|Other names||Zaranitsa, Zarya, Zara, Zoryushka|
|Color||Red, gold, yellow, rose|
|Siblings||Sun (Dažbog), Moon, Zvezda|
Zorya (lit. "Dawn"; also many variants: Zarya, Zara, Zaranitsa, Zoryushka, etc.) is a figure in Slavic folklore, a personification of dawn, possibly a goddess. Depending on tradition, she may appear as singular, or two or three sisters at once. Although Zorya is etymologically unrelated to the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *H₂éwsōs, she shares most of her characteristics. She is often depicted as the sister of the Sun, the Moon, and Zvezda, the Morning Star with which she is sometimes identified. She lives in the Palace of the Sun, opens the gate for him in the morning so that he can set off on a journey through the sky, guards his white horses,[a] she is also described as a virgin.
The all-Slavic word zora "dawn, aurora" (from Proto-Slavic *zoŗà), and its variants, comes from the same root as the all-Slavic word zrěti ("to see, observe", from PS *zьrěti), which originally may have meant "shine". The word zara may have originated under the influence of the word žar "heat" (PS *žarь). PS *zoŗà comes from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *źoriˀ (cf. Lithuanian žarà, žarijà), the etymology of the root is unclear.
The Proto-Indo-European reconstructed goddess of the dawn is *H₂éwsōs. Her name was reconstructed using a comparative method on the basis of the names of Indo-European goddesses of the dawn, e.g. Greek Eos, Roman Aurora, or Vedic Ushas; similarly, on the basis of the common features of the goddesses of the dawn, the features of the Proto-Indo-European goddess were also reconstructed.
Although the Zorya cult is only attested in folklore, its roots go back to Indo-European antiquity, and the Zorya herself manifests most of *H₂éwsōs characteristics. Zorya shares the following characteristics with most goddesses of the dawn:
- She appears in the company of St. George and St. Nicholas (interpreted as divine twins)
- Red, gold, yellow, rose colors
- She lives overseas, on the island of Buyan
- Opens the door to the Sun
- She owned a golden boat and a silver oar
Zarubin undertook a comparison between Slavic folklore and the Indo-Aryan Rigveda and Atharvaeda, where images of the Sun and its companions, the Dawns, have been preserved. These images date back to ancient concepts from the initially fetishistic (the Sun in the form of a ring or circle) to the later anthropomorphic. Chludov's Novgorod Psalter of the late 13th century contains a miniature depicting two women. One of them, fiery red, signed as "morning zora", holds a red sun in her right hand in the form of a ring, and in her left hand she holds a torch resting on her shoulder, ending in a box from which emerges a light green stripe passing into dark green. This stripe ends in another woman's right hand, in green, signed as "evening zora", with a bird emerging from her left sleeve. This should be interpreted as the Morning Zorya releasing the Sun on its daily journey, and at sunset the Evening Zorya awaits to meet the Sun. A very similar motif was found in a cave temple from the 2nd or 3rd century AD in Nashik, India. The bas-relief depicts two women: one using a torch to light the circle of the Sun, and the other expecting it at sunset. Some other bas-reliefs depict two goddesses of the dawn, Ushas and Pratyusha, and the Sun, accompanied by Dawns, appears in several hymns. The Sun in the form of a wheel appears in the Indo-Aryan Rigveda, or the Norse Edda, as well as in folklore: during the annual festivals of the Germanic peoples and Slavs, they lit a wheel which, according to medieval authors, was supposed to symbolize the sun.
Similar images to the one from the Psalter and the Nashik appear in various parts of Slavic lands, e.g. On a carved and painted gate of a Slovak peasant estate (village of Očová): on one of the pillars is carved the Morning Zora, with a golden head, above her is a glow, and even higher is the Sun, which rolls along an arched road, and on the other pillar is carved the Evening Zora, above it is a setting sun. There are also darkened suns on this relief, possibly dead suns appearing in Slavic folklore. These motifs are also confirmed by the Russian saying "The sun will not rise without the Morning Zoryushka". Such a motif was also found on the back of a 19th century sled where the Sun, in the form of a circle, is in the palace and two Zoryas stand in the exit, and on a peasant rushnyk from the Tver region where Zoryas on horseback rides up to the Sun, one is red and the other is green.
In Russian tradition, they often appear as two virgin sisters: Zorya Utrennyaya (Morning Zorya, from útro "morning") as the goddess of dawn, and Zorya Vechernyaya (Evening Aurora, from véčer "evening") as the goddess of dusk. Each was to stand on a different side of the golden throne of the Sun. The Morning Zorya opened the gate of the heavenly palace when the Sun set out in the morning, and the Evening Zorya closed the gate when the Sun returned to his abode for the night. The headquarters of Zorya was to be located on Buyan Island.
