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Appeal to Astronomers Who Give Names to Asteroids
by Vitaly Vetash & Semira

There is a custom among astronomers that the person who has discovered an asteroid has the right to name it. However, to choose the name for these small planets is difficult task. So many asteroids have only numbers.
We want to attract the attention of astronomers to the original method of naming asteroids after mythological personages. These types of names have the widest archetypical significance and are comprehensible and understood by most people. These images were formed over thousands of years and reflect the history of the human mind. All the plots of modern films are, in fact, echos of mythological stories. Even the image of a famous person after whom an asteroid is named has a less universal meaning than an image of an ancient god or hero. The asteroid's name must reflect the cultural life of the Earth and identify it as a unique physical body. To designate these 'cosmic stones' with incomprehensible abbreviations (fragments of names) and names of unknown persons is to remove them from the sphere of human cultural interest.
When the historical process of naming asteroids was begun astronomers usually considered that the names should have some universal, global meaning. But in XX century professional priority became the primary criteria. As the astronomer Schmadel wrote in his "Dictionary of Minor Planet Names":
"The minor planet sky like the surface of the Moon or of Mars, has became a sort of 'astronomer's cemetry'... Comparison /of old and modern nominations/ can show a change in the 'Zeitgeist', and there are more or less subtle allusions to events of world-wide importance."
The nomination of minor planets reflects the specialization of knowledge. The names of planets are substantiated not because of their world-wide importance but on the grounds of their close and self referential association with astronomy. However, in recent time the tendency has appeared to unify various and multicultural aspects of world civilizations. The mythological naming of asteroids doubtlessly falls within this tendency and creates a common cultural understanding and meaning.
Historically, in the naming process of asteroids, astronomers were used to using certain well known goddesses as their naming source. There are many mythological names, which have not been allotted to asteroids. For example the famous gods Roman Janus, Greek Hymanaeus, Egyptian Thoth or the main god of Babylon Marduk. And perhaps only a few names of the Indian gods from their rich mythology have been used due to a dearth of Indian astronomers?
In the current system of nominating, on the one hand, few asteroids are named according a logical principle. On the other hand, there are traditions which are continued in a formal manner. For instance, asteroids on the opposite side of Jupiter are named after Trojan and Greek heroes. However, all the interesting mythological images from the Trojan War history have already been used, yet astronomers continue to look for such names and they are forced to give names of the non-significant personages (those are even difficult to find in mythological dictionaries!)
Another model arose to nominate the distant asteroids after centaurs. After Chiron, Pholus and Nessus there are no other interesting centaurs in Greek mythology. So in future when new distant asteroids are discovered there will be a lack of significant centaur names which would confirm the uniqueness of these objects and evoke an interest to them.
It seems to us that the most consistent method of nominating asteroids in the future is a nomination system based on the distance of the asteroids from the Sun or other planets. For instance, asteroids near the Sun have names of solar gods, asteroids whose orbits cross Venus' orbit are nominated after the gods of love and so on. However this tradition has not been developed consistenly, perhaps due to the modern division of the technical and humanitarian sciences (as a consequence of which astronomers may have insufficient acquaintance with worldwide mythological heritage ).
Being mythologists, we decided to suggest a list of interesting mythological images that have not been used in the naming of planets. For the asteroids of the group of Apollo one can use the names of such famous solar gods as Indian Surya and Savitar, Ra of Egypt or Utu of Sumeria (where modern astronomical science was born), Hvarnah of Iran or Amaterasu of Japan. For the asteroids of this type the names of solar horses (Pegasus, Ashvinou, Dadkhikra, Sleipnir) or gods that personifiy the Sun's disk (Slavish Khors, Scythian Koloksay) would be also appropriate.
The opposition of Greek and Trojan heros could be continued by the opposition of main mythological conflict that personified the eternal struggle between the Good and the Evil (Indian God of Thunder Indra and serpent Vritra, Iranian good Ahuramazdah and evil brother Ahriman and so on). In this case the Leaders of gods would refer to the row of Greek heros, and their subterranean Enemies -- to the Trojan ones.
And for the nomination of the biggest stratum between Mars and Jupiter astronomers could turn to the vast layer of Indian mythology, and to the mythology and history of their native countries. That way they wouldn't be filling space with only their own names, but would be reflecting the deep memory of their nations.
Below may be found a list with the names of the most significant gods, whose names remain forgotten by astronomers and have yet to be assigned to asteroids.

