1. List and discuss the major primary sources for the mythology of three Indo-European cultures, including their dates of origin and authorship (if known). Discuss any important factors that may cause problems in interpreting these sources, such as the existence of multiple revisions, or the presence of Christian or other outside influences in surviving texts. (Minimum 300 words)
Celtic mythology can be divided into Gaulish (continental Celtic) Mythology, Gaelic Mythology (Ireland, Scotland) and Brythonic Mythology: (Britain, Wales, Brittany). Mythological sources for Gaulish mythology are Artefact, tablets and inscriptions. The earliest and most important source is Caesars’ De bello Gallico (1st Century BCE) (Puhvel 168). From the first century CE we have records from Lucan’s Pharsalia, Plinius’ Naturalis Historia and Tacitus Germania (Puhvel 168).
Brythonic mythology encompasses mainly the “Matter of Britain” and the “Matière de Bretagne”. The earliest sources are the 9th Century manuscript Historia Britonum by Nennius. Most sources are from the 12th and 13th Century and turn around King Arthur.
From Brittany an important source are the 12th Century Lais written down by Marie de France.
Some of the most important Welsh sources are the 14th century tales Pedeir Ceinc y Mabinogi, Culhwch ac Olwen, and Preiddeu Annwfn. Moreover, the Trioedd Ynys Prydein (13th – 17th century with) contain references to lost Myths.
Gaelic Mythology concentrates on Ireland, as the Scots have imported much it. They can be divided into four major cycles: The Mythological Cycle (Tuatha Dé Danann), the Ulster Cycle (Conchobar of Ulster and CúChulainn), the Fenian stories (Finn mac Cumaill and the Fiana), and the Historical Cycle (Kings of Ireland). Additional information can be found in the Lebor Gabála Érenn “The Book of Invasions”, Cóir Anmann “Fitness of names”, the Dindshenchas “Lore of places”, and the Cath Maige Tuired “Battle of Mag Tuired” (Rees & Rees 26; Puhvel 176, 184f). They have all been written down in the 11th and early 12th century. Though some of the prose and verse can occasionally be dated to the 6th and 8th century.
All medieval manuscripts have been written after Christianization. Additionally the writers were usually Christian monks, and although their intention of preserving the history of their homeland was strong, attempts to connect Christian and Celtic myths are obvious and the Gods have usually been “degraded” to Kings and heroes.
Norse / Germanic Mythology can be categorized in continental (Germanic and Anglo-Saxon) Mythology and Norse (Icelandic and Scandinavian) Mythology.
Unfortunately our sources for the pre-Roman period are again very scarce reduced to pictorial artefacts. Our oldest and most important source for the early Germanic tribes is again Tacitus’ Germania, from the first century CE (Puhvel 189). Later sources have been written down after Christianization. There we find Prokopius’ De bello Gothico from the 6th century, the 8th century Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, the Germanic 9th century Lay of Hildebrand, and the 10th century nine herbs Charm and Merseburg Incantations. From the 12th and 13th century we have the Heroic Sagas like Nibelungenlied, Gudrunlied and Theoderic the Great (Puhvel 190). For the Scandinavian and Icelandic Mythology our main sources are the Poetic-Edda, the Prose- Edda and the Heimskringla. The latter two both written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century (Puhvel 190). Additionally we have the Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus (13th century).
Baltic and Slavic Mythologies usually refers to the Myths of the Latvians (Letts), Lithuanians and Old Prussians. The oldest written reference to the Balts comes again from the first century Germania by Tacitus.
Latvian Mythology is mainly recorded in the form of Dainas; small text or songs composed of four lines. Krišjānis Barons an ethnologist living in the 19th century recorded most of them in the Latvju dainas. The Dainas are very short, and therefore one Daina contains little information, but due to the great number of existing Dainas, they are a major source (Puhvel 228). Unfortunately they have not yet been systematically analyzed in their full mythological content.
Lithuanian sources are the Chronicle of Prussia by Petrus von Dusburg (14th century), Wigand of Marbourg Chronicon Livoniae (14th Century), Europa by Pope Pius II (15th century) and Dhugosz’s Polish Chronicle (15th century), while from the 16th century we have Grunau’s Prussian Chronicle (Trinkunas 23).
Christianization of the Baltic people started in the 13th century (Puhvel 223). Lithuania was Christianized during the 14. – 15th century, but some rests of the polytheistic pre-Christian religion survived into the 19th century. Unfortunately most documents are nonetheless written by Non-followers. So Although Lithuanian is one of the countries who actually retained the longest Paganism, nevertheless there has not been a great body of Myth recorded.
