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09/11/2001 WE REMEMBER
Heathenry and the Indo-European Tradition
Posted: Posted January 30th
Edited January 30th by 9x19
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I have been studying the proto-Indo-European concept lately and have found it not only academically interesting but personally compelling.

The PIE hypothesis uses both comparative linguistic reconstruction and physical evidence to posit the existence of a prehistorical group of peoples called the proto-Indo-Europeans. These people were the forerunners of many of the modern-day cultures both in Eurasia and across the world. Indo-European languages form the majority of modern-day languages, including Greek, Sanskrit, Italian, Irish, Hindi, Spanish, Norwegian, Russian, German and English (among MANY others). Looking at the historical forms of these languages, we find a staggering number of both linguistic similarities and similarity of mythology. Comparing the reflexes of these various languages and myths allows us to project a hypothesized common language and culture as far back as 5000 B.C.E. This hypothesis has been upheld so far as it has suggested that specific kinds of cultural artifacts would be found in a specific area and that kind of artifact has been found. It is, however, naturally difficult to support a hypothesis when the events are separated by several millennia.

A functional proto-Indo-European language has been reconstructed from comparison of the reflexes of the daughter languages. It is very likely inaccurate to some degree, as the hypothesized language is so old that there is no attestation of it whatsoever. This was used before the invention of the written word. However, we can see that elements of the languages and the culture that it indicates strike true with comparison to more modern recorded history.

The phrase "deus pater" looks Latin. It's a valid phrase in Latin. But it didn't come from Latin. It came from PIE, thousands of years earlier. Other forms of it, pronounced slightly differently, can be found in languages separated by thousands of miles and thousands of years. The sky father is a tradition older than recorded history - and may be the oldest clearly defined religious deity.

Perhaps even older is the thunder-hero, he who slays the dragon. His story has been told thousands of times over under as many different names. It is the practice of comparative mythology on his stories from the descendants of Indo-European cultures that Campbell formulated the Monomyth from.

The veneration of these archetypes involves various practices, including the sanctification of fire and iron, libation of wine or milk, sacrifice of flesh, and supplication to or petitioning of the celestial entities. These are all firmly pre-Abrahamic behaviors, though they influenced those traditions. They also, as far as I can tell, feature none of the twisted manipulation that Abrahamic traditions grew to employ regularly, though this is somewhat unfalsifiable due to the lack of attestations.

I have come to a conclusion. There is a tradition which: is of my particular people; follows behaviors and considerations that I find natural, aesthetic, and reasonable; predates and does not include the influence of Afro-Asiatic cultures such as the Semites (whose culture I have been trying to escape for years); produces a positive emotion and will within me; references the only religious figures that I even remotely identify with.

I finally have a name for what I have been doing for the last couple of years. I am a heathen.

There are 9 Replies

“heathen” is someone from the heath; or someone who worships on the heath. The Afrikaaner form of this is “Hottentot”.
“pagan” is someone who worships at a pagus, i.e. an Artesian well or natural fountain, especially one in a clearing. The Areopagus is the pagus sacred to Ares.
Maybe “pagan” would describe you as well as “heathen” would.
———
I really don’t find any of the religions native to Indo-European or Proto-IE or Pre-PIE any more tolerable than any of the Abrahamic religions.
If it has one or more gods I’m against it.
If it has any spirits, but no gods, I don’t believe it, but I’m not necessarily against it, and I think it possible I might change my mind one day;
unlikely, but possible.
———
Buddhism doesn’t necessarily include any form of theism. Many Buddhists are theists, but many are atheists, if I understand correctly.
Sikhism is based in Hinduism, which is one of those archetypical IE pre-Abrahamic religions, and is polytheistic. But I like the fact that Sikh saints have accepted martyrdom to defend the religious freedom of non-Sikhs.
Naziri Ismaili Sevener Shi’ite Islam is an Abrahamic faith, hence monotheistic. But I like the fact that they regard it as their duty to Allah to use the gifts of observation and reason He has given them.

So I’m not totally against absolutely every religion.
Even the rest of the religions did some good before 1900, arguably more good than harm; and maybe up until 1999.
But I would argue that from about 2000 until the present, every religion has done more harm than good; and I foresee that continuing through to 2100.
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

—————

Interesting post!



Edited January 31st by eldin raigmore
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Maybe “pagan” would describe you as well as “heathen” would.


Perhaps it would. My current understanding of how those words are commonly used today would indicate that I would be a little more accurate in describing myself as a heathen. Historically speaking, yes, I could be described both ways. I will leave the judgement of which term is the more accurate until I have done more research on exactly what they imply and form a clearer idea of what the PIE tradition consists of.

If it has one or more gods I’m against it.

If it has any spirits, but no gods, I don’t believe it, but I’m not necessarily against it, and I think it possible I might change my mind one day;

unlikely, but possible.


The term "deus" meant "of the daylight sky" - the connotation was "celestial" or "heavenly". There were several celestial entities - Deus Pater, Perun/Perkwunos, Hausos, etc., as well as "non-celestial but still numinous and sublime" entities such as Dheghom Mater.

The term for that which animates the mortal shell was a different term, "speys", which meant "breath" in the literal sense. When a man stopped living, it was this that had fled from him. It is this term (and it's associated implication) that descended to Latin to become the term "spiritus" and, later, "spirit".

While Deus Pater is said to be the supreme one, there is none of the insecurity that the Abrahamic religions portray as far as hoarding worship goes. It was common for the number, composition and name of gods to vary from region to region, and to give acknowledgement to any or all of them - and even to the demons which lived under the earth, as they must sometimes be placated to prevent evil.

