Against Spurious “Pre-Indo-European-Ization” Of Indo-European Elements

This happens remarkably frequently – both in terms of the linguistics, but also in terms of the mythology and theology.

There’s quite a number of spaces wherein some academic or other commentator with a personal theory (or, worse, an agenda) has latched on to something and gone “well this seems like it shouldn’t be Indo-European – therefore it MUST be non-/pre- IE! And incorporated by the advancing Indo-Europeans as they came into contact with the prior inhabitants of [wherever it is they wound up].”

For obvious reasons, this happens a fair bit with Hinduism; and the logic really does appear to be “well, this makes me uncomfortable as a 19th century European Christian, therefore my own far-distant ancestors can’t possibly have believed something like this themselves … so it must be an Indus Valley incorporation – unknown to the Aryans before they got to India.”

However, it also happens quite frequently with the Ancient Greek mythology and linguistics. Partially, to be sure, spurred by various points wherein some ancient writer may have suggested something was derived from a Mesopotamian or other non-IE source. But also because, again, something which seems strange to a 19th century Christian Englishman must be mentally ‘partitioned off’ from the ‘good’ Greek civilizational elements with which he is keen to identify his own heritage and present-day cultural sphere.

Declaring the element in question to be “Pelasgian” means not really having to worry about integrating it into one’s cultural analysis of the Ancient Greeks (let alone one’s perception of the even more archaic Indo-Europeans) … because it’s “not true Greek”.

It enables the comfortable feelings of “Familiarity” with the Classical civilizations to continue uninterrupted – seeing them as “just like us”, but in togas or tunics. Rather than – as they actually were – peoples who existed entirely independently of the modern gaze, and could have some downright peculiar-seeming practices and beliefs from the perspective of the ‘sanitized’ perception of their glories which had filtered down even into more recent times.

Of course, it’s not all 19th century scholars who are to blame for all of this. Often-times, they were genuinely putting forward what they had honestly surmised to be the truth upon the basis of the limited evidence available to them and an incomplete comparative understanding of multiple fields.

This then became the ‘received wisdom’ – and permeated its way through to subsequent academia … wherein successive generations of academics may have built entire careers upon some of the presumptions involved, and were therefore eminently unlikely to truly challenge and critique things now part of the ‘intellectual foundation’ of their respective fields.

The situation got even worse when certain writers began to actively build entire oeuvres of work and reputation upon wholesale extensions of some of these uncritically accepted wrongful presumptions.

So you have Gimbutas attempting to declare that Goddess worship to be somehow non-IE but instead a residual suffusion of colonized and subjugated pre-IE ‘matriarchal’ belief – a position now taken up by several generations of certain sorts of feminist and certain sorts of misogynist … because neither group feels comfortable recognizing an Indo-European War Goddess, Queen of the Gods etc. : because that would imply that females in the archaic IE view are not incapable of violence and imperialism.

Or you have Beekes and Furnee running about the place proposing non-Indo-European etymologies for all sorts of Ancient Greek terms – building quite the impressive stock of journal publishings through an apparent rubric of “if we can’t immediately explain it, or we think it looks like it should be non-IE … it must be ‘Pre-Greek'”.

Except as soon as one starts to seriously look at various of the more prominent terms they’ve proposed, it becomes abundantly apparent that they’ve had to outright ignore perfectly plausible if not downright obvious (endogenous) Indo-European etymologies and cognates in order to furnish their conclusions! (The two streams seem to ‘merge’, as it happens, with some of these – the presumption being that if a given element is one of those ones felt to be “strange”, “Pelasgian” by some of the academics of a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago … then ‘surely’ that means that the word for the concept in question cannot be Indo-European – and never mind the very similar sounding Sanskrit term for the very similar looking thing over there!)

Fortunately, in more recent years this sort of approach has begun to come in for the critical scrutiny and rejection that it so richly deserves – although given how influential these previous prevarications have been in their respective fields, it is proving mightily hard to make progress at shifting mass perceptions out there in the not-specialist-but-still-interested audience.

