‘Indo-European Studies 1’ Posts


Indo-European Studies 1: #5

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 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)

What ADF is trying to create is a much needed thing in the modern neo-pagan community.  The re-creation of a scholarly polytheistic faith based on Indo-European traditions and research, and is organized in a way that can cater to modern neo-pagans faith and community.  The biggest selling point for me was the fact that it’s not a organization for Druids, because Heathens, Hellenes, and other such IE faiths can all worship under the same common  umbrella.  This is a very well-researched organization that puts great emphasis on legit scholarly research to discuss points on religion, the Gods, societies, and mythologies to help us all better understand where we came from and where we are going.  There is wiggle room for UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), but not to the detriment of legit research.  It’s the best of both worlds, really.

Personally, I am not a reconstructionist, but I love the idea of doing things closely to how my Ancestors did.  It’s another way for us to connect with the Ancestors, and Ancestors are an important part of our worship.  Why anyone would want to ignore most of what was historically done by their own ancestors, while still incorporating modern ideals and new traditions is a foreign concept to me.  My research of my Germanic lineage led me to my Anglo-Saxon kindred, and I have found more spiritual significance, familiarity, and fulfillment there than I ever did in Irish Grove. Obviously there are certain aspects of ancient worship that are not appropriate for modern worship, such as animal sacrifice in public worship (private Blots are another story), be-headings like in Celtic lore, and other more violent actions no longer legal or accepted in our modern society.  As a whole though, there are some wonderful traditions, mythologies, and religious practices that are wonderful for us to bring into our personal worship from IE cultures of all kinds.

To that point, it has always made me wonder why we put such emphasis on the term “Druid” in ADF.  Yes, I understand it is part of the organization name, but names can change.  Or at the very least the tagline and description could make it more clear that this organization involves more than just Celtic Druids.  I think it would behoove us to open up our public relations to understand this point so that we could benefit from the growth in membership outside of those of Celtic influence.  The IE focus replacing the idea of a Druid focus would be a great move for ADF in terms of member retention and growth.  When people hear about ADF, they think of Irish Celtic Druids only.  I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, and each time I have to explain because that’s the impression we give them.  Isn’t this what the entire concept of Indo-European Studies is about?  Showing the similarities and cross-contamination of the various IE cultures and how they’ve influenced each other over centuries.

Aside from those differences on wording within ADF, I think using a foundation of accurate historical traditions to build up a comparative modern pagan tradition is the purpose and glory of ADF and what ADF can accomplish in the future.  We can have Priests of varying traditions, Groves who worship a variety of pantheons, provide study programs through our Kins that enhance the IE cultural influence in our practice and provide a home for all IE pagans regardless of their pantheon so long as it is Indo-European.  I look forward to seeing books and rituals published to the public that show what ADF is capable of when catering to all of the IE traditions and not just seen as an organization of druids.

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Indo-European Studies 1: Citations

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Dume?zil, Georges. Gods of the Ancient Northmen. Berkeley: U of California, 1973. Print.

Littleton, C. Scott. The New Comparative Mythology: An Anthropological Assessment of the Theories of Georges Dume?zil. Berkeley: U of California, 1982. Print.

Fortson, Benjamin W. Indo-european Language and Culture: An Introduction. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.

Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. Print.

Kaliff, Anders. Fire, Water, Heaven and Earth: Ritual Practice and Cosmology in Ancient Scandinavia: An Indo-European Perspective. Stockholm, Sweden: Riksantikvariea?mbetet, 2007. Print.

“Anglo-Saxons.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.

“Kingdom of England.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Sept. 2014.

“Ancient Greek Democracy.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/ancient-greece-democracy>.

“Cleisthenes and the 10 Tribes of Athens.” About. About.com, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2014. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/riseofdemocracy/a/aa121900a.htm>.

“The Social Order and Government of Early Athens.” About. About.com, n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2014. <http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/riseofdemocracy/p/aa041399Athens.htm>.


Indo European Studies 1: #4

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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)

Fortson uses a lot of Greek examples to compare IE culture requirements, so in comparison with the northern traditions, we can find a lot of similar IE classifications.  One example is within the idea of exchange and reciprocity.  “A gift for a gift”, the exchange was not actually the act of giving or the act of taking, but the process of an exchange.  The Greek nemetai or ‘allots’ in comparison to the German nehmen or ‘take’.  From a religious standpoint, the Greek culture places Zeus, a sky god, as the “chieftain” or head of the IE pantheon.  In the Norse, we have Tyr, another sky god who was the former chieftain of the Norse pantheon (Fortson, 25).   At the same time, there are some simple yet important differences in how deities are represented if you compare the Sun god in Greek culture (Helios) with the Sun Goddess in Norse culture (Sunna), then you have a male versus female comparison.  Further religious comparison shows similarities between Norse and Greek culture in terms of the afterlife, or at least the method of getting to our afterlife destinations.  Here, a body of water is crossed to reach an afterlife that is gated by some form of guardian, though in Greek there is some form of payment is due to reach that destination, so even then we have some slight differences.

Aside from moral or divine appropriations, we can look at social units and how Germanic “tribes” existed as smaller groups of their inner culture.  Greeks had an early social system that consisted of Households, Clans, Villages, and Tribes.  Cleisthenes eventually developed an Athenian Democracy through the creation of the 10 Athenian tribes that were named after 10 heroes of Athens.  This was one of the initial glimpses into the development of what we now know as modern Democracy.  There was emphasis on familial obligation and namesake here that also expanded out into community tribal relations, like the Germanic cultures(Cleisthenes and the 10 Tribes of Athens).

