Indo-European Myth 2

Standard Set 1: Basic Myths 

1) Describe and compare how the cosmos is created through sacrifice in two different IE cultures. (150 words min. each culture) 

The generation of the cosmos in most IE cultures comes out of sacrifice.  In both the Norse and the Greek mythology we see the destruction of a being bringing about the world as we know it.  The sea, the sky, and the land were created out of the death, the sacrifice, of a great being (Serith Deep Ancestors 22-24).  These pieces of the cosmos are all tied together by the Sacred Center, which is established through the sacrifice of those beings.

The Norse myths describe the creation of the world as it came into being guided by three brothers: Odin, Vili, and Ve.  In the North was icy Nilfhiem, and in the south was fiery Muspell.  In the middle was Ginnungagap, a mild place where Ymir, a frost giant, lived and sweated out the race of frost giants.  This myth goes on to explain how Ymir was killed by the three brothers, Odin, Vili, and Ve as they grew tired of his and the other frost giants evilness. The Norse world was made out of Ymir’s body. His flesh became the earth, his bones the mountains, his blood the lakes and seas, and his skull the sky, held up by four dwarves.  The brothers took the embers from fiery Muspell and threw them up into the sky making the sun, and moon, and stars.  The Norse brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve then divided the world so there would be a place for the giants, Jotunheim, and a safer place made of Ymir’s eyebrows, Midgard. The dwarves were made from the maggots that had crawled over Ymir’s body (Crossley-Holland 3-7).

In Greek mythology an example of the cosmos being created or ordered through sacrifice can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  In book four, when telling the myths of Perseus, Atlas, defeated by the hero, is turned into a mountain.  Perseus is seeking the golden apples of the Hespirides, which are guarded by a great dragon.  Because Perseus is unable to best Atlas with strength he uses his cunning.  When Perseus reveals the head of Medusa, Atlas looks upon it and becomes a mountain.  His hair and beard become the trees, his shoulders and hands become mountain ridges, his head becomes the highest peak and his bones become rocks.  Through this transformation he becomes huge and vast and the stars, the sky, rest upon his shoulders (Ovid).  Thus Atlas becomes the literal axis mundi.  “this forms a link between the sacrificial cosmology and its origin, the cosmogony” (Serith Deep Ancestors 23).


2) Describe the image of the Otherworld and/or afterlife in three different IE cultures. How may these images impact your understanding of your own afterlife beliefs and those of Neo-Pagans in general? (400 words min.)

The Otherworld in Norse mythology contains many different lands described in the Grimnismol. Some of these include Valhalla, Folkvang, and Hel. Valhalla is ruled over by Odin, and it is there that he offers hospitality each night to the slain who have fallen in battle and brought to Valhalla by the Valkyries, whose title literally means “chooser of the slain” (Ellis Davidson 61-6). The warriors there fight all day, and each evening are restored to feast on pork and mead (28). The Hall of Valhalla is described in the Grimnismolas existing in Glathsheim, and “its rafters are spears, | with shields is it roofed,
/ On its benches are breastplates strewn. […] There hangs a wolf | by the western door,
/ And o’er it an eagle hovers” (Sturlson Grimnismol 90). Folkvang is the realm that Freya rules over. It’s not described in great detail, but it is “where Freyja decrees / Who shall have seats in the hall; / 
The half of the dead | each day does she choose,
 / And half does Othin have” (Sturlson Grimnismol 91-2).

While Valhalla is ruled over by Odin, and Folkvang by Freya, Helhaim is ruled by the goddess Hel. It is described in detail in Gylfaginning in the Ride of Hermóðr when he searches for Balder.  Hermóðr is said to have taken Sleipnir, and has to ride a long distance over dark valleys until he reaches the river Gjöll and rides over the covered bridge made of gold.  He meets with Módgudr, the maiden who challenges him about the noise he had made in crossing the bridge, and tells him he then must continue to travel down and north until he comes to the gates of Hel, which Sleipnir must jump over in order to enter (Ellis 171) (Sturlson Gylfaginning 73-4).

