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One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *h₂ewsṓs- or *h₂ausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *h₂ewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ἠώς (Ēōs), Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra ("dawn", c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *h₂ews-tro-.
The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *h₂wes / *au̯es "to shine", thus translating to "the shining one". Both the English word east and the Latin auster "south" are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum "gold", from *awso-. The name for "spring season", *wes-r- is also from the same root. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas "loveliness; desire", used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.
As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as "she who shines from the foam [ocean]" (from aphros "foam" and deato "to shine"). J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- "very" and *dhei "to shine". Other epithets include Ἠριγόνη Erigone "early-born" in Greek.
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the new year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
- Mallory (1997:148—149).
- Pokorny (1959) s.v. au̯es- (p. 86f.); ablaut grades ā̆us-, u̯es-, us-.
- Janda (2010), p. 65
- Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishing, 1997.
- West (2007:226).
- The view of Ushas and the surrounding Rigvedic ritual as a New Year celebration was first suggested by Hillebrandt in the 1920s. The proposal was at the time rejected by critics, but has since become the mainstream view, following a learned defense by Kuiper (1960). See West (2007), p. 225.
- Janda, Michael, Die Musik nach dem Chaos, Innsbruck 2010,
- Mallory, J. P. (editor). Adams, Douglas Q. (editor). (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-884964-98-2
- Martin Litchfield West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-928075-9.