1. Describe several of the factors that define a culture as Indo-European and how those defining factors are useful in understanding that culture. (minimum 300 words)
The primary factor defining a culture as Indo-European is a derivation from the Indo-European language family. As language is a carrier of communication and therefore culture, secondary factors are cultural similarities for example in Myth, the importance of the horse, as well as social structures. Affinities between the two Billion people speaking an Indo-European language (Malory 272) can still be found on intercultural dimensions, although they show as well the differences (Hofstede 26).
The Indo-Europeans are not a tribe or race, but a language construct of languages deriving from the common root language “Proto-Indo-European” (PIE) (Malory 8f). Until now there is no acceptable configuration as to in how many different languages the same word should occur to be counted as PIE. A general rule asks for a minimum of shared correspondence within a European and a non-adjacent Asian language (Mallory 112).
In comparative mythology many similarities between myths have been found. It is important to discriminate between universal myth, Indo-European myth and diffusion (a mythological theme from one culture becoming popular in another).
The most well-known common themes within the Indo-European myths are: Conflict between two sorts of Deities (often seen as representing two social classes) e.g. Tuatha de Danann against Fomorians (Irish), Olympians again Titans (Hellenic), Aesir against Vanir (Norse). Heroic paths often depicting a God or Demigod slaying a serpentine Dragon: Thor and Jörmungandr (Norse), Heracles slaying the Hydra (Hellenic), Indra versus Vrta (Vedic), Perun against Veles (Slavic). Additionally, there is a widespread belief in a world tree: Yggdrasil / Irminsul (Norse), the Hindu Banyan tree, the Oak Tree of Slavic Myth and different prominent Trees in Celtic Mythology, e.g. five trees in Rennes Dindsenchas (Davidson 179). The world tree symbolism is supported by archaeological remains like the “Jupiter pillars” (Davidson 23). Additionally some see a mountain as the axis mundi: Olympus (Hellenic), Mount Meru (Vedic).
It is important to note, that these themes do not always appear in all cultures. Moreover, similarity in Myth is not enough to mark a culture as Indo-European. For example the myth of the dragon slayer can be found in other cultures too: Marduk slaying Tiamat (Mesopotamia); Ra against Apep (Egyptian); Gavriel slaying Rahab (Hebrew). While the sacred tree is prominent in Assyrian religion overall (Parpola 1993).
The social structure of the (Proto-) Indo-Europeans is seen as patrilinear and male dominated. This has been concluded inter alia by the lack of a common term for husband or wife and “marriage” meaning to lead the bride into the home of the groom (Mallory 123). There is a wide believe that Goddesses were stronger associated with agricultural societies and less with the Indo-European pastoral societies (Winn 262). Yet, “women were probably more influential in daily life than the mythmakers cared to acknowledge” (Winn 237). This might be reflected in the early Scottish matrilocality, as well as Archaeological findings challenging previous theories (e.g. Evidence of Woman working in trades like smiths, which have been formerly regarded as exclusively for males (Business Standard)). Additionally, Geroges Dumézil, a French scholar, promoted strongly tripartition for the Indo-Europeans. Tripartition is the organisational division of a culture in the three classes: priest, warriors, and producers and will be elaborated in question 2.
Another factor often being brought in relation with the Indo-Europeans is the horse and the horse-drawn chariot. Although there clearly is a communality in Myth concerning the horse within IE cultures the horse and the chariot have spread rapidly throughout the country so that this factor too is not a clear marker of Indo-European culture (Malory 42).
Some of the linguistic findings are supported by archaeological discoveries, but archaeology per se is not enough to define a culture as Indo-European, as there are too many cultural variations within the Indo-European cultures. The defining factors provide us with little understanding about religion, culture and society of the Indo-Europeans. Nonetheless, they are of great value and give us reference where and what to look for. Additionally we can tentatively try to rebuild lost ties through comparative Mythology and give us some understanding in fields we wouldn’t understand without the comparison. Unfortunately there is very little interdisciplinary work in the field of Indo-European studies. Geneticist Cavalli-Sforza reconciles and integrates two until now as contradicting seen hypothesis by Renfrew and Gimbutas (06) and I haven’t seen his ideas discussed from a linguistic point of view yet. Additionally, contrasting Indo-European cultures with Non-IE cultures for example Mesopotamian could generate fruitful. There are theories about “new people” coming to Mesopotamia in the second millennium and leading to a diminution of the Goddesses worth contrasting (Frymer-Kensky 70f). Hypothesis could as well be generated from evolutionary theories and psychology, which could shed another light on e.g. the social changes to male dominance. For example findings show that the wealthier the woman the more she tends to nurture boys, while during a famine automatically the female babies are nursed longer and have higher survival chances. From the evolutionary point of view boys are less healthy and biologically incomplete at birth and therefore cost more. For the biological “survival” of a tribe fewer males than females are needed.