In Vedic India the Otherworld is described as a pastureland that Yama found for men after they have died and are following in the steps of their fathers. The place is described as full of sacred grass where one may sit and rest while singing joyful hymns and eating sacred food.  Here the departed have a place to rest with Yama in blessed light and waters.  The living are encouraged to gift Yama with Soma, gifts enriched with butter, and sacrifices through Agni so that “he may grant that we may live long days of life among the Gods” (Griffith RV 10.14).  This implies that while reincarnation is unclear, the Vedics believed in the possibility of life after death.

In Greek mythology, there are several places that have been described, including the Isles of the Blessed, places for the heroes and the righteous dead, and fields warmed by breezes and not encased in fog (the Elysian Fields) (Puhvel 139).  Another explanation of the Underworld is described as being to the north at the edge of the river Akherosian, which must be crossed with the help of Charon (Atsma “Charon”).  Odysseus travels there in Book 11 of the Odyssey.  Homer describes the place they visit as “enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays of the sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down again out of the heavens, but the poor wretches [the dead] live in one long melancholy night” (Homer & Butler).  Landmarks that are seen in the Greek underworld include the House of Hades, a white, and possibly shining, cypress tree, a spring, as well as the lake of Memory.  These are all within the “darkness of murky Hades”  (Graf 5).  There are clearly different places where the dead can go, and for those who know the mysteries, they will travel on a road to the “holy meadows and groves of Persephone” (9).

There is some belief in reincarnation evident in Ancient Greece, as discussed in Plato’s Meno in the conversation between Socrates and Meno: “They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed. […] “For in the ninth year Persephone sends the souls of those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom and are called saintly heroes in after ages.” The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all” (Plato). This is to say that the soul can be reborn if the person lived with virtue in their lifetime and if Persephone decides to send them back to the world of the living.  The ancient crime is probably referring to the loss of her child, Dionysos, which eventually led to the birth of humanity (Graf 68-9).

I, like many other neo-pagans, have a belief in both reincarnation and the ability to form connections and communicate with the Dead after they have passed.  My personal beliefs follow closely to what Plato describes, with the idea that our souls are ever-learning.  After a time spent in the afterlife we may be chosen to be reborn and continue the learning of our soul.  A spark is left glowing if we drink from the Lake of Memory, and that spark can be used to ignite a new life.  I also feel drawn to the idea it is more important to live a virtuous life than to live for the afterlife.  It is in this life that we learn, that we influence the path of the world, and that we form the connections with those around us and with the spirits.  So it is this life that we should be focused on.


3) Describe the raiding of cattle by warriors (or divine reflexes of this action) in two cultures. How does this theme reflect the culture of the ancient Indo-European peoples, and is this theme relevant to modern Pagans? (300 words min.)

The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge) from Irish lore tells how Queen Medb of Connaught decides she must have the Brown Bull, and will do anything to obtain it from Daire of Ulster.  The hero Cuchulain ends up having to defend all of Ulster against Medb and her forces.  The White Bull of Connaught and the Brown Bull of Ulster end up fighting, with the Brown triumphing.  In the end, neither side ended up with the Brown Bull, and many people died over the course of the fighting (Dunn Táin Bó Cúailnge).

In Greek mythology, when Hermes was a baby he found Apollo’s herd of cattle and decided to steal them.  He lured them out of the meadow and made them walk backwards, so they did not appear to be leaving.  In addition to stealing the cattle, he also slaughtered two of them and cooked their meat (though did not eat it).  From the intestines of the cattle he slew he made strings for the first lyre by stretching them across a tortoise shell.  Later, when Apollo accused him of the theft of the cattle, he not only denied taking the herd of cows, but also traded the lyre he had made to Apollo for the herd.  Thus he avoided blame and yet got to keep the cows honorably anyways (Homer & Athanassakis 31-47).

In these ancient cultures cattle were directly correlated to wealth, and both Hermes and Queen Medb succumbed to greed when they attempted to gain another’s wealth. In both cases, they came up against obstacles in obtaining or keeping the cattle. This reflects the culture of the ancient Indo-European peoples because the idea of protecting and defending one’s assets, and keeping wealth moveable and tradable was very important. These stories relate how greed and the covetous nature of the deities involved can wreck havoc on those around them, especially within the ancient Indo-European culture. Queen Medb recognized the value of the Brown Bull, but her greed caused hundreds to die as she tried to obtain it. Hermes also recognized the value of the cattle, and traded a novel and valuable item (the lyre) to Apollo in order to keep them after Apollo called him out on stealing his whole herd.