A myth from a later period speaks of three Zoryas and their special task:
There are in the sky three little sisters, three little Zorya: she of the Evening, she of Midnight, and she of Morning. Their duty is to guard a dog which is tied by an iron chain to the constellation of the Little Bear. When the chain breaks it will be the end of the world.
Zorya also patronized marriages, as manifested by her frequent appearance in wedding songs, and arranged marriages between the gods. In one of the Malo-Russian songs, where the Moon meets Aurora while wandering in the sky, she is directly attributed this function:
O Dawn, Dawn! Wherever hast thou been?
Wherever hast thou been? Where dost thou intend to live?
Where do I intend to live? Why at Pan Ivan's,[b]
At Pan Ivan's in his Court,
In his Court, and in his dwelling,
And in his dwelling are two pleasures:
The first pleasure—to get his son married;
And second pleasure—to give his daughter in marriage
She was also prayed to as Zarya for good harvests and health:
Ho, thou morning zarya, and thou evening zarya! fall upon my rye, that it may grow up tall as a forest, stout as an oak!
Mother zarya [apparently twilight here] of morning and evening and midnight! as ye quietly fade away and disappear, so may both sicknesses and sorrows in me, the servant of God, quietly fade and disappear—those of the morning, and of the evening, and of the midnight!
Croatian historian Natko Nodilo noted in his study The Ancient Faith of the Serbs and the Croats that the ancient Slavs saw Zora as a "shining maiden" ("svijetla“ i "vidna“ djevojka), and Russian riddles described her as a maiden that lived in the sky ("Zoru nebesnom djevojkom").
As for the parentage of the Dawn, she is referred "in a Russian song" as "dear little Dawn" and as the "Sister of the Sun".
In Belarusian folklore she appears as Zaranitsa (Зараніца) or as Zara-zaranitsa (Зара-Зараніца). In one of the passages, Zaranica is met by St. George and St. Nicholas, who, according to comparative mythology, function as divine twins, who in Indo-European mythologies are usually brothers of the goddess of the dawn: "Saint George was walking with Saint Nicholas and met Aurora".
In folklore she also appears in the form of a riddle:
Zara-zaranitsa, a beautiful virgin, was walking in the sky, and dropped her keys. The moon saw them, but said nothing. The sun saw them, and lifted them up.
This is about the dew, which the moon does not react to and which disappears under the influence of the sun. Zara is probably simply the goddess of the dawn, and can be translated literally as "Dawn", and Zaranica is a diminutive and may indicate respect towards her.
The Ukrainian language also has words deriving from "Zorya": зі́рка (dialectal зі́ра "zira" and зі́ри "ziry") zírka, a diminutive meaning 'little star', 'starlet', 'asterisk'; зі́рнйця "zirnitsa" (or зі́рнйці "zirnytsi"), a poetic term meaning 'little star', 'aurora, dawn'.
According to professor Monika Kropej, in Slovene mythopoetic tradition, the sun rises in the morning, accompanied by the morning dawn, named Sončica (from sonce, 'sun'), and sets in the evening joined by an evening dawn named Zarika (from zarja, 'dawn'). These female characters also appear in a Slovenian narrrative folk song about their rivalry. F. S. Copeland also interpreted both characters as mythological Sun and Dawn, as well as mentioned another ballad, titled Ballad of Beautiful Zora. Slovene folklorist Jakob Kelemina (sl), in his book about Slovene myths and folk-tales, stated that a Zora appears as the daughter of the Snake Queen (possibly an incarnation of the night) in the so-called Kresnik Cycle.
Zorya in culture
- Popular folk song Zoryushka (Зорюшка) sung on a wedding day.
- Three Zoryas appear in the American Gods TV series: Zorya Utrennyaya, Zorya Polunochnaya, and Zorya Vechernyaya.
- Zorya appears in The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.
- One of the works by Australian composer Julian Cochran is named Zorya Vechernyaya.
- One of the albums by Czech composer Floex is called Zorya, and the last number on the album is called Zorya Polunochnaya.
- Zorya figures prominently in EVE Online as the leader of the invading precursor entity, the Triglavian Collective. 
- on YouTube performed by the Werchowyna band
- on YouTube performed by the Drużyna Grodu Trzygłowa band
- In a tale Zorya is described as preparing the "fiery horses" of her brother, the Sun, at the beginning and at the end of the day.
- Pan (Master) Ivan is supposed to be some kind of celestial being, sometimes mentioned in songs also as "Brother Ivanushko". In Ukrainian folklore, young Ivan is the son of the Sun and calls his sister "Bright Zorya".
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