The Most Important Mythological Images, after those the asteroids haven't yet been named

Egyptian gods:
world ocean Nun, primary chaos, from which everything arose; a pair of first gods -- Tefnut (water, that is source of life) and Shu (air, that divides the Sky from the Earth in order the World to exist); a goddess of Heaven Nut, who everyday bears and absorbs stars; a god of the Earth Geb, that had created people from clay, the name of Egypt had arisen from his name (and there is no an asteroid Egypt either); a god of foreign countries Setkh, an enemy of Horus and Osiris (after them asteroids are already named; a goddess of truthful order and justice Mahat; the main Egyptian god of the Sun Ra (note: there does exist an asteroid Ra Shalom as a sign of agreement between Israel and Egypt); a god of sunset -- a severe judge of people Atum; a lunar god Khonsu in the image of a child, that is learning to count (days); a patroness of pregnancy, hippopotamus Taurt; a wise god of knowledge Thoth, that keeps books of Life and Death; a divine bull Apis, that was an oracle and a symbol of fertility.

Gods of Sumeria and Babylon:
a great and horrible Mother of the World Tihamat in the image of a Hydra, that had become the primary material for creation; a god of the storming sea Yammu, pretending to the world authority; a god of Heaven Anu, a creator that is distant from people and his impetuous son, a violent wind Enlil; a god of the primary earth Enki, a creator of people who designated their fates, his tables of the destinies Me (forces that rules the world); furious defender of fertility Ninurta (Sumerian name of the planet Saturn); a goddess of fate Namtaru that comes in the moment of death; a god of celestial city Babylon Marduk, who had won Chaos and created a new world from it (and there is no asteroid Babylon either); an owner of the hell Ereshkigal, that releases nobody from his land without a change; a bold warrior Nergal, that had conquered even a goddess of death; a furious destroyer Erra; a dying and resurrecting god of blossoming steppe Tammuz; a wise writer Nabu, the god of knowledge,to whom a Babylonian tower was erected; and the most ancient Sumerian name of the goddess of love Ishtar -- Inanna (the asteroid Ishtar had been already named).
Mythological personages of the Bible and the Middle East: an image of everything beyond human understanding,the enormous sea monster Leviathan; the virtuous builder of the Ark Noah; a creator of the World and patron of their forces Sabaoth; the first man Adam; a creator of people and their judge Elu; a god of thunder, perishing and resurrecting in a struggle with death Baalu; a forceful god of death Mutu; an skillful smith Khusor, who built the order of the World; a solar god Shams and Biblical hero Samson, with his strength in his hair (initially associated with rays of the Sun); a god of Moon, the patron of predictors Syn; a god of evening dawn and prosperity Shalimmu, a founder and patron of Jerusalem, after whom the city was named (and there is no asteroid named after this cradle of three religions).

Indo-Iranian gods:
cosmic waters where the spark of life was born Apas and watery girls, beautiful dancers Apsaras; the youngest brother Thrita, that was thrown in a into a well by his older brothers: an image of a sacrifice, descending to the very depths of existence in order to find the gifts of eternity; a god of celestial and night Sky Varuna, that defends people against the fear before the unknown; an air god of a wind and breath (spirit and respiration) Vayu; a goddess of an infinite space, the mother of light gods Aditi; the ancient god of the blue Sky and day light Dyaus; an image of great goddess Devi and her formidable personification Kali, that covers the world with darkness in the end of the times; an ancestor Prajapati and a first man Purusha, an analog of the World, from the body of whom it was created; a god of thunderstorms Indra, who rules the celestial wars and his eternal enemy serpent Vritra, that steals his herd of clouds; a priest and a god of religious rituals Brihaspati, and his image of a teacher Guru; a guardian of material and spiritual richness Kubera; the main gods of the latest Hindu pantheon: a law-giver Brahma and a creator Vishnu and his embodiment Krishna, a god of love (note: there is an asteroid named after the desructor Siva); the main gods of Zoroastrianism -- the father of Time Zurvan and his sons -- a good brother Ahuramazdah and evil brother Ahriman, as well as promoter of the new faith Zarathustra; a god of death Yama, one of the first pair of human twins, having descended to the subterranean world; a fire of life energy Agni; solar gods -- open-handed Savitar, with bountiful rays-hands, and the generous helper and healer Surya; and an Iranian image of everything desirable (fame, welfare an so on) -- a wreath of kings Hvarnah; dawns and twilight in the image of fire horses Ashvinou (Ashvins); a goddess of the river of life and a stream of speech Sarasvati; a beauty of dawn Ushas; a goddess of happiness Laxmi and feminine creative force Shakti; a shepherd Pushan that opens paths through the forest of life. And the name of the country India.

