Mihr-Mher-Mithra – Pantheon of Ancient Armenia


Mihr-Mher-Mithra is a god of heavenly light and sun and the son of Aramazd in the ancient Armenian pantheon. In ancient Armenia, a temple in Bagaharij (in the territory of modern Turkey), the Mheri Dur altar (“the door of Mher”) in the mountains near the city of Van, and also, apparently, the Garni temple were dedicated to Mher.

Traces of veneration of Mher have been found in the ancient Armenian calendar in the names of the eighth day of each month (mihr) and the seventh month (mehekan, corresponds to February). In Armenian onomastics (including toponymy), more than 150 names derived from the name Mher.

The influence of the cult of Mher after the spread of Christianity manifested itself in Armenian spiritual songs (sharakans) formed in the 5th-8th centuries. In them, Christ is identified with the deity of light – he is called “light”, “creator of light”, “outpouring of light”, “sun of truth”, “mental light”, “sunlight”, or “source of light”.

In a transformed form, the image of Mher passed into the Armenian epic Sasna Tsrer (Daredevils of Sasun) where instead of a single Mher were Mher the Elder (grandfather) and Mher the Junior (grandson).

Mher the Elder, the son of Sanasar and Dekhtsun, the daughter of the king of Kaji, was a giant endowed with heroic strength. Like Mithra, Mher performed a series of feats.

He engaged in a battle with a monstrous lion that was blocking the road along which bread was delivered to Sasun. He tore the lion apart with his hands (hence his nickname “lion-tearer”), after which the inhabitants of Sasun would receive bread in abundance.

Mher defeated many devs (semi-divine malicious beings in Armenian mythology). In particular, he killed the black bull (a symbol of darkness and hell), depriving the main White Dev of magical powers. Eventually, Mher defeated the White Dev in battle.

Mher the Junior, the son of David of Sasun and Khandut-Khatun, spent his life in wanderings in a constant struggle against injustice.

He defeated Dev Kup, an old cannibal woman, and foreign hordes that threatened Sasun. He saved the city of Jazira from flooding, dropping a large rock into the river flowing through it and thereby dividing it into two branches.

Having met David returning to Sasun, Mher, not knowing that he was facing his father, clashed with him and knocked him down. The disgraced David cursed his son, dooming him to immortality and childlessness. However, according to another version, Angel Gabriel gave an end to the fight of father and son.

Mher was unable to exterminate injustice in the world. The earth was no longer able to hold his weight, and Mher along with his horse Kurkik Jalali started to get stuck in the ground.

Mher went to the graves of his parents so that they could decide his fate. He heard their voices inviting him to retire to a rock and wait for a change in the world.

According to one version of the epos, Mher was guided to the rock by the messenger of the gods, the prophetic raven (agrav). Therefore, the rock was called Agravakar (“raven rock”). From the blow of the sword of Mher, the rock opened and took him in along with his horse.

Once or twice a year (every Saturday according to one version), Mher leaves the rock and checks whether the earth has grown stronger. After making sure that it still cannot withstand his weight, Mher returns to the rock.

Mher told one shepherd who once saw him entering (or exiting) the rock that he would completely leave the rock once the old world is destroyed and a just world is created, “when the wheat grain is larger than a nut and barley grain larger than rosehip.”

According to some versions of the legend, in Mher’s rock, an eternal candle (or lamp) is burning and the chari-falak (“wheel of fate”) is rotating. When the wheel stops, Mher will leave the rock and destroy the unjust world.

There is a version of the myth according to which Mher the Junior was chained to a rock by the will of the supreme deity, left for ravens to peck his kidneys.

This motive appeared, apparently, under the influence of ideas about the deity fighters – in particular, about Artavazd chained in a cave who was associated with the salvation of the world in Armenian mythology. He also gave Vahagn a mace forged from a thousand and one suns.

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