Although not all recent developments have been so positive.

Speaking back to the Indo-Iranic sphere … the discovery of the BMAC [Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex] has unleashed entirely new waves of this kind of career-building “let’s ascribe anything we feel is out of place to the non-IE group” enthusiasm.

This has joined forces with another current in Indo-Iranian academia which seeks to exalt Zoroastrian accounts as being pretty good windows in on archaic I-I belief (rather than you know, in many ways literally the opposite) – leading to bizarre pronouncements that elements found in the Vedic religion but not the Zoroastrian one therefore “must” be BMAC in origin.

Never mind that the evidence we have rather strongly suggests that the Zoroastrians had far more to do with, and were far more positively engaged with the BMAC than did the Indo-Aryans.

Or, as applies one of the most prominent of these postulations – that Indra “must” somehow be a BMAC inclusion – you look at the “proof”, and it’s anything but.

“Oh, there’s a Trita in both Vedic and Zoroastrian mythology carrying out some dragon-slaying .. but only the Vedic has Indra – must mean that Indra’s a later development!” Rather than the rather obvious situation of the Zoroastrians having removed Indra from this role [c.f the “Indar” that occurs in their demonology]; Indra being closely cognate with Thor, Herakles, etc. (and therefore quite foundationally Indo-European), and Indra & Trita finding comparative expression amidst the Greeks as Herakles & Iolaus (so, again, being fundamentally Indo-European).

“But there’s no Indo-European etymology for ‘Indra’ – “
Yes, yes there is … here’s six.

“- which means that the Vedic Aryans must have borrowed this figure from an as-yet unattested BMAC deity”. Yeah man, because that’s something that happens – just casually wholesale incorporating as one of your most important deities, a figure from a foreign culture … despite an appreciable swathe of the broadly contemporaneous conceptry of the religion being about the opposite of that; the incredibly strong coterminities of the deity in question with the Indo-European mythological elements expected of Him; and the fact that there is literally no evidence for there being such a BMAC deific to appropriate in the first place.

Although the one that absolutely infuriates me is the bizarre and obsessive series of campaigns on the part of all manner of people to try and portray Lord Shiva as somehow being “non-Indo-European” [or, in this case, “non-Aryan”]. It’s – again – blatantly false, repeatedly disproven upon the basis of the comparative theology and linguistics …. but it keeps coming up ; as some kind of singular point of agreement between certain academics, certain entirely unacademic pedants upon the internet, white supremacists, Indian OITers, and people who read Danielou (who, it must be appended made up a whole swathe of his Sanskrit “Translations” in order to present a sensationalized and exoticized … indeed, outright “eroticized” construct to his Western audience, effectively as a (hijacked/co-opted) vehicle for his own ideas).

The situation of Shiva really gets to the heart of the matter, I feel – because, once again, we have a God Who does not conform in various ways to what various people want to believe their own ancestors regarded as … well .. divine.

And I have devoted a huge effort to countering these views and demonstrating how yes, yes Lord Shiva is most definitely foundationally Indo-European.

Three Eyes, Storm-Cloud Complexion, Wilderness Hunter/Barbarian appearing, Lingam-worshipped-via, Empowering-Elixir-bestowing, Furor-bringing, Hurricane-Haired, Wolf-Accompanying, Ghost-Leading, Shape-Shifting, Horse(Headed)Twins Begetting, etc. etc. etc. all most definitely encompassed in that.

Ultimately, neither (contemporary, supernal) Divinity nor the archaic beliefs of Indo-European man and myth are so easily dismissed for what They truly are –

Indo-European.

Your comfort with this is not required.

One thought on “Against Spurious “Pre-Indo-European-Ization” Of Indo-European Elements

  1. Pingback: Against Spurious “Pre-Indo-European-Ization” Of Indo-European Elements – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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