1. 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 overall characteristic of all IE cultures is that they all share a common root language. Since language comes from people, it also comes with customs, values, myths, social structure, etc of that people. As a result, the IE cultures share similar social structures and myths along with related languages.
The social structures of the IE cultures should be very recognizable to those of us in the western world. This is a result of the pastoral lifestyle. This lifestyle lead to a patriarchal society since it was mostly the men who were responsible for maintaining and protecting the herds which were their source of food and wealth. This eventually led to a hierarchy in society where those with more cattle, for example, had more wealth and a higher status. This eventually led to raids to steal animals, and raise their own status. As a result we get a war oriented society and this is seen in many of the myths.
The hierarchy that we start to see is a stratified society with some mobility. In general, the IE societies are divided into three classes, the priests and kings, warriors, and commoners or producers. This three part society is one of the characteristics of the IE cultures and can be seen in the Vedic, Greek, Roman, and Celtic cultures. Again, this is reflected in the myths. We commonly see a priestly or ruling class of deities like Odin. We have a war oriented class of deities such as Thor. We also have an earth based class of deities like Freyr and Freyja.
The common root language can be traced back by looking at the evolution of language. As we look at the various languages out there, we can trace back words to common roots. Some languages like German took certain letters, like p, and changed them to new letters, like f. We also find that some words are unique to the IE languages because of the environment that it originated from. An example of this is horse. The IE people had horses and domesticated them early on, while neighboring people did not have horses and didn’t have a word for them.
The common mythological themes are also a good way of identifying a culture as IE. While the themes are common through all IE cultures, they do not always appear in every culture. There are common themes in the mythology, which will be discussed more in depth in the IE-Mythology 1 course. A war between 2 sets of deities which in turn help with the setting up of a stratified society is one example. The war between the Tuatha de Dannan and the Fomorians in Irish myth, Olympians and Titans in Greek, and Aesir and Vanir in Norse are all great examples of this. Another common theme is the Hero cycle as best shown through Herakles of the Greeks, but also Lugh of the Irish and Sigurd of the Norse. The cultures also tend to share a common creation myth that involves a twin, and there is also a common end of the world myth throughout all these cultures.
The patriarchal society, tripartition of society, both of which are reflected in a common myth cycle, talked about in the IE-Mythology 1 course, and the common root language all part of what defines an IE culture (Winn).
2. 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)
George Dumezil’s theory of tripartition is really talking about the social hierarchy that one can observe in western societies. The basic idea is that society is stratified into the priests and rulers, the Warriors, and then the rest which were the producers. This can also be seen in, of all things, the flags of various countries. The most common colors for flags are white, red, and blue or green. It’s theorized that we associate white with the priestly class, red with the warrior class, and blue or green with those who work the land. All of these are colors that are also often associated with the clothing of those classes (Georges Dumézil).
We can see this tripartition throughout the various IE cultures. If we look at the Romans, for example, they had a priest and the kings that were considered to be of the highest social status. Right below them were the warriors. The rest of the people were of the producer, farming group of people. There was some mobility though. It was possible for a boy to move up the social ladder though by joining the military. This was usually the younger sons who would join the military. There were also occasions where those in the military were able to move up to the ruling class. Overall though, most people were stuck in the position they were born (Trifunctional Hypothesis).
We can also look at the Celts and see similar stratification of the society. The priestly class was the Druids who were the learned people of the Celts. The rest were the same. There was again, some limited mobility in this society. It was possible to become a Druid, but only after 20 years of intense study.
If we look at the Norse though, by the time history was recorded, the priestly class of people was not mentioned, and the society was mostly divided into warriors and producers. The society was ruled by kings though, which fulfill the first function, so we do still have the tripartition of the society (Winn 11).
I personally do believe that the tripartition theory is very valid for classifying IE societies. If we look at all the societies that we consider IE based solely on the language relations, we can see this theory in practice in both their society and the mythology.
3. 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)
The Germanic/Norse people are located throughout northeastern Europe, including the current countries of Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Scandinavia. If we are to follow the Kurgan theory as told by Winn, then these people were part of the third wave of the IE expansion (Winn 342). The Kurgans would have come in through the Balkans and into the river valleys of eastern Europe.
