‘Indo-European Myth 1’ Posts
Dear Rev. Crystal Groves (Crystal Groves),
Congratulations! Your Indo-European Mythology 1 submission passes.
Good work as always
Rev. Michael Dangler
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)
It is pretty clear that there are common themes across various cultures, in particular for my research between the Norse and the Greek. The creation myths are very similar in respect to order from chaos to the creation of the Divine which eventually begets the creation of mankind. There are even more similarities between the Deities and their functions like Zeus and Thor as Gods of the Sky, Thunder, and protectors of mankind. Deities of War, Love, and Fertility on both sides and beyond. For example, War Gods are prevalent across the board between Mars, Ares, Athena, Morrighan, and Freyja. Fertility is represented by Demeter, Freyr, possibly Dagda from certain viewpoints. Gods of Healing such as Brigid, Eir for the Norse, Dian Cecht in the Irish, and Apollo in the Greek lore.
After the creation of Deity, you have references to Divine wars amongst various myths for different reasons. The Battle between the Aesir and the Vanir in the Norse, the first and second battel of Moytura in the Irish, and even the inner battles between Cronus and Zeus.
You have tales of afterlife or what happens in death across each culture that has distinct similarities between where the evil dead go compared to where the heroes are revered in the afterlife.
Many of the Indo-European cultures had a significant lore behind the well, fire, and tree that gave them a religious significance of some sort, such as the Well of Wyrd for the Norse and the Wells of Purification for the Greek. This comparison continues with the different realms of existence between Gods, mortals, and the Ancestors. Puhvel illustrates several recurrent themes between many of these elements (Comparative Mythology, 277), such as fire and ice in Norse Mythology and how it relates to Fire in water in Irish and Roman lore.
What is nice though, is that even with so many similarities, there are still enough differences to elaborate on the cultural differences between cultures for their own specific identity.
(Word Count: 331)
- Puhvel, Jaan. “Traditions: Ancient Greece.” Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. 130-31. Print.
- Evelyn-White, Hugh G. “Theogony of Hesiod.” Wikisource, the Free Online Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
- Davidson, H. R. Ellis. “The Other World.” Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1988. 173-74. Print.
- Davidson, H. R. Ellis. “Mimir and Hoener / The Gods and Their World.” Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin, 1990. 29+. Print.
- “Asphodel Meadows.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
- Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda. Translation by Jean I. Young. University of California Press, Berkeley, Ca. First published by Bowes and Bowes Publishers Limited, Cambridge, England, 1954.
- “Homeric Hymns.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
- “Poetic Edda.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
- Davidson, H. R. Ellis. “The Mother Goddess.” Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin, 1990. 110-11. Print.
- Gundarsson, Kveldulf. “Wights.” Our Troth. North Charleston, SC: urge, 2006. 469. Print.
- Littleton, C. Scott. Mythology: The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling. London, England: Duncan Baird Publishers, 2002.
- Snorri, Sturluson. The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson: Tales from Norse Mythology. Berkeley: University of California, 2012. Print.
- Gundarsson, Kveldulf. Teutonic Religion: Folk Beliefs & Practices of the Northern Tradition. St. Paul, Minn., U.S.A.: Llewellyn Publications, 1993. Print.
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)
In Norse Mythology, the Upperworld consists of Asgard, Ljossalfheim, and some say the upper part of Muspelheim (Our Troth, 484). Asgard is the realm of the Aesir, Ljossalfheim is the realm of the light elves and air spirits, and Muspelheim is the land of fire and heat. In Greece, they consider their Upperworld the realm of the Gods known as Olympus. Here, the Gods dwell and look over the mortal world, much like the Norse Gods. In ADF’s cosmology can be reflected in various parts of ritual whether we are honoring the Shining Ones as a whole, or honoring specific deities as the deities of the occasion.
(Word Count: 107)
For the Norse, the Middleworld is represented by multiple realms, but the one we live in is called Midgard. Additional realms in the Middleworld would be Jotunheim, where the giants reside, and Vanaheim which is the realm of the land and sea deities known as the Vanir. It is most appropriate for us to regard Midgard as the Middleworld in ADF for ritual purpose. Greek reference to what we know as the Middleworld is very basic compared to the Norse. It is the realm in which the mortals and spirits of nature live, and that’s pretty much it. So in terms of ADF cosmology, this pretty much coincides with our practice exactly.
(Word Count: 112)
Divisions of Middleworld:
As mentioned previously, Norse Mythology divides the Middleworld into Midgard, the realm of man, Jotunheim, the realm of giants, and Vanaheim, the realm of the land & sea deities known as the Vanir. These realms all reside within the World Tree, and reference is made to the world being round (Prose Edda, 36). Alternatively, early Greek mythology is developed very differently in that they do not necessarily divide the middleworld into different sects. Instead, it is a flat piece of land surrounded by Oceanus (Littleton, 138), but eventually it was proven to be round. Both cultures have valuable myths that support use within ADF ritual.
