Indo European Mythology 1, #2

This entry was posted on September 28, 2013 under Clergy Program, Generalists Program, Indo-European Myth 1. Written by:

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)

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