Historian and linguist Nicholas Marr wrote about the genealogy of the legend of the love between Armenian pagan deities Vahagn and Astghik:
“However, more ancient pearls of Japhetic poetic heritage reached us, including a story about a man and a woman in love who symbolized various conditions and impersonations of nature.
This love story brings us to the ancient primary source of the play “Tristan and Iseult” demonstrated in Paris. Preserved also in its Georgian translation, the antique Persian history about love “Vas and Kamin” in the East and “Tristan and Iseult” in the West are two branches of a common Japhetic tree.
But this isn’t about the similarities between the two but rather about the genealogy of the love story between deities Astghik and Vahagn. Along with its Japhetic tribal elements, it has been known by the populations of the territories from Middle Asia to the British Isles, including, of course, Celts who have been in close contact with the Japhetites.
In its turn, the novel of Astghik and Vahagn is the product of the totemic oeuvre of two distinct Japhetic tribes: mainly, the Etruscans or Pelasgians and Thessalian or Italic peoples. And Etruscans or Pelasgians are the same as Urartians or Rshtunis. At the same time, the prehistoric Thessalian and Italic tribes are the same as Aluans and Alans.
The novel was aboriginal in those areas where Basques and Amardi came into strong contact with the Etruscan and Italic tribes, which geographically corresponds to Pelasgians and Thessalians in the Caucasus. The latter finally correspond to Urartians-Rshtunis and Albanians in Armenia. In fact, the legend about Ara the Beautiful and the parable “About Semiramis’ beads thrown into the sea” are the fragments of the novel. The legend about Satenik is a part of the same mythological cycle, and the same goes for a fragment of a pagan hymn dedicated to Tristan – Vahagn mentioning the water element.
Water in general, as well as seas and rivers are natural pieces of the mythological element. Being a name of an Etruscan deity-totem, “Tristan” outside of the religious context means “sun”, while “iseult” and “satenik” are diminutives of the words and phrases that symbolize the water element.
Furthermore, the guardian of mythological traditions in both Armenia and Europe was indeed the Celtic tribe. The inhabitants of the Armenian region Kol-ten who preserved the tradition were eponymous to the Celtic tribes. Besides, the well-known Japhetic tribe used to be settled on the shores of the Black Sea.”
According to the medieval Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, Vahagn was a source of life, a symbol of light, sun, and the good, a liberator of the heavenly waters and the beautiful Astghik. Astghik in her turn was a symbol of femininity and fertility.
An extract from the book The Cross in the Rock Art of Armenia © Vaganian GA, Vaganian VG, 2013