‘Indo-European Myth 2’ Posts
Using your answer to question 1 above (cosmos creation), create a piece for use in ritual that describes the process of cosmos creation through sacrifice. (no min. word count)
From a Norse perspective:
In the beginning the world was ice and fire. When the fire and ice of the world collided, a great thaw began, which begat the giant Ymir and the bovine Audhumla. Ymir suckled from the milk of Audhumla as it streamed down from her teets. As Audhumla sustained herself through a salty block of ice, the human Buri emerged who eventually bore a son named Bor (oddly enough). Bor’s three sons made a sacrifice of Ymir and from his body was the creation of the world. The blood flowed to create the oceans, rivers, and waters that lives in our wells. His skull rose above to create the heavens of the skies, and his bones were placed to create the mountains and stones between the worlds. Through sacrifice, fire, and ice, the gateway between the worlds has been created. And so we hallow the well, the tree, and the fire.
Puhvel, Jaan. “Creation Myth in the Ancient Near East.” Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. 27. Print.
Lincoln, Bruce. “The Indo-European Myth of Creation.” History of Religions 15.2 (1975): 128. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.
Kondratiev, Alexei. “Drawing the Circle.” The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. New York: Citadel, 2003. 59. Print.
Davidson, H. R. Ellis. “The Other World.” Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1988. 176. Print.
Aldhouse-Green, Miranda J. “Myths of the Ulster Cycle.” Celtic Myths. Austin: U of Texas, 1993. 21. Print.
Lincoln, Bruce. “The Indo-European Cattle-Raiding Myth.” History of Religions 16.1 (1976): 57+. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.
McKinnell, John. “Seducing the Giantess: Odinn.” Meeting the Other in Norse Myth and Legend. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2005. 162-65. Print.
“Monomyth.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.
Explain the monomyth (aka “hero cycle”) and show how it applies to a single hero from the IE culture of your choice. (150 words min.)
A monomyth, put simply, is the “Hero’s Journey”. The development of the hero from the plane mundane world into an epic adventure that builds him up to become the hero or legend. This generally starts by the hero being called into an unknown adventure with unfamiliar supernatural powers and beings. Once the hero accepts this challenge, he goes through a series of trials and tribulations to test his resolve and build up his character. There is generally one epic challenge that must be met and defeated, and if successful, he receives a gift for his efforts and is sent back home, often through another series of trials and tribulations before making it to the end. The entire process, according to Campbell, is a series of seventeen steps of the journey (at max) from beginning to end. Not all hero epics contain all of these steps, but he mentions all seventeen anyway.
You could condense the seventeen steps of hero-ship into three sections: Departure, Initiation, and Return (Monomyth). Departure would entail all of the events leading up to the departure into the trials and tribulations of the Initiation. And then the Return would cover the heroes return home after the Initiation, and what knowledge or prize he has acquired along the way that goes with him.
An example of a hero going through these steps in the Greek culture is that of Odysseus. At some point during his adventures he was driven off-course by storms (a blunder). While in dock they are captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus, who starts eating his men. The cyclops drank a barrel of wine and fell asleep, which gave Odysseus and his men the chance to light a wooden stake and blind the cyclops. Odysseus made the mistake of revealing his identity to the cyclops as they escaped, and in return the cyclops told his father, Poseidon what had happened. This angered Poseidon, and though they had obtained the gifts of all the winds except for the west winds, Odysseus’s men opened the back and released all of the winds. The storm from Poseidon then drove the ship all the way back to where they had come, rather than their home of Ithaca.
(Word Count: 367)
Show two examples in one IE culture of a deity engaging in actions that are unethical or unvirtuous, and speculate on why the deities sometimes engage in this type of behavior. (min. 100 words per example)
Joseph McKinnel has an entire chapter on Odin and his various sundries he has participated in within Norse lore that lends us to speculate about what we would consider modern-day scruples. Now a days our ethics are entirely different than what would be considered ethical back then, as we are a little less lax in that department.
One such myth recounts the story of Rindr and Odin. Odin learns about the looming death that is destined upon his son Baldr and that he will have a son to avenge Baldr with Rindr. He travels to Rindr’s home on three separate occasions disguised as a warrior, a blacksmith, and an old woman, but Rindr sees through the disguises each time. Odin resorted to using Seidr to drive her mad with desire to the point that he has to tie her to the bed, and then bed her. She gives birth to Vali, and Vali avenges Baldr. This is a form of seduction but not necessarily for sex, but to help avenge his son by whatever means possible (McKinnel, 162).
Another story depicts Odin and his retrieval of mead from the giant Suttungr. Odin transformed himself into a snake to get through a hole made by an auger and he slept with Gunnlod for three nights, take a large sip of mead each night. The mead, however, was in three vats, and each sip from Odin consumed an entire vat each time. Afterwards he transformed himself into an eagle and flew away while being pursued by Suttungr. Once he was free, he regurgitated the mead into vats that the Aesir had ready, and then distributed the mead to the Gods and human poets. Thus, we have the golden glory of all that is mead for us here today (McKinnel, 165).
