Sky father

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Jupiter, ancient Roman sky deity, and Thetis

In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a "father", often the father of a pantheon and is often either a reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of "sky father" may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an "earth mother".

"Sky Father" is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity name as the Greek Zeûs Pater and Roman Jupiter, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity's name, *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr.[1] While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, there are exceptions (e.g. In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the sky mother and Geb is the earth father).

In historical religion[edit]

Name Etymology Mythology Parent Mythology Details
God the Father Christian Semitic In Christian culture, God the Father is often depicted in art as a silver-bearded wise man situated above the clouds, as can be seen in the works of artists like Michelangelo and Raphael.
Horus From Late Latin Hōrus, from Ancient Greek Ὧρος (Hôros), from Egyptian ḥr. Egyptian Afroasiatic In Ancient Egypt, Horus was ruler of the sky. He was shown as a male humanoid with the head of a falcon. It is not uncommon for birds to represent the sky in ancient religions, due to their ability to fly. However, in Egyptian mythology the sky was perceived as the goddess Nut.
Tengri Borrowed from a Turkic language; ultimately from Proto-Turkic *teŋri ('sky, heaven, god'). Compare Turkish tanrı ('god'). Turkic, Mongolic Altaic Chief god of the early religion of the Turkic and Mongolic peoples.
Aten Egyptian Afroasiatic Was a Monotheistic Sun God under the pharaoh Akhenaten.
Wākea Hawaiian Austronesian
Ranginui Māori Austronesian The sky father and earth mother Papatūānuku, embraced and had divine children.
Dyaus Pita From Sanskrit द्यौष्पितृ (dyauṣ-pitṛ). From Proto-Indo-European *Dyḗws ph₂tḗr; synchronically analyzable as द्यौस् (dyaús, nominative singular of द्यु, dyú, 'sky') + पितृ (pitṛ́, 'father'). Indian Hinduism In the early Vedic pantheon, appears already in a marginal position, but in comparative mythology is often reconstructed as having stood alongside Prithvi Mata "Earth Mother" in prehistoric times.
Jupiter From Latin Iūpiter ('father Jove'), from Proto-Italic *djous patēr (literally 'sky father') Italic Indo-European Often depicted by birds, usually the eagle or hawk, and clouds or other sky phenomena. Nicknames included Sky God and Cloud Gatherer.
Zeus From Ancient Greek Ζεύς (Zeús). From Proto-Hellenic *dzéus, related to Mycenaean Greek 𐀇𐀺 (di-wo /diwos/); from Proto-Indo-European *dyḗws. Hellenic Indo-European
Dagr From Proto-Germanic *dagaz ('day, name of the D-rune'). Cognate with Old English dæġ (Modern English day), Old Frisian dei, di, Old Saxon dag, Old Dutch dag, Old High German tac, tag, Gothic 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐍃 (dags). Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *dʰegʷʰ- ('to burn'). Nordic Indo-European The personification of the daylit sky.
Perun Slavic Indo-European
Diepatura Illyrian Indo-European
Zojz A derivation of Proto-Indo-European *dyḗws Albanian Indo-European
Perkūnas From Proto-Balto-Slavic *Perkūnas, from Proto-Indo-European *perkʷunos, from *pérkʷus (“oak”). Baltic Indo-European
Týr From earlier runic ᛏᛁᚢᛦ (tiuʀ), from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz; identical to *týr ('god'). From Proto-Indo-European *deywós ('god'). Vṛddhi derivative of *dyew- ('sky, heaven') Germanic Indo-European
Bochica Muisca Native American In what is now Colombia, the Muisca worshipped this sky father.[2]
Gitche Manitou Native American Native American Common character in creation myths.[3]
Shangdi 上帝 (Hanyu Pinyin: shàng dì; literally 'king above') Confucianism Sino-Tibetan Supreme God worshipped in ancient China. It is also used to refer to the Christian God in the Standard Chinese Union Version of the Bible. In China, in Daoism, (tian), meaning sky, is associated with light, the positive, male, etc., whereas (di) meaning earth or land, is associated with dark, the negative, female, etc.
Tian (lit. 'sky' or 'heaven') Confucianism Sino-Tibetan Used to refer to the sky as well as a personification of it. Whether it possesses sentience in the embodiment of an omnipotent, omniscient being is a difficult question for linguists and philosophers. Zhu, Tian Zhu (主,天主, lit. 'Lord' or 'Lord in Heaven') is translated from the English word, Lord, which is a formal title of the Christian God in Mainland China's Christian churches.
An or Anu (Akkadian: 𒀭𒀭, romanized: Anu, from 𒀭 an, 'sky, heaven') or Anum, originally An (Sumerian: 𒀭, romanized: An) Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian The father deity of the Sumerian and Assyro-Babylonian pantheon and is also the earliest attested Sky Father deity.
Ukko From Proto-Finnic *ukko. Probably a Finnic pet form of *uros ('man, male'). Finnish Uralic
Taevaisa Taevas 'sky', isa 'father' Uralic The word by which adherents in Estonia of the Maausk (faith of the land) and the Taara native beliefs refer to God. Although both branches of the original Estonian religion — which are largely just different ways of approaching what is in essence the same thing, to the extent that it remains extant — are pantheistic, heaven has a definite and important place in the ancient pre-Christian Estonian belief system. All things are sacred for those of the faith of the land, but the idea of a sky father — among other "sacrednesses" — is something all Estonians are well aware of. In newer history, after the arrival of Christianity, the ideas of a sky father and "a father who art in heaven" have become somewhat conflated. One way or another, the phrase taevaisa remains in common use in Estonia.
Urcia Basque Vasconic The Liber Sancti Iacobi by Aymericus Picaudus tells that the Basques called God Urcia, a word found in compounds for the names of some week days and meteorological phenomena.[4][5] The current usage is Jaungoikoa, that can be interpreted as 'the lord of above'. The imperfect grammatically of the word leads some to conjecture that it is a folk etymology applied to jainkoa, now considered a shorter synonym.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ dyaus in Vedic still retained the meaning "sky", while the Greek Zeus had become a proper name exclusively.
  2. ^ Paul Herrmann; Michael Bullock (1954). Conquest by Man. Harper & Brothers. p. 186. OCLC 41501509.
  3. ^ Katherine Berry Judson (April 30, 2009). Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest. BiblioLife. pp. 5–7. ISBN 978-0-559-06288-9.
  4. ^ Larry Trask (1997). The History of Basque. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-13116-2.
  5. ^ Jose Migel Barandiaran (1996). Mitología vasca. Txertoa. ISBN 84-7148-117-0.