On their journey they would have run into the Trichterbecher (TRB) or Funnel Beaker culture. This culture was involved in animal husbandry; however there were settlements and some agriculture, unlike the IE people. The burials with the TRB were communal and possessions were generally not included. Around 3000 BCE though, we can see a change in burials to more Kurgan in style (Funnel Beaker Culture). This culture clash is a possible explanation for the war between the Aesir and the Vanir.
Why did they move into the area? Well, it’s thought that they were a pastoral society, and they probably moved with their animals to find “greener pastures”. When they settled in northern Europe they of course brought with them their language. At first the native and Indo-European language were both spoken for trade purposes. Eventually though, the dominant language (probably Indo-European) replaced the other. This can be a possible explanation for the lack of complexity that is seen in southern Europe where there was more mixing of the language. (Winn 351) They also brought with them a patriarchal and more war like society, a common trait of Indo-European societies.
After they settled into northern Europe, they didn’t completely settle. They are known to be people that would keep moving and exploring. There was likely contact between the Germanic people and the Celtic people to their west. This has lead to some the Germanic people picking up some new words. Examples would be iron and town, both of which are of Celtic origin and probably were brought into the Germanic culture through trade.. (Old English Lexicon (appendix to the OE Grammar)) There are also numerous accounts of the Vikings raiding the British Isles and of course we must remember that the Normans and Anglo-Saxons all have Germanic roots. This was the start of trade routes. Again, there was more trade of language that occurs whenever different cultures meet.
We also have historical writings of encounters with the Germanic people through Tacitus with Germania and Caesar with his Gallic Wars. (Puhvel 166) Here we again get language transfer of hundreds of words. (Old English Lexicon (appendix to the OE Grammar)) Apart from the language transfer and trade, the Romans had other influence on the Germanic people. They were often at war with them. Conventional thought is that the Germanic people were part of the cause of the fall of Rome, but there is also the thought out there that they were co-opted into Rome to replace the leadership that left for Constantinople. (Germanic Peoples)
One thing that makes the Germanic people unique from other Indo-European cultures comes from their mythology. As one looks at the mythology, we can see that the trifunctional traits that Dumezil proposes are missing. In the myth there is no true first function deity. This also translates into the culture itself. We don’t have any good evidence of a priestly class. This role, through the Eddas and Sagas tends to be done by the leaders who are of the warrior second function. (Winn 11) We also see a very diminished role for women in the myth compared to other cultures. This could be the culture itself since it is a very male centered war like culture. It could also be due to the timeframe of when the stories were written down since women and Goddesses were not always written about by the Christian monks. Language also has continued to change. We can still see modern German as an Indo-European language. We can still trace many of the words to their Indo-European roots through the use of rules such as Grimm’s laws for the shift of consonants. (Proto-Germanic)
We then get the Catholic Church taking over the Germanic people. This was not an easy thing for them to do, and they were one of the last European cultures to succumb to the church, surviving into the 1000’s before the Scandinavian king was converted. This of course supplanted the Pagan religion. It was largely due to the Christians Snorri Sturluson and Saxo Grammaticus that we have the lore we currently have. But, as mentioned earlier, this lore was written down through a Christian lens. As an example, Snorri has the Aesir being a race of men from around Turkey. Even with the huge influence that the Christians had on the Germanic culture, they were able to keep alive many of the Indo-European traditions that they did have. In the end, I don’t think the Germanic people have lost their roots as an Indo-European culture, even though they have changed in the past few thousand years.
4. 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)
The Greeks are a different culture that we can take a look at. These people were located in the crossroads of everything. As a result they have been affected by many cultures, and have had influence on many cultures. We can see this through their mythology in how complicated and diverse it is. There is an older, earth based grouping of mythology that starts with Ouranos and Gaia. Language wise, they are much more diverse and it is very hard to try to find the IE influence. These people were also in the middle of many of the migratory paths due to their location and that has made their language more diverse.
We do see the IE influence though in their culture. When you look at their mythology we do see a transfer of ideology from that of the earth focused culture of Gaia to that of a war based culture of Zeus and family. This is a direct influence of the IE people migrating in and through. Now, the Greeks also migrated and helped spread their culture around to, for example Anatolia (Gantz 1).
