Consider the Sanskrit terms राजन् and रजनी – Rajan and Rajani. They look similar, no? In fact, you’d be forgiven, even notwithstanding that the former’s got a longer ‘a’ sound [‘Raajan’ – like Raja, which derives directly therefrom], for thinking that they are perhaps related forms of the same word. Maybe a masculine and feminine form of the same principle. Certainly from the same root, right?
Except technically, you’d be wrong. The former, is from Proto-Indo-European “h₃rḗǵs” [‘Ruler’, ‘King’] [itself from “h₃reǵ” – ‘right/just/to straighten’]; the latter, PIE: “h₁régʷos” [‘Darkness’]. And there, apart from my occasional confusion as to whether an anglicized text is meaning to say ‘Rajas” as in a number of rulers, or “Rajas” as in the Guna [‘energy/quality’] … or potentially making a rather intriguing inference as to the nature of rulership and Kshatriya-Dharma by specifying both at once … it might have ended.
But you see, this is not the only instance of these remarkably similar Proto-Indo-European roots (and yes, I am aware that it’s a different “h-reg” at the core of each) producing derivative terms in subsequent Indo-European languages that continue to have this tantalizing hint of *connectivity*.
The other that I found myself considering is that which is in the title to this piece – Ragnarok. Which, dependent upon which etymology for “Ragnarok” you are running, is likely a case of exactly these two PIE roots coming together. Indeed, I am perhaps coming around to the view that the second particle of Ragnarok – which is either “rök” or “røk” … may in fact be *both* roots simultaneously, co-exisiting in the same word. That is to say – it is a bit of a ‘pun’.
Confused? Let me set out a broader concept:
Something which has been of interest to me ever since I started properly looking into the etymologies of Indo-European, is a most curious phenomenon of almost-overlapping but theoretically distinct roots for words … which nevertheless seem to harbour within them some core, common entanglement of meaning that can only really be approached figuratively.
Which binds them together, and *keeps* them in a sort of ‘ionic bond’ of mutual interplay, even down the millennia and the miles which they have traveled this way and that from the conceptual and terrestrial Urheimat.
I’ve briefly parsed several instances of this in various of my previous works – chiefly within GHOST DIVISION, as well as several Devi Parvati/Freyja/Frigg/Durga(/Cybele) articles. I shall not repeat those findings here; although may compile those relevant passages into a future piece for ease of finding and of reference.
In any case, as applies the phenomenon itself, I tend to believe that this is no mere accident – and not even simply a case of the cohesive application of sound-shift laws across contexts. But rather, because something important – or at least, something poetic, but then I repeat myself – is preserved therein.
In short, because they *tell* us something about how earlier Indo-Europeans saw and understood the world, and their – our – place therein. And so kept being presered and passed down. Both in terms of the words *themselves* retaining these relatively ‘resonant’ shapes; and also in terms of ‘iconographic’, and mythological associations which further reinforced the coterminity, even where the words themselves may have not been directly utilized.
Because by that point, the concepts were so sufficiently embedded, that things may have virtually been “writing themselves”.
A grand example of which, is amply provided by the Hindu figure of Lord Shaani – the Severe Judge, the Dark One, an appropriately enough, with a strong association with the Corvid, and an indirect one with the concept of Time [the Judgement of Lord Shani being one that both advances with the implacability of, and is (ultimately) revealed in the fullness of time; in addition to the Kronus/Saturn associations affixed to the Graha [Planet] and accompanying deific complex in question]. Now, here we see a Deity bearing portfolio and iconographic elements drawn from *both* of these PIE roots we have under consideration. Those for “rulership” as the administration of ‘correction’ to bring things more in line with the precepts and principles of “justice” [the ‘functional’ element-root being explored here in this particular instance]; and for “Darkness” [the ‘iconographic’ element-root here; although not to be dismissed as being of mere [this is another PIE pun] ‘illustrative’ or ‘visual’ impo(r)tance].
