Auseklis: The Morning Star in Latvian Mythology

An eight-pointed star in the colors of the Latvian flag. A symbol representing Auseklis.

The many affectionate diminutives of the name Auseklis reflect the popularity of this mythological deity: ausekliņš, auseklītis, ausekliņis. 

Auseklis is one of the celestial deities in the pantheon of Latvian mythology, a male deity. He is the third most important deity after Saule (the sun) and Mēness (the moon) Both Mēness and Auseklis are the sons of Dievs, the main deity in the Latvian mythological trinity. There’s considerable sibling rivalry between them. Sometimes Auseklis is associated with Venus, the third brightest body in the sky after the sun and the moon. In other myths, Auseklis is associated with Sirius or Mercury.

The name Auseklis derives from the verb aust which means “to dawn” the blossoming of the first light of morning. Appropriately, Auseklis is depicted as a young and playful deity.

Auseklis horse is a gift from Saule.

Ausma is a popular name for Latvian girls. Auseklis used as a boy’s name is not as common.

Auseklis is the god of dawn.

He represents the victory of light over darkness and protects against evil; as such his symbol appears on the door of a house to keep evil from entering. The horse of a soldier going to war wore a star-studded saddle blanket. The eight-point star was woven into blankets to keep the sleeper from being tormented by an incubus during the night.

To invoke the protective power of Auseklis, you must draw the star in one continuous, unbroken line. Yes, I did it. I hope that Auseklis doesn’t mind that his sign is a bit lopsided. No doubt Auseklis has seen many earnests, lopsided drawings.

Before Latvia was unified into one country, it was a series of tribes, each with its own myths contained in many different texts, which accounts for the inconsistencies in our myths. Auseklis is one of the most frequently mentioned figures in the Latvian folksongs known as dainas, of which there are thousands.

In some variations of his myths, Auseklis courts Saules meitas, the daughters, of the sun. Sometimes he is depicted as courting the sun herself. In other variations, he serves as an attendant in the celestial wedding of Saule and Mēness.

As mentioned in my previous post about Mēness, he counts the stars, finds that Auseklis is missing, and takes advantage of the situation to fool around with Auseklis’ bride. When she learns of her husband’s betrayal, Saule takes revenge on her adulterous spouse.

Auseklis star woven into the skirt of a folk costume belonging to my mother.

Auseklis become the symbol of Latvia’s National Awakening during the 1930s. Stars show the way, offer hope, and allow for change. It was then that the eight-point star became a popular design in jewelry, fabrics, and graphic arts.

A dazzling variant of the morning star symbol.

The star motif does not appear in archaeological materials until the 16th and 17th centuries. It is widespread in  Finno-Ugrian cultures, which include Finland and Estonia, and might well have been borrowed from them.

In London, I found a pair of wool gloves with Auskelis on the back. It was March so I had a pair of gloves with me on the trip and more gloves at home but I bought them anyway because of the Latvian design. For all I know, the gloves might have been knit in Scotland. The wool was itchy but I wore the gloves anyway. Eventually, either the wool got soft or I just got used to the scratchiness. I wore the gloves until they got holey.

Not one of my friend’s mittens, but similar. The colors in hers are reversed.

A friend who is currently traveling in Iceland forgot her gloves at home. Via social media, I assured her that she would find lovely gloves or mittens in some local shop. She did. Beautiful black and white mittens with–you guessed it, Auseklis on the back. Naturally, she bought them the moment she saw them and they’re keeping her hands nice and warm.

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