The Armenian people, native to the Armenian Highlands in the South Caucasus region, have a rich and diverse cultural heritage that spans thousands of years. This article provides an overview of the beliefs, mythology, and rituals of the Armenian culture, with an emphasis on deities, heroes, and mythological creatures. We will also explore any unique beliefs that set this culture apart from others.

Armenian Pre-Christian Deities and Mythology

Armenian mythology predates the adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 301 AD, which makes the ancient Armenian pantheon a fascinating subject to study. Many of the Armenian deities have roots in the indigenous beliefs of the region, while others have been influenced by or share similarities with the gods of neighboring civilizations, such as the Hittites, Persians, and Greeks.

  • Aramazd: The supreme god in ancient Armenian mythology, Aramazd is the father of all gods and goddesses. He is often identified with Ahura Mazda, the chief deity in Zoroastrianism, and Zeus from Greek mythology. Aramazd represents the sky, fertility, and wisdom.

  • Anahit: The goddess of fertility, healing, and wisdom, Anahit is one of the most revered deities in ancient Armenia. She is often associated with the Greek goddesses Artemis and Athena. Anahit was worshiped in temples and sanctuaries, and her statue was often adorned with gold and pearls.

  • Astghik: The goddess of love, beauty, and water, Astghik is associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. She was celebrated during the Vartavar festival, a water-related celebration, during which people would pour water on each other as a symbol of cleansing and renewal.

  • Vahagn: Known as the god of war, courage, and thunder, Vahagn is often compared to the Greek god Heracles and the Indo-Iranian god Verethragna. His most famous myth involves his birth from the sky, where he emerged as a fiery, dragon-slaying warrior.

  • Mihr: The god of the sun and justice, Mihr is often associated with the Zoroastrian deity Mithra and the Roman god Mithras. He is responsible for overseeing contracts, treaties, and oaths, and was believed to travel across the sky in a golden chariot.

  • Nane: The goddess of war and motherhood, Nane is often compared to the Anatolian goddess Cybele and the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. She is depicted as a fierce warrior with a nurturing side, protecting her children and followers during times of conflict.

Armenian Mythological Creatures and Heroes

  • Ara the Beautiful: A legendary Armenian hero, Ara the Beautiful was a popular figure in Armenian mythology. He was a handsome and wise king who was tragically killed in battle. His death is said to have caused immense grief, prompting the gods to resurrect him.

  • Sasna Tsrer: Also known as the Daredevils of Sassoun, the Sasna Tsrer are a group of legendary Armenian heroes featured in the Armenian national epic, "Daredevils of Sassoun." These heroes are celebrated for their strength, courage, and resistance against foreign invaders.

  • Shahapet: A mythical creature in Armenian folklore, Shahapet is a dragon-like being that serves as a guardian of water sources. It is believed that Shahapet would protect water from contamination and ensure its purity.

Unique Armenian Beliefs and Rituals

  • The Armenian Eternity Sign: Also known as Arevakhach, the Armenian Eternity Sign is a unique symbol representing the concept of eternal life and the continuous renewal of the cycle of existence. This ancient symbol, which features a knot-like design, can be found on various artifacts, architecture, and cross-stones known as khachkars.
Creative Commons Arevakhach from
  • Khachkars: These intricately carved cross-stones are an essential part of Armenian culture and have been used for various purposes, including as memorials, religious icons, or boundary markers. Khachkars often feature elaborate designs and are considered a unique form of Armenian art. They often incorporate the Armenian Eternity Sign and other symbols related to Christianity.

  • Navasard: This ancient Armenian festival, which celebrated the New Year, was held in honor of the god Aramazd. Navasard featured feasting, dancing, and athletic competitions, as well as rituals to ensure a prosperous year ahead. Although the festival is no longer widely celebrated, it remains a significant part of Armenian mythology and history.

  • Vartavar: As mentioned earlier, Vartavar is a water-related festival dedicated to the goddess Astghik. Today, Vartavar is celebrated as a Christian tradition and has been adapted to commemorate the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. The modern celebration retains the water-pouring rituals and is a joyful occasion marked by community gatherings and water games.