This all gives us a very complex picture were we will need to include social-psychological patterns like minority influence as well. But until those studies are made by the people knowing their field, language is the most secured definer of a culture as Indo-European.
2. George Dumezil's theory of tripartition has been central to many modern approaches to Indo-European studies. Outline Dumezil's three social functions in general, and as they appear in one particular Indo-European society. Offer your opinion as to whether you believe Dumezil's claim that tripartition is central to IE cultures. (minimum 300 words)
The French mythographer Georges Dumézil proposed 1929 a trifunctional hypothesis for the (Proto-) Indo-European society. In this “tripartite system” exist three classes that are based on three functions: Sacral (priests), martial (warriors) and economic (producers, commoners).
The sacral function is usually composed of priests who study and teach the sciences of their age, conduct the sacrifice and organise the religious life. Moreover they often have as well juridical offices and sovereignty.
Caesar in his “Bellum Gallicum” calls this class druides for the Gauls (Le Roux 42).
In our modern times they are represented by the priests of the different religions, but as well legislation and jurisdiction and academic intelligentsia. It is debatable if state officials like for example teachers belong to the third or first function.
The second function is concerned with militarism, physical prowess and force and usually composed of warriors. They are the protectors, defenders and conquerors.
For the Gauls they were the equites (Le Roux 42). Today we can see here not only the military, but as well the police and firefighters, security agents and door mans, maybe even safeguards. They could as well be equated with the executive force.
The third function aims at wealth, health and fertility but as well peace, beauty and nurturance. They are the producers, represented by the farmers, herders, artisans and merchants. Often civilian populace, the commoners.
For the Gauls they were the plebs (Le Roux 42). Within a modern state they are usually the folk, the people.
Generally the rulers belonged to persons from the first or second function. The functions are not seen as closed caste systems, rather there is the possibility of mobility within them. Especially the warrior “caste” was a place where a young commoner could gain fame and honour.
These functions not only affect society, but as well the Gods and several Gods have been divided into these three functions: For example the Indic Adityas “sovereings”, Rudras (warlike) and Vasus “wealth” (economy), or the Roman trinity Jupiter (Sovereign), Mars (martial), Quirinus (economy), or Norse Odin (sovereing), Thor (martial), Freyr (economy) (Winn 44). While the deities of the first function are divided into a “dark” magico-religious one (Varuna, Odin) and a “light” legal one (Mitra, Tyr), the other two functions are usually seen as held by a singular deity (Malory 132), while the Goddesses are often seen as a third function consort or a transfunctional Goddess encompassing all three functions (Winn 241).
The tripartite system is a plausible model giving us ideas how to “catalogue” functions within a culture and Mythology. Dumézil himself changed and corrected often which Gods belonged to which function (Schlerath 2). This alone shows that the allocation to a certain function might be more difficult than expected. There is a wide assumption that myths express certain social and cultural realities (Malory 130). This is an interesting approach and sometimes the only one we’ve got to reconstruct the religious reality of our ancestors. Nonetheless, the question of the validity of this approach stays open, as they might represent unreached ideals. Moreover, most of the mythological sources come from heroic epic, stories of Gods and sacral literature (Schlerath 13).
I agree that the three functions represent “fundamental principles” (Winn 4), but I tend to follow the lines of Lévi-Strauss, who sees in them “a universal human ideological structure” (Schlerath 3). This is underlined as well through psychological models where the functions can be assigned to basic human needs: People want to be fed (third function) and they want to feel secure and in control (second function). Nearly automatically we have the providers and the warriors, or those who had to protect the cattle in ancient times. The people then were as well strongly aware of the Gods, the otherworld, supernatural, transcendence and that their life had a higher meaning. The priests where the ones securing their needs on that level – moreover, they were concerned with the desires of the other two functions as well, fertility and victory in war – seemingly giving again control over sometimes as unpredictable seen phenomena (e.g. weather). Today in a more secular world, we would rather put the desire for meaningfulness or transcendence (first function). These needs are individualistic, but they can also be spread within a society and different professions fulfilling different needs for a greater amount of people. So the short answer is no, I don’t believe tripartition is central to (Proto-) Indo-European cultures.