But let’s get back to the direct linguistic co-occurrences.
Now, the standard etymology for Ragnarok goes like this. That it is the “Fate of the Gods” (or, if you prefer, the Doom – and note what “Doom”, “Dom” used to mean in older Englishes … “Judgement”, but also a law or a regulation/statute; and as further side-support for my thematic, note that both “Doom”/’Dom” and “Theos” share a common PIE root – dʰeh₁, meaning ‘to put’ ‘to place’; an association which arguably continues with स्वधा [Swadah], meaning a custom, a quality of inherent power, a law, a home, a habitual/natural state …and also an axe).
The “Regin” particle at the front of the word, which becomes “Ragna” in genitive [‘of-‘ case], is quite clearly a term for ‘rulership’ – and hence it should be no surprise that it had meant “Gods”, the ‘Powers That Be’, you might say. The Reigning [there’s that root again] Lords of the Regime [a third] Who Regulate [fourth] the World in this particular phase and incarnation.
Although it is the “Rok” where things get rather ‘interesting’. The more straightforward and conventionally accepted derivation is from “rök”. This is the one which comes to us from PIE “h₃reǵ”, via Proto-Germanic “Rako” (referring to a trajectory, of sorts – a pathway, even a narrative, whence it appears to have become also an argument (like a legal argument), a reasoning, perhaps an explication; as it had acquired a sense of being an ‘unfolding’, an ‘unfurling’ – and thence, something ‘winding down’ or ‘unraveling’ towards a telos, a teleologically impelling end). Hence, ‘RagnaRok’ is the End to the Tale of the Gods; and perhaps more figuratively [and we’ll come onto this again later], the ‘unraveling’ of Their Regime, Their Rulership of the Worlds. A rather more intriguing concept, in some ways, would be to run upon that *older* understanding of “Rako”, and instead then ponder whether the long march to Vigrid is a process which has already begun, and which we are living in as an ongoing ‘narrative progression’ (and certainly, a ‘twilight’ period is one in which night is yet to fully, properly, fall). But that is not a scripturally based thought.
However, there is – as noted way up above towards the intro of this piece – another potential root for the second particle of the term. Røkkr – “Twilight”, and in older Proto-Germanic form ‘Rekwaz’, “Darkness”. Which is, of course, from Proto-Indo-European: “h₁régʷos” – Darkness.
Now, it’s intriguing that there is such an ambiguity over which “Rok” is in fact the “Ragna” one. And more intriguing still, that the two terms have an emergent coterminity of figurative meaning in any case. As, after all, the end result of the traversing Sun of Day, is the Twilight and the Darkness. The Unraveling of the fabric of the Rulership of the Gods is the undoing of that regulation which keeps the demonic [A’Sura, we would say in Sanskrit – Anti-Light, Anti-Shining … you see what I am getting at] suppressed.
Yet the question nevertheless remains: assuming I am onto something with what I have observed here, in the #NAS languages, why should it be that there may be an ‘entanglement’, an ‘overlap’, a ‘coterminity’ between terms for Rule and for Night? What is it about the one that recalls the other? And then keeps it being recalled, time after time, in the descendant languages and mythoreligious complexes?
I personally suspect that there are several possibilities. One of which, probably the most ‘mundane’ [and it certainly portends the world], is that the regular, cyclical flow of day to night and back to day again, represents a fundamental and foundational “regulation” of the Proto-Indo-European … indeed, the Human world and experience. It’s …. not hard to see why. And we are well aware of many instances wherein the Sun, the Wheel of the Solar Chariot, etc. is held to have a *strong* and strongly immanent connexion with notions of Cosmic Law, of Divine Order. Hence the baelful implications accompanying eclipses, as these are a disruption (or, at least, a potential/threatened derailment) of what is otherwise one of the most strongly regular and predictable, *anticipatable* elements of our er .. day-to-day existence. You can see it in proverbs like “As sure as Night follows Day” as expressions of significant certitude, as well.
