It often seems that everybody knows, and is correspondingly keen to claim the mantle of “Aryan”. And it is understandably so. The term is the most archaic Indo-European ethnonym we readily have directly available to us. Which should not be confused for its being a general nor generalized Indo-European ethnonym – as it is a specific formulation whose direct occurrence is, effectively, localized to the Indo-Iranian branches of the linguistic family; and somewhat differently applied within Vedic scripture than what we might otherwise conventionally presume from our modern-day lense.
That is to say, the manner in which it is made use of, is not quite to say ‘this is the name of our people’ as a designator of who is part of said people as distinct from others … but rather, to say that he (or she) who is Arya, is somebody who knows and upholds the customs, the rites of the in-group. Somebody who must, therefore, not only have an intellectual knowledge of these, but a participatory ability. Which, of course, correlates it with one’s ability to speak. And hence why we have the duality of “Arya” contra “Mleccha” – the latter being those who cannot ‘speak’, whose speech is ‘jabbering’, and ‘unrefined’ [Sanskrit, of course, being “refined speech”, inter alia – although that is not quite what it means; rather what is communicated is that it is language that has been refined from a previous underpinning predicate – c.f RV X 71 2].
This also helps to explain the corresponding ‘growth’ which “Arya” as a designator underwent in the ensuing millennia – wherein it came to apply not only to the very specific tribe of the Vedic lineage, but to all who properly participated in the religion, the culture, the civilization which they bequeathed to the lands they eventually found themselves therein. While, on the other hand, the closely correlate term in the Iranic sphere underwent a somewhat different shift to become an ethnonym proper, a national designation – which you can still see in-use today as modern ‘Iranian”.
But this short piece is not about that. Nor about whether it is proper or even desirable for seemingly anybody and everybody with even the most tangential of interests or cares for matters Indo-European to declare themselves to be “Aryan”. The worthwhileness or otherwise of American prison gangs, Neo-Nazis, the original Nazis, and Christian Civilization advocates of the past two hundred years throughout the Anglosphere in general, declaring that they are the Aryans, despite the vast majority of these having little to nothing to do with Hinduism or the Vedic people(s) except in colonial, sneering denigration … I think is almost self-demonstrating.
Rather, it is about two other interesting and lesser-known ‘ethnonym’ type descriptors, also derived from other nouns, and the qualities these encapsulate … terms which told both their bearers and those they wished to know of them, something about themselves – what they wished to be and to be regarded as. And how these themselves align with what it is that we understand by “Arya”.
Perhaps it might also help other people who are seeking to revive their ancestral heritages and traditions in these spheres to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to declaring themselves to be this, that, and the Bronze Age other thing rather than going for the somewhat cliche option of “All ‘Aryan’ All The Time”.
The first of these is moderately well-known. It is “Irmin”. A Germanic term which has ethnonymic functions [e.g. as ‘Irminones’, ‘Irminthioda’, and in a certain sense, ‘Eormencynn’ – ‘Mankind’]. Its literal meaning is ‘Great’, ‘Strong’, ‘Powerful’, ‘Whole’; and the main places you will likely have seen it are “Irminsul”, and in its more Nordic inflection [‘Jormun’], utilized as an adjectival enhancer for “Gandr” [stick/staff/stave/wand] in “Jormungandr” [really, really big staff].
Now, the role in “Irminsul” is interesting, because while the “-sul” bears some coterminity with the modern English “Sail”, what is actually being referred to is a pillar. In much the same manner as we Hindus have sacrificial pillars, posts, that are still recalled today in the ShivLing – so, too, did the Germanic peoples have a pillar/post that was thought closely correlate with the Great God, the progenitor of their (our) people(s).
The etymology of “Irmin”, beyond its Proto-Germanic ancestor of “ermunaz”, is a subject of some contention – and I am a theologian who occasionally delves into linguistics, not a linguist, so shall not seek to make too many direct assertions upon this matter. Except to note that there appears to be a pretty strong figurative coterminity of meaning with the Vedic usage of “Arya”.
Which goes beyond both terms being utilized also in an ethnonymic sense, and to connote that these are the people together, the people powerful, the people great, the people who are whole and proper and true, with expansive and expanding dominion potentially over all the Earth entire.