Now, compared to the Germanic/Norse people, the Greeks had more contact with others. As a result, their culture is much more diverse. We can see this in the language. The Greeks have many words that can't be traced back to IE roots where as the Germanic/Norse people do. Place names don’t share the common endings that one sees with other IE peoples.
We can see a similar myth cycle though as that of the Germanic/Norse people. There was a war of sorts between the new, war based deities and the old earth based deities. The cycle does also continue along the same lines as the rest of the IE people though as does the Germanic/Norse` (Puhvel 126, 189).
Overall, though, the biggest difference between the two cultures is how much outside influence the culture had. The Greeks had more influence from outside cultures due to trade and migrations than the Germanic/Norse people. This had the effect of more words being incorporated in the Greek language and many of the customs and ideas of the cultures that they had contact with (Puhvel 126).
5. 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)
ADF has from the start defined itself as IE centered. At first glance this seems to be a rather odd thing to do as other groups tend to be centered on only Celts, Norse, Romans, Greek, etc. cultures. Upon deeper examination though, we can see that being IE based is actually rather smart as it provides us more sources to draw from and a more complete picture of the ancient cultures (Winn) (Puhvel).
Being IE based, and defining ourselves IE based really takes us down to the core of the beliefs in all the cultures we encompass. When we study the IE cultures, we keep finding more similarities than differences. This is not just in the cultures themselves, but also in the mythos of the cultures. As I have been going through the various courses in ADF and some of the workshops that are given, I am constant amazed at how similar all the cultures we encompass are.
Since we can see the similarities between all the cultures, we can now start to infer what is missing. Unfortunately much of what once was is missing, especially in the northern European cultures. This is in part due to the lack of recording what was done, but also due to the materials used in the old days just was not able to be preserved. Through archeology and anthropology though we can see what things were like then, and make inferences as to what was at the various sites and their purposes. We do have a couple sources, namely Pliny, Cesar, and Tacitus, that recorded things around the time they happened. Most of the writings we have on theses northern European cultures were written post Christian influence though.
ADF freely admits that we are not historically accurate. We base ourselves on historical practices as best as we can, but we realize we have to adapt ourselves to modern times, and modern laws. As a result we are a recreationalist group instead of one of the various reconstructionalist groups out there. Personally, I think that this is the way we should be. The practices of the past are extremely relevant to modern practices. They tell us what the deities liked and expected out of worship. Research also reveals to us the values and ethics the cultures had which are just as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. These, from my personal experience, tend to be relatively but are frequently ignored in modern society.
It is always useful to see where we have been. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20:20. We can see what mistakes or non-pleasant things were done and not repeat them because they make no sense in a modern context. Also, seeing how they worshiped will aide us in finding acceptable way for us to worship the Kindred. We know that things change over time, and we have to adapt. As long as we are honoring what the old ones honored in their day, what’s to say the Kindred won’t adapt with us?
In the future, I foresee that we will continue to adapt and change what we do. We will continue to have research that will enhance our understanding of the past. We will forge stronger connections with the Kindred in our modern context, and we will continue to modify what we do to fit modern times and technology. We are definitely not the same group we were when ADF was founded. We have experimented and done the research. As a result we have grown and developed a good relationship with the Kindred that will forever be in a state of modification.
I would not be surprised if at some point we start having technology, such as electronic books, in ritual (the idea of a glowing tome of knowledge in the ritual space is very appealing to me). Who says that the ancients wouldn’t appreciate that? I am sure that what we do in ADF though will be based on what was historically done, modified by new research.
Funnel Beaker Culture. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funnel_Beaker_Culture>.
Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth. Vol. 1. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1993.
Georges Dumézil. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Dum%C3%A9zil>.
Germanic Peoples. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_peoples>.
Old English Lexicon (appendix to the OE Grammar). <http://indoeuro.bizland.com/archive/article19.html>.
Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. London: Johns Hopkins PRess, 1989.
Trifunctional Hypothesis. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifunctional_hypothesis>.
Winn, Shan M. M. Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995.