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Indo-European Studies 1: #3

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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)

Scandinavian culture has had several examples of influence from external forces in its cultural and religious development. Kaliff discusses this somewhat while referring to material from Fabech that controversially points out breaks in religious tradition such as votive customs and ritual sites (Kaliff, 59).  These particular results are widely debated and not generally recognized with specific examples, however.  You can continue the concept of Northern culture being influenced with outside forces by looking at the Germanic tribes which migrated to the southern part of Great Britain in the 5th century, creating the Anglo-Saxons.  Granted the cultural appropriation they experienced during this time was due to their own actions and not necessarily outside forces coming in, but them opening themselves up to it.

The Anglo-Saxons created and spoke their own Angl0-Saxon language, and acted as a perfect example of a divergent group of individuals that came together to create their own culture (Anglo-Saxons, Wikipedia).  After the establishment of this new Anglo-Saxon culture, the unification of the first kingdoms started to develop, which eventually developed into what we now know as modern day England (Kingdom of England, Wikipedia).  So already here we have examples of language creation and societal caste creation (or development) with a migration of Germanic tribes to lead into the Angl0-Saxon culture.  Of course a lot of this , at least as far as the development of the first kingdoms goes, happened after the adoption of Christianity.

So after the adoption of Christianity, which is when, if you follow one of Dumezil’s requirements of a polytheistic religion requirement for IE culture, would then determine that the Anglo-Saxon culture then lost it’s classification as an Indo-European culture.  By this point it, being the culture, has migrated significantly past its original cultural, societal, and religious origins and merged significantly with the existing peoples of that land.

(Word Count: 300)


Indo-European Studies 1: #2

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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)

Littleton outlines Dumezil’s tripartition of social castes as three fundamental classificatory principles: sovereignty (priestly caste), force (warrior caste), and nourishment (provider caste) (Littleton, 5).  These functions are not meant to be the social or behavioral strata, but the principles by which they are defined, also according to Littleton.  The order of these principles, starting with sovereignty and ending with nourishment is the actual hierarchy of these classes and the privileges and obligations that each held.  The first class, to me, would obviously have more privilege, but also more obligation, and each class afterwards having less and less.

To compare these classification in the Norse culture, Dumezil gives a complicated timeline of social classification examples with Heimdall as told in the Rigspula.  During his incognito travels as “Rig” and the various visits to homes of varying social structures, there is a clear distinction in the names of the children begat from these encounters and how they affiliate with the social position of those houses.  The poorest house names their son Thrall) (slave, the next names their son Karl (freeholder), and the third names their son Jarl (noble or earl) (Dumezil, 119).  The son from the highest classed family is not abandoned like the previous children, thus showing example of the privilege given to the highest social caste and those born into it.

The God structures in Northern Mythology had similar “castes” if you look at Odin as a Chieftan, Thor as a Warrior, and Freyr as a Producer deity.

While Dumezil’s theory has some merit and core examples in IE culture, it is by no means exhaustive.  Looking at the God structure as a very simple example, there is no fit in the three castes for Loki.  In societal function there is no role in this theory for thieves and merchants in particular that lend me to believe that there either needs to be broader classification or a reorganization if you are going to try to set society culture standards into specific groups.

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Indo-European Studies 1: #1

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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 major factor that links Indo-European cultures together is closely related linguistics, the origins of which are traced back to a common language ancestor spoken in Eurasia around 6,000 years ago (Mallory, 7).  A sample linguistic comparison of cultures that have similar words for the same meaning, which shows trace roots back to some commonality would be use of numbers.

The number one:

Irish – aon

Welsh – un

Greek – hen

Latin – unus

Italian – uno

Spanish – uno

French – un

German – einz

Dutch – een

Swedish – en

This is a simplified example of similar sound for a word that has trickled across IE cultures from some source.

Beyond linguistics, however, there are other characteristics that flow across all IE cultures that contribute to their function as an IE culture.  Social organization is a popular one because all the scholars who have done deep research into IE culture agree that the society was hierarchical.  This means there were social class distinctions between groups of people such as slaves versus free persons, or Dumezil’s caste system of priests, warriors, and herder-cultivators.

In addition to linguistics and classes, Pan Indo-European societies were also built around small “units” organized into larger ones, however this is more largely debated.  An example of this is with clans and tribes that are more modernly seen in Celtic societies (Fortson, 21).  Furthering on the functions that are shared across IE cultures, is the idea of guest-host obligation that Fortson mentions in Indo-European Language and Culture.  Hospitality was a moral obligation that could affect the honor of the household.  It’s discussed in the Odyssey during the story of the Cyclops who ate Odysseus’s men while they were guests, or expanding on the famous story of Helen of Troy and Paris stealing the wife of Menelaos while being his guest.

So societal rules and obligations being a large indication of an IE culture, we can also compare religious similarities.  Obviously all IE religions were polytheistic, but beyond that there were shared concepts across the cultures such as a Sun deity of sorts, or the sacred implications of a fire and water opposition.  The afterlife and the journey of the soul after death across water, and some sort of guardian during this journey is also very common in IE cultures (Fortson, 28).

In reality, there are a lot of comparative mythology similarities that help distinguish IE cultures and how they all related together or are kin to each other, and that fits perfectly in what ADF has put together in a core modern spiritual path.  In fact, I think it’s a perfect reason to market ourselves beyond a ‘druid’ organization and move closer to the IE concept that helps to cater to many cultures  and pantheons that modern pagans are drawn to.

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