Astghik is an Armenian love goddess who is analogous with the Babylonian, Akkadian and Assyrian goddess Ishtar. In lore, she is described as skylight. Information in “The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Oral Tradition to the Golden Age,” indicates that Astghik, whose name means “little star,” is a love and fertility goddess and the consort of Vahagn. Some scholars suggest Astghik is analogous with Astarte or Ashtoreth: This goddess was mainly worshipped at Ashtishat. Vahagn: A fire and war god, is often identified as her lover, spouse or both in Armenian tales.
In “The Routledge Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons,” author Manfred Lurkar asserts Astghik is also known as Astlik and the love goddess is an astral Armenian deity: One who is analogous with the goddess Ishtar of Mesopotamia. The goddess Astlik is also analogous to the Greek goddess Aphrodite: for just as Aphrodite is a goddess of love, so too is Astlik in the Armenian pantheon. Lurkar also explains when Christianity became dominant, Astlik’s role was “reduced to that of a progenitrix of fairies and nymphs.”
Vahan M. Kurkjian writes in “A History of Armenia,” about Astghik or Astlik and suggests the rose and the dove are sacred to her. Her festival is identified as the Vardavar or the Feast of Transfiguration and is celebrated when summer begins. The festival involves pouring water over other people and the release of white doves. Kurkjian explains that the name Astghik means “little star,” and that makes this goddess a celestial deity: The name is also a translation of Beldi: A Syrian deity.
Kurkjian goes on to explain that a chapel was dedicated to Astghik and the love goddess is part of the Vahévahian: A triad of deities including Astghik, Vahagn her consort, and Anahit: The Armenian goddess of water, healing, fertility, and wisdom. The same source tells of a local story about Astghik where the goddess bathes nightly in a stream, and some young men who were eager to set eyes upon her while she bathed, who lit a giant fire nearby where the goddess was bathing. The goddess, angry by such attempts, covered the entire plain of mush to become covered with a thick, dense fog – this is where the word “mush” is derived and it means “mist.” The latter story illustrates parallels to the Roman goddess Diana who turned Acteon to a stag when he came across her while she was bathing in the woods. The same parallels exist in the story of the Greek goddess Artemis and Actaeon.
In an article appearing on ArmeniaNow.com, Suren Musayelyan identifies Astghik as a goddess of love and beauty who spread love to people by dowsing them in rosy water. She is depicted or described as skylight and she is honored at the annual Vardavar (sometimes called Vartavar). Musayelyan doesn’t concur with Kurkjian’s assertion pertaining to the timing of the festival. Rather, Suren suggests it occurs yearly on the third Sunday in the month of July instead of the beginning of summer. Today, this goddess is still honored in Armenia: People pour water on unsuspecting people who pass by. No one is permitted to be upset by having water poured on them from teens and/or adults on the day Vardarvar, the water pouring pagan festival, is celebrated.
Deity: Astghik: Armenian goddess of love. Her name means “little star.”
Analogous: Beldi, Artemis, Diana, Ishtar, and Aphrodite
Consort: Vahagn: God of fire and war
Symbols: water, rosy water, doves, and roses
Celebration: Vadavar or Vartavar: Held on the third Sunday in July