Often it seems that the interpretation and the ‘accepted wisdom’ on various more archaic Indo-European mythic figures is effectively an exercise in agenda-pushing and confirmation bias.
One deific seemingly singled out for far more than His fair share of such torturous misperception is, of course, Lord Indra. Otherwise known as the Vedic facing of the Indo-European Striker/Thunderer deific.
Unless, of course, you’re part of several competing camps in academia and/or Wikipedia, who appear to believe in some earnest that Indra is not an Indo-European figure at all – but rather some sort of significantly later ‘incorporation’ and/or ‘innovation’ peculiarly exclusive to the Indo-Aryan sphere. This tends, in part, to be “buttressed” by spurious presumptions that this or that feature of Indra cannot be really explained as endogenously Indo-European. Starting, in particular, with His Name.
And that is what we are going to be taking a brief look at today.
But why is this even an issue? Surely with such a prominent deific, there exists a reasonably straight-forward etymological chain from Proto-Indo-European to inform His major theonym?
Well, I think so – and while a reasonable number of authorities over the past hundred and fifty years agree with me … for certain reasons, this position is continually obfuscated at by those who claim otherwise.
Their purpose is simple. They want to try and link Indra to the BMAC [Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex], and claim that Indra is not Indo-European but near-wholesale incorporated from same. Their efforts have been considerably frustrated (or, at least, should have been) via the lack of any such BMAC deific to actually ‘inform’ such an Indra-incorporation … and so in the absence of archaeological or other evidence to support their contention, they have resorted to attempting to manufacture a case via the disregard for Indo-European etymologies for Indra in preference for claiming it to be some form of BMAC term.
Now “Indra” is, as with various Sanskrit theonyms, epithets, and titles, a multifaceted term. It has its direct and obvious meaning – that particular great God; and it also has other connotations and applications – for example, a somewhat standalone way to say ‘lord’, ‘chief’.
It has also been approached as, effectively, a conjoint term – a portmanteau ; which, predictably, complicates matters additionally.
But let us start with the basics, and then start getting ‘creative’ with the analysis later.
The best approach for the Indo-European etymology of ‘Indra’ starts by seeing if there are other reasonably coterminous Sanskrit terms to which it might plausibly be linked. This does not mean merely phonetically or linguistically – but upon the basis of meaning, as well.
Is there such a term? Yes. Indu ( इन्दु ). What does ‘Indu’ mean ? Well, the most frequently encountered translation is ‘Bright Drop’ – which makes sense, as the term is also synonymous with ‘Soma’. The famed Empowering Elixir so beloved of Indra and vital to Who and What He Is. This also informs the meaning of ‘Indu’ to refer to the Moon and Moonlight – as the Moon is closely linked to this Empowering Elixir, likewise. The ‘life-giving’ role of this ‘Bright Drop’ should certainly also track with the Soma association for reasons that ought be obvious – and which, yes, as applies ‘Indra’ may perhaps link to rainfall and other such impartments of life-nourishing energy coming down from On High.
So where is this “Indu” from? Most likely it is from Proto-Indo-European *Wodr – that is to say .. “Water”. This also produces terms such as Balto-Slavic : Old Prussian ‘Undan’, Lithuanian ‘Vanduo’ … and, of course, Russian (etc.) ‘Vodka’.
It also produces Latin ‘Unda’, whence English ‘Undulate’ – as in ‘Wave’ (interestingly the Latin can also refer to ‘billowing’ – as for a sail under wind; swelling with power of such); this ‘Unda’ being from the same PIE root as ‘Water’, etc. – and quite coterminous with the ‘Und’ [ उन्द् ] of Sanskrit which, again, refers to wetting things, causing them to flow.
Why is this relevant? Because there are a number of interpretations for how ‘Indu’ becomes ‘Indra’ in Vedic verse – which link to this fundamental notion that the God in question has something rather important to do with the ‘Indu’ that is so vital to proceedings.
The native grammarian Yaska, one of if not the world’s first etymologists, suggested several of these. Indu + Dr [a Sanskrit root], to mean the ‘Scatterer’ of the Nourishing Drop [i.e. Rainfall – something quite logical for a thundering deity associated with the storm .. after all, according to ‘rumours’, thunder only happens when it’s raining … ]; Indu + Dhr, to mean the holder of the Nourishing Drop; Indu + Dru / Dravati to connote making said Nourishing Drop flow ; Indu + Ram / Ramate , to mean He Who The Nourishing Drop Is Dear To … you get the idea. It is important to note that these are not idle abstractions conjured within the mind of the analysts of yesteryear – but rather, often they had taken observed co-occurrences for the words in question and surmised the likely path of just such a contraction.
Such suppositions were not limited to the archaic investigators, either – no less an eminent personage than Max Muller (who often gets a rather insalubrious acclaim in Hindusphere circles – at least somewhat undeservedly, for reasons we may have gone into elsewhere) actually followed Yaska reasonably directly with the ‘Indu + Dra’ [‘Indau Dravati…’] or ‘Indu + Ram’ [‘Indau Ramata…’] lines of reasoning.
They are terms, after all, which are eminently concordant with not only linguistic probability – but also with actual functionary usage. Both because they literally occur within the realms of the Vedic liturgical canon, and also because they match up rather well with, of course, how Indra is regarded and the position which He occupies within the rites (in particular just Whom it is we are so frequently offering Soma to, and for why). And, of course, the surrounding mythology !
Indeed, to speak to the latter … in addition to the obvious point around His requiring Soma in order to carry out that most illustrious act of demon-dragon slaying for which He is justly acclaimed – well, there are other potential dimensions to the saliency of ‘Indu’, here, too.
