"Indo-European mythologies: genesis and evolution of characters."
(The materials of international symposium in Pyotr Veliky Anthropology and Ethnography Museum. Saint Petersburg, 1999).
Many scientists study the problems of the Indo-European pantheon reconstruction. This choice is determined by importance of the Indo-European culture sources (especially Scandinavian, Celt, Slav, Balt, Thracian, Indian ones) for the contemporary political and cultural processes. However, as a rule these investigations consider the separate culture worlds in general area of these peoples. Besides that, specialists in texts do not usually consider the objects of the archaic art. But artifacts could be throw light on the many controversial questions. Therefore author of this article believes that he can make the new contribution to the investigations of an archaic kernel of the Indo-European myths and its development tendencies. I have studied the numerous archaeological catalogues and gathered all of the figurative ancient art representations. I have investigated also the modern scientific points of view on the problems of Indo-European pantheon reconstruction. On whole the books by such world scholars as G. Dumezil, V. Ivanov, V. Toporov and others, who study a wide range of the peoples, are known for me. But my leading idea for analysis of the representations is influenced by A. Golan and J. Hatt' studies. Besides the main approach of my work is the comparative one, that has produced the good results in linguistics. And certainly I must study the investigations by specialists in each specific cultural world: Etruscan, Celt, Scandinavian, Thracian, Illirian, Slav, Balt etc.
Golan says about two initial mythological characters: The Goddess of Sky and her husband - The Lord of Underworld. The latter one had two images: undeground - in the form of a snake or a beast, and heavenly - in the form of an eagle (when he flew up to his wife). Golan also thinks that The God of Earth (personified by bull) existed separately from The Lord of Underworld. Besides God of Earth there was the Cultural Hero (in form of ram or stag). He was venerated as an ancestor and protector of people. This hypothesis was confirmed by Golan in terms of numerous examples. But he proves the existence of some general religion in the Neolithic Age. On the contrary, the theme of my research is the Indo-European mythologies. Therefore I am not interested in signs and symbols, but in object of figurative art, such as the claudron from Gundestrup.
Hatt bases his interpretation of this object representations on the idea of the Celtic god of thunder - Taranis (figure 1) and the Celtic god of earth - Cernunnos (figure 2). The Great Goddess was their wife (figure 3). The third male divinity of the Celtic pantheon was Teutates (figure 4), who was called Mars by the Romans. He personified the clear sky and protected a tribal community. (Teutatis is derived from Celtic word "tribe").
Besides Cernunnos (his stag horn symbolized his connections with the vegetable and animal kingdoms), there existed the related character. This was Smertrios or Ogmios, but the Romans named him Hercules. And Smertrius was an object of Taranis's hatred. The God of Thunder sent his terrible wolf to kill The Hero (figure 5). Besides, Taranis sent the dogs to capture a sacrificial calf of Smertrius (figure 6). But The Hero would always win.
There is an agreement between the ideas of Hatt and Golan. Celtic Taranis can correlate with the air image of The Underworld Lord. Cernunnos and Smertrius resemble with The Earth God and The Cultural Hero, suffering from anger of Taranis (persecuted by The Lord of Underworld). Wellknown plot of the Ancient Orient art presents Bull, being tormented by Lion.
One should mention, that Hatt and Golan have got different scientific interests. The first scholar suggested an original reconstruction of Celtic mythology. Golan have tried to restore some world mythology structure, the sources of which he found in "the religion of Neolithic Age". But I am interested in the problem of correlation of the certain divinities and myths in the Indo-European civilisation. Therefore as the "sceleton" of pagan tradition has been outlined, one has to investigate its local variants.
First, let us consider the transformations of Celtic divinities in Christianised Irish sagas. Taranis disappiared. Onwards the sky thunder is connected with Christian god. But Cernunnos is presented as the personification of Otherworld (not Underworld!). In the sagas he is named "Daghdhda", "Good god". This epithet corresponds to another name of Cernunnos - "Esus". The identity of Dahghda and Cernunnos is supported by a Gallo-Roman relief, showing three herons standing on a bull back (figure 7). It is known, that three herons symbolized Brighid, Dahghda's daughter. The Great Goddess was named Goddess Danu. Celtic Teutates is transformed into Irish Nuadha deprived of the sky function (like Taranis), but keeping his kingship.
The character of Smertrius-Ogmios divided into two divinities. The first, who kept the name Oghma, was considered a great hero and the creator of paganish letters. The second (Lugh) has became the keeper of mystery knowledge. Ancient Romans (who comprehended the Barbarian mythologies better than some people usually think), identified Lugh withHermes/Mercury. It is an important item of information, because ancient sources identified Hermes/Mercury also with Wodan (Odin). Consequently, we can identify Lugh and the Germanic-Scandinavian lord of the dead warriors' world.
