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The dawn rising on the Ukrainian steppes (1852), by Alexei Kondratievich Savrasov.

Hausōs (Proto-Indo-European: *h₂éwsōs; also *hₐéusōs; lit. "the dawn")[1] is the reconstructed name of the Dawn-goddess in the Proto-Indo-European mythology.[2]

Hausōs is believed to have been one of the most important deities worshipped by Proto-Indo-European speakers due to the consistency of her characterization in subsequent traditions as well as the importance of the goddess Uṣas in the Rigveda.[3][4][5]

Her attributes have not only been mixed with those of solar goddesses in some later traditions, but have subsequently expanded and influenced female deities in other mythologies.



The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European name of the dawn, *h₂éwsōs, derives the verbal root *hₐ(e)wes- ('to shine, glow red, a flame') extended by the suffix -ós-. The root also underlies the word for 'gold' (*hₐeus-om 'glow'; compare with Latin aurum, Old Prussian ausis, Lithunian áusas 'gold').[6]

A derivative adverb, *hₐews-t(e)ro- ('east'), was also preserved in the Latvian àustrums ('east'), Avestan ušatara ('east'), Italic *aus-tero- ('towards the dawn'; compare with Latin auster 'south wind, south'), Old Church Slavonic ustrŭ ('summer'), and Germatic *austera (compare with English east, MHG oster).[7]


A common epithet associated with the Dawn is *Diwós Dʰuǵhₐtḗr, the 'Daughter of Dyēus', the Sky-god.[8] Cognates stemming from the formulaic expression appear in three traditions: 'Daughter of Heaven' in the Rigveda (as an epithet of Uṣas), 'Daughter of Zeus' (a Homeric title associated with Ēṓs), and 'Daughter of Dievas' (an epithet transferred to a Sun-goddess in the Lithuanian folklore).[9]



The Dawn-goddess is sometimes portrayed as unageing and her coming as an eternal rebirth. She is ἠριγένεια ('early-born', 'born in the morning') in the Iliad, and the Rigveda describes Uṣas, the daughter of Dyáuṣ, as being born from the harnessing of the Aśvins, the divine horse twins driving the chariot of the sun.[10]


A characteristic generally given to the dawn Hausōs is her 'brilliance' and she is generally described as a 'bringer of light'.[10] Various cognates associated with the dawn-goddess indeed derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *bʰeh₂-, meaning 'to glow, shine'.[10] The Vedic Uṣas is described as bhānty Usásah ('the Dawns shine'), the Avestan Ušå as uši ... bāmya ('shining dawn') and the Greek Ēṓs as φαινόλις ('light-bringing'),[10] or λαμπρο-φαής ('light beam[ing]'),[11] attested in an Orphic hymn to the Dawn.

Hausōs is usually associated with the natural colours of the dawn: gold, saffron-yellow, red or crimson. The Dawn is 'gold-coloured' (híraṇya-varṇā) in the Rigveda, 'the golden-yellow one' (flāua) in Ovid's Amores, and 'gold-throned' (krysóthronos; χρυσόθρονος) in a Homeric formula.[12] In Latvian folk songs, Saulė and her daughter(s) are dressed of shawls woven with gold thread, and Saulė wears shoes of gold, which parallels Sappho describing Ēṓs as 'golden-sandalled' (khrysopédillos; χρυσοπέδιλλος).[12] Ēṓs is also 'saffron-robed' (κροκόπεπλος) in Homeric poems,[13] and Uṣás described as a red dawn shining from afar, and 'red, like a mare', she shoots 'ruddy beams of light', 'yokes red steeds to her car' or 'harnesses the red cows' in the Samaveda.[14] Saffron-yellow, red and purple are also colours associated with the Dawn by the Latin poet Ovid.[15] The Baltic Sun-goddess Saulė has preserved some of the imagery, and she is sometimes portrayed as waking up 'red' (sārta) or 'in a red tree' in the morning.[16][note 1]


Hausōs is also described as dancing: Uṣas throws on embroidered garments 'like a dancer' (nṛtūr iva), Ēṓs has 'dancing-places' (χοροί) around her house in the East, Saulė is portrayed dancing in her gilded shoes on a silver hill, and her fellow Baltic goddess Aušrinė is said to dance on a stone for the people on the first day of summer.[30][13]