When Indra slays the Demon Dragon in question – Vritra, the ‘Obstructor’ – what do we find to happen? The Water Cycle is resumed. The Waters are free to flow in flood – to bring back the life that had begun to wither and dessicate in Their parched absence. This may also have occurred as rainfall, as we should perhaps expect – ‘Scatterer of the Nourishing Drop’, indeed, accompanying the deployment of the Thunder(bolt) likewise.
I would go so far as to suggest that there may be a potentially rich vein of comparative Indo-European mythological analysis to be done identifying the cognate understandings for other expressions of this same deific – figures such as Thor, Herakles, Perseus, and others still besides. Herakles’ utilization of the river-rerouting method for cleansing the Augean Stables strikes out as one immediately obvious parallel. The ‘flow’ induced from the Medusa’s neck by Perseus’ powerful death-blow , as revealed when considered in correlate with various Vedic ritual understandings (which I keep meaning to write more and more specifically upon), would be a perhaps rather more figurative other.
An additional potential interpretation for what is going on viz. ‘Indra’ in relation to ‘Water’ is that it may, perhaps, form something of a ‘Matronymic’.
Now I have no doubt that some shall scoff at the supposition of the mighty Striker/Thunderer deific being referred to with a name which is, substantively, that of His Mother … except as it happens, there is quite some attestation for just such a construction – at least in part.
You may, after all, have heard of Herakles / Hercules – emphasis upon the ‘Hera’ element. True, this is an adoptive Mother situation per the Classical era mythology – however it also appears quite plausible that the original form of the myth, just as Indra is Son to Aditi, had the Divine Wife of the Sky Father as the maternal parent to Him. This would therefore suggest the Hera of Herakles to have been rather more deliberately and directly intended to recall such a fact.
The ‘Alc-‘ of both ‘Alcmene’ (Herakles’ birth-mother per the major Greek perception) and Alcaeus or Alcides (both other names for Herakles) should suggest likewise. There, the ‘Alc-‘ element [‘Alke’] refers to ‘strength’ or force or martial prowess, courage, protection; and as applies the Mother is suggested to mean ‘Strong in Wrath’, or perhaps ‘Wrathfully Protective’ – if we take the ‘-Mene’ to be of the same root as ‘Menos’, ‘Menis’, and Sanskrit ‘Manyu’ (and the last of these in the sense of Anger and ‘Active Mind’ rather than, perhaps, ‘Spirit’).
However, it had recently occurred to me that the relevant terms involved in the Mother’s name could also plausibly be reconstructed to mean ‘Moon-Strength’. This being exactly as we should expect, given not only the close linkage of Soma with Chandra (the Moon), as expressed via two of the meanings of Indu aforementioned … but also the pointed occurrence in various other Indo-European textual sources (for example, the Husdrapa’s rendition of Thor’s successful slaying of Jormungandr; or the divinely empowered Chosen of Athena in the Iliad following the receipt of “nectar and ambrosia”) which seem to all match up in a multidimensional lattice-work of clearly cohesive conceptry that has quite direct saliency for Indra. I expounded upon all of this at rather greater length and depth in my earlier ‘Reconsidering The Parentage Of The Striker/Thunderer In Light Of The Heavenly Pair – A Voyaging Exploration Back To The Archaic Original Situation As To The Motherhood Of Herakles And Others’.
And even more foundationally, is Indra not an Aditya? ‘Aditya’ of course, being ‘Of Aditi’ – so right there, we have our matronymic in action. [And this is not solely a Vedic structure, either – consider the Tuatha De Danann of the Celtic world; Whose group name, just as with the Adityas, honours a Mother: Tuatha De Danann being the ‘Tribe’ of Gods [‘De’ – cognate with Deva, Deus, etc.] of Danu – a name that should be instantly familiar, and which intriguingly connotes a ‘Watery’, ‘Flowing’ figure … as seen in the various hydronyms such as the Dniester, Dnieper, Don, Danube, etc. etc. etc.]
Yet why even contemplate a matronymic at all in such a situation? What relevancy has such a concept to Indra, if the matronym is supposedly to be one of ‘watery’ provenance?
Well, other than the possibility that there is a semi-consistent pattern of matronymics – as we have just seen via the Greek – to the theonyms of the Striker/Thunderer … it is interesting to note that the Mother Goddess Who gives us the God in question is, Herself, aqualine in association. Other than the Vedic linkages for Aditi with the Waters, or the persistent assertion of the Home of the Wife of the Sky Father being thusly located (consider Frigg’s realm in Fensalir, or Vak Devi’s direct statement upon the matter in the DeviSukta of the RigVeda), we also have the interesting identification that Perseus’ Mother is Dannae … and this is matched by the rather obscure, yet still nevertheless attested Hindu scriptural citation for Danu to be the Mother of Indra.
Some might be tempted to observe the obvious confusion this should induce, considering that there is similar mention made for Danu as having a rather important role in the sending of Vritra … but, then, do we not also have Herodotus’ mentioning of the Hydra as having been similarly deployed by Hera against Herakles?
