Monday, 1 February 2010

Trifurcations

Right now I have two options before me; compile a database listing 4600 drawers of specimens, their geological age, geographical location and the species contained therein. Or do an accompanying statement for a job application.

The obvious thing is to invent a third task and do that. So here we go…

I have recently been delving into things proto-Indo European and Indo-European. On one hand more academically minded books such as West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth and the on-order Mallory’s In search of the Indo-Europeans: language, archaeology and myth. On the other hand I bought Ceiswr Serith’s Deep Ancestors.

The value in the first two is that they provide a very well put out ‘what came before’ for someone like me interested in the Britons of roughly 2000 years ago. They set out what we can know from comparative study of the I.E people, what their religious ideas developed in to in various corners of their distribution and as such begin something of a reconstruction of the missing pieces. Couple this with post-Celtic academic work, archaeology and Romano-British evidence and we can make a two pronged ‘attack’ of the time-slice and its inhabitants we are interested in.

So, comparative work can offer insights into what a creation myth might have looked like, who the first gods were and something of the people’s relationship with them. The value of Vedic sources comes into its own here too. It can give glimpses of the gods who are known only from a name.

Serith’s contribution goes back one temporal step to the P.I.E people and using similar lines of academic evaluation reconstructs what the religion would have been like, he then also sets out a kind of ritual framework that is at the very least nothing short of as truthful as possible to the reconstruction. Whilst that side of his book was of less value to me, the main body where he lays out his reasoning and re-assembles the pantheon is wonderful. It provides something of a framework with which to keep an eye on when doing similar for the Brythonic version.

So, all in all, the take home message from this diversion from paid work is to make use of Indo-European sources, they are probably far more instructive than anything you might buy which uses the mabinogion as a basis.

10 comments:

Deiniol said...

Well said!

If you liked those three books, in a similar vein you might like Jaan Puhvel's Comparative Mythology. Where West's book is organised broadly by theme, and concentrates on the poetic elements that can be drawn out of the mythological structures, Puhvel takes each linguistic group in turn (Vedic, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic, in that order IIRC) and outlines those elements of the mythology which exhibit IE elements, concluding with three chapters on some common mythological themes. It does read rather like a series of expanded lecture notes, admittedly, but it's very accessible.

And, for what it's worth, avoid Shan M Winn's Heaven, Heroes and Happiness. It's basically Puhvel's book recast in light of Marija Gimbutas' theories of a matriarchal neolithic goddess-worshipping Europe swamped by nomadic, patriarchal Indo-European armies.

dreamguardian said...

Thanks for the recommends, Lee & Deiniol. They're now on the 'to buy list!!'

I look forward to seeing how your myths develop Lee as I've been both impressed & stimulated by your work to date

Lee said...

thanks DG :)

nothing 'new' as such is springing to mind, more snippets really. i am giving thought o going back and revising the creation myth perhaps, or at least prepare something about the birth of briganti; some sort of flame from the first god Dyeus and a cow nurturing it maybe. im not sure.

also something involving the god of the underworld belatonos and his twin/brother (belenus maybe... not sure if it 'fits'. one coming to rule the underworld, the other the 'upper' worlds.

Deiniol said...

For what it's worth, I've always equated the Gaulish Sucellos with the role of Dis Pater/underworld god, even though to my knowledge there's no epigraphy mentioning him in Britain. "Belatonos" seems a bit harsh- "Big Death"? The IE underworld god seems to have been big on prosperity and fertility, very third function, but not so big on the actual death aspect of the afterlife.

Lee said...

hmm... maybe i mispelled it or something, no 'name' as such rings true with me for duch a figure as yet so i cobbled that belatonos thing together as a placeholder. Vindos i suppose in terms of the role portrayed by Gwynn in legend an folklore but even then im not sure.

Bo said...

Why not just keep him as Sucellos, as Deiniol suggests? (Of course I've followed custom and identified him with the Dagda (<*Dagodeiwos) in my little sacrifical story.

Deiniol said...

I refer to Sucellos as *deiwos dagos in prayers, myself. Covers both bases ;)

Slag310 said...

For a different view of trifurctions, see this link,
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2474370/protoindoeuropean_religion.html?cat=37
which explains the fascist origins of this theory.

Slag310

Lee said...

interesting essay there slag, I am aware of Dumezil's trifunctionalism hypothesis.

in this case the word is trifurcation, cf. bifurcation. i.e three differing routes or possibilities... which i mention in the first line of the post.

Lee said...

I assume also that you have read:

http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~stroumsa/Georges.PDF


lee