While theft and greed was frowned upon in ancient cultures just as it now, there are lessons to be learned from these stories. As modern pagans, these stories are a reminder that we need to walk our virtues and live an honest life. We should be wary of becoming greedy, jealous, envious, or dishonest. We can also look deeper into the stories for other lessons that may apply in a different way to our modern culture. They can both speak to the value of diplomacy in modern paganism.  As a modern pagan, when we are involved in a situation and trying to have our needs met, it is important to remember the value in diplomacy and recognizing that we have things to offer.  As the bulls in the Cattle Raid of Cooley did not allow either side to have their needs met, the two tribes may have been better served by working through accepted channels of trade and diplomacy, rather than through trickery and war, in order to have their needs and desires met.  We can also recognize the value of exchanging gifts to build a stronger community.  Apollo and Hermes are considered to be very close now, after having exchanged the herd of cattle and the lyre, their friendship cemented by working together through their conflict, rather than jumping to conclusions and continuing to accuse (falsely or not) the deeds of each other.


4) Describe instances of “freeing” or “winning” the waters in two different IE cultures. How can this theme be used to reinforce our current practices and cosmology? (300 words min.)

“All waters are, by their very nature, sacred. We take these waters and set them aside, as they have been won for us.  We set them aside for our use, because these are the gifts we have been given by the Kindreds.”

 — from the liturgy of Three Cranes Grove, ADF

The winning of the waters is the giving of blessings and knowledge to the folk.  It is the transference of energy that happens during the Return Flow.   We do this in every ADF ritual.  The deities, in their awesome power, have won these gifts, these blessings, these waters and are giving them to us.  It is part of how they maintain the *ghosti relationship that we have built.

Vedic mythology provides a very clear and literal example of the winning of the waters.  In the Rig Veda Indra battled with Vrtra to free the waters and win them back for all the people.  Vrtra, the dragon on the mountain, was hoarding the waters all for himself and his kin.  Then Indra, the Thunderer, having drank of mighty Soma, struck the mountain with his thunderbolt and slew Vrtra and his kin.  When he slew Vrtra the waters flowed forth, finally free, down to the ocean (Griffith RV 1.32).  This example is straightforward.  Indra won the waters, and set them free to flow to the people of Earth and provide them with the blessings that the water contains.

There is a myth in Avestan mythology told in Yasht 19 that relates the story of Atar, the Son of the Waters (Ahura Mazda), who is protecting the gift of Glory (which belongs to the bright ones, the Amesha-Spenta) from Azhi Dahaka, the three-mouthed evil one, who is the most powerful demon that Angra Mainyu created. Azhi Dahaka tries to take Glory forcibly and Atar threatens him and frightens him so much that Azhi Dahaka pulls back and lets go of it. Then, “Glory swells up and goes to the sea Vouru-Kasha. [Atar] seizes it at once” and forces it “down to the bottom of the sea Vouru-Kasha, in the bottom of the deep rivers.” Now when we make sacrifice to the Son of the Waters, he gifts them to us, as the gift of Glory bubbles up and flows forth into the rivers of the world. As the water flows forth from Mount Ushidhau it brings wealth, strength, beauty, power, and health (Darmsteter Zamyâd Yast”) (Puhvel 278-9).

This theme of winning the waters is relevant to our current practices and cosmology because when we call for the blessings it is important for us to know we are calling to in order to receive them.  As we engage in our practice of establishing and maintaining our *ghosti relationship with the Kindreds, it is important to know what gifts we are receiving, how those gifts were initially received, and why those gifts are so special and sacred.

This theme of winning the waters is used to reinforce out current practice most often when we call for the blessings.  For example, because in Vedic mythology Indra won the waters and let them flow forth to provide wealth, strength, and inspiration to all the Folk below. The Hymn declares of Indra that “Thou hast won back the kine, hast won the Soma; thou hast let loose to flow the Seven Rivers” (Griffith RV I.32.12).  This would be an excellent image to include in a Vedic ritual where the Waters, the Blessings, are shared amongst all the Folk.  The same theme can be seen in Avestan mythology as the Son of the Waters seizes the waters, the Glory, for us, for those who make sacrifice to him.