The notion, therefore, that there is some underlying essence-tial meaning to Indra as being ‘of the waters’ – not merely in the sense of liberating these, nor being eager for their consumption … but “of the Waters” as a statement of effective genesis , cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Particularly given the parallel occurrence in various of the Indo-European Striker/Thunderer myths for the Mother of the (Demi-)God in question to have to abandon Her Son to the mercy of the waters – expressed most visibly in RV IV 18 as applies Lord Indra, prominent also in the situation of Krishna (and, for that matter, Karna), and occurrent in slightly altered form (viz. the Mother also being consigned to the water with the Son) in the foundational experiences of Perseus. The language of RV IV 18 and other such archaic sources almost seem to suggest an ‘adoptive mother’ relationship for the river or sea in question; but we shall not get into that for now. I have considered various of these points at greater length in ‘On The Birth Of Indra And Its Direct Parallel In The Circumstance Of Danae And Perseus, Devaki And Krishna, Pritha And Karna, Etc.’.
Now in a spirit of completeness, it is necessary to note that these aren’t the only (endogenously Indo-European) possibilities which have been offered over the years.
Another concerns PIE *Heyd – which refers to a ‘swelling’.
Interestingly, this is also what underpins Old Norse ‘Eitr’ … and I say ‘interestingly’ because i) where it shows up as a certain creature’s venom (that;
but also ii) where it shows up in relation to the inception of life [which would be linkable in some senses to what happens following the churning of the sea of milk and what results there … two particular drinkables spring to mind … ]
But more upon those points, particularly the latter, at some other juncture.
The more straightforward approach would be to suggest that PIE ‘Heyd’ (if we are being technical, it is *H2eyd or *h₂eyd-) has produced a term for ‘Strength’, ‘Strong One’ – ‘swollen with power’, as a rather over-extended explication.
A further proposition is rooted in PIE *h₂nḗr – that informs Sanskrit ‘Nara’ etc., and which means ‘Manly’, ‘Heroic’. It is not hard to see how this might inform such a subsequent construction – particularly given that ‘hn’ sound being retained in Proto-Indo-Aryan ; although I do not feel it has quite the elegancy of the first of those other and aforementioned proposals – that built around ‘Water’.
In any case, while much more could be presented about various points raised in the above (including, no doubt, several additional prospective PIE-anchored etymologies, at least) – for now, I think it is enough.
The ongoing attempts to proffer Indra as somehow a ‘non-Indo-European’ deific in origin and orientation, I have considered and countered in various other pieces previously – but now can add the relevant linguistics to the list as well.
I do not think that this shall convince various of the people who have seemingly staked professional careers or personal predilections upon prevaricating Indra’s provenance in such a manner – but that is not the point.
We have explored the particularly likely Indo-European root for ‘Indra’, and hopefully helped to answer the questions of others about why this particular prominent theonym doesn’t seem quite like various of the more familiar ones for the same deific hailing from further to the Indo-European west (i.e. something around ‘Thunder’ more directly, or the PIE *Per- particle to refer to the act of ‘Striking’).
And we have done so in a manner which satisfies not only the rough outlines to the linguistics, but ‘functional’ (ritual) and mythological context, too.
So as applies the claim that Indra ‘cannot’ be an IE theonym (and therefore deific) and therefore ‘has’ to be some sort of BMAC import … well, we have ‘Poured Cold Water’ upon it – a most ‘Nourishing Drop’, indeed: that of Truth.
5 thoughts on “On the Indo-European Etymology of Indra”
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You forgot about Thor killing the Jotun female straddling and pouring poison menstrual blood into the river( hostile foreign enemies?)
What do you think about Jotun meaning Juden in reality? Jude jew 😉 I think it’s more likely than ” Ed” ravenous eater, though this might be the pun for greedy which jews are!!
I read the Rig Veda, Edda’s and some Celtic myths, Danu as the mother of the Aryan race and wife of Manu seems a strong possiblity to me. Indra is called by Trita, from Trito ( PIE) the third( warrior caste). What do you think about this?
as applies the first comment – no, I did not forget the situation of Thor contra Gjalp; however the issue is that that is a situation of the Striker/Thunderer deific seeking to *stem* the flow of something, rather than induce it. Quite the opposite.
As applies your last comment … I think that is an incorrect assertion on several grounds.
i) Indra is not called Trita. Trita Aptya is a separate figure, that does assist Indra with the slaying of Trisiras. The confusion has turned up via academia – wherein because the Zoroastrian Heresy has a Trita figure [Fereydun, Thraetaona, etc.] that has effectively wound up with characteristics originally more exclusive to the Striker/Thunderer deific … people have presumed that this is somehow the ‘original’ Indo-Iranic state of affairs. It is not. Rather, the Zoroastrians literally demonized Indra [you can see this with the Indra in their demonology], and so wound up having to ‘re-allocate’ various mythic elements to other figures they were not so vigorously opposed to. You can also see another occurrence of this with, for instance, Mithra in their accounting, wielding the Vazra [i.e. Vajra].
ii) my own work has demonstrated that instead, the mythic underpinning for Trita is likely to be the same figure informing Iolaus, the companion of Herakles Who is responsible for the rather key contribution to the Hydra-slaying under guidance of Athena. This resonates strongly with the role for Trita Aptya in decapitating Trisiras … and Vak Saraswati’s role in relation to that of Athena. Tellingly, in both Vedic and Hellenic spheres – the Weapon of Trita Aptya .. has a ‘fiery’ quality to it. Precisely because it is the fire involved in operationalized faith – ritual.
iii) therefore, given Trita Aptya is, again quite expressly, declared to be a Priest, a Brahmin … Trita is not part of a “third caste”. Particularly given if we are actually using a Dumezilian Trifunctional approach, the “Third Caste” is neither the Priests *nor* the Warriors, but the ‘Productive Caste’. Although I do not use a Dumezilian schema, because it is inaccurate and it leads to more occlusion than illumination when actually applied to various actually-existing Indo-European mythologies.
