Ossetian mythology


Ossetian mythology is the collective term for the beliefs and practices of the Ossetian people of the Caucasus region, which contains several gods and supernatural beings. The religion itself is believed to be of Scythian origin, but contains many later elements from Christianity, and the Ossetian gods are often identified with Christian saints. The gods play a role in the famous stories about a race of semi-divine heroes called the Narts.


  • Huycau or Xucau (Ossetian: Хуыцау). The chief of the gods.
  • Uastyrdzhi (Уастырджи; "Saint George"). The patron of males and travellers, and the guarantor of oaths. Main patron of North Ossetia–Alania.
  • Uacilla (Уацилла; "Saint Elijah"). Also spelled Watsilla. God of rain, thunder and lightning. As protector of the harvest he is known as Хоры Уацилла (Hory Uacilla, "Uacilla of the wheat"). Anyone struck by lightning was considered chosen by the god and, if they survived, a sheep was sacrificed in their honour. His festival was celebrated in the summer with the sacrifice of a lamb and a bull and the drinking of specially brewed beer. On that day women baked bread in silence as a mark of reverence.[1]
  • Safa (Сафа). God of the hearth chain. The most important domestic deity for Ossetians.
  • Donbettyr (Ossetian: Донбеттыр). Lord of the waters. His name is a fusion of the Ossetian don (meaning water) and Saint Peter. He uses his chain to drag down those who unwarily go swimming too late to his realm at the bottom of the sea. He has many beautiful daughters, comparable to the Rusalki of Slavic mythology. Up to the 19th century, his day was celebrated on the Saturday following Easter by young girls.
  • Dzerassae (Ossetian: Дзерассæ), one of Donbettyr's daughters, the mother of many Nart heroes.
  • Tutyr (Тутыр). Lord of the wolves. Identified with Saint Theodore of Tyre.
  • Fælværa (Фæлвæра). The name is possibly a conflation of Saints Florus and Laurus. Fælværa was the protector of sheep and his festival was celebrated before sheep-shearing in September.[1] He only has one eye. He is often the enemy of Tutyr.
  • Æfsati (Æфсати). A male hunting god.[2]
  • Kurdalægon (Курдалæгон). The heavenly smith. A close friend of the Narts.
  • Satana (Сатана). Mother goddess, mother of the Narts.
  • Saubarag (Саубараг or Сау бараджи дзуар, "black rider"), the god of darkness and thieves.[3] Identified with Satan.[citation needed]
  • Huyændon Ældar (Хуыæндон Æлдар ). Lord of the fish. A great magician and a spirit who behaves like an earthly chief ("ældar"). His name means "Lord of the Strait" (according to Abaev, this is most probably the Cimmerian Bosphorus, the modern Strait of Kerch).
  • Barastyr (Барастыр, also transliterated Barastaer or Barastir) Ossetian psychopomp. The ruler of the underworld who assigns arriving dead souls to either paradise or his own realm.[4]
  • Aminon (Аминон). Gatekeeper of the underworld.
  • Alardy (Аларды). Lord of smallpox, who had to be placated.[5]

The uac- prefix in Uastyrdzhi and Uacilla has no synchronic meaning in Ossetic, and is usually understood to mean "saint" (also applied to Tutyr, Uac Tutyr, perhaps Saint Theodore, and to Saint Nicholas, Uac Nikkola). The synchronic term for "saint", however, is syhdaeg (cognate to Avestan Yazata). Gershevitch (1955) connects uac with a word for "word" (Sanskrit vāc, c.f. Latin vox), in the sense of Logos.

Kurys (Digor Burku) is a dream land, a meadow belonging to the dead, which can be visited by some people in their sleep. Visitors may bring back miraculous seeds of luck and good fortune, sometimes pursued by the dead. Inexperienced souls may bring back fever and sickness instead. Gershevitch (with V.I. Abaev) compares the name Kurys to the mountain Kaoiris in Yasht 19.6 (Avestan *Karwisa), which might indicate that the name is a spurious remnant of origin legends of Airyanem Vaejah of the Alans.


Ossetian folklore also includes several mythological figures, including those in the Nart sagas, such as Batraz, a warrior hero.

See also


  1. ^ a b Arys-Djanaïéva 2004, p. 163.
  2. ^ Chaudhri, Anna (1996), "The Caucasian hunting-divinity, male and female: traces of the hunting-goddess in Ossetic folklore", in Billington, Sandra; Green, Miranda (eds.), The Concept of the Goddess, Routledge, pp. 167–168, ISBN 9781134641529
  3. ^ Сау бараджи дзуар (in Russian)
  4. ^ Lurker, Manfred (1987), The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons, Routledge, p. 30, ISBN 0-415-34018-7
  5. ^ Arys-Djanaïéva 2004, p. 165.


  • Arys-Djanaïéva, Lora (2004), Parlons ossète, Paris: Harmattan
  • Dumézil, Georges, ed. (1965), Le Livre des héros: légendes sur les Nartes, Paris: Gallimard
  • Foltz, Richard (2019). "Scythian Neo-Paganism in the Caucasus: The Ossetian Uatsdin as a 'Nature Religion'," Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture". Vol. 13, no. 3. pp. 314–332.
  • Gershevitch, Ilya (1955), "Word and Spirit in Ossetic", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 17 (3): 478–489, doi:10.1017/S0041977X0011239X.

Further reading

  • Миллер, Всеволод, Осетинские этюды [Ossetian Studies] (in Russian) , published in 3 volumes
    • Осетинские тексты, vol. I, 1881 , folklore texts
    • Исследования, vol. II, 1882 , phonetics and grammar of Ossetian; religious beliefs
    • Исследования, vol. III, 1887 , history and ethnography, proverbs
  • Hübschmann, H. (1887), "Ossetische Nominalbildung", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (in German), Harrassowitz Verlag, 41 (2): 319–346, JSTOR 43361867 , based on Miller's 1881 work
  • Dumézil, Georges, ed. (1976), Осетинский Эпос И Мифология [Ossetian Epics and Mythology] (in Russian)
  • Дзадзиев, Александр Борисович; Караев, Солтан Михайлович; Дзуцев, Хасан Владимирович, eds. (1994), Этнография и мифология осетин [Ossetian ethnography and mythology] (dictionary) (in Russian)

External links

  • Мелетинский, Е. М. (1990), МИФОЛОГИЧЕСКИЙ СЛОВАРЬ [Mythological Dictionary] (e-ext) (in Russian) , e-text based on the ru:Мифологический словарь (1990) with articles on various figures from Ossetian myth