5) Show two examples in one IE culture of a deity engaging in actions that are unethical or unvirtuous, and speculate on why the deities sometimes engage in this type of behavior. (min. 100 words per example)

There are many examples in Greek mythology of deities engaging in actions that are unethical and unvirtuous. Zeus and Hera are related in many of these.  Zeus engages in acts of lust, pursuing consorts against his wife’s wishes, and Hera in turn engages in acts of jealously, punishing these consorts in turn.  One such example involves Kallisto, one of Artemis’ hunting companions.  There are many versions of the story.  One version explains how Zeus fell in love with Kallisto and forced himself on her.  He knew Hera wouldn’t approve, so he turned Kallisto into a bear.  When Hera found out she convinced Artemis to shoot the girl-bear to death (Atsma, Aaron J. “Kallisto”).

Another example of deities engaging in unvirtuous behavior is the story of the Golden Apple in Greek mythology.  This story shows how vanity can have dire consequences.  In this story Eris throws a Golden Apple in the middle of Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena addressed “to the “Fairest of All.”  Eris was angry that she wasn’t allowed to attend the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  The three goddesses were sent to Paris of Troy for him to make the decision.  Each goddess in their vanity offered him something in an attempt to curry his favor and win the designation of the Fairest of All.  Hera promised wealth, Athena promised knowledge of every skill, and Aphrodite, so desirous to be named the fairest, promised Paris that he could have Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.  So Paris, being vain and shallow himself, chose Aphrodite, and as Helen was abducted in order for Aphrodite to keep her word, the war between Greece and Troy began (Atsma, Aaron J. “Judgment of Paris”).

There are many reasons why there are a multitude of stories of this sort throughout mythology.  One reason could be as simple as the fact that we, as human, love hearing engaging stories that contain drama.  When we hear these stories it allows us to experience things from a safe distance, to experience these situations in such a way that we can come out of them.  Another reason is because our deities are limited in nature. Because they are not omnipotent, they cannot see the bigger picture, and thus cannot always make decisions that would benefit all aspects of a situation.  Having flaws not only makes them more believable and relatable because they can make mistakes, but it also gives them a methods of teaching us way to behave virtuously ourselves.  The unvirtuous behavior that we see allows us to find reflections of ourselves in the deities and connect more deeply with them.


6) Explain the monomyth (aka “hero cycle”) and show how it applies to a single hero from the IE culture of your choice. (150 words min.)

 The monomyth, a theory developed by Joseph Campbell and detailed in The Hero with A Thousand Faces, is the premise that all heroes represent archetypes in mythology and that all mythologies follow a common myth cycle.  This is very useful in Indo-European studies because it allows us make educated guess for filling gaps in mythology that may have been lost or never written down in the first place.  The monomyth follows the basic cycle of Departure- Initiation – Return.  These three pieces of the Hero’s Journey are broken down into steps, and while not all hero myths contain every step, enough of the similarities exist to make it a well-researched and arguable theory.  The hero begins with Departure.  The steps here are The Call to Adventure (Campbell 49), The Refusal of the Call (59), Supernatural Aid (69), Crossing the First Threshold (77), and The Belly of the Whale (90).  During the Initiation phase the steps are The Road of Trials (97), Meeting with the Goddess (109), Woman as Temptress (120), Atonement with the Father (126), Apotheosis (149), and the Ultimate Boon (172).  The final phase, the Return, contains the Refusal of the Return (193), Magic Flight (196), Rescue from Without (207), Crossing the Return Threshold (217), The Master of Two Worlds (229), and the Freedom to Live (238).

The Hero’s Journey, the monomyth, can be seen in the journey of Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey.  Some of the steps in Odysseus’s journey are shifted around within his tale, but most can be seen fairly easily within the epic.