In short: No, Indra is not called Trita. No, Trita is not “Third (Warrior) Caste”. Etc.
I have written quite a number of pieces previously on various elements briefly touched upon in the above.
As applies the second-to-last comment … half-right, half no. Mother of Indo-Europeans? This is a viable understanding. Wife of Manu? No. Because, for a start, Manu / Mannus / Romulus as *first* Indo-European Man, is a Son thereof. You see the obvious reason why Danu is therefore, ipso facto, definitely not a wife of Manu.
I took a look at the situation of Danu in the following article –
Which also does look at the placement of the figure of Danu as maternal to Indo-European mythic origins, via the rather useful Scythian origin myth (albeit not the semi-reconstructed one favoured by Herodotus – but a different telling also Classically attested).
As applies the second comment … I think that it’s demonstrably incorrect on several grounds. For a start, the notion of ‘Devourer’ to refer to an Indo-European conception of a demon is something going right back to the Urheimat. You can see this in comparative usage viz. Sanskrit ‘Rakshasa’. I considered this, and *why* it’s a thing – in this article written earlier this year. https://aryaakasha.com/2021/07/11/towards-an-indo-european-theory-of-demonology-chaos-devourers-outsiders-messengers-and-monsters/
In short – the mythology, and the ritual metaphysics are closely aligned (as we should, of course, anticipate); and function as a ‘mesocosmic’ understanding (that is to say – a space ‘between’ and yet linked to both ‘macrocosm’ and ‘microcosm’; wherein actions on a microcosmic scale, around us immediately, are capable of interfacing with, resonating with, and thence hopefully either influencing or drawing down the influence from, the macrocosm – the cosmology itself).
As there is offering of consumables made to the relevant Gods etc. – so too is a portion ‘set aside’ for spirits from outside the ritual enclosure which may seek to ‘disrupt’ proceedings. These are the ‘Devourers’ – their ‘share’ is thrown outside the ritual enclosure (the ‘civilized space’).
Due to the fact that we … don’t have much to go on as applies authentic Nordic religious (rather than somewhat fragmentary and ‘editorialized’ mythological) understanding, this limits our perception of this in the Germanic sphere ; however the aforementioned close concordancy in mythic terms (so consider just where Jotunheim is, for a start .. *outside* the ‘civilized space’, the ritual enclosure, what is resonant from the ritual space as ‘midgard’ in the broader cosmology) with the Vedic comparanda, etc., shows it is a shared and ancient understanding.
As I say – this is something that has been in foundational operation for many millennia now. It is quite clearly something in existence from millennia prior to any encounter by Germanic people with Jews, or even for that matter, the existence *of* Jews [particularly by such a name or its immediate predicates]. But let us move on.
For a second, I am not sure why you consider “Ettin” etc. to be unlikely to have resulted from Proto-Germanic ‘Etana’ (i.e. ‘Eat’) [and prior to that PIE ‘*H1ed’]. Because it is quite clear that there has been a consistent line of development from PIE through to PG through to later Germanic languages such as Old Norse and Old English, for this term … no external influences required.
Meanwhile, ‘Jew’, and other such words, only enter into the Germanic linguistic sphere relatively late – and come via intermediary non-Germanic languages such as Old French, and Latin, and, of course, ultimately via Greek (due to Ancient Greek being something of a lingua franca in the ancient Near East somewhat more than two millennia ago). In Old French, and thence Middle English, we find terms like “Giu” / “Gyu”, etc. ; and I mention this because as you can see, the standard shift which is also in evidence in, for instance, ‘Gaol’ becoming ‘Jail’ is seen here … and is *not* in any way like how the J- of “Jotunn” or the E- of “Ettin”, etc. is produced.
In short – there is no linguistic reason to doubt that Jotunn, Ettin, etc. came from the same root as ‘Eat’ etc. ; and on the contrary, quite some reason to affirm it. This term’s roots, and functional usage likewise predate any encounter with Jews by Germanic speakers. It is simply not a thing.
For a third, you are going to run into quite some problems in terms of the actual position of various Jotunn in the Nordic mythology which has come down to us. You know, the occurrences wherein particular Jotunn marry in to the pantheon, etc. ; and, for that matter, various characteristics ascribed to various of the figures in question.
For a fourth, you are going to run into some further trouble if you want to try and localize ‘greed’ or ‘love of gold’ to a particular human ethnic group, in Germanic mythology. There are quite an array of prominent figures of various human races, non-human races, and even deities that have such traits in varying measure.
If you were going to run some of the ‘theorizing’ that has perhaps lead you to this point consistently, you’d end up declaring that the Jutes (of Jutland, etc.) were somehow likewise “Jews”, upon the basis of a cursory vague similarity of spelling to “Jude” for “Jute”, and the fact that King Nidung is described as their ruler in Thidrek’s Saga .. that being the king whose significant greed leads to various unpleasantness (for the king and his household) due to the thievery from the sleeping Volundr the Smith (including actually stealing Volundr himself!).
Patently, this is not the case on … quite a number of levels. But you can see how you can do quite a significant distortion to your own understanding of a great many things by attempting to view the mythology and the texts through an incorrect and insistent lense.
In essence, the relevant mythology for Rakshasa, Jotunn, etc. – has remained structurally robust for some six thousand years or more. It has no need for being “inspired” by some encounter with a Middle Age Europe Christian stereotype of a Jew. [Because really, that’s what this is – a historical Christian trope that some people are bizarrely keen to try and ‘colonize’ the IE mythology with]
I can only suggest that attempting to forcibly read such a thing *into* the Indo-European mythology, in disregard of all evidence to the contrary, would represent a fundamental disregard for the actual religion of the ancestors and its integrity in favour of pursuing some decidedly modern agenda.
