Winds, Worship of the
WINDS, WORSHIP OF THE
As is evident from the Rig Veda and Avesta as well as from Homer and Hesiod, the winds were worshipped by the Indo-Europeans as powers of nature. In the Theogony of Hesiod, they are mentioned formally as among the oldest beings. This fact, however, does not necessarily indicate that they occupied a relatively high position in religion—at least among the Greeks. Aeolus was not considered a wind god; he was simply a lower divinity who had the task of keeping the winds confined in his cave. In art, the winds often exhibit satyr-like features and are represented with unkempt and streaming hair. Complete plastic representation is rare. The worship of the winds in the classical world was restricted to specific circumstances. Thus, the Greeks instituted a cult of the winds following the destruction of the Persian fleet off Mt. Athos; L. Cornelius Scipio erected a temple to the Tempestates (Winds) at Porta Capena in 259 b.c. in thanksgiving for deliverance from disaster at sea; the Emperor Vespasian built a similar temple at Antioch.
At this late date it is hardly possible that belief in the winds as personal powers of nature was prevalent. Meteorology had already been long and eagerly studied as a science, and interest in it had led to the development of several theories on the origin of the winds. The winds went higher in the scale of importance with the rise of astral religion. Their task was to lead souls to higher realms. At the same time the evil spirits of vengeance, the Harpies, were given a new significance as attendant punishing angels. A plastic emphasis on the new function of the winds is noticeable, naturally, in the later funerary art. Moreover, several Mithraic monuments have representations of the winds, usually in the corners of reliefs. Since their scenes are predominantly of a cosmogonic nature, the inclusion of the winds is understandable.
Bibliography: f. cumont, "L'Atmosphère séjour des âmes," Recherches sur le symbolisme funéraire des Romains (Paris 1942) 104–176. h. steuding, "Windgötter," w. h. roscher, ed. Ausfürliches Lexikon der grieschischen und römischen Mythologie, 6 v. (Leipzig 1884–1937) 6:511–517. e. roeder, "Wind." ibid., 6:500–511. h. seeliger, "Weltschöpfung," ibid., 6:430–505, especially sec. 4, "αἰθήρ, ἀήρ, Wolken und Winde," 470–473. h. gundel and r. bÖker, "Winde," Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa, et al. 8A.2 (1958) 2211–2387.