“There can be no doubt that gods have appeared, not only in ancient times but even late in history; they feasted with us and fought at our sides. But what good is the splendor of bygone banquets to a starving man? What good is the clinking of gold that a poor man hears through the wall of time? The gods must be called.”
– Ernst Jünger, Eumeswil
The etymology of the word “God” traces back via Germanic and thence Proto-Germanic languages to find itself ultimately at the Proto-Indo-European root of ‘Ghewh’ – To Call Upon, To Invoke. [And, perhaps simultaneously and not at all coincidentally, the slightly differently inflected ‘Ghew’ – ‘to pour’, to render libations]
A God, therefore, is quite literally, in those languages which hail to us from these Germanic ancestors, One Who Is Called Upon [One Who Is Offered To].
And A Gothi [or Goði, if we are doing the fancy thing with the d/th lettering], often translated directly as ‘Priest’, is therefore more precisely a “Caller”, an “Invoker”, of the Gods – a “Pourer” out of the holy offering libations Unto Them. [Which has, incidentally, some *incredibly* interesting potential imputations for the range of “Geat”-related ethnonyms of the Nordic-origin peoples, particularly given the salience of “Gautr” as an Odinic theonym … but more on that another time]
Entirely appropriately, exactly the same formula is replicated in Sanskrit, when we are speaking of the Priest presiding over such a Ritual – a होतृ , a Hotr. Now, the terms for these Rituals – हवन, होम [Havan, Homa], they likely derive ultimately from that same ‘Ghew’ Proto-Indo-European particle referring to the making of an offering libation. Poured into the Sacred Flame which stands at the heart of the proceedings.
But interestingly, the “ह्वे” Sanskrit root itself, has come to mean exactly the same as the Germanic derivatives of PIE ‘Ghewh’ – that is to say, ‘To Call (Upon)’, ‘To Invoke’, ‘To Invite’ [I hesitate to say ‘To Conjure’, for that seems somewhat lacking in the desired Respect, not least to the Invitee(s), the Respondent(s), the Invoked].
And ‘Hotr’ itself, has also come to have a somewhat more abstract meaning, particularly in certain Upanishadic and other later contexts, of the *Voice*, congealed in an area of the throat about the location of the vocal cords [or, perhaps, if we are singing – ‘chords’], and occasionally conceived of as akin to the *Fire*, especially the *all-permeating Fire*, Itself! [This has further implications around the ‘Flame-Tongues’ of Brhaspati and Lord Agni … as well as, for that matter, for other and more overtly ‘consuming’, ‘destructive’ Deities … but another series of stories for another time ; ]
So, what do we have here? A case, very potently, of ‘parallel’ and yet ‘convergent’ linguistic evolution. In which each of the main #NAS Liturgical Languages have arrived, from overlapping roots, at strikingly similar, indeed downright nearly completely coterminous results in their respective terms for the presiders over a sacrificial rite.
Something which is rendered rather more remarkable given a) the differences in ‘caste system’ which both (post-)Vedic and Eddic societies developed [i.e. the rather more specialized Priestly Varna of Hinduism – specifically identified, entirely uncoincidentally, as the ‘Mouth’ of society in the ‘Purusha’ understanding of the Caturvarnas ; as compared with the Gothi basically being a subset of the Jarl caste of nobles in Nordic society – indeed, an identified term for a ‘Rune-Carver’ in Migration Age Runic inscriptions is ‘Erilaz’, the Proto-Germanic root for ‘Jarl’, as well as later English ‘Earl’, etc.; respectively]; and b) the differences in ‘baseline’ terms for Divinity in each culture’s mytholinguistic corpus [i.e. Hinduism has, along with Latin, gone for a term or terms reflecting [potentially solar, certainly ‘Celestial’] ‘Radiance’ and shining – “Deva”, in this case; whereas the Germanic understandings are rather more .. ‘fractured’, to say the least – including the ‘God’ related terms aforementioned, as well as arguably more specific meanings around ‘Aesir’, etc.] .
In any case, and to return to the Jünger quotation with which we incepted this piece, what we have here also are two fundamental truths of Indo-European Piety.
1. The Gods are not abstract, unreachable[-out-to], uncaring, in a word – “remote” – entities which exist far beyond any potential nor possible mortal engagement nor interaction.
Although, at the same time, and vitally importantly, if our faith is approached in a manner perhaps akin to what is commonly meant by the term ‘cargo-cult’ – wherein a sort of vague belief in something is held as what will eventually, one day, lead to it or their return – then it is no wonder that the Gods are thought of by this or that latter-day ‘atheist-in-a-funny-hat’ [as I have taken to terming the sort of person who just seems to want the aesthetics of a mythos, while openly and often quite loudly professing their ardent *disbelief* that there’s actually any underlying Reality, Mythic or Otherwise, Thereto] , as simply being ‘abstractions’, euhemeric echoes of long-dead men and maybe natural phenomena. Because it’s – at best – ‘history’, in the sense of musty tomes and boring, droning lectures from the worse kinds of museum tour guides. Not “our story”, not even a “story wot happens to other people” – but rather, a story which happened so long ago to other people that it’s felt to have abjectly little-to-no relevancy to us here today. Generally without even inspiring the serious awe which encountering Ozymandias in the desert would induce immediately before noting the utter (intentional) irony in the poetic rendering of the inscription.
This leads us naturally on to 2. Namely, the fact that, having accepted 1., we gain the knowledge that there *are* ways to interact with, to seek to engage, and to Call (back) The Gods. Although not for the faint of heart nor the trembling of voice.
This is *exactly* why these two sets of ‘Clerical’ terms – Gothis, and Hotrs – *preserve* the notion of Calling Out To The Divine.
And also, funnily enough, in a meta-sociological sense, perhaps why “Cleric” has gone, in modern English, from referring also to a member of the Clergy … to receiving its main continued spoken relevancy (outside of RPG games), in the context of ‘Clerical’ labours – i.e. bureaucratic and paper-work. Almost entirely *outside* even ecclesiastic organizations, let alone with any particular Divine goal nor correspondent nor orientation.
So, in summary – if a community does not Call the Gods [Pour Libations Unto Them], it should not necessarily be surprised to find that it seems to be living in a reality wherein The Gods aren’t “there” [i.e. ‘responding’ – later transmuted to ‘existing all up’, in the subjective perceptions of increasingly many in some parts of the world].
Meanwhile, for those seeking to ‘Call Back’ the Gods … faith may be bricks [with which, in this context, the Havan-Altar can be constructed] …. but it is the proper manner and mechanism and mindset and mouthwork that goes *with it* [the ‘fire’ in the altar thusly raised; the mortar between the bricks of a house, of prayer or otherwise – and a ‘house’ without love is not a ‘homa’] which is necessary to actually *build these* into a Beacon of Revanchism – of Return.
Therefore: It is a great thing indeed to be knowledgeable in the areas of theology, of mythography, and of course of linguistics.
It is a greater thing, still, to be possessed of a ‘belief’ – for that is what, even independent of the former [which may yet be merely academic trivia and trivializing rather than any genuine guide to the contents of a man’s life or his mind nor ethos], may yet animate and ignite proper Piety, both within and beyond the bounds of the Soul.
But “faith without deeds is meaningless”, goes the proverb.
And in the absence of ‘Calling’ – that is not “Homa” … that is simply, at best, “hope”.