In looking at myths we are dealing with a long time span. Myths, as the religion of the tribes, are not static, but adapting and changing and sometimes being used for politics. For the Celtic, Germano-Norse, and Baltic tribes writing was mainly introduce after Christianization, while the earliest sources have been written by Greeks or Romans and an “interpretatio Romana et Graeca” cannot be denied. Apart from the questionable understanding of the respective culture we are faced with the problem, that the names of the Gods have often been replaced with Graeco-Roman deities. Moreover, some books like “Bello Gallico” have been written with war propaganda in mind. Consequently, they have to be regarded with a certain skepticism. Additionally, we often find euhemerization: the process of deities presented as having been either human beings able to use magic who later have been deified or beings that have been demonized in the process of Christianization. This can be seen with nearly all of the medieval Celtic Myths as well with the two major works of Snorri Sturluson.
2. Summarize, then compare and contrast the myths of at least two Indo-European cultures with respect to the following topics (you need not use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for each topic): (minimum 300 words for each)
Tales of creation
The Greeks knew different paralleling accounts of cosmogonies and theogonies. The most well-known is Hesiod’s Theogony (Hesiod). It seems that he actually tried to harmonize a few accounts into one. First there is Chaos, formless matter without order. Out of Chaos the first Generation of Gods emerge. They are personifications of parts of the cosmos or principles: The Goddesses Gaia the “Earth” and Nyx “the night” and the Gods Tartaros, the penalty area underneath the underworld, Eros “Love” and Erebos “the darkness”. While Nyx brings out the day Hemera, and the air, Aither, the rest of her offspring are associated with night. Gaia, is mostly seen as the great “bearer of Gods”, bringing out of her the sea, Pontos, the mountains Ourea and Uranos, the sky that envelopes her. It is with Uranos that she gives birth to the 12 Titans, 6 males and 6 females. They can be considered as the first generation of Gods after the primordial “parents”. Most Titans except for Cronos, the youngest, are portrayed rather sketchy and usually have no cult of their own. They are better known for being the parents of some important characters in the next generation of Gods, like Rhea, the mother of the Olympian Gods. The continuation of the tales focusses more on how the younger Gods took away the power from the “titanic” Gods and banished them to Tartaros. In the struggle for order, they seem to represent a necessary step in between.
In the Norse and Germanic Myth there were as well different cosmogony stories, the most known are found in the medieval Codex Regius and are compiled in the Edda. The first one known as the Völuspá, “the face of the Seer”, and the second as the Wafthrudnir “riddle master’s” song. While the Völuspá seems to come from the skalds and has quite a dramatic tone, the Wafhrudnir is more seen as a folk myth with a gayer sound to it. While they have differing points they complement as well each other and it is possible to draw upon both for a more complete picture.
In the beginning, before creation, there was Niflheim, the cold ice world and Muspelheim, the hot fire world. Between both stood the “deceiving empty” gap, Ginnungagap. Hvergelmir, the primordial source of all water originates from Niflheim, its water turning to ice that wanders more and more towards Muspelheim, until fire and ice meet. From their merging (and possibly through the help of a purulence drop of unknown heritage within the streams) the first ice giant, Ymir (‘twin’ or ‘hybrid’), also known as Aurgelmir, the father of the giants arises. The melting ice gave free the cow Audhumla whose milk fed Ymir. While he slept, from his sweat the first frost giants a man and a woman were born and from his feet a six headed giant. Audhumla licked the ice until she freed the giant Búri who without much more explanation was the father of Burr (“son”) who mated with the giant Bestla and they begot the first Gods: Odin, Vili (often seen as Hönir), and Vé (often interpreted as Loki), the first of the Aesir. The trio kills Ymir and out of his body parts they create the rest of the world: Out of his flesh, the earth, out of his bones, the mountains, out of his skull the sky and out of his blood the sea. By uplifting the bare earth they created Midgard (“middle garden”) out of Ymir’s eyebrows, held up by four dwarfs (Nordri, Sudri, Westri, Austri). Later they created the first humans out of wood found at the seashore (Ask and Embla) (Davidson 173; Simrock “Völuspa”, and “Vafthrûdhnismâl”).
Similarities between both stories can be found as both start with creation from the void. Although some things already seem to be there. In the Norse it is fire and ice, for the Greeks it is Gaia. In Norse Mythology it is not clear how Audhumla and Buri came to be. As Audhumla is feeding Ymir and his name is “Twin” it could be as well, that Audhumla is paralleling Gaia. The use of purulence is interesting, although because purulence is connected to wounds, infections and bacteria. This is very fascinating, as some scientific explanation of the creation of life is from bacteria in hot water springs. The patricide which is described continuously by the Greeks is not seen so strongly within the Norse story, and because it is not clear where Buri comes from, we cannot certainly say that the Aesir killed a relative.
Tales of divine war
No creation story of the Celts has survived. But from Christian medieval times we have the accounts of the invasions of Ireland.
The first migrators to populate Ireland where the people of Cessair, the granddaughter of the biblical Noah. During the great deluge all have been killed except for Fintan mac Bóchra, her husband, who transformed himself into a salmon.