From Greek and Roman pantheons there are no such asteroids as primary Chaos, sea monsters Hydra, Triton, and serpent Echidna; an elusive sea god Proteus, that changes his face and hides his mystery from those who can't recognize him; a god of winds and music Aeolus and the highest element Aether; a Roman creator Janus, that keeps the keys of the sky gates; the father of Olympic gods Kronos, having devoured their children and associated with the image of inexorable Time Chronos; irretrievable Tartaros; gods of dream Hypnos and death Thanatos and Orcus, by the name of whom Romans swore; a boatman Charon, transporting dead to Hades; a god of Roman community and agreements Quirinus and god of frontiers Terminus; a god of marriage Hymanaeus; Roman mother-Earth Tellus, that rules works in any seasons of the year; a handsome goddess Bona Dea and a patroness of animals Fauna. Also interesting is a Roman image of a family spirit, that became the symbol of the highest talents of a man -- Genius. There's not yet any asteroid named after ancient Hellas.
German astronomers could commemorate the sky with a huge serpent Irmundgand, encircling the World; images of human land Midgard and of heaven of gods Asgard; a magic master smith Volund, that had invented a flying chariot; a rascal god Loki, being up to some mischief or other, that created the first pair of people from the trees, and a giant man Ymir, from the body of which the world was created.
American astronomers could name asteroids after American Indian gods such as a creator of light and thought that had born life Awonawilona; an ancestor and builder of the house of the World Itzamna (in the image of a snail); a god of fire of the hearth and smoking volcanos Xiutequtli; gods of thunder rains Tlaloc with the 4 vessels of water and a hunter Mixcoatl; an image of the distant land of dead Mictlan and an earth paradise Tollan; the red Sun Tonatiu, that drink the blood of killed warriors and the Moon Meztli; a goddess of the Moon shine, weaver and healer Ix-Chel; an Aztec Dionysis, a god of beer Xipe-Totec; a goddess of love and blossoming Xochiquetzal, a bold leader Hiawatha and the spirit Nagual (which if known from books of Castaneda).
Russian astronomers could remember some images from fairy tales likes as Chudo-Judo, Vodjanoj (the spirit of water), Domovoj (the spirit of house), Leshij (the spirit of wood) and Rusalka (Russian Undina); a smith of the Sky Svarog, a wind messenger Stribog, ancestors of the whole nature Rod and of the family Chur; a pastor of the souls of dead and god of richness Veles; a divine smith Kij, who is considered to be the founder of Kiev; a helper of the people, a flying dog Semargl; a patroness of women, a goddess of the harvest Makosh; the Sun dispensing gifts Dazhbog and a solar disk Khors, that personifies everything good; changeable fellow Moon Mesjats, that betrays his wife Sun with the Morning Dawn, a girl Kupava, a symbol of the Summer solstice, and an image of the ancient Russia Rus'. One can name an asteroid after an appropriate to a celestial body beautiful Russian name Sijana (that means "shine".)
Finnish astronomers could commemorate between the small planets the main heros of Kalevala: a smith of the sky Ilmarinen and his friend and rival magician Vainemoinen, that created the World by incantation (note: there are the asteroids Ilmari and Vaina which are widely used Finnish names); Japanese astronomer -- the Sun Amaterasu, that hides in a cave during the eclipses, the Moon Tsukuyomi, that rules with rising and falling of the tide, sea rebel Susanowo, that was exiled from the sky and the divine twins -- Izanagi that became the first man, and the first woman Izanami.
Maybe Chinese astronomers would sometime place on the sky images of the primary condition of the World Huntun,the stable firmament Tian and his wife Earth Hou-tu; an ancestor Fu-xi, that had invented first instruments and writing; the chief of the Chinese pantheon the God of Thunder Huang-di; a ministry of the subterranean justice Diyu; a flaming Sun Yan-di, fighting with clouds of his brother-god of thunderstorm; a sad goddess of the Moon Chang-e, that had attained immortality in solitude; and a first man Pan-gu -- an anthropomorphic image of the World, and likewise for the famous notions of Yin-Yang (the main opposition of the world forces) and Dao (the way of harmony).

