International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ar-me’-ni-an, ar’-i-an. This greatly resembled that of Persia, though Zoroastrianism and its dualistic system were not professed. We are thus enabled to judge how far the religion of the Avesta is due to Zoroaster’s reformation. Aramazd (Ahura Mazda), creator of heaven and earth, was father of all the chief deities. His spouse was probably Spandaramet (Spenta Armaiti), goddess of the earth, who was later held to preside over the underworld (compare Persephone; Hellenistic). Among her assistants as genii of fertility were Horot and Morot (HaurvataT and AmeretaT), tutelary deities of Mt. Massis (now styled Ararat). Aramazd’s worship seems to have fallen very much into the background in favor of that of inferior deities, among the chief of whom was his daughter Anahit (Anahita), who had temples in many places. Her statues were often of the precious metals, and among her many names were "Golden Mother" and "Goddess of the Golden Image."

Hence to the present day the word "Golden" enters into many Armenian names. White heifers and green boughs were offered her as goddess of fruitfulness, nor was religious prostitution in her honor uncommon. Next in popularity came her sister Astghik ("the little star"), i.e. the planet Venus, goddess of beauty, wife of the deified hero Vahagn (Verethraghna). He sprang from heaven, earth, and sea, and overthrew dragons and other evil beings. Another of Anahit’s sisters was Nane (compare Assyrian Nana, Nannaea), afterward identified with Athene. Her brother Mihr (Mithra) had the sun as his symbol in the sky and the sacred fire on earth, both being objects of worship. In his temples a sacred fire was rekindled once a year. Aramazd’s messenger and scribe was Tiur or Tir, who entered men’s deeds in the "Book of Life." He led men after death to Aramazd for judgment. Before birth he wrote men’s fates on their foreheads. The place of punishment was Dzhokhk’h (= Persian Duzakh). To the sun and moon sacrifices were offered on the mountain-tops. Rivers and sacred springs and other natural objects were also adored. Prayer was offered facing eastward. Omens were taken from the rustling of the leaves of the sacred Sonean forest. Armavir was the religious capital.

Among inferior spiritual existences were the Arlezk’h, who licked the wounds of those slain in battle and restored them to life. The Parikk’h were evidently the Pairakas (Peris) of Persia. The Armenian mythology told of huge dragons which sometimes appeared as men, sometimes as worms, or basilisks, elves, sea-bulls, dragon-lions, etc. As in Persia, the demons made darts out of the parings of a man’s nails to injure him with. Therefore these parings, together with teeth and trimmings of hair, must be hidden in some sacred place.

LITERATURE. Eznik Goghbatzi; Agathangelos; Moses of Khorene; Eghishe; Palasanean; Faustus Byzantinus; Chhamchheantz; Plutarch; Strabo; Tacitus. See my "Conversion of Armenia," R.T.S.; The Expositor T, II, 202 ff.

W. St. Clair Tisdall

See Superstition.