According to "Elder Edda" Odin created runic letters. And therefore we can compare him with Oghma and ancient Smertrius. Comparing Celtic and Germanic-Scandinavian mythologies one should remember the hostility of terrible wolves to Odin and Smertrius. According to Hatt, on the surface Gundestrup claudron Taranis was represented as the master of the wolf. He is like Thor of the Scandinavian pantheon. However, in the Northlands Odin became king of gods. Perhaps it was connected with the idea of Odin as the ancestor of Germanic tribes and kings. (According to Edda, Odin created mankind. "Historia Britonum" reports that Woden was many Saxon leaders' progenitor. At last, Odin was reputed to be the ancestor of the ancient Danish dynasty of the Volsungs). When this character become the Scandinavian pantheon chief, Thor turned into his son. But the traces of the hostility between these divinities remained. Possibily Fenrir wolf killing Odin, in an older variant of Scandinavian myth also belonged to The God of Thunder (like Celtic tradition). Why did the latter hate The Cultural Hero? His hatred was probably caused by the relationship between The Hero and The God of Earth, or by the fact that The Hero had stolen some treasure or knowledge.
The bronze matrice from Torslunda (Oland, 8-th c. a.d. - figure 7) shows a warrior with two spears and a wolf-man wounding him by a spear in the heel. It gives rise to a new question. In "Edda" Odin's death is described differently. Probably, this is also an older variant of the myth.
The representation on the matrice from Torslunda belongs to the so-called "dancing warrior" type. This type was widely spreaded widely in the Vendel and Viking periods of art. (See the helmets from Walsgarde - figure 8, 9, 10). We can see an interesting detail - the dancing warriors wearing horns. If they symbolize Odin, what does this detail meen? In terms of our hypothesis, the horns are the attribute of The God of Earth. Perhaps a risen Odin's character included this attributes. It is confirmed by the comparison with Celtic tradition. Cernunnos was accompanied by animals (a stag, a serpent, a bull). Odin is connected with the World Tree and the some animals: a horse, deer, ravens. On the gold horn from Hallechus (figure 11) the deer attacked by dogs is near the dancing warriors. These representations are like the representations on the wellknown claudron from Gundestrup. Esus (who was one of the peronifications of Cernunnos) accepted sacrifice hanging on a tree (as well as Odin). Once Odin sacrificed himself. He had been hanging on the World Tree for 9 days and nights.
So on the basis of these findings I suggest the following types of Indo-European gods: The God of Thunder, The God of Earth Powers, The God of Sky, The Great Goddess and The Cultural Hero (or simply The Hero). Some of these divinities merged into the united character or inversely divided into several gods, but it is natural, as the religion systems developed during centures and milleniums. Now we shall verify this hypothesis on the mythological material of other Indo-European cultures.
In ancient Greece The Sky God was named "Zeus". This name is correlated with Teutat and Tyr (Tiwaz) and also Balt Dievas, Indian Dyaus. All these names are connected with Indo-European foundation "deino" - "daies sky". The thunderous function was acquired by Zeus later. His wife Hera is one of The Great Goddess's personifications. The Greek god of Otherworld was Hades. However in ancient Greece there was other god connected with natural power of the earth, the animal and vegetable kingdoms. He is more vivid than fruitless Hades. This is Dionysus. The united type of The Cultural Hero is divided into several characters. These are Prometeus, the creator of mankind (The god of Thunder - Zeus made him suuffer a lot); Heracles (fighting against a terrible dog Cerberus) and some other. But Odin/Lugh was identified by ancient authors with Hermes/Merkury. Possibly this is not accidental, and basically The Hero was the guide of souls into Otherworld. There are Greek reliefs showing Hermes with a ramhead phallus (the ramhead snake is a typical attribute of Cernunnos. May be, this creature is an embodiment of The Cultural Hero, as the ancestor of mankind). On a Romano-Gaulish stelae Hermes was depicted on the left from Cernunnos (figure 12). And the representation of Hermes with young Dionysus is also not accidentally. The Greeks remembered about the relationship between The Cultural Hero and The God of Earth Powers. Both of them were connected with herds. Hermes's son Pan took part in Dionysus's Festival. On some ancient reliefs (4-th century B. C.) Pan is depicted sitting with his legs crossed (It is the typical pose of Cernunnos). And Dionysos wearing ram horns was also depicted often. He was venerated by orphics as horned serpent Sagreus, who turned into a bull and was torn to pieces by titans.