* * *

Below is included a list of gods according to their typological categorization by planet.
Mercury-type gods (gods of knowledge and cultural heros, ancestors of people) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits near Mercury: Egyptian Thoth, Sumerian Nabu, German Loki and Ymir, Indian Prajapati and Purusha, Chinese Pan-gu, Fu-xi and Nu-gua.
Venus-type gods (gods of love, dawn and fertility) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits near Venus: Sumerian Inanna, Greek Hymanaeus, Roman Bona Dea, Mayesta and Fauna; Indian Apsaras, Ushas and Laxmi, Vishnu and Krishna; Russian Makosh, Egyptian Apis, Semitic Shalimmu, American Indian Xochiquetzal.
Martian gods (gods of fire and war leaders) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits near Mars: Shumerian Erra and Nergal, Indian Agni and Pushan, American Indian Hiawatha.
Jupiter's gods (gods of thunder and the chiefs of gods) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids of the Greek row with orbits near Jupiter: Sumerian Enlil and Marduk, Semitic Baalu, Iranian Zarathustra, Indian Indra, Brihaspati, and Guru, (Indian name of Jupiter), Chinese Huang-di, American Indian Tlaloc and Mixcoatl.
Saturnine gods (gods of earth, time and fate) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits between Jupiter and Saturn: Sumerian Enki, tables Me, Ninurta (Sumerian name of the planet Saturn) and Namtaru; Egyptian Geb and Akru; Greek Kronos, Iranian Zurvan; Indian Devi and Kali; Russian Rod, American Indian Itzamna, Chinese Hou-tu. One can refer to the row of Troyan heros Egyptian Setkh (that has opposition to Horus) and a Semitic god of death Mutu, that struggles with Balu.
Uranian gods (gods of the Sky) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits between Saturn and Uranus: Sumerian Anu, Egyptian Shu and Nut, Greek Aether and Janus, Indian Varuna, Vayu, Aditi and Dyaus, American Indian Awonawilona, Chinese Tian, Russian Svarog and Stribog; Finnish Ilmarinen and Vainemoinen.
Neptunian gods (gods of sea and primary Ñhaos) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits between Uranus and Neptune: Sumerian Tihamat, Egyptian Nun and Tefnut; Greek Chaos, Hydra, Triton and Proteus; Indian Apas, Indo-iranian Thrita, Chinese Huntun; German Irmundgand. One can refer to the row of Trojan heros Tihamat and Yammu (opposition to Marduk), and Japanese rebel Susanowo.
Plutonian gods (gods of the subterranean world) -- whose names one can recommend to nominate the asteroids with orbits near Pluto, or that could be referred to the row of Trojan heros: Sumerian Ereshkigal; Greek Tartaros, Hypnos, Thanatos and Charon; Roman Orcus; Indian Kubera; Russian Veles.
Of course all these name can be used for the largest layer of the small planets between Mars and Jupiter.

Russian mythologers SEMIRA and V.VETASH

P.S. If more detailed descriptions of proposed gods or wider list of personages with some particular characteristics (national culture or mythological/planet quality) were wanted, the authors of this list could send them to a given address. Also the authors have a list of famous persons (classical and modern) after whom it is also possible to name minor planets.
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Copyright © 1998, Vitaly Vetash & Semira
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