The spread hand as the image of the sun's rays in the morning may also be of Proto-Indo-European origin.[31] The Homeric expressions 'rose-armed' (rhodópēkhus; ῥοδόπηχυς) and 'rosy-fingered Dawn' (rhododáktylos Ēṓs; ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς), as well as Bacchylides' formula 'gold-armed' (khrysopakhús; χρυσοπαχύς), can be semantically compared with the Vedic formulas 'golden-handed' (híraṇyapāṇi-; हिरण्यपाणि) and 'broad-handed' (pṛthúpāṇi-; पृथुपाणि).[31] They are also similar to Latvian poetic songs where the Sun-god's fingers are said to be 'covered with golden rings'.[31] According to Martin L. West, "the 'rose' part is probably a Greek refinement."[31]


Another common trait of the Dawn goddess is her dwelling, situated on an island in the Ocean or in an Eastern house. In Greek mythology, Ēṓs is described as living 'beyond the streams of Okeanos at the ends of the earth'.[32] In Slavic folklore, the home of the Zoryas was sometimes said to be on Bouyan (or Buyan), an oceanic island paradise where the Sun dwelt along with his attendants, the North, West and East winds.[33] The Avesta refers to a mythical eastern mountain called Ušidam- ('Dawn-house').[34] In a myth from Lithuania, a man named Joseph becomes fascinated with Aušrinė appearing in the sky and goes on a quest to find the 'second sun', who is actually a maiden that lives on an island in the sea and has the same hair as the Sun.[30] In the Baltic folklore, Saulė is said to live in a silver-gated castle at the end of the sea,[35] or to go to an island in the middle of the sea for her nocturnal rest.[36]


Opener of the doors of Heaven[edit]

Hausōs is also depicted as the opener of the doors or gates of Heaven: the Baltic verse pie Dieviņa namdurēm ('by the doors of the house of God'), which Saulė is urged to open to the horses of the Son(s) of God, is lexically comparable with the Vedic expression dvā́rau ... Diváḥ ('doors of Heaven'), which Uṣas opens with her light.[34] Another parallel could be made with the 'shining doors' (θύρας ... φαεινάς) of the home of Ēṓs, behind which she locks up her lover Tithonus as he grows old and withers in Homer's Hymn to Aphrodite.[32]

A similar poetic imagery is present among Classical poets, although some earlier Greek source may lie behind these.[37] In Ovid's Metamorphoses, Aurōra opens the red doors (purpureas fores) to fill her rosy halls,[38] and in Nonnus' Dionysiaca the Dawn-goddess shakes off her sleep and leaves Kephalos' repose in order to 'open the gates of sunrise' (ἀντολίης ὤιξε θύρας πολεμητόκος Ἠώς).[39]

Other reflexes may also be present in other Indo-European traditions. In Slavic folklore, the goddess of the dawn Zorya Utrennyaya open the palace's gates for her father Dažbog's (a Slavic Sun god) journey during the day. Her sister Zorya Vechernyaya, the goddess of dusk, closes them at the end of the day.[40][41] In a passage of the Eddas about Dellingr, a Norse deity of light, a dwarf utters a charm or incantation in front of 'Delling's doors' (fyr Dellings durum), which apparently means "at dawn".[42][43]

Bringer of Light[edit]

In Indo-European myths, Hausōs is either depicted as a reluctant bringer of light for which she is punished, or as a victim saved by her brothers the Divine Twins from a watery peril in the eastern sea.[44][45] This theme is widespread in the attested traditions: Ēṓs and Aurōra are sometimes unwilling to leave her bed, Uṣas is punished by Indra for attempting to forestall the day, and Auseklis did not always rise in the morning, as she was said to be locked up in a golden chamber or in Germany sewing velvet skirts.[3]

The Dawn is often described as driving some sort of vehicle, probably originally a wagon or a similar carrier, certainly not a chariot as the technology appeared later within the Sintashta culture (2100–1800), associated with the Indo-Iranian peoples.[46][47] In the Odyssey, Ēṓs appears once as a charioteer, with two swift horses named Lampos and Phaethon, and Bacchylides calls her 'white-horsed Dawn' (λεύκιππος Ἀώς). Uṣas yokes red oxen or cows, probably pictorial metaphors for the red clouds or rays seen at morning light.[48]

The vehicle is portrayed as a biga or a rosy-red quadriga in Virgil's Aeneid and in classical references from Greek epic poetry and vase painting,[49] a shining chariot drawn by golden-red horses.[50] Saulė, a sun-goddess syncretized with the Dawn, also drives a carriage with copper-wheels,[51] pulled by untiring horses, or a 'pretty little sleigh' (kamaņiņa) made of fish-bones.[52][53]


Aurora (1621) by Guercino.

