The Old Gods in American Gods have roots in the past and in mythology. While we might know the ins and outs of the New Gods, like Media and Technical Boy, there’s probably a lot we can still learn about their predecessors. For those of you hoping to get a better understanding of these characters before you continue on with American Gods, we have you covered. Get to know the history that inspires the characters in our American Gods History Primer series.
Zoryas: Zorya Vechernyaya, Zorya Polunochnaya, Zorya Utrennyaya, a.k.a. Zorja, a.k.a. the Auroras
In the Series
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow encounter the Zoryas when they meet with Czernobog. The sisters reside with the grumpy old man and share his roots in Slavic mythology. We meet Zorya Vechernyaya and Zorya Utrennyaya first, who emphasize more than once that their other sister, Zorya Polunochnaya, is resting and is not to be disturbed. This, of course, makes you wonder if she’s suffering an illness or works a night shift job of some kind. It’s sort of the latter.
The Zoryas are welcoming, seem to value etiquette, and have a wise and determined air about them. They can read coffee grounds like they’re tea leaves; they’ve learned to do this to tell fortunes and make cash to survive. They don’t seem like they’d take any shit from anyone—which is, frankly, the kind of attitude they need since they’re sharing space with Czernobog.
For the inspiration for the Zoryas, you need only to look to the sky. Slavic mythology tells of two guardian goddesses, mostly commonly known as the Morning Star (Zorya Utrennyaya) and the Evening Star (Zorya Vechernyaya). One of their primary tasks is to keep Ursa Minor safe from a doomsday hound chained to Polaris, Simargl; the dog wants to devour the constellation. If the constellation is eaten, the universe ends. Just a teensy consequence. They can’t get away with sleeping on the job, hence why there has to be more than one person on the clock.Tl;dr: They keep a freaking doomsday hound from destroying the universe. How badass is that?
Something I appreciate as I read about the origins of the gods and goddesses is the burden they each carry. Considering the great efforts they take to protect and satisfy their worshippers, it’s no wonder the gods get a little lost when those worshippers disappear.
Marchosias, as depicted in Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal–this demon fits descriptions of Simargl
Anyway! Besides guarding Ursa Minor, the Zoryas are responsible for opening and closing the gates of heaven each day–the Morning Star opens them at dawn and the Evening Star closes the gates at dusk. Those gates surround the palace of the sun god Dazbog. Some folk tales depict Dazbog as the father of the Auroras.
As for Zorya Polunochnaya, author Neil Gaiman created her and added her as the Midnight Star. She’s since been included in some accounts of the Zorya mythology. It’s said she restores the sun to life each and every night, so she’s associated with death and rebirth. The addition of Polunochnaya adds a Triple Goddess touch to their story; you can compare the sisters as they are in American Gods to the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone.
What did you think of the show’s depiction of the Zoryas?
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