Earlier this week, one of our associates – who’s a good guy, although we don’t always agree – put up a thought about comparative Indo-European theology. It included the following:
“All IE religions have a sky father, Earth mother and twin Gods. But, that doesn’t mean those Gods aren’t sovereign entities, uniquely different from their cognates of other cultures. […] Divinity manifests differently according to the specific tribe it tailors to.”
Now, I think that this is a useful quote; because it affords us a springboard to talk about one of the really important, core issues to the entire thing. There’s no getting around the fact that this or that Indo-European people’s mythology both has similar elements … but can express even the similar bits in occasionally *wildly* different ways. And it’s tempting, when you see something like that, to conclude that that’s for the deceptively simple reason that they may have different Gods.
But this is not the position we take at #NAS – the Nordic Aryan Sangha; nor is it the position of Arya Akasha, when we are speaking theologically rather than, say, reducing the whole thing to an exercise in comparative literature. Or however it is that the people who study mythology that aren’t religious approach such things. With caution, one would hope.
Anyway, there are three broad ways to construct the argument for our position. Which I won’t go into *huge, expansive* detail upon, within the span of this piece.
All of them, of course, are predicated upon the idea that actually, yes, Gods exist. Surprising position for religious people to take, I know, but apparently an increasingly less common one in these days of pseudo-Jungian archetypes and placenta-autism cult-LARP-ery.
The first of these is what we might term the ‘Genetic’ perspective. We know that the Proto-Indo-Europeans had, broadly speaking, a unified pantheon. Which then – again, broadly speaking – went *with* the various Indo-European groups out with them when they embarked upon their migrations.
It would not make sense, I do not think, to assert that the same Gods, worshiped by the same people, once … are now somehow *different* Gods, Who just happen to be suspiciously similar looking and acting. And to oppose that They’re the *same* Gods, and always have been, largely if not entirely because the people in question is now living a few hundred or a few thousand kilometers further distant from where they started out, or where their cousins have wound up at.
I mean, if you were to take that position, you might as well declare that the Thor worshipped in America is “American Thor”, and that this is not necessarily the same deity as “Nordic Thor”
Which, I grant you, a certain comic book company slash Disney cinematic universe … and, in a different way, if one recalls correctly, a certain well-regarded fantasy author plus associated TV series … appear to be attempting to take things.
Now if you’re really quite intent upon insisting that the Gods of various Indo-European peoples are *not* the same Gods, despite acknowledging that the Indo-European peoples and assumedly their Gods *were* of unified origin once upon a time … I’m sure that the creative-fiction types out there within the backwoods of France or facebook shall put forehead-straining effort (from effort of bashing into a brick wall) into coming up with SOME sort of headcanon pseudosplanation with which to buttress their continued obstinance upon this subject. As I have often been known to observe, even a mirror shall not show you the image of your face if you are absolutely determined not to see it therein. So whether it’s “MITOSIS” , or “IMPOSTERS”, or some yet more far-fetched handwavium entirely, I have little doubt that somebody’ll turn up to try and opposite what has just been said because they would prefer not to believe it. That is on them. Reality, as I think Philip K. Dick may have observed, is that which persists *regardless* of whether you choose to acknowledge it.
However, having said all of that, it would be something of a mistake – a mythtake, indeed – to get *too* cavalier about things, and attempt to completely throw out all degree of differentiation between the various Indo-European mythoreligions, just because we are aware that the same Powers underpin (almost) all of them [there’s one that’s … something different, but we’ll … talk about that some other time].
It is completely accurate to state that there are significant ‘bones’ of coterminity – of fundamental ‘unity of essence’ – between pretty much all the Indo-European mythoreligions. It is also completely accurate to state that there are important differentiations and distinctions between them, and the societies which they both underpin and reinforce, and are reinforced and influenced *by*. There are also *less* important distinctions, distortions, and even downright errors, often as a result of “New Developments In [local] Theology” or foreign syncreticisms (or a rather large-scale religious civil war, for that matter) and it can often be difficult to easily determine just which is which.
All of that’s a *phenomenally* big topic, and we’re not going to get much into it here; not least because we’ve covered some of these examples elsewhere, but also because it’s secondary to the overall thrust of our argument. Which is, functionally, that the *existence* of certain differences – the valid ones, I mean; the *intended* ones, as we shall soon see, and more especially the others that are lacking such imperative pedigree – is easy to get caught up in, to the point that you miss the actual underlying Unity beneath, between, beyond.