(Word Count: 105)
Svartalfheim, Niflheim, and Hel make up the Underworld in Norse Myth. Svartalfheim is the realm of the black elves and dwarves, Niflheim is the realm if ice and cold, and Hel is the realm of the dead ruled by Hel. Greek Mythology actually presents more division in the Underworld than any of their previous realms. There is Tartarus, the realm where the evil dead go for eternal suffering and death each day. The Elysian Fields where the heroic deeded mortals go to spend their undead in pleasantry, and the Asphodel Meadows where those who die of old age or sickness go to rest. In reference to ADF ritual, I would see the Asphodel Meadows, the Elysian Fields, and Hel being the most pertinent when honoring the Underworld.
(Word Count: 127)
The world of the Norse was created from fire and ice. The Realm of Fire was known as Muspelheim and swayed slightly between the Upperworld and the Middleworld. Fire is also referenced by Gundarsson in Teutonic Religion as the Harrow, or “Fire Altar”, where holy fires are traditionally lit (Teutonic Religion, 206). The rune, Kenaz, also means the torch fire, or creations fire, that which transforms, which leads fire to be an element of transformation in the lore. Within the Greek culture, fire was seen as a method of sacrifice to the Gods. The smoke from fire carried our messages to Olympus to the Gods, and it was rare that sacrifices were made without fire. While not exactly the same, both cultures use fire in a sacred way, much like a need-fire within ADF rites.
(Word Count: 135)
The well is very prominent in both Norse and Greek cultures. For the Greek, wells or fountains were seen as places to purify. The washing of the hands is common for purification in Greek rites. Their rivers and lakes can be seen as the access points to the Ancestors for purpose of ritual. In the Norse, rivers and lakes flow up and down the tree of life from the Upperworld to the Underworld. Beneath each root of the world tree sits a well of Wyrd (The Troth, 486), and even those go by many different names. Hvergelmir’s well, Mimir’s Well, and Wyrd’s Well are common in the lore. So a Well in general is proper in both cultures as a tool in an ADF rite.
(Word Count: 125)
One of the most powerful symbols in Norse Mythology is that of Yggdrasil, the world tree. It stands at the center of all worlds, that pivot of the Universe and all of the 9 realms contained within. This is commonly thought of as an Ash tree, but some also believe it to be Yew (Our Troth, 484). Greek myth did not associate with a World Tree, but instead held trees as sacred entities, usually associated with a deity and placed in a holy place or shrine for that purpose. For example, the Olive tree was a gift from Athena so is considered sacred to her.
(Word Count: 105)
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 Germanic peoples, according to Tacitus, worshiped Nerthus as the Mother Earth. There is not source on whether this means she was a lover of Tiwaz, the Sky God or not. The Greeks viewed Gaia as the Earth Mother who was simply created and bore the fruitful “earth” as we know it. Jord/Jorth, mother of Thor, was another deity thought to be an Earth Mother, because her name simply means Earth. The fact of the matter remains, however, that many cultures view the Earth Mother as a nourishing motherly goddess that we return to in death as the ultimate cycle of birth, life, and death to rebirth (Gods and Myth).
(Word Count: 110)
Deities of the Land:
The Norse categorize their main deities into the Aesir and the Vanir, and the Vanir were seen as deities of the land. Freyja, for example, is a fertility Goddess (Gods and Myth, 115). Her brother Freyr is also seen as a God of fertility and wisdom. Greek myths depict Artemis as a great fertility goddess, but in a virginal sense. Even Gaia, the Earth Mother, (and all earth mothers in these myths) are seen as deities of the land or fertility. The Greeks also worshiped a minor diety named Priapus, which is a more agricultural fertility God of the land. In ADF it would be very proper to incorporate these deities when acknowledging the land or a prayer to the land.
(Word Count: 121)
Deities of the Sea:
A common Norse sea god was Njord, father of Freyr and Freyja. He is a God of ships (Gods and Myths, 132) and favored those in seafaring. Aegir was also the Ruler of the Sea in the Norse loer as a personification of the waters itself (Gods and Myth, 128). He coupled with Ran, who used a net to entrap seafarers. By comparison Aegir is strongly related to Poseidon in Greek Mythology, another God of the Sea who often creates earthquakes and influences storms. Atlantis was considered the domain of Poseiden after losing battle with Athena over the city of Athens. Within ADF we can incorporate deities of the sea in relation to the well or when dealing with sea related prayers.