The first wave of invasion was represented by Partholon, who arrived to Ireland through Spain 300 years after the deluge. He was as well a descendant of Noah. They collided with the Fomorians, a divine or semi-divine race that had come to Ireland 200 years before them and could be seen as the aboriginal people and their Gods of Ireland. Partholon and his folk died from a plague without survivors. The next groups of settlers; the people of Nemed, Fir Bolg and Tuatha de Danann, are seen as belonging together. Nemed and his four wives are the first to arrive, but they were overcome by the Fomorians, except Nemed’s three sons who fled by ship to the continent. Two of them became the ancestors of the Fir Bolg and respectively the Tuatha de Danann. The first to arrive where the Fir Bolg. They divided Ireland into five provinces and installed a sacred kingship based on a relationship between the integrity of the King and the fertility of the land, a recurring theme in Irish Myth.
The Tuatha de Danann arrived afterwards, bringing with them magic, druidry and four magical objects (Stone Lia Fáil, Spear of Lugh, Sword of Nuada and Cauldron of Dagda). While the Fir Bolg can be associated with sovereignty, jurisdiction and kingship, the Tuatha de Danann are the divine druids and magicians (Rees and Rees 108f). In the first battle of Mag Tuired the Tuatha de Danann fight against the Fir Bolg and take the sovereignty from them, while in the second battle of Mag Tuired they battle victoriously against the Fomorians whose last remaining survivor, King Bres, is then forced to teach them how to cultivate the land.
The last people to arrive are the descendants of Spanish soldiers called Milesians (Miles Hispaniae). They are led by the druid Amergin and are the first Gaelic speakers. After meeting the three Goddesses of Ireland and their husbands they engage victoriously in a magical battle against the Tuatha de Danann. The latter are then forced to retire “underground” into the Hills (Sid), while the “middle” world belongs to the Milesians. The Tuatha are remembered than as the fey people or the Shining ones (Puhvel 176f).
In this account the Fomorians are seen as representing the “uncivilized”, “uncultivated” forces of nature. They are often represented as being one legged or eyed and have some “titanic” monstrous, sometimes animalic appearance, although some of them are also portrayed as being beautiful like Elatha and his son Bres.
Norse mythology on the other hand knows two kinds of Gods: The Vanir and the Aesir. It is often said, that the Vanir are usually seen as the older ones. They are actually not mentioned in the Norse creation myth and could represent the Gods of the indigenous population. Their name means the Shining ones, paralleling the Tuatha de Danann. In their connection to the land, fertility and riches they seem more acquainted with the functions of the Celtic Fomorians. Moreover, the Vanir live forever, while the Aesir need to eat of Idun’s apples (sometimes identified as the Vanir Freya) to acquire immortality (Davidson 175). It is interesting to note, that often the Edda mentions “Aesir and Elves” instead of “Aesir and Vanir" and the Vanir God Frey is sovereign of the world of the Lightelves. After the seeress Gullveig (which is sometimes interpreted as Freiya) is slain three times in Odin’s Hall for not telling where the Aesir could find many riches, a war between the Vanir and Aesir breaks out. In the end a peace treaty is declared, sealed by the exchange of hostages (Njörd, Freiya and Freyr go to the Aesir, while Hörnir and Mimir go the Vanir). In these accounts, the Vanir are often portrayed as benevolent, while the Aesir come off a bit crude, dumb and not always the most trustworthy. Still they are seen as the winner. The difference between Vanir and Aesir is not so clear cut in the Edda as they are represented in some of the theories about them. There are Gods where it is speculative to which group they actually belong. For the followers of the Dumézilian Trifunctional theory, the story of the Vanir wars is cited as representing a war between the three functions, which could as well hold true for the Battle of Mag Tuired (Mallory 139). The exchange of hostage reminds us as well of Bres being held by the Tuatha de Danann. In the bottom line both people recognize that they actually need the other and a merging seems to take place. It can be as well seen as a set of deities overthrowing the old set of deities, possibly connected as well to another folk of people who have been overthrown as well.
Tales which describe the fate of the dead
In Celtic lore we are confronted with mainly two points of views concerning the faith of the dead. One is the belief in an otherworldly life and the other is presented as a belief in “reincarnation” or transmigration of the soul.
Concerning the latter, Caesar mentions in his Bello Gallico that the Celts believed that after death their soul goes into another body (Caesar Liber VI XIV). A story often cited to underline this belief is Tochmarc Étaíne in which Etain becomes the wife of Midir. Threatened by his first wife she is transformed into different animals until she is eaten by the wife of Ètar and reborn as his daughter Etain, married to King Eochaid and finally reunited with Midir (Clarus 101ff). These stories, like the story of Cerridwen and Taliesin and recitation of Amairgen (Ellis 75) reflect an idea of transmigration of the soul.
