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Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Darkness is the opposite of light, and is characterized precisely by the absence of visible light. The emotional response of the human being to darkness has given rise to numerous metaphors belonging to very diverse cultures and mythologies.

For example, in Christianity, the first creation narrative begins in full darkness. It is said in Genesis that darkness existed before the world itself. Only then “the light was made” and the separation between light and darkness took place. In Exodus 10,21, darkness appears as one of the ten plagues of Egypt, specifically the ninth, and in Matthew 8,12 darkness is the place where “it will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

In the Qur’an (Nab 78.25), individuals who transgress the limits of what is right are doomed to “the burning despair and the cold darkness like ice.” These perceptions of darkness are largely associated with evil. However it was not always so. In the past, darkness was seen as something that had existed since the beginning of time, and there were many deities linked to darkness and night.

Greek Mythology 

The best example of this is probably the Erebos of the Greek mythology  Its name comes from the Greek word “Érebos”, which means “shadow” or “deep darkness.” Erebos was a primordial deity considered the personification or incarnation of darkness. He was one of the first five beings born from Chaos.

From his sister Nix, Érebo begat other deities, such as Hipnos (the Dream) and Thanatos (Death). Fruit of this union were also born Ether, Hémera, the Hesperides, the Moiras, Geras, Styx and Charon, in addition to other sons and daughters. It is interesting to observe here the fact that Nix was the goddess of the night. She was very beautiful and powerful, and it is said that even Zeus himself, father of all gods, feared her. Hesiod writes in his Theogony:

From Chaos emerged Erebos and the black Night. From the Night in turn the Ether and the Day were born, whom he conceived and gave birth to his loving union with Erebos. ”

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Nix as it is represented in the Psalter of Paris (10th century) next to the prophet Isaiah.

In Greek mythology there are also other gods related to night and darkness. Asteria was the goddess of the night oracles and the stars, and Aclis the primordial goddess of eternal night, misery and misfortunes.

Hindu deities of darkness

In the Hindu tradition, Ratri is the goddess of the night, while Rahu is the celestial god of darkness and eclipses. Rahu is related to the demon Svarbhaanu, which devours the sun, which results in eclipses. In art he is depicted as a bodyless snake mounted on a car pulled by eight black horses.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Rahu: Head of the Serpent Demon, Konarak Idol, British Museum.

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Rahu Kala, the period of the day that is under the influence of Rahu in Vedic astrology, is considered a bad omen. In ancient Hindu mythology there was also Varuna, who ruled the night and was the god of the dead.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Rahu: Head of the Serpent Demon, Konarak Idol, British Museum.

Norse Mythology

In Norse mythology, Nótt is the goddess who personifies the night. She is Thor’s grandmother and Norvi’s daughter. He associates Nótt with the horse Hrímfaxi, and supposedly married three times. His third marriage was with the god Dellingr, and from him a son was born: Dagr, personification of the day. In Norse mythology the trickster god Loki is also considered a nocturnal deity.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Nótt rides Hrímfaxi in this 19th century painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

Roman gods of darkness

In Roman mythology Nox was the primordial goddess of the night. It was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Nyx. Scotus was the primordial god of darkness linked to the Greek god Erebo. Summanus was the god of night storms.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Nyx, primordial goddess of the night in Greek mythology.

The Aztec lords of the night

Aztec mythology includes many deities associated with night and darkness. The Lords of the Night were a group of nine gods. Each of them governed a particular type of night. Metztli was the god of the night, the moon and the farmers. Yohaulticetl was the lunar goddess known as Lady of the Night.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Lords of the Night, page 14 of the Borgia Codex.

Tezcatlipoca was the god of the sky and the nocturnal winds, the obsidian, the leadership, the divination, the jaguars, the sorcery, the battles and even of the beauty.

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Egyptian legends

In Egyptian mythology, Nephthys was the goddess of night, death and birth. For his part, Kuk was an uncreated god who personified the primordial darkness. Apep was the Egyptian serpent god, embodiment of evil and darkness.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

Neftis, Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

Other gods of darkness

Artume was the Etruscan goddess of the night, and Shalim the Canaanite god of sunset. In Arab mythology, Al-Qaum was the Nabatean god of night and war, although he was also considered the protector of caravans.

Ahriman is the Iranian god of darkness, night and evil. In Lithuania, Breksta was the goddess of twilight and dreams, which protected human beings from sunset to dawn. The Zorya were two guardian goddesses of Slavic mythology related to the morning and evening stars. In Maori myths, Hine-nui-te-pō, queen of the underworld, is also goddess of night and death.

Ancient primordial gods: When the night dominated the world

As we can see, darkness was often associated, though not always, with evil. There are many cases in mythology in which the “dark” gods were simply a personification of the primordial darkness that already existed before the world was created.


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