Both stories involve Odin using a form of seduction either through physical attraction, or words, in order to achieve a desired outcome. I assume that in the mind of a deity, you use whatever forms are readily, and easily available to get what you want. The evolution of the ethics of man do not apply here, as we are limited by the will and abilities of man and our emotional connection to generally not want to hurt each other and treat each other with respect.
(Word Count: 383)
Describe instances of “freeing” or “winning” the waters in two different IE cultures. How can this theme be used to reinforce our current practices and cosmology? (300 words min.)
In Celtic lore, the story of Nechtan of the Tuatha De Danann and the secret well that only he and his cupbearers could approach is fairly popular. Mainly because the river Boyne is said to be born of this story, which is still a prominent lore story over in Ireland. In this story, Boann decided to approach this well out of spite, either thinking her beauty was more powerful than the rumors of the well, or to cleanse herself of her infidelity with the Dagda (Puhvel, 279). After circling the well three times, three waves spewed from the well and tore her to several pieces as she attempted to flee. During her flee, she created the river behind her and eventually drowned in its estuary.
Puhvel uses this as an example of a deity that is hoarding a powerful source, in this case water, and then his challenged for this particular treasure.
Another type of story Puhvel talks about comes from the Roman culture where during their war with the Veii, a deep crater lake which is fed by underwater springs had begun to rise up uncharacteristically, over a 100 meters above normal level. The lake rose enough to finally breech the rock barrier surrounding it and ripping through the countryside.
The Romans were then worried that they had caused some sort of divine anger, so they sent a representative to Delphi for oracular advice. The foundation of this advise essentially said that if they did not divert this water away from the sea and instead into the countryside to irrigate, they would never be able to penetrate Veii.
While the waters in these stories had different instigations, their ultimate outcome were very similar in creating rivers and damaging land or areas, essentially changing them permanently through some sort of divine intervention (or so they thought).
(Word Count: 306)
Using your answer to question 4 above (winning the waters), create a piece for use in ritual that describes the winning of the waters. (no min. word count)
For our Imbolc High Rite in 2014, I invoked Boann for our bardic inspiration, focusing on the story of her betrayl of Nechtan to approach the secret well that only he and this three cupbearers could approach. I am more into singing music in ritual and filking existing tunes, so to write my own poem as an invocation was entirely foreign to me and this was my first time. It goes as follows:
Wife of Nechtan, and Dagdha’s lover
Creator and giver, Angus’ mother
White cattle mother, loved by another
She ran to the well, seen by no other
Seeker of knowledge, defiant of cause
Three times round the well, she wouldn’t give pause
The well quick with anger at Boanns fated flaws
It spew from its depths to cleanse broken laws
The water rose endless and flushed Boann away
Down to the valley the rivers did lay
5 different waters were born on this day
A gift of the senses, For which Boann did pay
I would then rest my hands over the well and say:
Lady Boann, inspire us with sweet words so that only truth and honor be spoken here. Accept this gift in return for a gift. Accept this offering!
Describe the raiding of cattle by warriors (or divine reflexes of this action) in two cultures. How does this theme reflect the culture of the ancient Indo-European peoples, and is this theme relevant to modern Pagans? (300 words min.)
Lincoln discusses an example of a cattle-raiding story between Cacus and Hercules in Roman mythology, where Cacus first stole cattle that had rightfully belonged to Hercules, which then justified any later vengeful acts in response (Lincoln, 57, 60-63). Cattle were considered the foundation of indo-european economy. These cattle supplied all the basic necessities of life such as food, milk, clothing; tools form bone, excrement for fuel, and urine as a disinfectant. Beyond their specific economical importance, there is also the societal importance of trade in marriage and social functions. Prayers were often included with cattle, the fight to procure and keep cattle was a common theme.
We see an example of a particular cattle raid in the Irish epic, Tain bo Cualnge, or the “Cattle Raid of Cooley”, where there is a great conflict between five ancient provinces of Ulster and Connacht over a large bull, the Donn of Cuailnge in Ulster. This story was more about a supernatural being than an actual raiding of herds of cattle (Green, 21).
We also see similar stories in the Greek Iliad with Nestor’s cattle raid and the cattle raid of Helios in the Odyssey. In the Iliad 18.530-38, the Shield of Akhilles, they speak of the uproar of spooked cattle as they are being stolen, and the men mounted their horses and rode after them to do battle on the banks of the river with their bronze-tipped spears (Lincoln, 79).
Additionally, the Rig Veda talks about Trita who storms into battle by request of Indra, the warrior God. Trita kills a three-headed serpent (Lincoln, 10) and raided the cattle for him.
While cattle-raiding was a very present theme due to the economy at the time, it is not a practical one for modern society since we have developed an entirely different method of wealth and currency. You could attempt to compare cattle with modern-day wealth such as gold and/or currency, or even oil. In that aspect, cattle-raiding could be considered similar to theft and/or the selling of oil to varying countries as a form of wealth. The Middle East is often at war with each other for religious purposes, but there is still the migration of where oil is procured and fighting over that ability to obtain oil for sale to western countries.