3. Choose one Indo-European culture and describe briefly the influences that have shaped it and distinguish it from other Indo-European derived cultures. Examples include migration, contact with other cultures, changes in religion, language, and political factors. Is there any sense in which this culture can be said to have stopped being an Indo-European culture? (minimum 300 words)
The Celts emerge as a people with a singular language during the European Iron Age. They developed out of the Urnfield culture, who probably talked an Indo-European dialect, sometimes discussed as being Proto-Celtic. Two main archaeological Celtic phases are recognized: Hallstatt and Latène. Sometimes the Gallo-Roman period is included as a third.
The first Celtic period is called the Hallstatt culture (700 – 500) (Ross 17). They are well attest through archaeological findings and characterized by fortified hilltop settlements (Hill forts). Although it has to be noted, that not all of the Hallstatt culture tribes were Celts. The Hallstatt Celts, migrated into the Iberian peninsula and the British Isles (Malory 106, Ross 25). Being the first Indo-Europeans to the latter regions there was contact and merging with the former indigene tribes. Germanic tribes and Celtic tribes have been neighbours since the late Hallstatt period. Tomb findings show import articles from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia. Especially Greek and Etruscan goods were popular and used as models (e.g. funerary traditions, Ross 20). Possibly the trade relationships to the Mediterranean and contact with Illyrians led to the development of the Latène culture.
The Latène culture developed around 400 BCE until Romanization around 40 BCE (depending on the region). It represents the height of Celtic culture. The art is strongly influenced by Mediterranean and east European cultures, especially Hellenic, Scythians and Etruscan. It is more ornamental and has more figurative representations (e.g. Glauberg). Another characteristic of the Latène culture are the “oppida” (e.g. Manching) which had similarities with todays’ cities. The only thing separating the Latène culture from a “high culture” is writing, though there is an assumption that the Celtic elite could write and would write in other languages. (Noricum is known to have an own Celtic writing, influenced from Etruscan as found in Magdalenenberg).
The Latène Celts can be found on the British Isles, France (Gauls), Spain (Celtiberians), northern Italy, the Balkans and in Anatolia (Galatians). Accordingly there was contact, trade and in some cases merging with the cultures at the borders or living in the area before. In the 4th century BCE Etruria and Rome is conquered by the Celts. The town of Senigallia in middle Italy still bears the name of the Gallic Senones. Other tribes migrate through the Balkan to Greece, Macedonia, reaching Delphi in the 3rd century BCE. Some tribes settle in northern Phrygia, central Anatolia, later being known as the Galatians (Ross 30). The end of the migration is marked by a migration back into the region north of the alps, probably caused by reconquering Romans.
In the first Century BCE parts of the Celtic Pannonia came under the influence of the Germanic tribe of the Macromanni. With this we can say the decline of Celtic culture commences, mainly brought about by the Roman expansion.
During the Roman occupation of Gaul and Britain a Roman-Celtic syncretism emerged that sometimes is even termed a culture of its own, usually known as the Gallo-Roman culture. Celtic art incorporated now classical influences and the fanum emerged as a Gallo-Roman temple form (e.g. Martberg, Eifel). In time Latin became the main language of the privileged Gauls. This certainly brought about a change of religion, as it became more syncretized. In the 2nd century CE Christianity started to gain ground in Southern Gaul, spreading from there. The Gallo-Roman culture lasted until the great migration period in the 5th century CE, in some parts until the 7th century CE (in the Mosel area even in high medieval time) where they came under the dominion of the Germanic Franks and Merowingians, bringing a Germanization of the elites. Similar cultural changes occurred as well in other parts, especially in what is today Germany there are some tribes like the Chatten, that can be seen more as a Celto-Germanic syncretism. Additionally Christianity spread more and more leading to more changes in religions.
After the expansion of the Roman Empire and the great Migration of the Germanic tribes only Ireland and the British Isles remained Celtic, diversifying in Gaelic, Welsh and other Insular Celtic branches. From an archaeological point of view, where the Celts are a people recognizable from their material unity, there were different stages and the Celts were replaced by the Germanic tribes, for some even earlier by the Romans. As we noted above, that the strongest defining factor of a culture as Indo-Euroepan is language, the Celts have not ceased being an IE culture. The Celts as a language culture still survive today. And as Malory (95) notes, they “represent the smallest surviving group of IE speakers”.
