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Perkwunos (Proto-Indo-European: *perkwunos) is the reconstructed name of the weather-god in Proto-Indo-European mythology.

Contrary to other gods of the Proto-Indo-European pantheon the likes of Dyēus or Hausōs, clear cognates stemming from the root Perkwunos are only found in Western Indo-European traditions; the reconstruction is therefore less secured.[1]



The term *Perkwunos likely stems from the verbal root *per-, "to strike".[1] Another proposed etymology is the root *pérkʷus, the oak,[2] attached to the divine nomenclature *-nos, "master of",[3] with cognates in Lat. quercus ("oak-tree"),[4] in Ger. *ferhwa ("oak"),[5] and in Grk Herkyna (a spring-nymph associated with the Herkyna River).[6]

His name thus either meant "the Striker" or "the Lord of Oaks".[7][8] An etymology uniting those two propositions has been suggested in the mythological association of oaks with thunder, explained by the frequency with which such tall trees are struck by lightning,[2][9] although this is not universally agreed upon.[4]


Other cognates related to thunder, through another root *(s)tenh₂, are found in Germanic Thor, Celtic Taranis and Latin (Jupiter) Tonans.[10][11] According to Jackson, "they may have arisen as the result of fossilisation of an original epithet or epiclesis", as the Vedic Parjanya is also called stanayitnú- ("Thunderer").[12]

George E. Dunkel regarded Perkwunos as an original epithet of Dyēus, the Sky-God.[13] It has also been postulated that Perkwunos was referred to as *Diwós Putlós ("son of Dyēus"), although this is based on the Vedic poetic tradition alone.[7]


Perkwunos is depicted as holding a weapon, generally conceived as a club, mace, or hammer, made of stone or metal.[14] In the Latvian poetic expression Pērkōns met savu milnu ("Pērkōn throws his mace"), the mace milna is cognate with mjollnir, the hammer thrown by the Nordic thunder god Thor, but also with the word "lightning" in OPrus. mealde and OCS *mlъni.[2][15] His thunder and lightning had a destructive but also a regenerative connotation, as they can be accompanied with fructifying rain.[16] Parjanya is depicted as rain god in the Vedas, Latvian prayers included a call for Pērkōns to bring rain in time of drought,[1][17] and the Balkan Slavs worshipped Perun alongside his female counterpart *Perperuna in prayers for vital rains portraying the female as a virgin who had not yet had her first monthly period. The earth is likewise referred to as "menstruating" in a Vedic hymn to Parjanya, a possible cognate.[18]

Oak-God and StrikerEdit

The association of Perkwunos with the oak is found in various formulaic expressions: Lith. Perkūno ąžuolas (Perkūnas's oak), Latv. Pērkōna uōzuōls ("Pērkōn's oak"), or ORus. Perunovŭ dubŭ ("Perun's oak"). The Slavic thunder-god Perūn is said to frequently strike oaks to put fire within them.[19] In Germanic mythology, Thor likewise strikes his foes the giants when they hide under an oak; although he is a thematic echo and not a cognate of Perkwunos.[2] The striking of devils, demons or evildoers by Perkwunos is a motif also encountered in the myths surrounding Perkūnas and the Vedic Parjanya.[20][2]

A multi-headed water-serpent is connected in particular with Perkwunos in an epic battle: the serpent is often described as a "blocker of waters", and his heads eventually smashed by the thunder-god to release torrents of water that had previously been pent up.[21] The myth has numerous reflexes in mythical stories of battles between a serpent and a god. The latter is not necessary etymologically related to Perkwunos, but is always associated with thunder or drought: the Vedic Vṛtra (the personification of drought) and Indra, the Iranian Tištry/Sirius and Apaoša (a demon of drought), the Albanian Kulshedra (an amphibious serpent who causes streams to dry up) and Drangue, the Greek Typhoeus and Zeus, or the Germanic Miðgarð and Thor.[21]

Stony skiesEdit

He is often portrayed in connection with stone and (wooden) mountains, probably because the mountainous forests were his realm.[22] A cognate keening appears in Ger. *fergunja ("[mountainous] forest") and Gaul. ercunia ("[oaks] forests").[5][9] Words from a root *pér-ur are also attested in Hitt. pēru ("rock, cliff, boulder"), Aves. pauruuatā ("mountains"), and Skt párvata ("rocky, cliff, mountain").[2][23][4] In Germanic mythology, Fjörgynn's name was used as a poetic synonym for "land" or "the earth", and she could have been the mistress of the wooded mountains, the personification of what appears in Gothic as fairguni.[22] Additionally, the Slavic Perūn sends his axe or arrow from a mountain or the sky, and the Baltic tradition mentions a perpetual sacred fire maintained for Perkūnas in the forests or on hilltops.[24]

