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In Slavic mythology the Zorya (alternately, Zora, Zarya, 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 Zorya represent the Morning Star and Evening Star.
The Zorya serve the sun god Dažbog, who in some myths is described as their father. Zorya Utrennyaya, the Morning Star, opens the gates to his palace every morning for the sun-chariot's departure. At dusk, Zorya Vechernyaya—the Evening Star—closes the palace gates once more after his return.
The home of the Zorya 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 Zorya Utrennyaya (from Russian utro, meaning "morning"; also known as 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 Zorya Vechernyaya 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 Zorya Vechernyaya (from Russian vecher, meaning "evening"; also known as Vecernja 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
- Zorya Vechernyaya is a sextet for oboe, bassoon and string quartet by Australian composer Julian Cochran.
- The Zorya appear in the multi-award-winning novel American Gods by English author Neil Gaiman. Here Gaiman introduces a third sister, Zorya Polunochnaya, the "Midnight Star". She appears in no works written before American Gods was published.
- 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 chases the sun and the moon
- Smart, Dr Antony E. (08-02-2004). "Zorya". Encyclopedia Mythica. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- 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.