(Word Count: 122)
Deities of the Sky:
One of the most revered Gods in Norse Mythology is Thor, the thunder God of the sky and wielder of Mjolnir. He is the protector of mankind that could call down storms, which also sometimes portrayed him as a fertility God because of the rains that fall to nourish the earth (Gods and Myth, 84). Zeus is a similar deity in Greek lore in that he is a God of Lightning and the Sky. The difference is that he is also the ruler of the Olympians, where as Thor was not. However both are attributed to being father of men or mankind. Both of these deities are great for rituals of protection (the folk) in ADF ritual.
(Word Count: 117)
In CedarLight Grove, we have often brought Thor in during our Norse rites to protect the folk and the working from the Outsiders. He is, as has been previously mentioned, the protector of mankind, so it fits perfectly that he is associated with this part in ritual. Since Zeus is also considered the father of mankind, I can see his influence to protect from the outsiders being used in an ADF rite as well. Both cultures have beings that would be considered “Outsiders” as well, such as the Jotuns in the Norse or the Sirens in Greek Lore. But they were of many names and intentions. In Norse lore, there is also the realm of Outgarth, where a lot of the trolls and outlaws are, a perfect example of outsiders.
(Word Count: 130)
In my kindred, we honor the Land Wights of Germanic lore as the spirits of this plane, seen and unseen, that we share Midgard with. According to the Troth (Our Troth, 469), they are also known as the Landvaettir, which we have honored in CedarLight as our Nature Spirits during Norse rites. They are seen as those beings found in natural places around the earth such as streams, forests, and stones. In Greek mythology, the nymphs are seen as similar spirits of the feminine persuasion found in rivers, meadows and other natural places. Depending on the respective pantheon, we have honored both during our honoring of the three kindred in ritual at CedarLight.
(Word Count: 113)
Ancestors are seen in slightly separate lights among the Norse. The Alfar and the Desir (Our Troth, 438 & 452), also known as the grandmothers and grandfathers who have passed on. The Disir are the ghostly human women & family spirits worshipped in the home. The Aesir are the male ancestors and mighty dead. In Greece they didn’t have a particular name that I’ve found for their ancestors. They had significant hero worship that sort of overlapped with their ancestral worship, but also worshipped spirits of the home or, which could be passing family members or political figures that were revered. Both of these are common enough in their respective cultures to warrant appropriate use in an ADF rite.
(Word Count: 119)
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)
I mainly work with the Norse culture, but also somewhat that of the Greek, and I suppose for this particular notation I will attempt to include the Irish since my Grove works closely with that hearth culture as well.
For knowledge of the Greek culture, most people turn to Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey which features epic poetry about history and the Divine as primary sources of both a historical and liturgical influence. There is also Theogony by Hesiod thought to be written around 750 or 650 B.C., which is claimed to be a more detailed account of the actual history and creation of the world. Additional sources of reference for Greek Mythology include the Homeric Hymns which is various works from various anonymous historians. The reason they are called the “Homeric” hymns is because they follow the same style as Homer’s works and written around seventh century B.C (Homeric Hymns). I do not see any particular issue with these resources as the Greeks were very passionate about their storytelling traditions, and while I’m sure they were embellished, they have a great record of recorded history compared to other cultures.
While not the first sources of Germanic tradition, the Edda’s are probably the most influential literary sources for the lore of northern traditions. Snorri Sturluson, born in 1179 and died in1241, was a historian who wrote the Prose Edda as a tales of religious tales. The Poetic Edda is a series of poems from various authors, but was hidden in origin for so long that it’s not known from where it came from or how long ago it was written. But it was found by a bishop in 1693 and placed in the Codex Regius from the 13th century (Poetic Edda). Without knowing the original source for these texts, we’re forced to try and interpret them by comparing them to other texts or significant historical research to determine whether they are credible sources of information.
The Celtic Mythology was so strongly based on an oral tradition due to the written word being forbidden for so long to some castes. The Book of Dun Cow is the oldest of the manuscripts that survived in the medieval times. The Book of Leinster is where we equate the Battle of Moytura as a crucial piece of lore for the Celts. Unfortunately, Christian monks and religious figures have been the sources for the compilation of oral notations to written scripts that we have now. It is assumed in some circles that they largely influence the tales with their own Christianized input, which to me would mean they are somewhat diluted from that point of view. It makes it more difficult to assume that these texts are entirely accurate due to the bias nature that could be prevalent in the Christian viewpoint.
