The term auseklis is derived from the Germanic aus-. ('east') and the Latvian: sēkla - ('seed', 'semen'). The meaning can be understood as the rising sun, rising star or rising moon. (See also Why the East is so mystical)
Auseklis was the name of an ancient pagan deity representing the appearance of new life. In human reproduction it has, until relatively recently, been more or less universally believed that only the man's seed produced life, and consequently Auseklis was a male deity.
Latvians are now predominantly Christian (mainly Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Orthodox) and only a tiny proportion of Neopagans (Dievturi) base their religion on pre-Christian Latvian mythology.
8-pointed cross in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod logo
The Danes introduced Roman Catholicism to Western Latvia in the 10th century and the Russians brought Greek Orthodoxy to Eastern Latvia. But nationwide, conversion was glacial and paganism retained a grip on the largely peasant population until the Middle Ages. Then came Lutheranism, which forged ahead, spreading the Gospels in local languages.
Even so, many of the ancient pagan ideas have remained; in art, fairy stories and folksongs. From these we have quite a clear idea about some of the old deities. These include:
|Mēness||Moon (son of Dievs)|
|Auseklis||Venus / Morning Star (son of Dievs)|
|Pērkons||Thunder (from which we get the term pērkonkrusts (cross of thunder) a local name for the swastika)|
|Laima||Fate (with her sister goddesses Kārta and Dēkla)|
|Māra||Highest-ranking goddess, named curiously similar to the Christian's Virgin Mary.|
|…plus a few dozen others|
As far as we know, the above list is in order of popularity and importance, and Auseklis is clearly a significant god. He is sometimes associated with both Mēness and Saule, which is rather incestuous since Auseklis is also the bridegroom of Saules meita, the daughter of Saule.
An image of a rising star (although not the same Auseklis symbol) became the emblem of the third Latvian National Awakening.
National Guard (1937-1940)
There is slight similarity with the German Balkenkreuz. More poignant, however, is the strikingly close similarity in the types of emblem. The Luftwaffe used a Christian cross yet was not a Christian organisation and the Latvian Air Force used a pagan emblem yet they were not a Pagan organisation.
The current National Guard (Latvijas Zemessardze), established in August 1991, is a volunteer military force, part of the Latvian army and a regular force reserve. Their insignia includes a version of the same cross where the limbs of the cross are so broad that the entire symbol becomes a voided form of saltire.
Two other civic flags also incorporate the design: those of the Russian Republics of Mordovia and Udmurtia
As in Austria, so called for being on the eastern edge of Charlemagne's empire
No need to wonder about this too much – Mary, and variations, has been a pretty popular name for millennia