In Irish mythology several sources (Lebor Gabála Érenn, Historia Brittonum, Dindshenchas), mention Tech nDuinn, the house of Donn as a dwelling place for the dead. Donn, the “dark one” seems to be an ancestor deity of the Milesians. His house is said to be situated before the Irish south-west coast. Through his ancestral properties and God of the Dead aspects, Miranda Green assumes, that Donn has similarities with the Gaulish Dispater described by Caesar (Green 85). Though his ship sank, thanks to his magical curses the Milesains were able to win against the Tuatha Dé Danann. Donn is quoted saying 'To me, to my house, come ye all after your deaths.” (Nennius “Historia”). While in the more Christianized version of the story only the “souls of sinners” visit Tech Duinn, giving their blessing to the soul of Donn, before they go to hell (Metrical Dindshenchas “Tech Duinn”). We can probably safely replace “sinners” with Pagans. It’s unclear if the Celts saw the House of Donn as the ultimate dwelling place of the Dead, or as an intermediary resting place before moving on to somewhere else or maybe even being reborn.
The Tuatha De Danann are said to have gone as well into the hills and their dwelling is called Tir na Nog, the land of the “forever young” (Green 210). Sometimes different names are attributed to this land, such as Emain Ablach, the Island of Women and Apples. In Imram Bran, the voyage of Bran, there are many Otherworldly islands, hills on the “sea plain” that are “beyond the Ninth wave”, where Manannan Mac Lir is the sovereign. In folklore the souls of the Dead are said to join the Tuatha de Danann and on Samhain to be able to return and roam free (Rees & Rees 90; Davidson 113f)).
The “Dwelling in the hills” are known as well to the Norse and is hinted at in the Eyrbyggja Saga, where a shepherd saw the hills open and welcome Thorstein Codbiter, a great fisherman who had just died was welcomed there This actually fits well many German folklore stories of hills and mountains that open up with people are feasting inside. Snorri tells in the Ynglinga Saga of a similar belief where Freyr has brought great prosperity to Sweden and after his death was being honored with offerings to his mound (Davidson 115). This again shows a nice parallel with the Tuatha de Danann who are sometimes equated with the Sid and the fairy folk and the Vanir often being just known as “the elves”.
Far more prominent is Valhalla, Odin’s mead hall in Asgard, where half of the warriors who died on the battlefield would go. There they become the Einherjar, who would fight for Odin at the last battle, Ragnarok. The other half belong to Freyja and go to Folkvang. The dead would be chosen by a Valkyrie, battle spirits often represented bearing a mead horn (Davidson 92). Those who die at sea would go to Ran, while the rest of the dead would go to Hel’s Hel, the Underworld in the north. The guests are welcomed differently, for Baldr a great banquet is made in his honor and he takes the high seat beside Hel, while for other it is more gloomy (Golther 505). Baldr would only return after Ragnarok.
There is no idea of a transmigration of the soul, which is hinted at in the Celtic tales, though the use of a predecessors name might bear some assumptions of a return (Davidson 122f). In both we can as well find some “luring” from the other side as the Norse warriors go into the embrace of their “spirit wives” or Hel, in Celtic myth otherworldly women too might bring heroes to the otherworld, as the lady with the silver branch does with Bran.
3. Explain how each of the following elements of ADF ritual does or does not resonate with elements of two different Indo-European cultures (you need not use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for each element): (minimum 100 words each)
The Earth Goddess is the Great Mother, the foundation of the universe from which all things come and return and who forms the first divine couple with the Sky father (Eliade 240). In the Germanic pantheon we find this power within the Goddess Nerthus, whom Tacitus parallels with Terra Mater. Her name derives from Indo-European *nertus “creative, begetting, life giving power”, which is found as well in Celtic *nertom “power” (Meid 15).
Nerthus’ cult image was carried in a cart pulled by cows through the land to a sacred lake where it was washed by slaves who then were drowned. The Earth Mother is not found in the Norse pantheon, but the name of the God Njörd, God of the Sea derives from the same IE root. He is a Vanir connected to fertility, and father of Freyja “the Lady” and Freyr “the Lord” the more active bringers of fertility (Meid 28).
For the Celts the Earth Mother is not so easily identified, as she is seen in many forms and blurs into Goddesses of the Land: The mother of the tribe e.g. Danu (Green 76), the Goddess symbolizing the Land e.g. Eriu “Ireland” (Green 92) the Gallo-Germanic Matronae or the Celtic *Matrona, which we meet in the Welsh Mabon ap Modron “The son of the Goddess”. The Celtic Earth Mother – Great Mother is as well connected to the sovereignty of the land and sacred kingdom and we meet her as Rigani the Queen, Rhiannon and hence connected to the horse Goddess Epona (Meid 41f). With Mac Oc “Oengus” being seen as a rejuvenation of Maponos and Oengus being the son of Boand the “white cow”, the circle closes with Nerthus’ connection to cows and the Indo-European cow – horse connection of the Goddess (Serith 62)
Deities of Land
The Deities of the land sometimes can be seen as a more active, fertility giving “version” of the (primordial sea) Earth Mother, or Goddess of sovereignty. Often they are their offsprings, clearly seen with the Norse Freyr and Freyja being the children of the sea God Njörd (Meid 28). Freyr is often depicted with phallic images and owns a sacred field near his temple (Davidson 119). Freyja is a Goddess of love, also granting fertility. Most of the Vanir can actually be seen as being connected to fertility and the land.
