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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