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Qaus-e-Qazah: Etymology

And other rainbow myths

Did you know that the Urdu word for rainbow, "Qaus-e-Qazah", comes from Arabic? Well, many words in the language do, no surprise there, so why write about it? Well, did you know the word's roots lie in pre-Islamic Arabian mythology?

The September equinox is also known as the southward equinox. It is the moment when the sun appears to cross south of the celestial equator. Due to variations in calendar years, the event can occur any day between 21st-24th September.

The equinox is often taken to mark the end of astronomical winter and the start of astronomical spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Arabia falls in the Southern Hemisphere; thus, the celebration is understandable, like a lot of medieval cultures, they too, celebrated the end of winter.

In the pre-Islamic era, Arabs performed the rite of the Ifada to celebrate this celestial event. They did so by carrying out rituals, facing the direction of Quzah's sanctuary. Quzah was the pre-Islamic Arab God of weather.

"Qaws" is Arabic for bow, thus, "Qaws-e-Quzah" meant "the bow of Quzah" - which is what Arabs believed the rainbow was, God Quzah's bow. That is from where the Urdu word "Qaus-e-Qazah" is derived.

Interestingly, Indradhanush, the Hindi word for Rainbow, also has a very similar meaning: the bow of Indra, the Hindu Goddess of thunder and war. She uses the rainbow to shoot arrows of lightning.

Whilst we're at bows and arrows, there is also the tale of Ninurta, the Sumerian God of springtime, thunder, rainstorms and agriculture, who was also believed to be a war god. It is said that he defended Sumer with a bow and arrows of lightning and wore the rainbow as his crown!

Another interesting legend originates from South East Asia. According to Malay folklore, the rainbow is said to have been formed from the sword of the earth serpent Sakatimuna, who was defeated by archangel Gabriel.

A darker myth from a culture a little further away is that of the Aborigines, who believe that the rainbow is a serpent! They associate it with water, which is both the giver of life and a destructive force when enraged.

Ixchel, a Mayan Goddess, dons a serpent headdress and presides over birth and healing. She is also associated with water, with rain to be precise. Chel means rainbow in the Yucatán Poqomchi' language.

Besides being a bow, a crown, a sword and a serpent, the rainbow is also believed to be a bridge by many cultures.

Chinvat Bridge, described as a rainbow, is believed to be the bridge of judgement. It separates the living from the dead in Zoroastrianism. All souls must cross the bridge upon death.

In Japanese mythology, the rainbow may have inspired the belief in the Ame-no-Uki Hashi, the “Floating Bridge of Heaven” - upon which ancient Japanese creator deities, Izanami and Izanagi, stood as they brought the Japanese archipelago into existence.

In Norse mythology, Bifröst, is a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard, the realm of the gods.

The Buryat people of Siberia believe that the rainbow is a way to ascend to the sky spirit.

In the village of Tzada, in Daghestan, the people believe that treasure is to be found at the end of the rainbow.

Far away from Daghestan, in Europe, the Irish believe that Leprechauns, a trickster, buried a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Shall we ever be able to find this treasure? Probably not, as science disagrees, but where's the fun in that?!

Which legend is your favourite?

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1 Comment

Nina Zenek
Nina Zenek
Jul 20, 2022

Loved these myths and legends!

Love to read more blogs related to etymology! Very interesting topic!👏🏻👍🏻

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