But as a bit of a working model, we shall briefly parse how we approach this situation here at #NAS – Nordic Aryan Sangha. Which, as you can probably tell from the name of the organization, if you haven’t heard or read of us before, is a monastic order centered around the simultaneous “Vedic” and “Eddic” devotional spheres; in largest part because we believe that these are the two closest (prominent) Indo-European mytho-religions – to the point that the Nordic religion often feels closer to a ‘sect’ within the Hindusphere than something more distant and different.
Yet just because we are resolutely of the opinion that whether we are speaking in Eddic or Vedic termswe are speaking of the same Gods, this does *not* mean that we seek to deny that there *are* important differences of the appearance of things, of ethics, and in other such theological matters between the various Indo-European mythoreligious corpuses
Indeed, quite the contrary – we tend to advocate that those are there, generally speaking, for good reason and should be respected.
That is to say, that while there *are* instances wherein we can feasibly determine that something has something has gone awry; and often, via comparative and historical analysis, it is possible to determine not just some of what’s missing, but suggest feasible partial ‘reincorporations’ in its absence … in many cases, these differences are not
the results of accidents or happenstance; they are *deliberate*, purposeful actions, designed to attain particular results, inculcate particular traits within the long-arc development of these various Indo-European societies as according to Their design.
A good example of this, I think, is the differences between the Nordic caste system versus the Vedic one. My general explanation for that, is that the Nordic model of caste, along with the rest of its societal model and climactic conditions, supporting and buttressing mythic corpus etc. … is to produce strong, hardy warriors, explorers, alcoholics, and builders of kitset furniture. While the Vedic CaturVarna model has been set up to do a number of things, but in particular, to foster and maintain a seriously excellent priest-caste which does profound academic and theological development – and also acts as a fortress, a bastion for the preservation of the ancient Indo-European mythoreligious elements, heritage, even when its flame largely (but not entirely) goes out elsewhere in the world. Indeed, in the absence of Vedic materials faithfully passed down in unbroken Brahminical lineages of transmission for almost four millennia continuously now, the field of comparative Indo-European mythography would … be much different, indeed could hardly exist today.
Now, in terms of the occurrence of this *within the mythology itself*, I illustrate the principle ‘in motion’ in the GHOST DIVISION series we ran via Arya Akasha earlier this year.
In its course, I observed that whereas the Einherjar of Odin is made up of downright superhuman warriors that’ve been produced by the Germanic peoples and then died gloriously (with a stated purpose of *direct* combat in the War at the End of Time, inter alia … as well as being, proverbially, “The Boys”) … the Ganas of Shiva *also* include pious holy-men (although it should perhaps be noted that this does not at all mean that they’re useless in a fight. Apart from many Shaivite holy-men carrying Trishulas or axes and *really* knowing how to use them, they are also often able to make use of powers that can include everything up to the proverbial “Ancient Aryan Nuclear Weapons” due to their insight and command of religious elements – such as the ‘words-as-weapons’ employment of Sanskrit and certain mantras] .
Taking a step back, in both cases, we see a mythological codification of what each Indo-European society considers to be amongst its ideal men – what it has set itself up (or *been* set up) to produce.
And it is not hard, I think, to see how these are actually *complementary* , especially on the .. er .. macrocosmic level, and even right down here on earth in the 21st century.
Now,to be sure, I *did* say earlier that when it comes to these differences in appearances and teachings, they are “for the most part” deliberate. Human error is human error, and whether because somebody mis-perceived something, or misrecorded it, or somebody wrote over the top of it somewhat some decades or even centuries later, you *do* get shifts within particular mythoreligious canons and more especially, the deutercanonical and apocrypha verging in ‘pop-culture’ [consider/compare “Word of Dante” as a phenomenon] that seem to bring things ‘out of synch’ with everybody else; *diverge* from the Divine Plan, even?
A great example of which being … basically the Ancient Greeks after the mid-centuries of the 1st millennium B.C. – wherein thanks to a number of factors including cultural contact with various Near Eastern peoples, and just generally forgetting/de-emphasizing what had, in the Homeric era been much more *core* concepts [see my general rant on the Euthyphro Socratic dialogue for an example – it’s about, in effect, the Greeks of Athens at its near height, having apparently *forgotten* their own version of the concept of Rta, of Orlog], they wound up with a religion that had diverged in quite a few respects from what, say, the Germanic and Hindu mythoreligions were doing, were preserving.