  • The Call to Adventure – The Greeks are at war with Troy, and Odysseus must go to help them (prior to Book 1)
  • The Refusal of the Call – Odysseus does not want to leave his family and go to war (prior to Book 1)
  • Supernatural Aid – Athena comes to the aid of Odysseus (Book 5&6)
  • Crossing the First Threshold – Odysseus leaves Troy after the war, and gets blown off course because he neglected to offer to Poseidon before setting sail (Poseidon is also further angered when Odysseus blinds Polyphemus) (alluded to in Book 4)
  • The Belly of the Whale – His crew becomes trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, and they must trick him to escape.  Odysseus must become “no man” in order to escape (Book 9)


  • The Road of Trials – Odysseus is lost for a decade, facing many trials as he journeys, lost, across the sea (these include the land of the lotus-eaters, the sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, the Clashing Rocks, the Laestrygonians, the Sun God’s Cattle) (Books 9-12)
  • Meeting with the Goddess – Odysseus meets Circe, and while he is trapped there for awhile, and many of his men are turned into pigs, once Odysseus defeats her, she releases the spell on his men and provides supplies and aid for them when they set out again (Book 10)
  • Woman as Temptress – Odysseus meets with Calypso and spends 7 years on her island.  He is unable to act as a hero during this time and is finally released when Zeus demands it.  Even then, Calypso tries to tempt Odysseus into staying by offering him immortality. (Book 5)
  • Atonement with the Father – Odysseus journey’s to the edge of the underworld and meets with Tiresias who gives him knowledge of how to return home unharmed and later atone with Poseidon. (Book 11)
  • Apotheosis – staying with Phaeacians after he has washed ashore with his crew.  He stays awhile and relates his stories (Books 7&8)
  • The Ultimate Boon – Odysseus receives the bag of winds from Aeolus (and while he gets within sight of home, his crew is too curious and releases all the devastating winds, and they are again blown off course) (Book 10)


  • Refusal of the Return – Odysseus doesn’t recognize Ithaca when he returns, and Athena disguises him so no one will recognize him. (Book 13)
  • Magic Flight – The Phaeacians guide Odysseus home, giving him safe passage back to Ithaca (Book 13)
  • Rescue from Without – Odysseus upon his return to the island meets with Eumaeus (the swineherd), who greets him with hospitality and demonstrates devotion to Odysseus (though he doesn’t recognize that the beggar is Odysseus) (Book 14)
  • Crossing the Return Threshold – Odysseus defeats the suitors when he is able to string the great bow (Book 21&22)
  • The Master of Two Worlds – Odysseus defeats the suitors and reclaims his name, his title, his kingdom, and his family.  He is able to live both as the man who experienced the trials, and as the returning hero. (Book 23)
  • The Freedom to Live – Athena stops the suitors from taking revenge and Odysseus tells Penelope of the trip he must make to atone with Poseidon and be able to live in peace. (Book 23, 24 and after the epic)


Standard Set 2: Applications

1) Using your answer to question 1 above (cosmos creation), create a piece for use in ritual that describes the process of cosmos creation through sacrifice. (no min. word count)

Recreate the Cosmos & Place the Omphalos-

Let this area around us be purified sacred space where we go to meet the gods,

and the gods descend down to meet with us.

Let the smoke from our sacred fire carry our voices to the heavens to be heard by the gods.

I place this omphalos at the center of worlds, just as it marked the center of the ancient world.  My hands, like two eagles, flying to meet in the middle and establish this as the sacred center of worlds.

Through this sacred center, let the World Tree grow, plunging deep within the earth to touch the Sacred Waters below and reaching through the sky to embrace the Sacred Fires above.

Standing here at the Center, it is now time to Open the Gates to the Many Realms.

Let this water become the Well, and open as a Gate to the worlds below.

Our connections deepen to the Chthonic beings as the Gate is opened.

Let this flame become the Fire, and open as a Gate to the worlds above.

Our connections deepen to the Ouranic beings as the Gate is opened.

Let this Omphalos stand at the center, and mark our sacred center here and in all the worlds.

Let the tree wrap its roots around the stone and sink into the Well,

and let its branches stretch upwards and reach for the Fire.

We stand here, connected at the Sacred Center

to all the realms of Land, Sea, and Sky.

Let the Gates be Open!

We now seek assistance in maintaining our connection to the Other Realms, and so we call on a Gatekeeper:

The children of the Earth call out to Atlas,

Great guardian who holds the earth and sky asunder.

You stand as the axis mundi, amongst the pillars connecting the many realms.

Driving the stars before you as the very heavens revolve around you.

Your feet know the depths of the sea and you hands the clouds of the sky.