Consider the figure of Aryaman in the RigVeda – the name of the Deity ought be rather clear as to what He represents and has portfolio presiding over. It has long been my contention that Aryaman is another name, another form for Shiva; and as it happens, this accords rather well with what we know of the Nordic & Germanic mythology around this Irmin. Wherein both Aryaman and Irmin are held to have strong association with the ‘starry road’ that is the Galaxy, the Milky Way. And Irmin is held to be Odin, the mighty, the prime-father, as well. [For some further detail upon these connections, please consult “AN INDO-EUROPEAN GUIDE-BOOK OF THE DEAD – Part Three: The River Of Stars”, “Of Mrityunjaya and Modern Hinduism – The Deathless And Unceasing Glory Of The Three-Eyed One”, and of course, GHOST DIVISION, inter many alia.]
[As a side-note, there is a rather curious vague resonancy with the underpinning of “Eire”, as in Ireland – wherein the roots of this term appear to run back to PIE terms for “Fat”, and “Milk”. It is a somewhat different theoretical root to that beneath “Arya” or what we might perhaps consider underlying “Irmin”, but it nevertheless conveys the sense of a ‘broad’ and richly nourished, therefore empowered place and its people; while, as we have seen, “Milk” turns up in relation to both Aryaman & Irmin. I do not mean to imply a direct connexion, but it is, as I say, a curious ‘lining up’ of definitional elements what may bear closer inspection at some subsequent point.]
However, there is a further manner in which the figure of Shiva-Odin-Rudra is most eminently relevant to these proceedings.
I was recently made aware, by my colleague Oli Havranek, of the existence of another potential ethnonym, located somewhat equidistant between the two prior examples, that also bears as its hallowed mark both the Theonymic resonancy with the Great God aforementioned, as well as certain qualities associated with both Him, and the Indo-European People(s) who evidently bear and bore His name.
To quote from the article he had sent me:
“Proto-Aryan *ugra-‘ mighty, strong, formidable, violent, terrible, noble’ occurs in Old Indo-Aryan not only as an adjective but also as tribal name and as a proper name of a god (Rudra-Siva) and of men; in Old Iranian (Avestan), too, it is used of men as well as of gods. Pekkanen’s principal authority is the Greek historian Strabo (64 BC – AD 19), who in his Geography (7,3,17) says that the most important tribe of the Sarmatians, namely the “Royal Sarmatians” (Sarmatai Basileioi), were also called Ourgoi. This is a metathesis form of the word ugra, attested also in Scythian proper names such as Aspourgos (= Old Iranian aspa- ‘horse’ + ugra-) occurring nine times in the Greek inscriptions of the Pontic coast. From the passage cited, it can be concluded that these Ourgoi were settled between the Dniester and the Dnieper; according to Strabo, they “in general are nomads, though a few are interested also in farming; these peoples, it is said, dwell also along the Ister (i.e. the Danube), often on both sides”.
- Early Contacts between Uralic and Indo-European: Linguistic and Archaeological Considerations, p. 113
Now, this is interesting for a number of reasons, and to be fair and sure, there are other possibilities also to what we have witnessed here.
The definitional field for “Ugra” matches up with what we would expect from an Indo-European ethnonym of #GangSteppe pedigree. It tells us something about the people, how they wished to see themselves – and how they wished to be perceived by others, as well. And it also encompasses those all-important signifers of “power”, “might”, and “expansiveness”, as well as something which we have not quite seen before: a direct concept of martial ferocity, indeed, “fury”, berserk rage even, right there in the name. This is not without conceptual precedency, it must be said – “Furor Teutonicus”, after all, is the “Fury of the Teutons”, one of the defining characteristics of that people in the minds of their more southerly neighbours/employers/prey.
Yet the frightening and unconstrainable, even somewhat frenzied “rage” of “Ugra”, is not quite so clearly evident in the pre-Sanskrit etymological predicates of the term – “hugras”, “hugros”, “hewg” [oddly enough, not actually the root for “Huge”]. It is true that there is strength, power, and ferocity implied in the first two such terms. But the refinement of this to produce what we would customarily think of in Sanskrit when we say “Ugra”, and more especially when this is utilized as a Shaivite (or, more properly, Roudran) theonym … this suggests that the term’s connotations are also derived from those underpinning PIE ‘Ghowros’, which refers to the expression of Anger (and which, as I demonstrated in “Ghora – Gorgos – Yggr – The Terrifying Face of Thunder”, is an innate characteristic of the Sky Father; as well as informing the symbolism of Sovereignty – via the ‘Gorgoneion’ concept).
In any case, it is clear to see how “Ugra” derived or related terms would align with what we would expect from “Irmin” in terms of an ethnonym – as well as bearing some symbolic resonancy with what we have come to expect from “Aryan” in its arguably more recent connotation. It also fulfills the other, less immediately apprehended resonancy characteristic for an Indo-European ethnonym – it aligns with a theonym, a characteristic of the Great God. This is what we have seen with the Irmin deific, the Aryaman deific, and now here also with the Ugra deific – Odin, Rudra, Shiva.
