In Search of Anahit

I first started thinking about my ancestral goddesses when I stepped onto my priestess path in 2019. I assumed it would primarily be an intellectual journey, a process of researching and putting pieces of history together to form a picture of the spiritual life of my ancestors. I had no idea I would eventually have the opportunity to walk the ancient lands in search of the Goddess, a goddess known as Anahit to the Armenian people.

There is scarcely little information about Anahit available in English. My initial internet research provided some overviews of her nature, but most of what is written about her in English is incidental to the study of Anahita, the Persian Zoroastrian goddess of the Waters. Roughly contemporary with the Armenian Anahit, Anahita has some similarity as a primary Mother goddess of the near east, but her iconography is quite distinct. As the wife (or daughter) of the primary solar creator God, Ahura Mazda, Anahita is the Water to his Fire. She is a fertility goddess associated with the pure waters of heaven, granting sovereignty to kings and bestowing blessings of marriage, fertility, and childbirth to the people. 

In contrast, the Armenian Anahit is a goddess of both Fire and Water, fertility, abundant harvest, and riches. She is not limited by the distinct quality of purity that the Persian Anahita is known for, and may be a syncretization of earlier tribal goddesses of the Armenians and other ancient peoples indigenous to the Armenian highlands: the Hurrians, Luwians, Hittites, and Urartians. The Urartians were a politically savvy warrior race who appear to be the most direct ancestors of modern Armenians, had a pantheon of many gods and goddesses. The highest of the pantheon were Haldi, Tesheiba, and Shivini: three powerful warrior gods. Arubani was the consort of Haldi, and was the most revered goddess of the Urartians. She was a fertility goddess and patron of the arts. 

The earliest known goddess of the Armenians could be Nuard or Nvard (or Nar), the wife and consort of Ar, the Creator god and mother of Vanatur, the solar son. As the pantheon of the Armenians developed, three goddesses emerged: Astghik, Nané, and Tsovinar. Astghik was the goddess of Love and fertility, and Nané was the goddess of war. Both goddesses seem to have been influenced by or derived from the Sumerian Inanna, in her dual contexts of love and war. Astghik means star, and was associated with the planet Venus, like Inanna/Ishtar. Nané embodied the martial aspect of Inanna, taking on the role of warrior and protector. Tsovinar seems to have been a more localized deity, a goddess of the sea and storms, perhaps local to coastal areas of the Armenian highlands around the Black and Mediterranean seas (modern Georgia and Turkey). Tsovinar is said to protect the three inland bodies of water in Armenia: Lake Van, Lake Urmia, and lake Sevan.

When the religion of Zoroastrianism came to greater Armenia with the Persian conquest, aspects of the indigenous goddesses became syncretized and renamed Anahit, analogous to the Persian Anahita. The creator god Ar became Aramazd (to the Persian Ahura Mazda), and his consort Nvard/Nuard/Nané became Anahit, now a supreme mother goddess to the solar/fire son, Mihr (the Persian Mithra). Anahit took on both the fertility and love goddess aspects of Astghik and the martial protectress aspects of Nané and grew in stature and popularity as the Persian and Hellenic cultures gained power. 

Anahit assimilated many of the qualities of the indigenous goddesses, becoming a prototype for Mary,  Mother of Jesus (the solar son).

I had the opportunity in 2021 and 2022 to go on pilgrimage with the Mt Shasta Goddess Temple, visiting many sacred sites in what was and still is Western Armenia (modern Turkey) as well as Greece. In 2021 when I stepped into the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, I immediately felt at home. It was an eye-opening and heart-sparking experience…just this skimming the edges of my ancestral lands, but so powerful. 

I wasn’t planning on going on pilgrimage again in 2022, but when I learned we would be going deeper into the rugged landscape of eastern Turkey, the ancient homeland of my ancestors, I could not stay away. On this life-changing trip, I passed through the Lion’s Gate and the Sphinx Gate of Hattusa. I was able to climb the mountain where Antiochus I erected his temple complex and funerary monument and watched the sun rise over the Armenian gods. I circumambulated the ancient site of Portasar (Gobekli Tepe), touched the ground, gathered soil and flora from it, the most ancient temple ruins as yet discovered in the world.

I made offerings in each of these sacred places to Anahit and to our collective ancestors, all those who lived on, worked and loved the land. I prayed for peace and restitution for all those souls driven from their ancestral lands and murdered en mass in the Genocide of the last century.

The effect on me was profound. I believe the Goddess heard my prayers and began to whisper back to me.

I am forever altered from that experience, and counting the days until I can make a pilgrimage to what remains of the Republic of Armenia, to visit her sacred sites and walk on the soil of the Mother Goddess.

Although traces of the Goddess in these places has been white-washed, buried and obscured over the centuries, She IS there. She is inherent in the soil, the stones, the roots of apricot and hawthorn trees, the sun-drenched vineyards and wild pomegranates. 

Just pour a bit of water on that dusty soil, and She will awaken. Anahit will call you home.

As a devotional offering, I’ve been building a website honoring the Armenian Goddesses and the magical practices of ancient Armenia. The site is a work in progress, but I’m excited to share the space with you:

I also host a Facebook group honoring and studying the Armenian Goddesses, and invite you to join us:

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