Cognates stemming from the root *h₂éwsōs and associated with a dawn-goddess are attested in the following mythologies:


The formulaic expression "Daughter of Dyēus" is attested as an epithet attached to a dawn-goddess in several poetic traditions:

The Sanskrit epithet dyotaná ("The Light Bearer") is also used once in reference to Ushas in the Rigveda.[78][79]

Poetic and liturgic formula[edit]

An expression of formulaic poetry can be found in the Proto-Indo-European expression *hₐ(e)ws-sḱeti ("it dawns"), attested in Lithuanian aušta, Avestan usaitī, or Sanskrit ucchāti.[55] The poetic formula 'the lighting dawn' is also attested in the Indo-Iranian tradition: Sanskrit uchantīm usásam, and Young Avestan usaitīm uṣ̌ā̊ŋhəm.[80]

Other remnants of the root *h₂éwsōs are present in the Zoroastrian prayer to the dawn Hoshbām,[81] and in Ušahin gāh (the dawn watch),[82] sung between midnight and dawn.[83][84] In Persian historical and sacred literature, the personal name Aûshbâm also appears in the Chapter XXXI of the Bundahishn, translated as "the dawn".[85][better source needed]

A special carol, zorile ("dawn"), was sung by the colindători (traditional Romanian singers) during funerals, imploring the Dawns not be in a hurry to break, or begging them to prevent the dead from departing this world.[86][87] The word is of Slavic origin, with the term for 'dawn' attached to the Romanian article -le.[86]


According to linguist Václav Blažek, the Albanian word (h)yll ("star") finds a probable etymology in the root *hₐews- ('dawn'), perhaps specifically in *hₐus-li ('morning-star').[88] Scholars have also argued that the Roman ethnonym Aurēlius (Ausēlii, from Sabine *ausēla 'sun') and the Etruscan sun-god Usil, probably of Osco-Umbrian origin, may be related to the Indo-European word for the dawn.[88][62][89]

The word for the dawn as a meteorological event has also been preserved in numerous Indo-European cognates: Welsh gwawr ('dawn'), Lith. aušrà ('dawn'), OCS za ustra ('in the morning'), Old Irish fāir ("sunrise"), or Skt uṣar-búdh- ('waking at dawn').[54][58][55]


The Japanese goddess of the dawn Uzume, revered in Shintoism, was probably influenced by Vedic religion.[90] It has been suggested by anthropologist Kevin Tuite that Georgian goddess Dali also shows several parallels with Indo-European dawn-goddesses.[91]

A possible mythological descendant of the Indo-European Dawn-goddess may be Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and lust. Scholars posit similarities based on her connection with a sky-deity as her father (Zeus or Uranus) and her association with red and gold colors. In the Illiad, Aphrodite is hurt by a mortal and seeks solace in her mother's (Dione) bosom. Dione is seen as a female counterpart to Zeus and is thought to etymologically derive from Proto-Indo-European root *Dyeus.[92][93]



  1. ^ For further example: in Virgil's Aeneid, the sea or the waves flush red (rubescebat) as Aurora descends from high heavens 'shimmering yellow' (fulbegat lutea) in her 'rosy chariot' (in roseis ... bigis).[17][18] Roman poet Ovid describes her "purple hand" (purpurea ... manu)[19] and "saffron hair" (croceis Aurora capillis).[20][21] In Metamorphoses, the Dawn is moving on "saffron-wheels",[22][23] and his poem Fasti tells of Aurora, "Memnon's saffron mother" (Memnonis ... lutea mater), as arriving on rosy horses (in roseis ... equis),[24] and "with her rosy lamp" (cum roseam ... lampada) she expels the stars of the night. In The Golden Ass, Apuleius depicts the movement of Aurora as she began to soar through the skies "with her crimson trappings" (poenicantibus phaleris Aurora roseum).[25] Ancient Greek poet Nonnus refers to the Dawn as "rose-crowned" (ῥοδοστεφέος, rhodostephéos) in his poem Dionysiaca.[26] In Lucretius's De Rerum Natura, Book V, Latin deity Mater Matuta "spreads the rosy morning" (roseam Matuta ... auroram differt),[27] and the author poetically describes the sunrise, i.e., colours changing from red to gold, at dawn (aurea cum primum ... matutina rubent radiati lumina solis).[28] In an Orphic Hymn (77/78), the goddess Éos is said to be 'blushing red' or 'reddening' (ἐρυθαινομένη).[11] Saulė is also said to own golden tools and garments: slippers, scarf, belt and a golden boat she uses as her means of transportation.[29]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Jackson, Peter. "Πότνια Αὔως: The Greek Dawn-Goddess and Her Antecedent." Glotta 81 (2005): 116-23. Accessed May 10, 2020.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Hausos at Wikimedia Commons