating the broad light for the Arya ||

Some general observations. Both verses are addressed to Agni and in both of them is mentioned the celestial light jyotiḥ  (cp. also Rus. žёlt   ‘yellow’ which could be transcribed using  Skr. translit. as  jyolt ).

This word, which could be the key to understanding the verses, has the following meanings (in Vedic)
1) light (of the sun , dawn , fire , lightning , &c. ; also pl.), brightness (of the sky)
2) light appearing in the 3 worlds , viz. on earth , in the intermediate region , and in the sky or heaven
3) eye-light
4) the light of heaven , celestial world
5) light as the type of freedom or bliss or victory

In post-Vedic times it acquired an even  more philosophical meaning: ‘human intelligence’ and ‘highest light or truth’.

The two verses, although they appear in different books of Rig Veda, are coined by the same template and could be variations of the same invocation:
Agni is addressed with all fitting praises and epithets and thanked for giving the ‘light’:

in 1.059.02 : vaiśvānara [relating or belonging to all men, omnipresent, known or worshipped, everywhere, universal, general, common] jyotir [light] id [indeed] āryāya [for the Arya (Gen. case)].

in 7.005.06: uru [wide, broad, spacious, extended, great, large, much, excessive, excellent] jyotir [light see above.] janayann [creating] āryāya [for the Arya (Gen. case)].

As it is usually the case with ancient texts, these verses are subject to interpretations depending on what sense you put into jyoti and ārya . Note that in the second verse there are mentioned dasyu [enemy of the gods, impious man, any outcast or Hindu who has become so by neglect of the essential rites]. However, it is important that both Dasyu and Arya are mentioned in singular. Therefore, one can interpret them as ethnonyms but, in my view, keeping in mind that the cardinal meaning of ārya in Vedic was ‘a good, faithful person’, this could be also interpreted as ‘an impious man’ vs. ‘a faithful man’. In modern terms it may be defined as ‘fidel’ vs. ‘infidel’. I am particularly inclined to understand it in this way because Agni is not thanked for giving the land or cities of ‘Dasyu’ but for the ‘light’ in the broadest philosophical sense and agree with Kuiper (Aryans in the Rigveda. Amsterdam; Atlanta: Rodopi, 1991, pp. 90–93) that the creators of Rig-Veda considered as `aryas’ anybody who followed the Vedic traditions and performed the sacred yajña  rites. I  would also like to quote Hans Hock

“Close examination of the textual evidence regarding the “white” vs. “black” distinction turns out strongly to suggest that it refers, not to a distinction in skin, but to an “ideological” one between “bad” and “good”

(Hock, H. H., Bauer, B. & Pinault, G.-J. (Eds.), Did Indo-European linguistics prepare the ground for Nazism? Lessons from the past for the present and future. Language in time and space: A festschrift for Werner Winter on the occasion of his 80th birthday, de Gruyter, 2003, 167-187).

Reccomended further reading on this subject: No Racism in Rig Veda by  by Kant Singh

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This is a  list of some most obvious  Russian – Sanskrit cognate nouns. It is only a short-list in which I give only the generally accepted cognate pairs having the rating 5 & 6.  Since one should  compare similar forms, I give Russian nouns in a special transcription, approximated to Sanskrit Latin transliteration. Read the rest of this entry »

The topic of Iranian loans into Slavonic has become a common place in Slavistics reflecting, to a considerable extent, the stereotype view on Slavonic mainly as a target language for borrowing. In reality, the number of truly attested Iranian loans is confined to a rather short list of words. Strictly speaking, the term ‘iranism (иранизм)’, widely used in Russian linguistic literature, stands for a direct borrowing from one of the attested Iranian languages.  However, according to the academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Oleg Nikolajevič Trubačev, such loans are limited to a few cultural terms such as *kotъ ‘stall, small cattle shed’, *čьrtogъ ‘inner part of a house’, *gun’a ‘shabby clothes, rags’, *kordъ ‘short sward’, *toporъ ‘axe’ etc., plus a separately standing group of religious terms and names of gods. However, even if any of these words are indeed borrowings they may not  necessarily be ‘iranisms’ in the true sense (i. e. direct borrowings from one of the attested Iranian languages). Read the rest of this entry »

This is a short list of some most obvious  Russian – Sanskrit cognate verbs.  Since one should  compare similar forms, I give Russian verbs in the same format as Sanskrit verbs are presented in traditional dictionaries (for example in Monier Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary): verbal root – 3rd person, singular, Present Tense form. For a comparison of conjugation paradigms see my other post. See also the Russian – Sanskrit nouns

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I had a pleasure of meeting   Bakhtiyar Amanzhol at the Musical Geographies of Central Asia conference. His presentation Musical Instruments of Tengrianism was very informative and  interesting but  I could not quite agree with the  etymology of  “Tengri”:

“The historical roots of Tengrianism extend deep into history. The earliest references to Tengri date back to the 4th century B.C.: in ancient Mesopotamia the name of a king would be written with an honorific title, “Dingir” (God).  It has been argued that by the twelve-thirteenth century A.D. this form of worship had become a religion in its own right, with its own ontology, cosmology, mythology and demonology.  Variants of the word tengri, usually meaning “god”, are found in a wide range of Turkic languages, and there have been many speculations about its etymology. The Russian researcher of Tengrianism, Rafael Bezertinov, conveys a sense of its meaning for Altaic worship by collating the Turkic word “таң” which means “sunrise”, with the ancient Egyptian word “rа” which means “sun”, and the Turkic, Altaic word “yang”, meaning “consciousness”. “

I find the etymology, proposed by Rafael Bezertinov particularly doubtful. Read the rest of this entry »

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