4. Choose one other Indo-European culture and compare and contrast it to the culture discussed in question 3 above with respect to each culture's Indo-European nature. (minimum 300 words)
The Germanic people are an ethno-linguistic culture mainly recognised through one particular shift in the reconstructed IE language.
In Schleswig-Holstein, part of a northern branch of the artefact Hallstatt culture merged with northern Bronzeage people and out of them the Jastorf culture developed around 600 BCE. The art of the Jastorf culture can already be differentiated from the usual Hallstatt culture in clothing, attires and pottery and their emergence coincides well with the typical sound change for the Germanic language occurring around 500 BCE. Therefore, they are regarded as the first Germanic or Proto-Germanic culture. From the beginning, there seems to be a strong contact and exchange with the Celtic culture (Malory 86f).
Compared to the Celts, the Germanic people entered the scene of recorded history rather late and were long time ignored by the Roman historians. Therefore, little is known from earlier time, as like the Celts, they relied on oral transmission. Although a variation of the Etruscan alphabet seems to have reached the Germanic people and influenced the creation of the Runes. Literacy was mainly attained after Christianization, the Gothic “Wulfila bible” being the first larger written record. Therefore, like for the Celts we have to rely on Roman historians (Puhvel 189f).
In the 2nd century BCE the Cimbri started to migrate south from their homeland Jütland which was possibly flooded. The tribes of the Teutones and Ambrones joint them on their travel southwards to Noricum, where they fought 113 BCE with a few Celtic tribes, then went on to try to invade Gaul where they encountered the Romans, later passing Italy and Hispania. For the Romans the Cimbri were first not recognized as a Germanic tribe, but thought to be Celts. This again must mean there was a close resemblance in attire. It is from this time on, that we have historical data of the Germanic people.
In the 2nd century CE many tribes described by Tacitus merged to greater tribes. Each of it had different contact with the Mediterranean high cultures. The Goths emerged as a tribe in the Baltic area 100 CE and thus must have had contact with Slavic tribes. They often came as the new elites, the new lords. Mixing and merging with the pre-existing population led to the emergence of new cultures and finally new ethnic identities. The tribe of the Chatti in North Hessia is known to have merged with the Celtic population in that area. During the time of the great migration in the 5th century the languages of the Germanic people were so greatly differing, that it is assumed that communication between them was not easily possible anymore. Appropriately, they are not labelled anymore as the Germanic people, but are recorded by their tribe name: Franks (Gaul), Visigoths (Italy, Spain), Ostrogoths (Italy), Alamanni (Germany, Switzerland), Langobards (Northern Italy), Burgundians (Eastern Gaul), Vandals (North Africa), Anglo-Saxons (England) (Davidson 6f).
The Christianization of the Germanic peoples marks the transition to the Middle Ages. During the 4th to 6th century CE the Goths became Christianized in the Arian tradition. Christianization of the Franks went on from the end of the 5th to early 9th Century, the anglo-saxon became Christians around 6th – 7th Century, with Saxon king Widukind often being seen as “the last of the Germanic tribe” (Wolff 142). This led in turn to the replacement of the tribes as kingdoms. While in Scandinavia the Viking Age commences, with its contact to Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Russia and Greece. Northern Europe has only been Christianized in the 10th and 11th century. It must be noted that locally often Pagan cults continued, as e.g. in the sacred district “Opfermoor von Niederdorla” findings show that sacrifices have been left there as late as the 11th century (“Opfermoor von Niederdorla”).
The Celts and the Germanic people both have in common, that they are a foreign appellation and that they probably never saw themselves as “one people” in contrast to the Romans. It is thought that they had a stronger tribe association, but that as well had some mobility. Mainly they are differentiated by language, though they probably had a common language at some point (Davidson 219). Archaeological differences can be found, but don’t seem to be such a strong marker in every case. Like the Celts they are describes as quarreling among themselves and being fond of drinking (Davidson 7).