(Word Count: 382)
Describe the image of the Otherworld and/or afterlife in three different IE cultures. How may these images impact your understanding of your own afterlife beliefs and those of Neo-Pagans in general? (400 words min.)
The Norse image of the afterlife is one of the most interesting concepts to me. They have a very strong theme of ancestral family and our relationship with them. The method of travel to the afterlife is generally through a boat, and continuing on into the afterlife either into the burial mound or into the halls of the Gods. The burial mounds are generally associated with the Alfar, who are considered those ancestral spirits who protect the lands. Also in Norse culture, as far as the Realms of the Gods go, Helheim is considered the realm of the dead and ruled by Hel. The most popular afterlife notion to many of the “Brohalla” heathens, or so I dub them, is the Hall of the Slain known as Valhalla. Those who die in battle are said to go here to continually fight and die in battle as part of Odin’s army. Folkvangr, or Freyja’s Hall, or even “Fields of the People”, is where the other half of the slain in battle will end up (Gundarsson, 143). So there are a lot of varying options depending on how you live your life and where the Gods happen to want you to go.
In Greek culture, which is probably one of the more well-known cultures in regards to mythological stories of the afterlife, there is the Elysian Fields and Tartarus. In comparison to a Christian faith, this is the equivalent of Heaven and Hell. The Elysian Fields were the more desirable location to go in the afterlife due to no extremities of any sort, which lends to “easy livin'”. Tartarus, on the other hand, is the darker part of Hades domain (God of the Underworld), for those who have done evil deeds to suffer in the afterlife (Puhvel, 139).
In Celtic lore, there are several “halls of the Gods” much like Norse literature. Ellis Davidson (Ellis Davidson, 176) speaks about the House of Donn (Tech Duinn) where many of the dead went in the afterlife with a focus on sportsmen and athletes. There is also the Halls of Manannan mac Lir, where the dead rest under the waves in the west in the land of the ever young (Kondratiev, 59). There is also simply an “otherworld” that the dead reside in the afterlife, which seems to be a relation in all three of these particular cultures.
Follow a more Norse and Anglo-Saxon slant in my personal spirituality attributes to the notion of a semi-peaceful afterlife into the burial mound. I have no intentions of dying in battle or committing any serious crimes that might persuade my afterlife direction. Dying and feasting every day is not an attractive afterlife for me. I am happy to simply be with my ancestral spirits protecting the land where I can.
(Total Word Count: 463)
Describe and compare how the cosmos is created through sacrifice in two different IE cultures. (150 words min. each culture)
In Norse culture, which is what I am most accustomed to these days, there is the creation story of Ymir the giant. The story starts with fire and ice from Niflheim and Muspellheim. The cataclysmic meeting of the two is what birthed Ymir. The frost had thawed into a cow named Audhumla, from whence came four rivers of milk that fed the giant Ymir. Audhumla licked the salty ice blocks and within the first few days she licked away enough ice to reveal a whole man named Buri. From there, Buri begat Bor, who married Bestla the daughter of a giant named Bolthorn, and they had three sons. Ymir was slain by Bor’s sons, Odinn, Vili, and Ve as the first sacrifice. From this he was carried to Ginnungagap and the world was created through his slain body. His blood formed the seas, lakes, and oceans, his flesh formed the earth, and his bones created the mountains, rocks, and pebbles. Lastly, his skull created teh sky and was set over the earth with four sides, and each corner was placed a dwarf (Lincoln, 128).
(Word Count: 182)
By comparison in the Greek culture, which I also have a slight affinity towards, Homer shows the development of the cosmology through Gaia (the earth) giving birth to Ouranos (the heavens), and between them they birth the Titans. Among the titans is Okeanos and Kronos, who were treated poorly by Ouranos (their father). Because of this poor treatment, Gaia conspires with Kronos to dispose of their father, and they do this through emasculation. Ouranos’s genitals fall into the sea and the foam produced Aphrodite (Puhvel, 27).
Now that the power of Ouranos is gone, he is dethroned by Kronos his son and he is sort of “set to pasture” at this point. From here, Kronos marries his sister, Rhea and lives in fear that he will have the same fate as his father. Kronos starts to eat his own children because of that fear, which coerces Zeus (who is saved by a trick and grows up in secret) to rise up against Kronos and overthrow him. However, again we do not have a death in the creation story, it is a “put to pasture” type influence where Kronos is retired to the Happy isles and Zeus takes over.
(Word Count: 196)
So while in the Greek lore there is not a death within the creation of the worlds, there is a dismemberment of Ouranos, like you see in the Norse myth with Ymir, in which the dismemberment is then use to help create something to advance the world. The two major types of sacrificial creation myths across a lot of indo-european cultures seems to be a succession of power, such as in the Greek or Hittite myths, or an actual physical death such as Ymir in the Norse culture, and the death of Remus from Romulus in Roman culture. Both types of creation myths are the end of something that is taken apart and then used to create something new.