And if that’s all you’re interested in doing – then you are quite capable of doing that on your own time and in your own words *without* co-opting and subverting the religion for branding purposes; and doing significant harm to your own actual understanding of the relevant concepts you’re trying to draw from in the process.
One rather significant trouble with insistently [re-]interpreting Demons as merely being humans ( different ethnic groups thereof or otherwise) – is that it’s a great way to wind up not seeing the *actual demons*.
Wow, I guess you really know your Indo European myths and symbols. I’m curious to know what you think about the difference between Utgard Loki and the Loki that follows Odin in some myths. I agree that demons were before any meeting with jews, perhaps the pun is the other way around? Also, in Zoroastrianism, heresy or not, they turned Azi Dahaka into a semite unjust ruler when the Iranians were defeated by semites, then when the Arabs came, and took over, Azi Dahaka was turned into an Arab! In the Rg Veda, the dark enemies(physical), Dasa, are connected to the Vrtras, the spiritual enemies. Demon and foreign enemy were connected on multiple occasions. A Greek multiheaded monster was used for an army of foes for example. What I’m saying is that there was an original understanding(spiritual) and a physical representation, which is seen in various traditions.
A wise sage once said “as above so below”. Isn’t one basic tenant of spiritual understanding that physical and spiritual reflect one another on some essential level? Like atoms and galaxies?
The Danu Manu connection, yes, it could easily be a case of mother son. Though both seem to have “priestly ” aspects as well as “ancestral”.
You mentioned Ettin, I was specific in stating Jotun, or are they connected etymologically?
Thank you for the response by the way. I love learning more about this subject.
Just so you know, I did read the Rg Veda and the Yasts of the Avesta. And… Are you aware of the talmudists and kabbalists believing they must destroy our Spirituality, and our gods, before they can destroy us? They work with those demons we wish to avoid! Ever hear of ritual murder? St. Simon of Trento? It’s no conspiracy.
It is my life’s work to .. well .. do what I do. Being across quite an array of material in both breadth and depth, and being able to see how it resonates together, and its likely archaic skeleton .. well, that doesn’t so much ‘come with the territory’ as is the territory itself. In addition, of course, to my own living religious practice on a rather less ‘theoretical’ level. But I digress.
Now, to go through in something around order …
Utgard-Loki is an area I haven’t actually written upon in any great detail. I can therefore offer no hard analysis on the first question you have asked, as I haven’t put significant effort into properly sketching out adherence (or otherwise) to broader IE typology in either case. My main interest as applies anything to do with Loki has been i) pointing out that the frequently encountered silliness and calumny attempting to insist that Loki is somehow an expression of a rather prominent IE Fire deific is false ; and ii) that Loki’s eventual fate , set to being tortured by a giant snake’s venom by Skadi, is an expression of a pervasive IE understanding – I believe I linked you the article which analyzes this, it’s the Serpentine Form of the Mother Goddess piece, which also looks at Danu.
At some point, I have intended to take a look to see how closely or otherwise, the trials of Thor in Utgard might align with particular Labours of Herakles, or trials of Hanuman; but that is another series of concerns for another time.
As applies the second question – no, there is no pun, no linguistic coterminity. The etymological derivation for “Jew”, “Jude” etc. in Germanic languages traces from, as noted earlier, Old French or Latin (in some Germanic languages it comes directly from later Latin, in others, it comes from Latin via Old French), and the Latin (Iudaeus) comes from Ancient Greek (Ioudaios) and of course, the actual Semitic languages themselves. In the relevant non-IE language, “Yehudah”, “Judah”, etc. are there, prominently attested in the 1st millennium BC and prior to any opportunity to enter Western IE languages.
Phrased more succinctly: separate words or spheres, from separate origins – one non-IE. Any resemblance is coincidental.
WIth regard to the Zoroastrian mythology .. well, by the time of the Shahnamah etc., it is basically just a Persian mythology as it is centuries after Islamicifaction had triumphed in that land .. I do not deny that Zahhak winds up with an Arab ethnicity. However, this should not be read as part of some great sweeping thing about ‘Semites’. Because if you go back and look at the record – right the way through, for the best part of three thousand years (actually somewhere around two thousand plus .. well, the number of centuries is a matter of academic dispute), you find Zoroastrians demonizing ethnicities they had had poor military encounters with or were otherwise threatened by. Many of these were, quite pointedly, Indo-European – literally Aryan, as applies Indo-Iranian religious orthodoxy.
You find them speaking in such terms about Brahmins, you of course find them speaking emphatically against ‘Turanians’ [there to be understood as Steppe (Indo-)Iranics a la Scythians, who had still remained true rather than following Zoroaster and his cohorts into Heresy], and so on and so forth.