While there are as well fertility Gods among the Tuatha the Danann, the Fomoiri can be seen as the “untamed” and original Gods of the Land, as it was one of them who teached his knowledge to the people of Danu. Another deity that seems to have an “older” character as the Tuatha de Danann is Crom Dubh, associated with farming, live-stock and crops (MacNeill 410). Lugh, as the “winner of the harvest”, can also be seen as a deity of the land (MacNeill 429). Cernunnos is seen as a God of fertility, often depicted caring for animals, equal to richness in ancient times. The Gaulish Rosmerta, the “great provider”, is often seen with Patera and her very name identifies her with wealth and fecundity. She is often paired with Mercury and one of the Gods identified with Mercury is actually Lugh (Green 148, 180). Obviously the already mentioned connection between the Goddesses of fecundity and wealth and sovereignty, e.g. Epona who is often depicted feeding horses (Green 90f) can be drawn here too.
Deities of Sea
Water is connected to the primordial ocean and we often find ideas of all water bodies emerging from one source. Some fusion of these primordial deities with water deities as well with deities of fertility and Earth Mothers occurs (Davidson 210). This can be seen exemplified with Danu, the tribe Mother of the Tuatha de Danann, by some authors connected to the river Danube. In Celtic Mythology we can find a few Goddesses representing local rivers like the Irish Boann (Boyne), Sinnan (Shannon) or the Gaulish Sequana (Seine). Healing Gods are often connected to hot water sources like Grannus and Sulis. The most assured God of the Sea is the Irish Manannan mac Lir, Manannan “Son of the Sea”. He rides a chariot over the waves as it were solid land and owns a boat led through thoughts. He is equated with the Welsh Manawyddan who is moreover, connected to the cultivation of wheat (Green 139f).
In Germanic Mythology the prose Edda mentions the Aesir friendly Giant Aegir/Hlér as the God of the Sea and Beer. He has nine daughters, usually known as Aegir’s daughters who represent different forms of sea waves. Ran is his consort and another water deity, representing the deep engulfing waters. She is as well the queen of the kingdom of the dead under the sea. (Davidson 210f). The God Njörd is mentioned as well in the Edda. He lives in Noatun, “the harbor” and reigns over Wind, Sea and Fire. Although he seems to be more of a Windgod, he is called as well for fishing and hunting (Gylfaginning Chapter 23).
There is a connection between his name and the Germanic Goddess Nerthus underlining again the connection between the fertile power of the land and the sea (Meid 15; Davidson 210f).
Deities of Sky
The vastness of the sky can easily be associated with transcendence and with the sacred, often seen as the abode of Gods. We can see this in the Celtic appellation “Shining ones” and the Greek Gods residing on top of Mount Olympus, on height. Sky gods are almost universal, as are the primordial pair of Sky and Earth (Eliade 50f). Often there is a primordial sky divinity, which is then supersede by a more active involved Sky divinity, often associated with rain and thunder, taking on a sovereign “father” role and retaining the live giving fecunding aspect. Apart from thunder, lightning and rain, the Sky Gods are often associated with oaks, bulls, hilltops and royal birds like the eagle (Eliade 66-79).
An example can be found in Greek culture with Ouranos being the first primordial sky “enveloping” the earth. But the most well-known and sovereign Sky God is Zeus. Although supreme of the Olympic Gods, there are not many feast for him, which is again quite typical for a Sky God (Eliade 78).
The Celtic Storm and Thunder god is Taranis, from Irish torann “thunder”. The Welsh Lleu, connected with eagle and oak and named the “bright one” qualifies as sky deity too (Green 89). Other noteworthy sky deities are Sun gods and Star and / or dawn Gods.
For the Greeks the Sun was Apollo, while for the Gauls Belenos seem to qualify. The Greek Dawn Goddess is Eos while there is until now no clearly recognized Celtic dawn Goddess. The Celtic star Goddess is Sirona and it could well be, that she represents the morning star. As the castle of the Welsh Goddess Arianrhod, is associated with the Corona Borealis she could be a sky Goddess too.
The Outsiders or Outdweller are seen as “forces of the Otherworld what we might not wish to include in our cosmology” and “those that are not part of our ‘tribe’” (Lewis “New approach”) While Isaac Bonewits includes social outsiders, criminals, mad men, foreigners and beings such as elves, giants, Fomorians, Banshees etc. to the Outsiders. He sees a connection to chaos, which was seen as threatening to the actual cosmic order (Bonewits “New complexities”). This obviously shows that the category “Outsiders” is based on an in-group and out-group point of view.
During the War of the Vanir and Aesir, according to which group one belonged, we can say that from the point of view of the Aesir, the Vanir where Outdwellers, who later through peace treaties became to belong to the “In-group”. So we can safely say that the category might be on “open” one. Forces in the Germanic and Norse pantheon that are seen as chaotic and dangerous are certainly the Giants against whom many battles are fought or the Foes who spring loose at the Ragnarok, battleling the Aesirs and bringing the end to the known world.
