Sunday, 26 July 2009
The purpose of this article is not to discuss or examine the various theories of Aryan origins and the location of the Urheimat but to consider if the mythologies of the Germanic and Celtic peoples support an invasion theory.
Theories come and go according to the dictates and fancies of the academic world which appears to be as fickle as the rest of humanity.
Do the mythologies of the northern European peoples support an invasion theory? I believe that they do but it is important to realise that what the mythologies cannot do is give us any conclusive indication as to the location of the Urheimat.
We will start with the mythology of the Germanic peoples. Germanic mythology recognises two originally seperate pantheons, the Aesir and the Vanir. Modern writers on the subject superficially designate the Aesir as war and sky gods whilst regarding the Vanir as earth and fertility deities: this is an oversimplification.
Could the two different clans, their meeting, warfare and eventual union be a distant memory of an invading Aryan people confronting an existing Old European population, their clashes in battle and melding together?
As Ralph Metzner states in his The Well of Remembrance: "As the Kurgan and Aryan tribes spread out over Europe, Anatolia, Persia, and India, they consolidated their control over the societies they invaded and conquered. Pastoral, gardening, and farming economies were combined in various ways, as walled towns were built and city-states arose, ruled by warrior kings."
He goes on to say: "Hybrid cultures had hybrid mythologies. Mythologies must obviously reflect the historical, political, economic, and psychological patterns of experience. In Europe, the stories of the warfare between the Aesir and the Vanir deities mirror the clashing of cultures between nomadic, invading Kurgan warriors and the settled farming and gardening communities of Old Europe. Stories of the peacemaking efforts between these two clans of gods, both failures and successes, must surely reflect similar stable and unstable alliances among the hundreds of tribes and clans that wandered back and forth across central Europe for several millenia, right up into the period of the great migrations in the third, fourth, and fifth centuries of the Christian era."
The war that took place between the Aesir and the Vanir was inconclusive, neither side able to achieve a victory. A peace treaty was made and hostages were exchanged. Both sides had to spit into a vessel and they created from the mixing of their spittle a being called Kvasir. This name is cognate with the Norwegian kvase and the Russian kvas, a juice fermented from berries.
The mixing of spittle and the sharing of an intoxicated drink included in ceremonies for the conclusion of peace is common to numerous archaic tribes.
The Vanir gave Njord and his children Frey and Freyja to the Aesir whilst the Aesir gave in turn Hoenir and Mimir to the Vanir.
In the Dictionary of Northern Mythology Rudolf Simek states: "In older scholarship the myth of the Vanir wars was mostly seen as a reflection of a historical war which took place in the 2nd millenium B.C. At that time the established South Scandinavian-West European megalithic culture was overrun by the north-westward advancing battle-axe culture, whence came the mixture of the [non-Indo-European? matriarchal?] champions of the megalithic culture[=Vanir] with the Indo-Germanic battle-axe people[= string ceramics culture=Aesir]. These historical processes would have stayed in memory in the form of the myth of the Vanir and the pact of peace between the Aesir and the Vanir[Eckhardt].
In opposition to this theory, Dumezil pointed out the related myths and legends among other Indo-Germanic peoples[the Romans, Indians] and interpreted the Vanir wars as a result of this as the social conflict within a society in which the hierarchical followers of the kings[=Aesir?] and the farming population [for whom the vegetation cult and magic were of significance] stood against each other. Only through the pact of peace between these social classes-which in the myth of the Vanir wars indeed take on a central position-was the ordered social and religious structure of the Indo-Germanic society created[Dumezil, de Vries]."
Interestingly as a side point the land where the Aesir came from according to Snorri`s etymology in which he mixes together classical, christian and Germanic elements was Asia, called Asaheimr or Asaland, the capital of which is Asgard.
Now what light does Celtic mythology throw upon this issue?
Charles Squire in his The Mythology of the British Islands states: "We also find them seperated into two opposing camps, a division common to all the Aryan religions. Just as the Olympians struggled with the Giants, the Aesir fought the Jotuns, and the Devas the Asuras, so there is warfare in the Gaelic spiritual world between two superhuman hosts."
Interestingly in the above paragraph Squire does not refer to the opposition in the early days between the Aesir and the Vanir but after their union these two clans became known collectively as the Aesir. This may be because of the more dominating warrior role of the Aesir clan. Although this clan were warrior Gods, is the reason why they failed to win the war due to the Vanir being more numerous? The myths do not clarify this issue for us but if the Vanir represent a more numerous settled agricultural population and the Aesir a less numerous but a warrior elite much more skilled in the arts of warfare it could explain the lack of a decisive outcome in the war.
The new collective Aesir went on to fight further battles with the Giants, resulting ultimately in the climatic battle of Ragnarok. Could the Giants also in some way represent a residual older population still not assimilated or conquered by the Aesir?
Irish mythology knows of up to seven invasions of Ireland by various races of divine, semi-divine or human races. The Book of Invasions is a record of this mythical and semi-historical series of invasions and colonisations.
British Celtic mythology recognises two clans of Gods, the Children of Don which is cognate with the Irish Tuatha De Danann[the people or tribe of the Goddess Danu] and the followers of a Goddess called Domnu; their king is her son Indech. They are more popularly known as the Fomors. Tuatha is cognate with the Germanic Teut The Tuatha De Danann were not the first race of Gods to arrive in Ireland. The Celtic myths recognise two earlier extinct races, the Race of Partholon and the Race of Nemed. Both races expired after each fell victim to a mysterious plague.
Squire states: "Just as the largest Iberian tribe was called the `Men of Domnu`, so the Fomors were called the `Gods of Domnu`. Thus eternal battle between the gods, children of Danu, and the giants, children of Domnu, would reflect, in the supernatural world, the perpetual warfare between invading Celt and resisting Iberian. It is shadowed, too, in the later heroic cycle. The champions of Ulster, Aryans and Gaels par excellence, have no such bitter enemies as the Fir Domnann of Munster and the Fir Gaillion of Leinster. A few scholars would even see in the later death-struggle between the High Kings of Ireland and his rebellious Fenians the last historic or mythological adumbration of racial war."