So therefore – what is it that ‘divides up’ the Days? Nights. Interspersed periods of darkness, the length of which increases and then decreases in accordance with *another* fundamental underlying cosmological cycle intimately connected with the Sun – the progression of the Year. [Oddly, the Slavic languages’ “Rok” and related terms for “Year”, appear to have a different etymology again – instead coming down from a term related to speech and agreement; although having said that, it is not hard to see how that quite quickly heads in the direction of ‘rules’, ‘edicts/decrees’, and the harmonious functioning of a society .. or a cosmos .. and yes, the former can be a literal microcosm of the latter]
The ‘dividing up’ of the spans of existence via the veiling of Night is not something restricted to nocturnal-diurnal cycles; but also appears to be the underpinning via which PIE “Kel” [‘Covering’] has given us subsequent Sanskrit words like “Kaal” [Black/Death/Time] – the sense being communicated *there* being that Death is said impenetrable veil, beyond which lies the afterlife and/or underworld; and, in much the same manner that day comes to an end and night closes in, Death forming a ‘regular’ and strongly ‘lawful’ functional element of the Cosmos. Which we can see via Shaani, as noted considerably above; as well as via YamaRaja being also DharmaRaja [that’s ‘Ruler of Law/Righteousness’ ‘King Yama’ [‘Yama’ usually etymologically approached as a derivation of a Proto-Indo-European term for ‘Twin’ – “Yehm”; although I also note with some interest a speculated line of *further* derivation to “h₂eym”, which means to imitate or to copy, and which also gives us the modern word “Image”. Perhaps Death is an ‘image’ of Life, a ‘reflection’, an ‘imitation’? Or merely [PIE “Mer”, meaning ‘die/disappear’ is what I’m referencing here], a “twin” to Life – which we can see both through the relationship of Yama & Manu, but also through that of Romulus & Remus [‘Iemus’ in older form, so I am told] … both pairs being strongly etymologically equivalent. There is *another* possibility (which may perhaps be supported by the ‘cold’ demeanour of some Judges and Lords of the Dead), but I’ll save that, perhaps, for a future article].
In a way, this should *also* explicate why it is that (Maha)Kaal/Kali are the Gods responsible for the ultimate unmaking of the Universe at the Pralaya, in Hindu eschatology. [That term ‘Pralaya’, by the way, is often translated as “Unraveling” – in the sense, here, of the ‘fabric of the tapestry of time/the universe’ being, well, exactly that; and thence giving way to nothingness in the wake of the funeral pyre for and of the Cosmos; awaiting, per the Cyclical unfolding of time, the ‘re-ignition’ of the whole thing again at some point in the next turning of the KalaChakra [the Chakra, as we know, being strongly correlate with ‘rulership’ and ‘law’; KalaChakra: Wheel of Time, in one sense; and the notion of setting the wheel in motion and otherwise having dominion over it being closely connected also with sovereignty – “Chakravartin”, for example (and see an array of my previous works for more detail upon the unfurling of *that* metaphor)].
Partially, this is due to a conception of the cyclical span of the universe in terms much like those we would use to think of a “day” and/or a “life” – and therefore, bookended by “Night”/”Darkness”, and “Death”. That Veil beyond which even the relative permanency of the Gods and Their Rule cannot [mostly – there are a few exceptions] go.
Yet it is *also* due to another characteristic, which comes much to the fore in the above-mentioned apocalyptic proceedings [and as applies ‘apocalypse’, or ‘revelation’ – that is, fundamentally, what the Pralaya actually *is*. The stripping away of Maya [‘illusion’ but also ‘reality’ .. .and ‘magic’, and an array of other terms, because Sanskrit’s fun like that!] to reveal what is actually there, the *only* that is actually still there after all others and all else and all delusory falsehood has been removed … the ultimate truth]; namely, that of the Kaal(i) in question, to be All-Consuming, All-Devouring.