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 history of the world in Greek Mythology starts with Chaos, Gaia (the earth), Eros (Love), and Tartarus as the only existent beings at the time. There’s no known origin of the world before them, so there’s no “creation” of the world necessarily, because the earth is Gaia (Hesiod). But the marriage between Gaia and Ouranos, whom she gave birth to as well, starts their general creation of myth (Puhvel). They then gave birth to the sea and the Titans. This creates a domino effect of more creations, such as Okeanos and Kronos, and then that whole debacle of Kronos teaming up with Gaia (because Ouranos was kind of a bastard) in cutting of Ouranos’s junk, throwing it into the sea, and from that comes Aphrodite.
Pass through the various creations afterwards, you meet up with Prometheus who was tasked with the creation of man. Prometheus created man out of mud and Athena breathed life into them. Prometheus had a great love for man, so much that he loved them more than the Olympians. They were his creations afterall.
In the culture of the Norse, there is a similar fashion of a simplified existence in order out of Chaos like that of the Greeks. The “nothing” or “formlessness” called Ginnungagap, was considered the original Chaos before creation (The Other World). From here, Ice was formed, and in the realm of Muspell came fire. Between these two, the giant Ymir was created, and he was considered male and female. Ymir created the giants from his body (or rather, they came from his body), and while this was going on , an ancient cow was created from the ice, and by licking the ice blocks she created three brothers known as the Sons of Bor. They slew Ymir and used his body to create the land, sea, and sky. It is said that three “creator gods”, which are believed to be the same as the Sons of Bor mentioned earlier, walked to the sea and found two trees of driftwood. They then breathed life into them to create the first man and woman.
An alternative version in the poem Risgpula dictates that Heimdall was in the beginning, is the father of men, and created three classes of men. Noblemen, farmers, and slaves.
So there is a clear similarity in the core concepts of creation outside of the intricacies of how it came about. There is tale of something being born from nothing (Order from Chaos), there is a hierarchy of created Divine beings (births of Gods and Titans), and then there is a being or beings creating man and woman.
(Total Word count: 435)
The Divine War
In the realm of the Norse the Divine War was between the Aesir and the Vanir. The Aesir were considered deities of sky and war, while the Vanir were the deities of the land. These two were at war, though we don’t have much information at all as to why. Davidson talks about the great war having to do with rivalry between the old deities and the new. He goes on to examine Dumezil’s mention of the war coming from an old hostility between gods of fertility and gods of magic.
Anyway, Njord, father to Freyr and Freyja, was sent as a hostage to Asgard, along with his children (Davidson). Additionally, Mimir and Hoenir were sent as hostages to the Vanir for the same reasons to balance the truce. This act, and their absorption into the Aesir, even though they were hostages, would help end the war as an act of faith between both sides.
By comparison in the Greek Mythology, you have the tale of the battle between the Olympians and the Titans, and how Cronus wanted to remove the ability for the same thing to happen to him as he did to Uranus when he overthrew him and took over. A consequence of this, Cronus swallows his own children, but is tricked by Rhea with a stone that was supposed to be Zeus due to her disagreement with Cronus’s actions against her children. Zeus, of course, eventually gets his siblings back by defeating Cronus once he is grown.
So essentially, divine wars were a big ball of catty power-driven hostility for one reason or another. Either they are fighting over power fighting over their differences, but in the end things did not always work out the way it was intended. The Gods were a tricky bunch in these stories.
(Word Count: 301)
The Fate of the Dead
In Greek lore, they took death very seriously. This is something that is taught to many of us through literary education in middle school from what I remember. I recall stories of doing without proper funeral preparations, such as coins on the eyes to pay Charon the ferryman in order to cross into Hades, and how it was the task of the living to prep the dead for their crossing. Whether in the Mycenaean Period or in Classic Greece, one thing is prominent, that the dead are prepared in some fashion before burial.
Once dead, there were multiple realms in which the dead were sent, depending on their actions while they were living. Tartarus is below Hades as a realm for the truly wicked. The Elysian Fields was a place for heroes of great deeds to spend the afterlife in great comfort. And Homer mentions the Asphodel Meadows was a realm for normal people who were neither evil or heroic (Wikipedia).
Norse Mythology tells great tales of fallen warriors in battle being taken to Valhalla or Folkvang by Odin or Freyja respectively. They feast on pig, die in battle, and are reborn each day. They are expected to fight in the battle of Ragnarok at the end of the world, kinda like a great army of the Gods. This is similar to the Elysian Fields of Greek Mythology where heroes are given special glory by the Gods.
Those who have done evil deeds are sent to Nifelheim, a dark and bitter place, where they will also die again each day in suffering. This is very similar to the Greek Tartarus of evil dead.
The average folks who die of age or sickness are also sent to Nifelheim, but they live in what is considered a Citadel in this realm, not the same place of suffering for the evil dead (Sturluson).
(Word Count: 310)