Mighty Mountain, with your starry crown,

I make this offering to you and bid you welcome.

Meet us at the boundaries

Join us at our Sacred Hearth and be warmed by our good fire.

Aid us and guide us as we walk the Elder Ways.

Atlas, accept this offering!

And now, Atlas, I call to you and ask that you act as our Great Guardian here.

Be our Star Crowned and Earth Shod Pillar.

Be the Mountain that holds the earth and heavens asunder.

Hold our axis mundi firm and maintain our connection to all the realms.

Atlas, Guard the Gates!


2) Using your answer to question 4 above (winning the waters), create a piece for use in ritual that describes the winning of the waters. (no min. word count)

Vedic Spring Equinox: “Indra Megahavahana” A poem intended to be performed for the Return Flow:

Calling for the Blessing

Sing to Indra the Cloud Rider!

On eagles’ wings, borne across the land,

He chases Vrtra, drawn valiantly onward,

Rushing up from the sea upon the very clouds

That bear the waters.

Like a thunderbolt striking a mighty tree,

Split asunder by the tawny-armed Thunderer.

Indra, give us the Waters!


Hallowing the Blessing

Waters of the sea

Set free from the dark and boiling clouds.

Waters of the mountain

Set free as he cleaved the earth in two.

Flowing streams released by his bolt

As he watches from the clouds.

The cows roaring, bellowing, at the victory

As the fort-shatterer gives us the Waters

That we may drink them as

Mighty Indra consumes Soma.



Affirming the Blessing

As Indra is infused with the strength of Soma,

So might we be emboldened as we drink of these Waters.

Indra Megahavahana, we glory at your victory

And partake of the gifts you have won for us.




Works Cited:


Atsma, Aaron J. “Charon.” Theoi Greek Mythology. 2011. Web. 10 Feb. 2012. <>.


Atsma, Aaron J. “Judgment of Paris.” The Theoi Project. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2014. <>.


Atsma, Aaron J. “Kallisto.” The Theoi Project. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2014. <>.


Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 2d ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1972. Print.


Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon, 1980. Print.


Darmesteter, James. “Zamyâd Yast.” The Zend Avesta, Part II. The Internet Classics Archive. 1882. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <>.


Dunn, Joseph, and David Nutt. “The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúalnge).” Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1914. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <>.


Ellis Davidson, H.R. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin, 1964. Print.


Ellis, Hilda Roderick. The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. New York: Greenwood, 1968. Print.


Graf, Fritz, and Sarah Iles Johnston. Ritual Texts for the Afterlife: Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.


Griffith, Ralph T. H. “Rig Veda.” Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1896. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <>.


Homer, and Apostolos N. Athanassakis. “Hymn to Hermes.” The Homeric Hymns. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. Print.


Homer, and Samuel Butler. “The Odyssey.” The Odyssey of Homer. Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1900. Web. 24 Nov. 2014. <>.


Ovid. Trans. Brookes More. “Metamorphoses, Book 4.” Classical E-Text: Ovid, Metamorphoses Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <>.


Ovid. Trans. Sir Samuel Garth, and John Dryden. “Metamorphoses.” Metamorphoses by Ovid. The Internet Classics Archive. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <>.


Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. “Meno.” Meno by Plato. The Internet Classics Archive. 380 BCE. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <>.


Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. Print.


Serith, Ceisiwr.  Deep Ancestors. Tucson, AZ: ADF Publishing, 2007.  Print.


Sturlson, Snorri, and Henry Adams Bellows. “Grimnismol.” The Poetic Edda. Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1936. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <>.


Sturlson, Snorri, and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur. “Gylfaginning.” The Prose Edda. Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1916. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <>.


Indo-European Studies 1

  1. Describe several of the factors that define a culture as Indo-European and how those defining factors are useful in understanding that culture. (minimum 300 words)

There are several factors that define a culture as Indo-European.  The big three factors as they apply to the study of Our Druidry are having the same root language, having similar social or class structures, and having similar myth cycles.  Each of these three is important when studying Indo-European cultures in general because with those three factors combined, it is possible to postulate regarding aspects of each Indo-European culture that is missing sources from other Indo-European cultures that have that information documented.  It allows us to better flesh out each culture and better understand how the context of the culture impacted the life and the religion of the people.