In fact, I somewhat suspect that that’s at least partially *why* the Nordic & Vedic are arguably the two closest (living/viable) Indo-European mythoreligions today. Because neither group *diverged* as much as what most peoples’ baseline standard for “polytheism” and “Indo-European mythology” did – i.e. them Greeks and those they directly influenced later.
It’s *also* the case that , as mythology is effectively (an) art, you are going to get differences in portrayal, and over time these may come to be much more significant, and visually or literature-ly prominent to the point that they may obscure to the untrained eye the essential coterminities going on.
Like, Odin has a Spear, that is derived from the World-Tree – the Axis Mundi. Shiva has a Trishula … which looks like a trident, but is definitely (also) a Spear – the three points, in part, being to symbolize that this weapon is closely linked to the Axis Mundi [and we *also* see Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon having one-pointed, two-pointed, and three-pointed spear-like weapons, respectively … although this is not the moment for the more in-depth discursion on how all three are effectively ‘aspects’ of the Sky Father that the Greeks ‘refracted out’, and in one case spliced in with their Striker/Thunderer deific likely under Mesopotamian/Levantine influence). Thor has a Hammer, Hanuman has a Gada (Club/Mace). Freyja rides a chariot pulled by lynxes (forest cats, I mean, people seem to not have remembered, a lot of the time, that … the “cats” we’re talking about … aren’t housecats), Durga rides a lion or a tiger.
Sure, in some areas the differences get a little more pronounced – Thor rides that goat-drawn chariot across the sky. In many Hindu accounts, Indra rides Airavata – a very large elephant whose name means “Storm-Cloud” … because, I mean, it makes sense, right? An elephant is big, grey, makes a really loud noise with its trunk [I think from memory, although I may have to check this, that “Garjit”, in addition to referring to a thunder-crack, can also refer to an elephant’s roar/trumpeting; it can certainly refer to the ‘roaring of the Storm’]and also when stampeding; indeed, the tusks may even look a bit like lightning, as well.
Why doesn’t Thor ride an Elephant when turning up to the Nordic peoples? Well, probably because it wouldn’t make a huge deal of sense to them … as elephants, except of the rather furry but also frozen and extinct variety … aren’t really a thing up there. And therefore, there’d be limited symbolic importance encoded in an Elephant, nor would they know what to describe it as. [There is, if memory serves, a limited mention of “Ulfandi” in Old Norse … although despite the likelihood that this is a calque-derivative in from Latin ‘Elephantus’, it appears to have wound up meaning “Camel”.]
But as I say, it is easy to get so over-focused upon what’s immediately in front of you when you look at some art – especially if it’s effectively an artistic representation of the ‘popular (myth)perception of’ – that you lose sight of what’s actually being represented, and the key, core, underlying *essence* which radiates out through those various mythologies, and then hopefully too through some of the *better* devotional artwork. Or theological writing upon the subject. And in the cases I have briefly alluded to above, while we’re not going to go through in-depth nor detail to re-litigate our positions here (we’re supposed to be moving towards concluding remarks!), these areas are spoken about at *much* greater length in our relevant previous publications. GHOST DIVISION detailing Rudra-Odin-Shiva-Vayu-Vata, and BHARAT MATA AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN DEIFIC OF NATIONAL IDENTITY speaking about Devi Durga/Parvati/Bharat-Mata, Freyja and associated Nordic aspects, even Athena and drawing in some other elements such as the little talked about Hittie “Pirwa” figure.
In any case, it should be clear by now that we don’t disagree that the Gods can and do appear differently to different Indo-European peoples. (Indeed, They can appear differently to the same Indo-European people at different times or in other different circumstances. Gods are quite versatile like that – we’ve even got an array of scripture and hymnals on precisely this subject, as it happens, both within the Vedic and Eddic corpuses. Almost as if it were … *intended*).
However, it’s vitally important to further elucidate that we *don’t* think that appearing differently, especially where it’s because of a deliberate reason on the part of the God or Gods in question … but also where it’s the result of “human error” in recording or in recollection – we don’t think that appearing a bit differently here and there means They’re somehow not the same Gods. Especially when at least one of Them is rather well-renowned for adopting disguises and diverse theonyms, for the purposes of doing *exactly that*.
It would be an unfortunate thing indeed, to get so hung up on the observation that the Spear may have a single point or three , that one were to miss the fact that the Spear-Shaft [and the fact that it is, functionally, a Spear] goes all the way down.