In the Celtic world it was the Fir Bolgs and the Fomorians taking on the role of outsiders for the Tuatha de Danann. Though as well there, we have people belonging to both races, as Bres, who was King of the Tuatha.
This again points toward the point of view, which we should keep in mind when treating with the outsiders. ADFs unofficial way of leaving a sacrifice is certainly more in line with our hospitality concept, than simply “banishing” the unwanted forces from the ritual place.
Nature spirits are strongly rooted in Norse culture and even today we can find traces of the belief in them in Iceland (Lyall “Building”). We meet many Nature spirits, which are usually connected to the land and the landscape. The stories of the “hidden People” the Huldufólk or the “rock-dwellers” don’t sound different as those from ancient days and the disturbed elves are soothed with prayers and songs (“Icelandic town hopes”). The Nature spirits are sometimes mischievous and sometimes kind, often described as elves or dwarfs. For some it is unclear if they were not originally Gods, like to god of Snaefell and it was customary to leave them food at stones near the house or waterfalls (Davidson 103f). Moreover, they appear sometimes as guardians of the land (Davidson 107).
As the Vanir Gods became equated with elves so did as well Irish Tuatha de Danann melt with the Sidhe folk, the “Fairy folk” after they retired into the hills (Green 190). It is sometimes difficult to separate between Nature spirits and God. Sulis, the Goddess of hot Springs of bath, could as well been a local Nature spirit of the spring receiving Goddess status and attributes over time.
In ADF we give reverence to the Nature spirits as to the Gods and Ancestors. Nature spirits can be found in every landscape, so that it is possible to connect with them on a very local level.
The Celts separated the realm of the Dead from that of the Living, but stayed in relationship with them (Maier 140). Diodor of Sicily recounts of Celts throwing letters into the burial fire, to communicate with their Ancestors (Maier 141f). The Deities of the land, Nature Spirits and Ancestors, sometimes seem to merge: The Tuatha de Danann are said to have gone into the Hills, the same hills that open at Samhain so that they and the Ancestors might roam again the streets and visit the living (Davidson 19).
We find as well stories of Ancestors being summoned to do certain deeds both in Norse and Celtic myth. In the Norse Grogaldr „The Spell of Groa“, Svipdagr calls upon his dead Mother Groa for a spell (Simrock “Groagaldr”). Also oracular heads can be found in both traditions: When the head of the God Mimir is returned to the Aesir, Odin preserves it with spells and herbs, so that it still possess his wisdom and ability to speak and counsel Odin. The Celtic interaction with the dead ancestors has even been preserved into Christian time: The Hero Cuchulain appears “from hell” to St. Patrick and he needs to do some “signs” so that he can receive the messages from him (“Phantom Chariot”). In a story before the Tain it is explained that Fergus Mac Roich, a hero connected to the Cattle Raid, was summoned to tell the missing parts of the story (Kinsella 1).
In ADF we honor the Ancestors as did our Ancestors. Though with the modern variation, not only honor the blood ancestors, but as well those of the heart and the spirit of the land we live in.
4. Discuss how the following seven elements of ADF's cosmology are (or are not) reflected in the myths of two different Indo-European cultures. For this question, please use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for the entire question. (Minimum 100 words each)
ADF sees the Upper world as the place of the Deities of the Sky, the “shining ones” generally and connected with cosmic fire.
In Norse Mythology there is a popular pattern, which puts Asgard, Vanaheim and Àlfheimr in the Upper world. Asgard is the world of the Aesir, Vanaheim the world of the Vanir and Àlfheimr (sometimes called Ljossalfheim) that of the light elves. Asgard is connected through the “Rainbow Bridge” Bifröst with the middle world (“Gylfaginning XIII). The categorization seems to be a rather modern conception, which is not supported readily by all Norse Mythologists, especially as the differentiation of light and dark elves (Simeck 81f, 244, 459).
For the early Celts it is quite difficult to find a name for the Upper world. There seem to be some very old eschatological ideas of the Sky falling down (Maier 57). Meid (46f) hypothesizes that *albio was the name of a light upper world. Maier again (56) sees this idea as unproven an rather takes Irish nem “Sky” as a word for the Upper world, taken from burnt offerings and sacrifices on high places. Even in Myth the “Upper world” doesn’t play such an important role as the “Middle world” and the “Other world”. The Gods lived in the Middle world and later retired “over the Sea” or “into the hills”.
In ADF the middle world stands between the upper world and the underworld, where the humans and Nature spirits live, connected through the World tree with the other worlds.
In Norse Mythology we have Midgard “middle garden” as the world of the Humans. Gardr is as well a word for a “farm” (probably a long house) situated in the center with smaller houses around. Additionally Jötunheim, the World of the Giants is situated in the East of Midgard and Muspellsheim (The fire world, or sometimes interpreted as World of the Giant Muspell) in the South are seen in some modern interpretations as belonging to Midgard. Utgard, the “outside world” is as well seen here. Midgard and Utgard are surrounded by the Midgardserpent, “holding it all together” (Davidson 168). In this view we can parallel Utgard with the all-encompassing sea. In one of the Edda stories Midgard is created by the Gods who built their abode Asgard within (Vries 579). This reminds us of the horizontal axis, in ADF termed the Kingdoms of Land, Sea and Sky.