The cultures we define as Indo-European all have language that root back to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language.  Having this same root language allows us to reconstructive certain deities and worship practices based on the tracing the roots of other cultures back.  For instance, we can look at language to see the similarities in various deities. The Thundering Sky God is a strong archetype present across the Indo-European cultures, and in Greek myth Zeus “is in name identical with the old Vedic sky-god Dyaus (Indo-European *Dyews ‘Bright Sky’)” (Puhvel 130).  Similarly the Norse Thor shares a root with the Gaulish Taranis, both reducing to *thunar-, meaning thunder (169).  The similarities in the roots of the deity names are a way that we can reconstruct an archetypical deity for a certain culture that doesn’t have a reliable record or complete record of one existing.  This same method holds true for important cultural rituals, such as rites of passage and celebrations linked to the seasons.

Indo-European cultures also have a similar social or class structure in place.  This is commonly referred to as Dumezil’s Theory of Tripartition, which will be discussed in more detail in question 2.  In general, this is the theory that there are three general classes of people that all must exist in a society and all play an important role to that society.  The three classes are the priestly class, the warrior class, and the agricultural class.  None can exist without the other and they work together to maintain a culturally rich society.  This tripartition is important to understanding the culture because it allows us to compare the functions of the deities of that culture to the people that culture.  This allows us to better understand their values and why they exist and are observed in the forms that they are.

The third factor that gives us a better understanding of Indo-European cultures is each cultures myth cycles.  There are various archetypes that appear across Indo-European cultures.  These archetypes that present themselves in the various myths give us a wealth of information that can be used to help reconstruct myths, or at least give us general information about a specific culture.  For example, in cultures that are missing archetypical myths, such as a creation myth for the Celts, or any wealth of Gaulish information, the lack of a myth doesn’t mean that one didn’t exist, simply that we don’t have the records of it anymore.  So having the ability to cross-reference all the different Indo-European cultures allows us to gives a better understanding of the similarities and differences about each myth in each culture, as well as allowing us to fill in the missing pieces a little more reliably.


  1. George Dumezil’s theory of tripartition has been central to many modern approaches to Indo-European studies. Outline Dumezil’s three social functions in general, and as they appear in one particular Indo-European society. Offer your opinion as to whether you believe Dumezil’s claim that tripartition is central to IE cultures. (minimum 300 words)

George Dumezil’s Theory of Tripartition is the theory that the there are three classes of people in (Proto)Indo- European cultures.  Additionally, not only does this division of classes occur among the people of that society, but it is also reflected in the pantheon that is particular to that hearth culture.  The three classes that are present across these (Proto)Indo-European cultures are the class of priests (the sacral class), the class of warriors (the martial class), and the class of herders and cultivators (the economic class) (Mallory 130-1).

Using Ancient Greece as an example, the priestly class, or the class of sovereignty, had kings as well as priests serving this function.  The gods within this class include Zeus and Hera, and arguably Apollo.  Zeus and Hera were often referred to as the King and Queen of the gods.  The kings of the various city-states honored both the patron of their city, as well as giving honor to Zeus for his role as the dispenser of justice.  Apollo is the most commonly associated with prophecy and magic, two things that fell most often to the priestly class (Mallory 131-2).

The warrior class consisted of those members of society who were either on the defensive or offensive. The hoplites that served in the various armies, as well as the naval and cavalry forces would fall into this class.  The gods within this class include Ares and Athena, and arguably Artemis and Poseidon (both of whom may also fall within the economic class depending on the task at hand).  Ares is often referred to as the god of military prowess, courage, and brute strength, whereas Athena is praised for her tactical prowess and wisdom in the cunning that accompanies a victory.  Artemis, while primarily regarding as a deity of the hunt, is also honored as a protector of children, allowing her fall within the defensive military realm.  Her skill with the bow also gives her a place as a warrior.  Poseidon is primarily known as a sea deity, but he is who gave horses to man, allowing a cavalry to exist.  And while his blessing is necessary for fishing and gaining things from the sea, it is also required for naval support, as evidenced by the many myths that involve his refuses navies to set sail, or throwing ships full of warriors off course (Mallory 131-2).