Mythological differences are found as well as the Germanic people had a different pantheon. Although there is some communality in Myth as is to be expected by an IE people, especially due to the close contact. Unfortunately, we can nearly only compare the Irish stories with the Icelandic, both written down after Christianization and for the Irish sources the Gods are disguised as Heroes and Kings (Davidson 217ff). One of the unique characterizations for the Germanic people and a major difference to the Celts is that they apparently lack a priestly class (Winn 11). Both were as well strongly influenced by the Mediterranean and the Romans, but while the Celts in the end were conquered by the Romans and Germanic tribes, it is the Germanic tribes, together with some other influences which lead to the fall of the West-Roman reign.
5. From its beginnings, ADF has defined itself in relation to Indo-European pagan traditions. What relevance do you think historical and reconstructed IE traditions from the past have in constructing or reconstructing a Pagan spirituality for the present and future? (minimum 600 words)
Neopaganism is a religious movement rooted in a modern interpretation of ancient pre-Christian traditions. Neopagan traditions differ greatly in how much accuracy to historical sources they use; while for some it is enough to just use the names of pre-Christian Gods, others will try with the help of scholarship to reconstruct as good as possible and socially acceptable the pre-christian polytheistic forms of religious tradition and ritual of a chosen ancient hearth culture.
To truly connect with a certain hearth culture, some research is important, as it gives us an understanding of that culture. It is from the past that we learn for the present and can transform the future. In the past we can find solutions and inspirations to societal and environmental problems, which we face in different varieties still today, though every generation has to find their own answer.
Individuals differ in their needs and taste. There are some being happy just with the use of folklore, while other need elaborate rituals and other again like to indulge in polytheological discussions. And while being completely within the reconstruction movement might be good for some, it might not be so for others.
ADF is a composition of modern Ideas with what we have learned from the ancient traditions. From many religions we know not enough to fully reconstruct them. Moreover, our society has changed so that many of the proven ancient practices like animal and human sacrifice, head cult or slavery are “thank the Gods” not accepted any more in our modern societies!
From its beginning ADF has seen itself as Indo-European based. This might be seen as a peculiarity at first glance, as religious communities tend to be focused on one tradition only. But being an “eclectic reconstructionist” actually opens up the field. There are many Pagans not completely set on one specific path and one pantheon of Gods. Many as well don’t want to position themselves too strong. Being IE gives a broad spectrum of traditions to choose from. Similarities in all IE language cultures can be seen as well today, and differences between them are not as significant as between non-ie cultures. As the IE languages are one of the most spoken in the world, there is a good basis to find consensus. The similarities between the ancient cultures can be used to fill the gabs that exist in certain traditions through comparison. Often for us it is more a case of re-creating instead of re-constructing. More than a “quirk”, to be IE based is quite clever.
For most cultures a complete reconstruction is impossible and because we are evolving and have another environment, developed other point of views we cannot simply take what was good and continue with it. We need to adapt it to our culture and our time. It is our duty to make it a valid tradition for us. Therefore, ADF is not historically completely accurate. A complete accuracy would not be valid anymore for us, as for example we don’t see the need of human and animal sacrifices anymore. Moreover, Pagans today stay for equality between the genders, which is at least something we don’t know enough about in some IE cultures. Additionally, many Pagans today stand for sustainable living. As the Neopagan movement has its roots in the Romantic movement we tend to have a dreamy outlook on the past and natural connection between nature and ancient people. While I already mentioned that sustainable living plays an important point for modern Pagan, we know that some ancient cultures exploited nature at some points (e.g. Celts). But being connected to nature and having the knowledge of our day, we have as Pagans the responsibility to stand up for ecological and sustainable living.
ADF accepts other cultures (for example native American, Khemit, Wicca) and is not exclusive. We are not using Non-IE cultures in our liturgy and high days, as a church some identification needs to be made, but our members are free to work with them and the Gods related to them in their “private practice” (as opposed to ADF public Grove practice) as well as that they can be members of different churches. It is possible to join as well a Khemit Temple or Wiccan Coven for example, and there will be no repercussions or “sin” (which we do not have) being done. This is an openness I truly admire.
Finally, I believe Paganism has much to offer to the world and is a valuable addition to the religious variety that should be nurture. It has a high spiritual value as it values the sensual world, and the aim for sustainable living is important to preserve our planet for future generations. The use of the past as a reference and basis is certainly very important and used wisely can give us the deepness of the well, but we need the fire of our age too. In a certain way, as the world tree, ADF stands in the middle between historical past and creating a spirituality for our time, balancing out between reconstruction and revival. It is important to translate things into our culture and time. This means being aware of the present, which is a very important asset to cultivate. It is in the now that we life and change our future.
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