In Celtic Mythology the middle world – apart from the otherworld – is where most of the „Action“ is happening. Maier sees *bitu as a genuinely Celtic name for it and tír which sees the middle world as the “dry” world, contrasting it to a “wet” underworld (Maier 56). It is not certain if the middle world was completely surrounded by sea, but certainly there was at least in some parts a sea pictured, as the otherworld is seen to be “over the sea”.
Divisions of Middle world (e.g., 4 Quarters, 3 Triads, 8 Sections)
We can be pretty sure, that the Celts divided their (middle) world into Land, Sky and Sea, as this formula often occurs, though it could as well be understood on a vertical axis. Orientation occurred towards East and the sunrise, as the name for east is “before”, while south is “right”, west “behind” and north “left”. Going sun wise is as well seen more positive and it is important to note that the “Vierckschanze” and the Gallo-Roman Temples never had their entry in the North (Maier 57f).
The Irish Celts knew a division of „their“ world (Eire) into five Province, as shown in the very word for province, meaning „fifth“ and the Myth of the five trees planted by Fintan. Usually they are divided into four quarters representing the four cardinal directions and the middle (Rees & Rees 120ff). While in the story of “Briciru’s Feast” the Banqueting Hall at Tara is described with nine compartments, showing a three times three pattern, while there was as well twelve compartments for the twelve chariot-warriors of Ulster embodying some calendric ideas within the story and centering Tara even within the greater cycle of the year (Rees & Rees 148ff).
The Norse certainly knew the division between Land, Sky and Sea too. Midgard is surrounded by sea and the Midgardserpent. This could actually be seen as well as circles surrounding Asgard in the middle (see “Middle world”).
In ADF’s cosmology the Underworld is commonly seen as the place of the Ancestors. Nonetheless ADF’s cosmology stays open for other ideas e.g. in Vedism the souls of the Dead going up (Thomas “Re-creating”). Usually the Underworld is connected additionally with the well.
The contrast to the dry earth (see Middle world) is not so much to be seen in the sea and oceans, but in a moist underworld, source of all the springs, rivers and lakes. This is shown in the practice of immersed sacrifices in different water sources and offering pits. Caesar mentions additionally the underworld God as ancestral father of all humans (Maier 56) and Valerius Maximus tells about money debts to be paid in the Netherworld, showing the idea of a place where the dead can meet again (Maier 143). The Underworld and Netherworld seem to fuse or become the otherworld only attested in the middle age sources (Maier 56). The Welsh name is Annwn. In Ireland the different Sidh are linked with the otherworld and there is as well the house of Donn. The otherworld portrayed here doesn’t seem to have such a clear boundary and has light and friendly aspects, as well as dark ones (Green 166ff).
In the Norse Underworld we have Schwarzalbenheim, Niflheim and Hel. Hvergelmir, “the booming cauldron” is situated at Niflheim. It is the source of twelve rivers, equated with the idea of the “source of all rivers”. Hel is the kingdom of the dead in the far North beyond mountains and separated by a river, as well as the name of the Goddess reigning over it. While a dark place for some, it can be as well decorated (e.g. for Baldr), but most warriors would prefer going to Odin’s hall Valhalla.
In ADF we often connect Fire with the Heavens and the Upper world.
From Ireland and Wales we have two very similar stories about St. David and St. Patrick usurping the power of the Druids by being the first to light the yearly ritual fire from which all other fires would be lit (Rees and Rees 79). There is a connection between kindling a fire and taking possession of the land, e.g. the founding of the monastery of Ciarán, the Welsh law about entering the land of a dead father within a set time connected to the uncovering of fire or the gaining of possession by building a hearth until dawn (Rees and Rees 157). The Tradition usually goes, that fires are lit at Beltane, though there seems to be as well a tradition with regard of Samhain. At least there seems to be fires lit at different occasions from different places, e.g. Tlachtga in Winter Uisnecht in summer (Rees & Rrees 163f). Additionally there is the cult of the domestic hearth fire and the different steps connected with it that have survived in different blessings, sometimes connected with the Goddess Brighid (Carmichael 297).
The taking possession of the land through the bringing of a fire is well reflected in Norse culture in the Guta Saga: Only after Thierval brought the first fire to the Island of Gotland it stopped sinking every night into the sea (Blödl 147). In the Hakónar Saga it is described that a fire shall burn in the middle of the temple floor and a cauldron above it (Blödl 220). Norse culture (as in Celtic) uses fire in funerary rites. This custom is reflected in different Sagas, e.g. in the death of Balder and the Nibelungen Saga where Sigurd’s body is given to the flames.
In ADF we connect the Well to the source of all waters, often to the Ancestors, but as well with the primordial waters of chaos.