There are a similar characters in Indian mythology. Indra, The God of Thunder and Dyaus, The Sky God existed separately. The whole image character of The Great Goddess have not remained, although Kali Durga and Prthivi discented from her. The possessor of natural power Rudra was The God of Earth Powers. One of Rudra's ephithets is Pasupati, "the master of cattle". Possibly, this character originated from representations on the sighns of Indus civilisation (figure 13). The divinity supported with animals on this sign and resembls Celtic Cernunnos (figure 2). Then Rudra became one of the great medieval god Civa's names. But there was another related character in Veda. In a wellknown myth Indra and his dog Sarama (dog again!) set free heaven cows and defeated Vala, who concealed the cows in a cave. (It is interesting, that according to a Greek myth, Hermes also stole the cows).
As for The Cultural Hero, Manu and Yama - the sons of Vivasvat are quite suitable for this role. Manu was reputed as the progenitor and the ruler of mankind. In terms of the same tradition Yama was the first dead man and the ruler of ancestors. In ancient Iran these two divinities merged into an united character. This is Yima, a legendary king of the Golden Age. (His prototype is the first man and the master of the first bull. According to Russian scholars V. Ivanov and V. Toporov, Scandinavian giant Ymir with his cow Audumla and also Imra - a demiurge of the relict Aryan pagans of Hindu Kush associate with this theme).
In Slav and Balt folklores we can also see the similar examples. Above-mentioned Balt Dievas is typical variation of The Sky God. Balt Vels and Slav Veles have got a resemblance with Indian Vala not only in their names. These gods stole the cattles of the thunder gods Percunas and Perun accordingly and suffered a persecute. Due to Lithuanian dualistic legends and some other sources we know about a complicated relationship between Vels and the wolf. Vels was a bridge builder and a musician (like Pan, who played the pipe). We have got the plot of tempting Percunas's wife (Zemyna), turned into a chtonic goddess after her moral fall (She was tempted by Vels). At least, Boyan - a legendary Russian story-teller was named "the Veles's grandson". Veles was considered also as god of forest, abundance and the dead.
Lithuanian guide of souls into Otherworld was Sovius. Like Indian Yama, he became the first deņeased and the cremation custom founder. As for Slavs, their folklore preserved such an interesting personage as Yarila (West Slaw Herovit). At spring festivals in open streets, on puplic holidays organised in his honour a youth, wearing a wreath of ears and riding on a white horse, played the part of Yarila. Besides, in autumn Yarila's funeral was celibrated. (This personage was shown then as a representation of an old man with an enormous phall). We can see, that Yarila has got attributes of a dying and rising from the dead divinity. As an ancestor, he is like Dazhbog.
Dazhbog was the god of good and light. He was considered to be the ancestor of the ancient Russians. Dazhbog/Yarila is interesting as a horseman (figure 14). It is important, because the most well-known character of Thracian religion is also a horsemen. Usually he is called "Thracian Hero", or simply "Hero".
"Thracian Hero" was compared with Greek Heracles. The plaques from Letnitsa (4-th B. C., figure 15) show this character as a great hunter, the lord of animals, great drinker and tribal progenitor. By the way, the design of some plaques is like the design of the Vendel period helmet plaques (figure 8, 9, 10) and some Etruscan reliefs (figure 17). At least many Scythian idols in phallic forms represent male figures in the poses of rider. Some scholars think them to be representations of dead rulers, others suggest some mythical characters (for instance - Scithian ancestor Kolaksay or even Slav Dazhbog). But these points of view do not contradict each other.
It may be noted that this Indo-European scheme influenced Ob-Ugrian beliefs. Especially such an interesting Vogul mythical character as Mir-Susne-Hum - "The Man, Who Supervises The World" (figure 18). He is a national hero of the Ob-Ugrians (the Voguls and Ostyaks), their totem. Mir-Susne-Hum rides on a horse with eight wings. He is a wanderer, mediator and has got a resemblance with Scandinavian Odin.
So, I have investigated the principal mythological structure of the Indo-European peoples. The advantages of this research are: firstly - the widest grasp of various traditions; secondly - a comparison between artefacts relating to one and the same tradition but in different epoches; thirdly - application of texts and artefacts.
The obtained results confirm the principal ideas of Golan and Hatt. An extraordinary stability of the basical mythological types have been shown. The Cultural Hero's pecularities, his character origins and transformations have accounted for. In terms of this study some problems can be solved, for example: the origin of Odin/ Daghdha and some other gods; the interpretations of numerous ancient art objects. At last some lost mythological fragments can be reconstructed. My research gives rise to the following interesting questions: is it possible to deduce the divinity characters of Light, Sea, Craftmanship, Love and so on from the above-mentioned basical types or not?; why did different Indo-European peoples endow different types of gods with super power (in spite of the fact that the general mythological structure remained the same)? It is the widest field for ethnical mentality investigations. Unfortunately, in consequence of this article brevity, I can not state the complete chain of my conclusions. I can intend only, that the knowledge of one's tradition and the neighbors' tradition allows for man to realize his role in exchanging world. The past must be to address to the future.
Summary table of Indo-European gods
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