I cannot find where I had written about it, so I’ll just copy-paste from an exchange I had with an associate some months ago, a relevant passage:
“Complicating matters is that I suspect rather strongly that contrary to popular opinion … ‘Dahaka’ and ‘Dasa / Dasyu’ are not actually as closely conceptually aligned as many might think. And rather, that the ‘Dahaka’ going on for Azi Dahaka may have , indeed , rather more to do with the Dahae … and Dahistan … as *Wolf* / *Wolves* – certainly a prominent Zoroastrian “demonic” labelling. The idea would be that the Zoroastrian ‘direction of threat’ correlated in their early-ish days (i.e. when they had moved to Media) with the North – Hyrcania / Vrkana , where the old-school and orthodox #GangSteppe dwelled and invaded from, and with Dahistan immediately beyond this ; and much later on, of course, we find the ‘Direction of Threat’ is ‘re-loka-lized’ to the west into Mesopotamia and Arabia, with corresponding re-situation of where Zahhak is to be found (in part, of course, due to a folk-etymology or something of that nature, which seeks to link Baβri to Babylon … even though in Avestan, it is quite clearly .. *Beaver* , and ought mean ‘Ruddy – Red/Brown’, perhaps have a ‘watery’ association but also for that matter, correspond with the geographic range of the Eurasian Beaver that is supposed to be the constituent of Anahita’s Cloak … that is to say, again, to the north and in the waters – although i’ve recently checked this and it appears taht there’s *some* evidence for the Eurasian Beaver in northern Syria .. so perhaps it is not so unexpected that somebody thought to the west)”
The point I was making there is that part of what facilitated Zahak being ‘localized’ to Babylon – other than the geopolitical situation where the fall of the Sassanids was concerned – was a misunderstanding, and misrecollection of what ‘Babri’ *actually* was intended to refer to. Again, somthing that we can demonstrate to have been quite separate to ‘Babylon’, because it was by this point some two millennia or more ‘downstream’ and with various things having been lost, became conflated under the political and (pseudo-)historical pressures of the day.
As it happens, the effective ‘takeaway’ from this point is that what we see with Zoroastrian demonic figures – Angra Mainyu in particular – is that while these have often co-opted the symbolism and ‘structure’ of more authentic Indo-European religion … as soon as we look closer, we find that in fact, things have been not just ‘inverted’ but quite specifically ‘aimed’. Hence the identification of Angra Mainyu’s demesne with, as I say, that ‘uncivilized’ [i.e. un-Zoroastrianized] Steppe territory and its wolves and wolf-warrior bands.
Phrased more succinctly: the only thing one gets out of trying to use Zoroastrian demonizations in this way is the rather strong sense that the Zoroastrians are, so to speak, ‘sore losers’ who had lost often. Indeed, considering the majority of demonizations they engaged in, it should almost be considered a mark in a given group’s *favour* if they managed to earn such a calumnious treatment. After all, as noted but briefly above – Brahmins, Scythians, particular of the Gods Themselves .. all get branded thusly by the Zoroastrians.
All that a Persian text from a thousand years ago designating Zahhak to be Arab indicates is that they really had lost sight of their actual mythology and religion a *long time prior*, and were basically just using it by that point as a symbolic lexicon (badly corrupted) for domestic political sentiment and poetic endeavour. And that is not surprising – the entire thing had become ‘de-anchored’ from genuine and authentic integral religious moorings the moment Zoroaster decided he was going to declare The Gods to be demons, attack the traditional priesthood, and so on and so forth. There were, as I say, nearly two thousand years in which such death of meaning was amply able to take place over and over again across a great many particular potential applications.
A further point I should raise concerns – again – being very careful when using such late texts which have come down following some subversive or other substantial shift in the mythology or religion in question. A good example for why concerns some of the Nordic bits and pieces around (male) use of .. i suppose you could say “magic”. I mention this because various instances of Odin using such – are declared to be Seidr in Sturluson’s work … and yet, they match up nearly *exactly* with elements that we have good Vedic attestation and understanding of that are basically proper prayers enunciated by a particular God.
Now, some Nordic / Germanic enthusiasts therefore , ignoring the second bit , treat the whole thing as slander – insisting that Odin would therefore have nothing to do with those ‘magical’ utterances in question. This is patently false. If we have the same deific in both Eddic and Vedic spheres undertaking the same deeds in basically the same manner – that being the use of the ’empowered speech’ / ‘song’ in question and with particular identifiable objectives accomplished using this that we can clearly recognize as being the same … then the idea that it’s ‘forbidden conduct’ in the Nordic texts of a thousand years ago being exalted over the fact it’s clearly legitimate conduct in the Aryan texts of three to four thousand years ago … is nonsensical. A much *better* explanation is a combination of the Christianized society Sturluson was in (it had been so for several decades by the time he began work) having a desire to further suppress – ‘demonize’ we may say – elements of the old pre-Christian religion; although I also have a suspicion that something else was going on – but more upon that some other time.
The point is – you’re going to get into difficult territory by using later textual and mythological perspectives which are demonstrably operating with their own priorities, as a window in on the truth. At least, without *significant* caution and counterbalanced with due consideration of better materials, and the identification of biases in the former.
Now, as applies the notion of demonic labellings winding up applied to human groups post-facto more generally – yes, this is something which happens. However, it is something that is *severely* misinterpreted on multiple levels.
I would advise reading the ‘Towards An Indo-European Theory Of Demonology – Chaos, Devourers, Outsiders, Messengers and Monsters’ article I had linked to you in the previous reply [ https://aryaakasha.com/2021/07/11/towards-an-indo-european-theory-of-demonology-chaos-devourers-outsiders-messengers-and-monsters/ ]
I have been meaning for some time to write about Dasa and Dasyu, bcause these are *particularly* misunderstood – often seemingly insistently so. This is not the place to do an actual proper analysis, but some brief points:
i) people attempting to take various symbolism descriptors in the Vedas as being physically literal are going to have a bad time. This doesn’t just apply to darkened complexion, but also to .. well .. various points – the lack of having six eyes, for instance [this is something stated of one particular Dasa].
