Nane (Armenian: Նանե, Nanė; Georgian: ნანა, Nana; Bulgarian: Нане, Nanė; Russian: Нанэ, Nanė, Persian: ننه) was an Armenian pagan mother goddess and protector. She was the goddess of war and wisdom, and daughter of the supreme god Aramazd.
Nane was depicted as a young beautiful woman in the clothing of a warrior, with spear and shield in hand, like the Greek Athena, with whom she identified in the Hellenic period. Statues and images of her were destroyed during Armenia's Christianization, however. She has also been referred to as Hanea, Hanea, Babylonian Nana, Sumerian Nanai or Sumerian Nanai.
Her cult was closely associated with the cult of the goddess Anahit. It is known that Anahit was once a war goddess in early times, but this job seems to have been passed to Nane as Anahit became more motherly and peaceful. As daughter of Aramazd she occupied a very prestigious place in the Armenian pantheon. It is supposed by scholars that her worship was adopted from the Akkadian goddess Nanaya, from the Phrygian goddess Cybele, or was from either Babylonian, Hurrian or Elamite origin. It is known that she was being worshiped long before King Tigran the Great Hellenized the Armenian pantheon in the 1st century BC.
As it is said in the writings of Agathangelos, who chronicled the forced conversion of Armenia to Christianity, "The temple of the goddess Nane was in the town of Thil across from the Lycus River." The Lycus River is situated along the south of the Black Sea.
Surviving stories of Nane are rare due to the erasure of almost all things pagan by Gregory the Illuminator in the 300's AD. However, one story tells of how Nane was a unifying force among Armenians. Long ago in the city of Mush, the civilians would not stop arguing with one another. When the endless bickering reached a fever pitch, Nane blanketed the city in such a thick fog that no one could leave their homes. She did not lift the fog until the citizens quite forgot their quarrels and went on with their lives in peace.
Nane continues to be a popular name for women in Armenia today. Armenian Neopagans continue to celebrate her and, along with Vahagn, look to her in times of war. Armenia's national personification "Mother Armenia", whose large statue dominates the skyline of Yerevan and Gyumri, seems like a modern incarnation of the goddess as she fills the same general role, even if she's not widely worshiped (similar to how America's Statue of Liberty was based on the Roman goddess Libertas). Her statue in Yerevan carries a large sword with a shield at her feet and stands mighty and defiant toward the Turkish border (longtime nemesis of Armenia) ready to defend her home. The statue in Gyumri faces away from the border and looks more peaceful, but her back is said to look like a menacing serpent from afar.
In ancient Armenia, the King would take a decision regarding war only after meeting with the eldest woman of the royal dynasty. In the Armenian family the eldest woman was considered the epitome of Nane, and therefore enjoyed great influence.
It is interesting to note similarities in other Indo-European languages: the Greek “nanna” (aunt), “nonna” in medieval Latin, “nyanya” in Russian. In many parts of Pakistan and India maternal grandparents are called Nana and Nani. In English Nan, Nana, Nanan, Nannan, Nanna are used for grandmother. It is quite possible this could be traced back to this goddess.