A term for the sky, *h₂ekmōn, denoted both "stones" and "heaven".[25] The motif of the stony skies can be found in the story of the Greek Akmon, the father of Ouranos and the personified Heaven. His name meant "a block of stone or metal designed to withstand a battering". Other cognates appear in Vedic áśman, Iranian asman, Lithuanian akmuõ, and possibly in Germanic *hemena.[25] The association can be explained by the observation (or delusion) that certain stones had fallen from the sky: the word áśman is used for Indra’s weapon, and the thunderstone is called Perkūno akmuo ("Perkuna's stone") in Lithuanian tradition.[26]


The Hand of Perkūnas by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, 1909. Note that Perkwunos should be represented with a metal weapon, as the depiction of the hand holding the thunderbolt is of Semitic origin.[27]

The following cognates stem from the root *Perkwunos and are associated with a weather-god in Western Indo-European mythologies:

Another cognate in Celtic is generally accepted:

Other cognates are less secured:

  • Vedic: Parjanya, the god of rain, thunder and lightning (although Sanskrit sound laws rather predict a parkūn(y)a form; an original *pergénio has therefore been postulated, with a possible cognate in Slavic *per(g)ynia, "wooden hills"),[1][30][7]
  • Greek: Keraunos (κεραυνός), the name of Zeus’s thunderbolt, which were sometimes also deified (by metathesis of *per(k)aunos; although the root *ḱerh₂, "shatter, smash" has also been proposed),[31][32]
  • Albanian: Perëndi, a thunder-god (from perunŭ attached to *dyeus),[31][2]
  • Thracian: Perkos/Perkon (Περκων/Περκος), a horseman hero,[7]
  • Nuristani: Pärun/Pērūne, a war god.[2][7]

The root *perkwunos also gave a series of cognates for the ordinary word "thunder" in OPrus. percunis, Rus. perúny, Latv. pērkauns ("thunderbolt"), or Lith. perkūnija, ("thunderstorm").[2][33]


Some scholars have argued that the motifs of Anatolian weather gods Tarḫunz or Tarḫunna stem from those of Perkwunos, but that Anatolians did not preserve the old name in favour of the epithet Tṛḫu-ent- ("conquering", from PIE *terh2, "to cross over, pass through, overcome"),[12][34] which sounded close to the name of the Hattian Storm-god Taru.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d Mallory & Adams 2006, p. 410, 433.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mallory & Adams 1997, p. 582–583.
  3. ^ a b West 2007, p. 240.
  4. ^ a b c Vaan 2018, pp. 506–507.
  5. ^ a b c Kroonen 2013, p. 136.
  6. ^ York 1993, p. 240.
  7. ^ a b c d e Jackson 2002, p. 75–76.
  8. ^ West 2007, p. 137.
  9. ^ a b c Delamarre 2003, p. 165–166.
  10. ^ Matasović 2009, p. 384.
  11. ^ Delamarre 2003, p. 290.
  12. ^ a b Jackson 2002, p. 77.
  13. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 66.
  14. ^ West 2007, p. 251.
  15. ^ Derksen 2008, p. 333.
  16. ^ Fortson 2011, p. 23.
  17. ^ West 2007, p. 239, 245.
  18. ^ Jackson 2002, p. 70.
  19. ^ a b West 2007, p. 242.
  20. ^ West 2007, p. 240, 244–245.
  21. ^ a b West 2007, p. 255–257.
  22. ^ a b c West 2007, p. 241.
  23. ^ Kloekhorst 2008, p. 669.
  24. ^ West 2007, p. 239, 242.
  25. ^ a b West 2007, p. 342.
  26. ^ West 2007, p. 343.
  27. ^ West 2007, p. 253.
  28. ^ West 2007, p. 178.
  29. ^ Matasović 2009, p. 178.
  30. ^ West 2007, p. 245.
  31. ^ a b West 2007, p. 243.
  32. ^ Beekes 2009, p. 677.
  33. ^ West 2007, p. 239, 242, 244.
  34. ^ Kloekhorst 2008, p. 835.
  35. ^ Hutter, Manfred (2003). "Aspects of Luwian Religion". In H. Craig Melchert (ed.). The Luwians. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Volume 1.68. Leiden: Brill. p. 221. ISBN 90-04-13009-8.