This underworld connection is seen as well by the Celts (Green 224). In Irish tradition Nechtan is said to have a secret well that could only be accessed by him and his three cupbearers. As his wife Boand approached it and she was pursued by the water, creating the river Boyne (and all of the rivers) before returning to its mound (Puhvel 277). Finn receives Wisdom from an otherworldly well (Green 224). The Well of Segais is surrounded by nine Hazel whose nuts are eaten by a Salmon gaining wisdom. In the insular Celtic mythology we have a few similar stories featuring a well connected to wisdom. The same motif is found in Niall of the Nine Hostage. Many wells are additionally connected to the heads of Saints (Green 224).
In Norse mythology we have three important known mythological wells: The Well of fate, the Well of Mimir and the Well Hvergelmir. They are situated at the roots of World Tree Yggdrasil. Urdarbrunnr „Well of fate“ is the well of the three Norns. Sometimes it is said that all wells are Urdabrunnr (Davidson 171). Each day they throw water and / or moist sand from the well over the roots of the world tree to rejuvenate it. Hvergelmir is the source of all sources and rivers in the world situated in the middle of Niflheim. While the Stag Eikthyrnir eats leaves nearby, drops fall from his antler into the well (Simrock “Grimsnismál 26). Mimir’s Well is another well of wisdom. Odin had to give an eye to drink from this well and it is assumed that he received the power of foresight from it.
In ADF cosmology the tree often represents the center pillar, the axis mundi connecting all the worlds together.
A tree is transported on the Celtic Gundestrup cauldron and the altar of Tarvostrigaranus shows a tree being cut (Green 213f). In Ireland bile is the name for the sacred tree, which can as well be connected with a certain person like bile Medbe the sacred tree of the “Queen-Goddess” Medb (Green 43). Fintan is given berries and plants five trees connected to the five provinces of Ireland (Rees & Rees 120). The very word for the Celtic priests, the Druids is connected to the oak and seership (“Druid”).
The most prominent tree in Norse tradition is Yggdrasil (Davidson 170), the first tree to grow after the creation of the Cosmos connecting the nine worlds mentioned a few times in the Edda (Grimnismal, Gylfaginning).The Saxon Irminsul, whose location is not clear, has been destroyed by Charles the Great who confiscated a great treasure with it. In Northhessia there are legends about the Donar Oak in Fritzlar who later was destroyed by Bonifatius. It is said that the Gods held their Thing under Yggdrasil. This is quite interesting as up to medieval times we have old trees that are at special places within a town used for town council and courts. Often it was Oaks, Lime Trees, seldom walnut tree, pear tree or silver fir. Lime Trees are as well very noted in their function as “dancing lime trees” where people can actually dance on pedestals in the crown of the trees. At least for Germany we have to consider the strong standing of the lime tree and mythological implications.
5. To what extent do you think we can offer conjectures about Indo-European myths in general? Are the common themes strong enough that the myths seem like variations? Or are the differences so powerful that the themes are less important than the cultural variations? (Minimum 300 words)
Reading through the Indo-European Myths one has to be blind as not to see the striking and intriguing similarities that can be found. Through careful comparisons conjectures can be made for myths that have not survived or are not as complete or understandable as we would like them to be for our modern minds and thinking. Conjectures are made by expert mythologist scholars like Puhvel, Malory, Winn, Campbell, and Eliade and as well by interested and well read – and unfortunately sometimes not so well read - interested people.
Though as fascinating as the similarities can be, we have to be careful when interpreting them and precipitating to fill the holes with what has remained from another tradition. We have to bear in mind that they are conjectures, nothing more and we will probably never know the “truth”. Moreover, the myths actually teach us that there is no “truth”. A myth is always an interpretation, a variation, a solution to problems found in a certain time by a certain culture. Other cultures find similar solutions, other variations. Moreover, the variation might not be “en vogue” anymore in the coming season. When comparing myths, there is always the dimension of time to be taken into consideration. And sometimes we are talking about a great span of time in between stories and parallel stories being told. Additionally while in an oral tradition “old” myths might simply be discarded or re-arranged, once they are written down, they receive a final finish that can fast become a “truth” instead of a tale from the point of view of the person that has written it down.
Although some myths seem to be innate to the human race, others have similarities through transmitted cultures like Indo-European language. Others again have received a myth through diffusion which struck a chord in their soul, which they echoed back in their culture.
Some of the themes are certainly strong enough that they seem like variations of the same theme and have to be regarded as parallels. But none the less a variation stays a variation. A waltz variation on a four beat rhythm cannot be used to fill a gap in the score of the four beat rhythm if that rhythm has been lost, though we might have a good idea about the possible key melody that plays into the gab. To find that key melody is not always easy and it happens that one of the variations sings better to the own taste as the “original”, so that we become rather a composer than a reconstructor.
We have to be careful not to precipitate into drawing conclusions. Additionally, there is always as well the discourse of validity and authenticity. We too are of a different time and are another culture. We too have to find our variation of the key melody the variations that resound and echoes the most within our own souls.
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