In the eschatological sense, this makes sense. It is, after all, the Death of Universes of which we are speaking. Yet it *also* makes sense linguistically – for “Kel” is a “Covering”; and Darkness – Night – Covers All.
So what we have here, then, is what we might term in Sanskrit – Samrajya. Which is, funnily enough, how I have tended to translate “Imperium”; and which would more directly render as something like “same rule [everywhere]”, “universal(complete) rule”. Both in terms of the universal applicability of the rulership in question (all beings, eventually, are subject to death; all places upon this earth are subject at some times to Night, and to the generalized rubric of day-night cycles at *all* times … inner cities awash with molten neon, perhaps subjectively deluding themselves otherwise, and then wondering why altogether *different* and less wholesome [pun not *initially*/consciously intended] ‘darkness’ spring up amidst them]; and also its universal eventual [literally ‘all-encompassing’] extent.
And, demonstrating that my theory has … uncannily predictive value, when I was attempting to research the etymology of “Samrajya” just before, in order to make more certain that I was not falling victim to ‘false friends’ and tricks of memory – looking into “साम”, I instead wound up with later Sanskrit-derived Indic languages’ terms for “Evening”. Although the actual etymology for this is श्याम / श्यामा (Syaam/Syaama – Black or Dark Blue (or dark Grey) / Night or Darkness or Shadow etc.), with the first syllable having shifted somewhat.
Or, in other words, my model has predictive value.
The *actual* etymology for the “Sama” in “Samrajya” is somewhat different – सम “sama”, from Proto-Indo-European “Somhos”, which does indeed mean ‘same’. Although it is perhaps worth noting the closely related formulations such as सम् [‘sama’, in a slightly different pronounciation, meaning ‘together’, ‘with’, ‘conjoined’], सम [‘even’/’just’/’honest’/’right’ – compare “on the level” in idiomatic modern English],सम [‘sama’, a contraction of ‘samaa’, meaning “Year”; albeit from a different underlying etymology – ‘San’, from PIE ‘Senos’, meaning ‘Old’] and सामन् [‘saman’ – ‘acquisition’/’property’/’possession’/’abundance and wealth’; although this is from another “San” rather than “Sam”; albeit with both likely sharing the “Sa-” root, again around ‘alikeness’, and in this particular case, presuming *adding* to and making alike, from the exterior world into one’s own proprietary hoard. In a fitting bout of #NAS , I note that सा has apparently come to mean “cattle” – an important Indo-European measure of wealth – in at least one post-Sanskrit tongue]. [As cool as it would be, I am not sure that a connexion with सामन् – ‘Saman’ – meaning song, or the capacity to emit sound, especially harmoniously … could be substantiated. As in, there’s clearly a different underlying etymology [PIE ‘Shomn/Shemn’], but a figurative ‘resonancy’ in the sense of the harmonious state, perhaps organized upon musical principles (as, ultimately, is the universe itself, in the Shaivite cosmological view); but I digress]
Now, since we are speaking about “Wealth”, this too is a part of this same mytholinguistic complex whose edges I have spent probing as the Sun has risen around dawn today. In particular, we have the word “Rich” deriving ultimately from the same PIE “h₃rḗǵs” that we have so capaciously earlier encountered, via Germanic “Riks”. And while it *might* be tempting to simply ascribe that to ‘correlation’ – the Ruler, the King (as well as much of the nobility) quite likely being rather well off in most ancient societies and sociological setups, to the point that the two became effectively coterminous ideas (a situation which, in the West, only really came severely under threat in the last few hundred years, with the rise of merchants and financial institutions, at a corresponding period to the escalating impoverishment of regal and aristocratic material holdings – and the transition from “the public purse” meaning, in effect, the King’s, to the “state’s” … but that is another set of topics for another time!); I am not sure that it is *quite* so simple as that.
