by Aldis Pūtelis
Auseklis is a Latvian stellar god. In astronomic interpretations he is usually understood as the planet Venus (there is evidence that Venus was called Lielais Auseklis, "the Great Auseklis"). He is connected with Mēness (the moon), but also with Saule (the sun). In the myth of the heavenly wedding, he is one of the suitors of Saules meitas (along with Dieva dēli, Mēness, and other gods), but in some versions he is just one of the bride's party. He might also be the only suitor, the mythic material is not clear on this because there are a great number of texts with obscure hints to Auseklis as the original bridegroom of Sun's daughter, which is later stolen by Mēness, in turn being punished by Saule or Pērkons.
There are other motives in which Auseklis has disappeared and the Moon, counting the stars, discovers this. The structure itself is the same as that of the motif of the youngest daughter who is discovered being lost by the mother, counting her children late in the evening. In this motif the girl enters the otherworld through death. Whether this is a contaminated motif of some solar myth (where the sun passes the underworld by night to rise fresh and alive in the morning) is not clear. It could also be a hint to a different original gender of Auseklis (there are some feminine forms of the name), but there are signs that some gender shift due to linguistic or other causes might also have taken place in the case of other deities like Saule and Mēness (some eighteenth-century dictionaries1 indicate Mēness as feminine; this is allowed by the grammatical structure of Latvian). Still Auseklis in these cases may be found making a dress for the sun or going to visit his bride.
Auseklis also appears in other functions explicable as some servant (such as the motif of the "heavenly bath" where he supplies the water). There are texts allowing to suppose that at least in some cases Auseklis may have substituted Mēness, as it can be proved by astronomic explanation of the texts (disappearance of Auseklis for three days - true about the moon). What could have caused such change of functionality and importance is difficult to establish.
Auseklis was chosen as a pseudonym by one of the mid-19th century Latvian poets, Mikus Krogzemis. He was among the first nationally oriented learned Latvians who through his poems greatly added to the Latvian pantheon. While this was regarded at the time as one of his greatest achievements, later his voluntary additions where seriously criticized.
From Latvian ausma, "dawn"; aust "to dawn."
- Stender, Gotthard Friedrich. (1761). Jauno, pilnīgāko latviešu gramatiku; Lange, Jacob. (1777). Vidzemmes Ļaužu veccas un jaunas buhschanas.
- Gimbutas, Marija. (1963). The Balts. New York: Praeger, p. 199.