Now, you acknowledged this with the comment about a multi-headed monster in Greek mythology – although depending upon *which* multicephalous creature you’re referring to, I suspect we may disagree as to just what that particular quality is actually to represent. For example, some people attempt to euhemerize the Hekatoncheries by saying that a hundred hands/arms should quite clearly mean a body of armed men. They are missing quite a lot of other contextual information when they say this, because it is rather more plausible that the hundred-limbs in question (given relevant namings, position in the mythology in comparative terms etc.) should instead mean “Lightning”.
In terms of complexion – you can go through the words utilized for the dark visage in question, and … well, it rapidly bcomes apparent if you have facility with the actual language in question [i.e. Vedic Sanskrit] that simplistic 19th century translations can very easily obscure far more than they reveal. So, for instance, one suite of terms that have been translated as “black skin” … actually mean the persons in question were wearing black garmentry – black clothed (‘skins’, ‘pelts’ etc. being a rather useful source of material for clothing in the late bronze age / early iron age); others are quite definitely a ‘spiritual’ darkness rather than anything physical.
And in any case – and this really must be emphasized – the occurrence of black / dark complexion is not axiomatically negative; indeed in various instances, is a positive attribute for positive figures [for example, it is absolutely uncoincidental that we find a ‘dark’ theonym for Skadi – that figure aforementioned engaged in the lawful and divine torment of Loki; I have already linked you the piece detailing the relevant comparative linkages]. Which is as we should expect, considering various of these are evidently PIE understandings carried forward, based around their co-occurrence in Greek and/or Germanic mythologies.
ii) the actual identity of a people or peoples who *may* have informed Vedic commentary around Dasa / Dasyus has not been securely established. About the only thing we *can* say is that it is rather unlikely to be the Indus Valley Civilization, due to their rather lighter complexion, the archaeology of their settlements not matching, and various other details of import. A better contender would be the BMAC – Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex; which is interesting given the Zoroastrian Persian greater engagement with same.
which gets into iii) the potential that what’s going on viz Zoroastrian recollection of waht’s going on with Dasa / Dasyu, they appear to try and localize as Indo-European ‘Wolf’ associated tribes to their north. It is certainly the case that the functional perception is the same. However, I maintain that the linguistics for Dasa / Dasyu relative to Dahae, Dahistan [and note: there is a standard S => H sound-shift in Indo-Aryan => Iranic linguistics; c.f Soma => Haoma .. or, a personal favourite, Sena => Haena [as for why that’s a favourite, it is because what is for Indo-Aryans “Army”, the Zoroastrians hear as “Hostile Army”, “Invading Army”. Because, you see, they *remember* .. ] ] may not necessarily match. Although significant academic opinion treats it as quite likely. Similar academic opinion – not un-undertsandably – also makes the case that the Dasa / Dasyu may in fact have been Indo-European groups anyway; and does likewise upon the basis of various not entirely impossible evidence for certain other archaic Vedic often-adversarial supernatural groups.
Anyway, the takeaway point from this is that yes … demon typologies *can* wind up applied to human groups; but generally the demon typology is a-priori to the human affixion … and, perhaps more importantly, given where I suspect you’re coming from with all of this – a lot of the time, what we in fact see is that the people(s) being demonized … aren’t all that different from the people(s) doing the demonization. Zoroastrian Iranics demonizing their cousins the Steppe Iranics, for instance. Or, intriguingly, the fact that in the most archaic citation we have for ‘Mlecchas’, said demons (because again, the term is used for demons before it is ever used for humans) are actually speaking badly accented pseudo-Sanskrit as their local language. In other words, these aren’t hugely “foreign” demons.
As applies the notion of “there was an original understanding(spiritual) and a physical representation” – well the issue is that one must be very careful to distinguish between reasonably standardized iconographic expression for the essence of something in visual / visual-metaphorical terms … and subsequent attempts at applying or drawing from these for sidereal encountered physical occurrences or instances, peoples etc.
The former is a-priori to the latter; and the latter can be misleading.
A good example of this concerns a particular ethnonym utilized for several groups in India who live in mountains – now, the groups of mountains in question are .. rather apart, separated by quite some span of territory. The ethnic groups in questoin aren’t really related. The ethnonym cannot, therefore, have originally referred to a single unified people. Instead, especially given its mythic occurrence … it was originally a mythological labelling understood *within* those terms, which later got applied to other non-Aryan peoples who seemed to fit some of the characteristics [in this case – living in mountains] as they were encountered by the expanding Aryas. Of additional interest is that the underlying mythological understanding to the term … actually seems to be a PIE one, as it occurs also, for a start, in Greek mythology.
Except if we instead presumed that there was something essential and mythical to a human group being named akin to the mythical grouping in question … this would lead to a fundamental misunderstanding on pretty much every possible level. Instead of “oh, well they live in mountains” … you get earlier academics of a century or so ago making peculiar claims that the deity Who has a retinue of ‘mountain-dwellers’ similarly named .. must therefore be a non-Indo-European incorporation. Which, as I say, is impossible – bceause there is no scope for such an understanding and structure to have somehow co-occurred across multiple unrelated corners of the Indian subcontinent *and* somehow migrated back to the west to become part and parcel of Greek mythology as well. Etc.
Another example you might be more familiar with concerns Elves. Now I’ve written upon what’s actually going on with Elves in a few pieces previously, so shall not seek to repeat that analysis here. What I *can* say however, is that a) there’s a coterminity with the Ouranian Cyclopes [the One Eye of those .. and note it’s the Ouranian cyclopes rather than the more frequently thought of kind … is a Solar symbol] ; and b) for some reason, we seem to find a frequent identification in Nordic texts of Elves with .. Finns.