Pluto, too, is considered to be extraordinarily Wealthy. It’s right there in the name. And is also the Lord of the Underworld; per our developing theory in this area, representing a third of the Triple-Deific Zeus-Hades-Poseidon, and presiding over that very same ‘darkened realm’ beyond the ‘Kel’ boundary which we but briefly encountered [most stay much *much* longer] many paragraphs previous in the course of this piece. Now, some might draw the obvious ‘figurative’ connexion, and presume that the Wealth of Pluto is to be found in the abundance of the Shades of the Dead dwelling under His Dread Suzerainty. And definitely, one of the great treasures of *any* kingdom, ancient or modern, is its inhabitants – its people. Especially given some of the luminaries to be found therein! And others might go for *another* ‘obvious’ point of conceptual contact – that of the ‘buried wealth’ of precious metals and gemstones to be found ‘neath the Earth’s covering of dirt and topography. Both have some considerable validity to them; but my opinion is somewhat different.
In the course of researching the GHOST DIVISION, I came across mention of the Chief of the Vratya as being clad in a cloak the colour of night which was referred to as having a lining of coins. This seemed rather odd, so I went off and re-parsed the original Sanskrit, and found that the actual term – while it *could* mean “coins” – was closer in sense to shining/glinting precious items. Or, if you’ll indulge me, a Cloak of Stars [which may perhaps, also recall Odin’s dark blue/black hooded cloak; thus positioning ‘Night’ as a veiling garb of the Sky Father, also; another facet of His Caelestial Lordship and Mastery]. The Night Sky being near-infinitely wealthy due to having the Jewels of Heaven found within it – and *only* within its bounds [it’s rather difficult to see stars during the daylight hours]. Night, it would appear, has a Treasury all its own. [For reasons of space, I have not gone into detail about who the Vratya are, or why the Lord of the Vratya is *seriously* relevant when we are speaking about Dyaus Pitar, nor the Greek ‘refraction’ of this Deity into three. Suffice to say, there is a *strong* coterminity in key aspects of portfolio, associations, associates, and realm. But that is, perhaps, another set of stories for another time]
My point is – the Lord of the Underworld, the Lord of the Dead, is both i) Wealthy, and ii) associated with Darkness; and, to begin to bring things to a Conclusion, in multiple senses, is also iii) associated with Judgement, the Law [indeed, the *Lore* – with the Nordic etymology whereby the unfolding of a narrative, and the presentation of a legal argument, are effectively the same word; and the universe itself is understood as the span of a story, the series of acts of a cosmic play, with an internal narrative logic intrinsically resultant therefrom]; both in the sense of the Judgement that is ‘handed down’ [or, with ‘Doom’ in mind – ‘placed’, ‘put’], and in the sense of the fundamental and underlying regulatory underpinnings of the universe entire – of which, Death (and, for that matter, Nightfall), are key emblematic exemplars. As can be seen, inter alia, via what happens when the cycle is *broken*, people cannot die (and/or, local metaphysics permitting, come back … or, as applies Ragnarok .. *do* come back, en-masse, in a rather large ship of perhaps dubious construction), the Sun cannot rise or progress across the sky (or, in some instances, *set* – thus scorching the Earth through its intransigency).
Now, I am not a professional linguist. I am a theologian, who happens to make an enthusiastic use of a broader spectrum of tools in service of our Vision, than some others might care to do. It therefore goes without saying that the way I am looking at things in the above [in multiple senses of that term] – is somewhat deepa than that of actual, verifiable linguistic archaeology [not that speculative reconstruction is ‘archaeology’ per se (although there have been some rather remarkable demonstrations of the predictive accuracy of modelling in this area); but you get what I mean]. Words stand for concepts. Concepts stand for meanings. Meanings stand for reality. Albeit not necessarily always in that aforementioned order.
The literature of our Indo-European forebears, throughout the world(s) which they brought under their rule [there’s that concept again], is incredibly rich [and again] with words and phrases deployed not to just simply and directly state things … but to paint a picture, to evoke feelings, concepts, and things that are, ultimately, *incredibly* difficult to put into actual, black-letter simplistic sentencing. They do this via complex meaning-fields, allusions, puns, idiomatic and figurative meanings, onomatopoeia, metaphor and simile, the veery rhythm of their phrasings and recitations thmselves. To name but a few techniques.