And, of course, it does something else that we often come to expect from Indo-European ethnonymics – it tells the people who speak about the name of this people, something about how that people wish to be perceived. Other examples for this can frequently be found in how various Germanic peoples spoke of themselves. The common utilization of “Geir”, meaning “Spear”, and related terminology, for example. Or one interpretation for the tribal name of the “Harii” written of by Tacitus – the Warriors, the Raiding Party, the Army [for more upon this, as well as several theories as to what Tacitus – or his source – was actually describing, please consult GHOST DIVISION].
As applies “Ugra” – it would certainly not come as a surprise to find that a #GangSteppe warrior people should wish to have identified themselves as furious [literally, in the latinate sense], formidable combatants. Indeed, per my own previous work upon the subject of the Scythians and other such peoples relative to the conceptry associated with Rudra-Odin-Shiva, “Furor” would be exactly what we would expect them to embrace. [see ““An Image, Frozen In Time” – What Pazyryk Scythian Tombs Can Tell Us About Our Indo-European Ancestors”; as well as “MahaShivRatri And The Mytholinguistics Of War [Part 3] – The Mind, The Mania, The Manyu”, and of course, GHOST DIVISION]
But to return back briefly to the ‘Gorgoneion’ concept aforementioned – assuming that there is scope for a ‘Growling’ sound of ‘Thunder’ innate and intrinsic to Indo-European conceptions of Sovereignty, as a reflexive expression and function of the Sky Father … we should also be rather distinctly unsurprised to find the parallel concept of “Vac” – Voice [and, in Sanskrit, also Divine Speech, a Goddess], made use of as an ethnonymic. The Baltic tribes spoke of the Vacija – likely Germanic neighbours, identifiable by their fierce war-cries and speech. Although it is also possible that it may have been a self-designation for the people in question: returning, and bringing us full circle, to the earlier in-group/out-group point of distinction between “Arya” and “Mleccha” – or, for that matter, between Greek and “Barbarian” or Arya and “Barbaras” – wherein what makes a man ‘one of us’ is the (mutual) intelligibility of His Speech.
And, appropriately enough, we should also note that this ‘Vac’ derived terminology accords with the dual identification of Divinities – the Indo-European (Mountain) Mother Goddess [of National Identity], and the Sky Father, both having incredibly strong associations in this particular, shouting direction. [For more upon the former, in particular, please consult my earlier work – “BHARAT MATA AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN DEIFIC OF NATIONAL IDENTITY”; and for the latter, once again, GHOST DIVISION].
So – what have we learned? That there are an array of Indo-European ethnonymics that have been attested amongst antiquity. I have not considered very many of them; and have paid my major attention to but three. Yet even amidst this relatively small sample size, we can detect several important points of coterminity that often come up. And several otherwise lesser-thought of forms of their parallel expression elsewhere in the mytho-linguistic and the Divine Realm.
Part of my purpose in writing, and popularizing these other terms – is to broaden the depth and scope of understanding in this sphere. So that people can find other vectors to re-connect with their heritage, other than conspicuously co-opting a Vedic term for their own people. In a certain sense, perhaps, it is more legitimate than we might think to do so – there is some evidence that the Proto-Indo-European ‘Heros’ ‘Herios’ may have contributed to some of the other ethnonymic and related terms in more westerly Indo-European languages and cultures, after all. And in the oncoming Indo-European future and its immanent reconstruction that we are even now heer engaged in, there is a significant debt of influence to the Vedic Aryans and their (my) religion, which it is not inappropriate to recognize in what we are to become.
But it is also appropriate to look into, and to resurrect – reincarnate – one’s own more specific heredity and ways of expressing and relating to same. So, with that in mind, perhaps a broader exploration of this topic, shall lead to less in the way of Western Europeans attempting to insist that they are the Aryans, as a result of lacking any other immediately obvious frame of reference for talking about themselves as their ancient past … and instead, some other, and more locally, authentically rooted and reconstructible terms taking flight among them. Although perhaps, for a variety of reasons, we shall not see people referring to themselves as “Hermiones”, outside of a certain sort of fandom for some time to come.
In any case, though, our fundamental sense of mission – unified, united, collective campaign effort together – remains the same. “Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam”. With the added understandings of making the world not only “noble” [‘Arya’], but also – “whole” [‘Irmin’ in one of its shades of meaning], and “empowered” [‘Ugra’], again.