Speaking of which, the Underworld was also a much more casual place - simply where the dark things lived, or occasionally portrayed as where the spirits of the dead went regardless of their behavior in life. As far as I can tell, it was never portrayed as a punitive place until the advent of the Abrahamic tradition. In fact, it may have been significantly more welcoming before, as going under the shadow of the earth was seen as reuniting with Dheghom Mater (Mother Earth) and reaching your final dwelling place among your forefathers.

The providence of Deus Pater was given to all; supplication was a way of giving thanks for the good things in life, not a necessary action to avoid Hell. If you are against the idea of gods because of their use as a stick to threaten the credulous, I would warn that it appears that that theology of the PIE tradition is significantly different than more modern interpretations. It is closer to animism than usual theism. It does still portray a class of entity that is distinct from man and his animating essence, however. If you object on that basis, then that is very applicable.

I have no argument for you or anyone else to accept this. I just want to discuss the historical foundation for the personal journey that I'm on.

Even the rest of the religions did some good before 1900, arguably more good than harm; and maybe up until 1999.

But I would argue that from about 2000 until the present, every religion has done more harm than good; and I foresee that continuing through to 2100.


If you carefully constructed a definition of "religion" that placed far more restriction on the term than I would be willing to accept, I could be persuaded to agree with you. I think that the organized major religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, are structured in such as way as to at least enable if not actually promote unhealthy patterns of guilt, recidivism, tribalism, and abuse. However, the view of the full scope of what I would call religion includes much more than the organized major Abrahamic traditions. This may be a conversation worth having, as knowing what a religion is before attempting to delineate one is useful much in the way that knowing what a spaceship is is useful if you want to fly to the moon - in other words, entirely necessary.

For now, though, I will let you respond as you will. I could talk about any of these topics at your discretion.

Posted January 31st by 9x19
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9x19
 

Hinduism, which is one of those archetypical IE pre-Abrahamic religions, and is polytheistic.


Hinduism is pretty crazy and really defies classification. In various contexts it's polytheistic, trinitarian, monotheistic, pantheistic, and "lol god is the only thing that exists dude". There are also multiple schools of thought which also reference and draw inspiration from each other -- a bit like abrahamic sects would if they were less isolationist. Hinduism also has some rather crazy texts if you can find good versions -- my copy of the upanishads is over a thousand pages long.

There are also very interesting cosmological texts that measure time in billions or trillions of years. Also parallels with quantum physics (which many scientists of the early 1900s noted). Their medicinal system is also pretty unique and works reasonably well given how weird it is. Overall I think the ancient indians knew a lot more than they were letting on.

As for the OP, it was interesting to read and I like it a lot. One thing our culture is definitely lacking is an ethnic identity -- something that sort of solidifies our connection to our ancestors and descendants. While prevalent in European thought, Christianity is ultimately abrahamic and serves mostly to propogate desert-people ways of thinking. It totally makes sense that it would be largely abandoned in cultures where there isn't consistent resource scarcity, while it thrives in cultures that still need that "mostly desert, a few oases" way of thinking.



Edited January 31st by Xhin
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Xhin
 

I think that the organized major religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, are structured in such as way as to at least enable if not actually promote unhealthy patterns of guilt, recidivism, tribalism, and abuse


Don't forget ignorance and blind trust in authority. I definitely agree with you here. Even saner Christian sects seem to inevitably fall into this trap -- instead of promoting good they instead fall into a pattern of shaming microsins and fearing alternative thought. There's also cult-like levels of tribalism happening across the board and drastic mishandling of things like lust or pride.

Posted January 31st by Xhin
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Xhin
 

I remember an example illustrating “the etymological fallacy” saying
“The soul possesses God” does NOT still mean “The breath sits on the bright sky”.


Posted February 3rd by eldin raigmore
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However, especially in numinous fields such as religion, the use of metaphor and other techniques of multiple meaning to cloak the appearance of a thing are often used. It is rarely as clean-cut as "this is what this word USED TO mean, so this is what the word ACTUALLY means" OR "the current context means that this word or phrase means exactly the one thing that is most literally relevant". The truth is a lot more inconsistent and must consider both historical usage, symbolism, metaphor and current usage.

Posted February 3rd by 9x19
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9x19
 

@9x19:
Right. And not just in religion.
The pair of clauses was presented to illustrate a fallacy.

Another one;
“infect” used to mean “dye”.
It means something radically different now!


Posted February 4th by eldin raigmore
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Fun fact: 46% (i.e. the majority) of modern languages are descended from the Indo-European family.



Not-so-fun fact: the idea of non-discriminatory mass violence from lone actors, while coming to a politically explosive head in modern times, is not even remotely new in European-descended thought. The trope of the hero, already seen as a dangerous and problematic killer of men by non-warriors, is often seen as afflicted with an intermittent madness. Cu Chulainn, Heracles, etc. would suffer frenzies in which they could not determine friend from foe and would attack and kill even their close kinfolk. In particular, Cu Chulainn was so monstrous that his allies needed contingency plans in case he returned from battle early and massacred them all.

Posted February 9th by 9x19
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9x19
 

Does anyone know the common features of most-or-all Indo-European “pagan” or “heathen” (that is, before they adopted any “world religion” such as Islam or Buddhism or Christianity) mythology, especially those that are not shared by any or many non-IE mythologies from their “pagan” or “heathen” periods?


Edited February 10th by eldin raigmore
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