In Slavic mythology, the Zorja (alternately, Zora, Zarja, Zory, Zore = "dawn"; Zvezda, Zwezda, Danica = "star") are the two guardian goddesses, known as the Auroras. They guard and watch over the doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the "little bear". If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the constellation and the universe will end. The Zorja represent the Morning Star and the Evening Star.
The Zorja serve the sun god Dažbog, who in some myths is described as their father. Zorja Utrennjaja, the Morning Star, opens the gates to his palace every morning for the sun-chariot's departure. At dusk, Zorja Vechernjaja—the Evening Star—closes the palace gates once more after his return.
The home of the Zorja 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.
The Morning Star is Zorja Utrennjaja (from Russian utro, meaning "morning"; also known as Zvijezda Danica, Zvezda Danica, Zvezda Dennitsa, Zwezda Dnieca, Zvezda Zornitsa, Gwiazda Poranna, Rannia Zoria, Zornica, Zornička), who opens the gates of Dažbog's palace each morning so that the Sun may begin his journey. She is depicted as a warrior goddess, fully armed and courageous, and was invoked to protect against death in battle with the prayer: "Defend me, O maiden, with your veil from the enemy, from the arquebus and arrow..." She is a patroness of horses, protection, exorcism, and the planet Venus, and Slavs would pray to her each morning as the sun rose. In some tales, she sits under the World Tree on the fiery-stone Alatuir, from which run the four rivers of the Otherworld, and under her seat flows the river of healing.
Conflicting accounts exist of her marital situation. In some myths, she is described as the wife of Perun and would accompany her husband into battle. In this role she was known to protect those warriors she favoured against death by letting down her veil. In other accounts, both she and Zorja Vechernjaja were the wives of the male Myesyats, the moon god, and by him bore all of the stars. However, some have both Zorya as virgin goddesses, while describing Myesyats as an unrelated female moon goddess.
The Evening Star is Zorja Vechernjaja (from Russian vecher, meaning "evening"; also known as Večernja Zvijezda, Večernja Zvezda, Zvezda Vechernaya, Zwezda Wieczoniaia, Zwezda Wieczernica, Zvezda Vechernitsa, Gwiazda Wieczorna, Vechirnia Zoria, Večernjača, Večernica), who closes the palace gates at dusk, after sunset and Dažbog's return. She was associated with the planet Venus or Mercury. Some myths described both her and her sister Zorya Utrennyaya as the wives of the moon god Myesyats and the mothers of the stars, but other accounts cast both Zorya as virgin goddesses.
In art and literature
- Zorja Vechernyaya is a sextet for oboe, bassoon and string quartet by Australian composer Julian Cochran.
- The Zorja appear in the multi-award-winning novel American Gods by English author Neil Gaiman. Here Gaiman includes a third sister, Zorja Polunochnaya, the "Midnight Star". A third sister is described in some versions of the myth, but Gaiman has stated he invented her for his work.
- The Zorya appear in Kevin Hearne's series of urban fantasy novels The Iron Druid Chronicles.
- List of night deities
- Zaria (goddess)
- Hati and Sköll, two wolves that chase the sun and the moon.
- Dixon-Kennedy, Mike (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic myth and legend. ABC-CLIO. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-57607-130-4.
- Dixon-Kennedy, Mike (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic myth and legend. ABC-CLIO. pp. 321–325. ISBN 978-1-57607-130-4.
- Deck-Partyka, Alicja (2006). Poland, a Unique Country & Its People. AuthorHouse. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-4259-1838-5.
- Neil Gaiman and Patton Oswalt at Saban Theater in L.A. 6/28/11 pt2 (YouTube). 4 August 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
- Neil Gaiman and Patton Oswalt at Saban Theater in L.A. 6/28/11 pt3 (YouTube). 4 August 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2011.