And as I have demonstrated with “Kel” [for more detail upon, please consult my KaalRatri piece from the NavRatri series, inter alia], it can occasionally be the case that to actually unpack not only what is meant by a particular PIE root term, but the deep and abiding element(s) of the world-view which thusly produced it, we must take a broad view – which encompasses descendant terms, ‘figurative thinking’, comparative mythography, and other tools of analysis, including literally old-fashioned Intuition.
The fruits of these endeavours are not, strictly speaking, “scientific” – nor *can* they be. And that is not the point. Theology *may* be, as Ernst Junger once pithily observed, the Queen of the Sciences … but it is *far more* than science (in the contemporary sense), especially once the ever-blurry line between “physics” and “metaphysics” comes into illustrative play. And while we *might* find ourselves able to build up to a certain level via the utilization of the material/empirical methodologies of the (contemporary-)scientific realm … as we are heading up through and *beyond* the bounds thereof to something that is all-encompassing and therefore axiomatically *greater*, at a certain point, we must become resigned to the fact that we must “get out and walk” , and/or “fly”. [Which doesn’t give every Wiccan this side of the US West Coast carte-blanche to propound their personal headcanon-of-the-moment in place of much more established and reliable theological insight – it’s about utilizing a broader set of tools to find what’s real, not about making things up on the spot and then claiming all perspectives are somehow equally valid when challenged and called out upon it. This is before we get into the ‘anchoring’ principles around scriptural sources etc – which I shall leave for *another* dawn’s worth of writing]
But I digress.
I am of the opinion that what has been unearthed here, whatever its overarching saliency, is more than just the co-operation of sound-shift laws in cohesive and coterminate manners, starting from similar origin-points. I mean, it is *also* that, yet that tells us absolutely nothing about the nature of those origin-points – nor about how nor why the *mythological* coterminities have *also* been preserved, even in the (direct) absence of the self-same linguistics operating elsewhere.
The notion that there is an important and intrinsic connexion between “Rule” and “Night”, in the Proto-Indo-European World-View, is both an intriguing and a conceptually useful one. There is no doubt that it figuratively turns up in later Indo-European cultures’ mythoreligious complexes [although I would stop short of suggesting that the black robes of the judge, in modern times, are some sort of semi-subconscious recollection of this coterminity of “Dark/Black” and “Law/Judgement”], often quite directly.
And it also helps us to see Night in a new light [no pun intended, Moonlight, however, excellent for what I’m going for here … that of the revelation of hidden truths and dispelling of false perceptions – see the ChandraGhanta article as part of the NavRatri series for more explication thereupon]. Not as something demonically hostile and inimical to the world, the universe, our lives [and ongoing existences both post- an pre- them], everything … but rather, as a natural and important part of the underlying fabric of creation (which may, apparently, be a singularly *impressive* cloak), likely underlying even said *fabric* of creation [and punctuating the points *between* creations, in partially as a result], and fully capable of exercising the ultimate sovereignty which truly encompasses all.
“It’s Always 4 A.M Somewhere”.
In the course of GHOST DIVISION, I deployed the term “EMPIRE OF ETERNITY”.
The Syama-Samrajya; the Ratri-Rashtri … indeed, Ratriya-Rastra; is very much Her.
Well beyond “Dark Is Not Evil”, and into “Dark Is Law” [Also].
And Glittering in the Abundance of Her Wealth of Stars Above.
It’s “Fate”, you see, that unifies all of this. Against Whom, none can stand; and without Whom, none shall yet move [consider ‘Rajas’ as a Guna, also – the sense of motion].
As Sure As “Night Follows Day”; And The Earth Sails Amidst The Steppe of the Sun, The Sea of Stars.
Hail to the Indo-European Queen Who Is Night!