The Cosmology of the Ancient BaltsStraižys, V., Klimka, L.
Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement, Vol. 28
Saulè (the Sun) was imagined as a beautiful goddess of the sky who lives in a palace somewhere away to the east. Every morning she drives across the sky in a brilliant chariot of gold, copper or fire, pulled by two white horses. In the evening the chariot goes down into the Baltic sea and Saulè changes the chariot into a golden boat which takes her across the sea. The boat is steered by the goddess Perkūnèlè who bathes the tired and dusty Saulè and sees her off, the next morning, refreshed and shining for a new journey through the sky.
Mènulis (the Moon) was a young god, dressed in silver attire, Saulè's husband. He had fertile, vitality-giving functions and was the guardian of night and time. Rich mythological imagery was connected with the four phases of the Moon, as this was considered of vital importance to animals, plants and the weather. One interesting tale tries to explain the solar eclipses: the Sun and the Moon are kissing each other; they cover themselves with a wrap, trying not to be seen by their daughter, the Earth.
Myths speak of Vakarine (the Evening Star) who made the bed for Saulè, and about Aušrinė (the Morning Star) who burnt the fire for Saulè and made her ready for another day's journey. Aušrinė was a maiden of remarkable beauty with golden hair and an image of the Sun on her crown. She wore a starry mantle with a moon shaped brooch on her shoulder and was often considered to be even more beautiful than the Sun herself.
One of the most important sky gods was the god of thunder and all storms, Perkūnas (the Thunder), fecundator and cleaner of the earth from the power of evil. He was imagined as a stern, bearded and powerfully-built man who traversed the sky in a fiery chariot, drawn by swift horses or as riding a fiery horse. His head was surrounded by a wreath of flames. In one hand he held lightning bolts and, in the other, a heavy stone axe. Nine festivals dedicated to Perkūnas were celebrated throughout the year, starting in the early spring. Figurines of Perkūnas have been found in the Kernavė settlement, in the so-called Perkūnas house in Kaunas, and elsewhere.
An interesting folk-song involves the Sun, the Moon, their daughter Aušrinė (the Morning Star) and the god Perkūnas . We present it as written by Balys. Nowadays the Sun and the Moon, the heavenly couple, are divorced, and they never rise and set together. The cause of their enmity is explained as follows. The Moon married the Sun in the primeval spring. Because the Sun rose early, the Moon separated and walked along. He met the Morning Star and fell in love with her. Then Thundergod Perkunas became angry and punished the Moon by striking him with his sword. The Moon's face, therefore, often appears as cut in two pieces. Perkūnas's sword is probably a comet.
Lithuanian riddles and fairy talks often associate the Moon with the Horse. In the riddles it is called "laukų arklys" (horse of the fields), "kumeliuku aukso pasagom" (a foal with the golden shoes), "dievo kumeliukas" (the foal of God), occasionally called "elnias" (a deer), "jautis" (an ox). In the fairytales the Moon turned in the horse rides along the sky and takes the hero to the maiden he is looking for (Greimas 1990, 51-56).
Lithuanian folklore believes that the Moon and the Sun is a wedded pair: the Moon is the husband and the Sun is the wife. In the attempt to explain why they appear in the sky in different periods of the day it is often said that they quarreled and parted. There are two typical explanations of the feud:
1. The Moon and the Sun could not share their daughter, the Earth;
2. The Moon was not loyal to the Sun and started courting the star Aušrinė (Balys 1951,8-9).
In both instances Perkūnas (Thunder) participates in the quarrel between the Sun and the Moon. He separates the quarreled parties or punishes the disloyal Moon by cutting it into two parts. Sometimes it is said that the Sun herself leaves the Moon, hides from it or punishes it by beating or striking (Dundulienė 1988, 70-76).
Analogous relationship between the Sun and the Moon is typical for the Latvian folklore. J. Kletnieks, a Latvian ethnoastronomer, has formed a hypothesis that Latvian song theme where the Sun is striking the Moon with the silver whip may be associated with the appearance of the half Moon in the neighborhood of a bright comet tail. By his calculations the astronomic situation of this character was on 17 May 240 years before Christ when Hale's comet was shining bright in the sky (Kletnieks 1986, 40-47).
In Lithuanian folk songs the Moon is called daddy and the Sun is mummy. It is sung that the Sun is collecting dowry for the girl who marries and the Moon deems her fate or gives her part of his possessions (skiria dalį, dalį turto). It is noteworthy that in Žemaitija one and the same word ‘‘ryžti’‘ means the waning of the Moon and giving part of the possession for the marital girl (LKŽ XI 775).
A. J. Greimas on having analyzed the role of the Moon in the Lithuanian folklore found a lot of data to prove that the Moon could have been one of the sovereign gods in the Lithuanian triad of gods along with Perkūnas and Kalvelis.