Now even though Tolkien did some cool stuff with this, we can say, viz. his borrowing from Finnish for his own Elvish languages [not wht I would have done, but that is because I have my own set of preferences and resonancies always in my head] …this does not somehow make Finns the real, mythic Elves, or for that matter the underlying Indo-European Solar spirit / smith typology. We can have an interesting line of inquiry into how or why Finns wound up being utilized as a somewhat interchangable labelling for Elves. But I think we would do fundamental harm to our understanding of the concept of Elves to seriously conflate / mythically connect the two. Even though yes, the later *application* of terminology to the human group (or, variously, the human group terminology application to the mythic group) is something that’s attested.
In terms of said ‘wise sage’ – I believe that’s the Emerald Tablet … and the issue is, as ever, that while it *may* be true that we can observe resonancies and coterminities between supernal and sidereal … we can *also* observe people getting the wrong end of the stick (a grand example of which being the fact that America’s Caribbean neighbouring sea is called the “West Indies” .. because it was thought that this might be the *(East) Indies* … literally on the other side of the world. ) or people making use of a symbol in a way that made sense to *them*, yet may have changed from how things were originally understood – or how we understand things today.
An interesting example for this concerns the Sanskrit term ‘Vratya’. I’ve written upon this, as per usual, extensively elsewhere.
You could translate it, i suppose, as ‘Outlaw’. Except in its *original* Vedic usage … it basically refers to .. well, rather like Odin – but a group of human worshippers [of Shiva, but Odin and Shiva are the same deific; ‘Odin’ used here because the notion of a ‘wandering’ ‘vagrant’ ‘barbarian’ sort is perhaps more familiar when we think of the Nordic end of things than the Vedic ] with strange powers and frightening competency. They’re ‘outlaws’ in the sense of being ‘uncivilized’, sure – but they’re also to be accorded respect, and are definitely identified as pious. Indeed, that’s their essential core of being.
Now, two thousand years later (maybe a bit less) – we find much later and less completely religiously oriented texts talking about “Vratya” in a somewhat different way. It refers there to various sorts of ‘Non-Aryas’. Outlaws who can and should be ‘assimilated’ into Hindu culture and custom. Entire ethnic groups thereof, in fact – Yavanas are a prominent instance of this; because of course, at that point Indo-Greek kingdoms were a thing, and the Yavanas [‘Ionians’] were being civilized (and so moving from ‘outlaw’ / ‘barbarian’ status] .
This doesn’t mean that the Greeks were Shiva worshippers of the sort connoted by Vratya in its original context. Only that “Vratya” as in “Outlaw”, person at the periphery of civilization, was a labelling that was re-used for a very different group – indeed series of groups, including non-Indo-Europeans, as it happens, many centuries later.
You can find another example for this with Rakshasa itself. I’ve linked you my article looking at the understanding at its core, and we’ve briefly discussed it here – but in more modern application .. well, you also find it used to simply mean ‘meat-eater’. Sometimes, this is used as short-hand in a derogatory way for some Europeans / Americans. Other times, inside India, it is utilized to speak about particular Bengali groups – including Bengali Brahmins (long story – again, it’s bceause there’s meat-eating involved).
Except, as you’ll see from the article I had linked … we must also consider that in the mythic sense, to be called a Rakshasa is not necessarily an indication of damnation. Powerful, pious Rakshasas exist – Brahmarakshasas in particular are foremost in retinue of Rudra, you get the idea. This is partially what i was getting at viz. functional usage for Jotunn not working out in a manner which would comport with ‘hey we’re going to declare this entire human ethnic group to be anathema and fit only for opposition’. Because viz. Jotunn .. well, as I say, you get even more overt ‘incorporations’ into the ‘positive’ and ‘divine’ side of things. But I digress.
Anyway, I should move on to your next points.
I am not sure what you are getting at with “both seem to have “priestly ” aspects as well as “ancestral”.”
As in, I am not sure why there would be a separation between “priestly” and “ancestral”. Manu is a priest, yes – and is also the first man. Similar understanding can be seen viz. Romulus. As applies divinities – we likewise can often see particular deifics Who are both ancestral to either particular lineages of man or indeed humanity all up, and also engage in priestly conduct.
However, I should also emphasize that part of the difficulty many have is that because they’ve come in with some sort of pseudo-Dumezilian ‘separation of powers’ thing in mind … the actual much more multifaceted nature of any figure or deific is often a challenge for the model to handle. Agni, for instance, is most definitely a Priest – indeed the Priest of the Gods and the God of Priests. This absoluiteyl does not stop Agni from also fighting , being a war-leader , presiding over raiding parties and so forth.
Now, as applies Ettin – yes, I thought this was more common knowledge, but evidently not. I briefly mentioned it in the piece I had linked on IE demonology. Ettin and Jotun are indeed quite close cognates. I used it rather than ‘Jotun’ to make the “Eat’ point because it’s a lot more immediately apparent the linguistic linkage.
YOu can see the cognate between Jotun and Ettin rather more clearly if we use the more archaic English – well, the Old English .. Eoten. Eoten is pronounced in a manner rather similar to Jotun. Because, of course, the ‘J-‘ being a ‘Y’ [c.f ‘Jarl’ being ‘Yarl’ like ‘Earl’; Jera being Yera like ‘Year’, you get the idea].
As applies reading the RV etc. … it should be noted that the texts lose so much even in good translation, that it’s quite a risky proposition. Especially because a lot of the translated material out there is … not so great; and often lacking in commentary and contextualizatoin rather vital to understanding more of waht’s going on.