The third class, the economic class, consisted of the majority of the common people, as well as a majority of the gods.  These people were the farmers and the tradesmen.  They were involved in tasks that relate to productivity and a strong economy.  The gods that fall into this class are Demeter, Dionysos, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, and Hestia, and arguably Athena, as well as Artemis and Poseidon, as mentioned above.  Demeter is associated with farming and the grains of the earth. Dionysos is associated with the cultivation and processing of fruits.  Hermes is the patron of shepherds and herdsmen, as well as the patron of tradesmen, merchants, and thieves.  Hephaestus is the patron of people who make things with their hands and craftsmen, specifically of the forge.  Aphrodite is a fertility figure.  Hestia is the goddess of the hearth and the home, and thus of all the people.  Athena, while known for her tactical genius, is also the goddess of wisdom and of crafts, specifically processed goods such as textiles (Mallory 131-2).

I do think that Dumezil’s claim that tripartition is central to Indo-European cultures is a valid one.  I think these three classes can be found within every Indo-European society, as well as each Indo-European pantheon.  I think some of the specifics may be hard to find within culture, such as the horse association with the third function, or, as demonstrated above, some of the deities may fall within multiple functions. I’m also not sure that this tripartition is specific to Indo-Europeans, or if it is a theory that could be applied to every human society (Mallory 130-135).


  1. Choose one Indo-European culture and describe briefly the influences that have shaped it and distinguish it from other Indo-European derived cultures. Examples include migration, contact with other cultures, changes in religion, language, and political factors. Is there any sense in which this culture can be said to have stopped being an Indo-European culture? (minimum 300 words)

The Greeks are one of the earliest Indo-European civilizations that developed.  They were likely an invasive population that moved through the Mediterranean area because they were following the same route that farming and agriculture took as it spread.  There is evidence that “in earlier times there were two races living in Greece: the Pelasgians; who never left their original home, and the Hellenes (Greeks), who frequently migrated” (Mallory 68).  This account by Herodotus reflects the theory that the Greeks moved into the area and absorbed another culture on their migration.

Some of the evidence that suggests they absorbed an indigenous culture comes from an examination of the Greek language. There is much linguistic evidence that that the Greeks borrowed considerably from a non-Greek language in a calculated manner that suggests they incorporated words that are specific to the resources and knowledge of that indigenous culture (Mallory 68).

The Greeks also had contact with other cultures from all sides.  Notably they had the Persians to the north, India to the east, Egypt to the south, and later Rome to the west.  The Persian in the north was where the majority of the military conflict arose.  In some cases the Persians invaded Greece, and on other occasions Greece invaded Persia.  There is evidence of some imported deities from the east, such as Dionysos, and perhaps Artemis and Poseidon.  Later there was mixing with the Egyptians and their culture.  An incorporation of some Egyptian deities, specifically in magic work, occurred.  This can be seen in the Greek Papyri.

As far as politics are concerned, initially Athens and Sparta were the dominating city-states, but with military conflict this shifted.  The Peloponnesian War led to the downfall of Athens and Thebes and Macedon eventually became leading powers, overshadowing their predecessors.  Macedon eventually united the city-states in the League of Corinth, which was led by Alexander the Great.  Alexander the Great is who led The Empire, however following the confusion after his death Greece eventually became one of the regions protected by the Roman Empire (“Greece”).

When taking into account the hallmarks of an Indo-European culture, such as the common root language, the similar social structures, and a common myth cycle, I think Greece can still be considered Indo-European.  They still speak a language that finds the roots of the majority of its words in proto-Indo-European.  They still have three basic classes of people: the ruling class, though it now may have less clergy participating within this class and more government officials and law makers; the warrior class, who now also include protectors of the people and city, such as policemen, as well as traditional military figures; and the economic class functioning much as it always has because the need for food and trade continues throughout cultural changes.  The final aspect, the common myth cycle, is still present within the culture, though neither it nor the pantheon are followed and worshiped as the primary religion of the area.  However, I think this lack of a current majority of followers of the old religion does not preclude current Greece from continuing to be an Indo-European civilization.


  1. Choose one other Indo-European culture and compare and contrast it to the culture discussed in question 3 above with respect to each culture’s Indo-European nature.(minimum 300 words)

Considered by some sources to be the homeland for Indo-Europeans, the early Vedics set a standard for what is seem in many, if not all other Indo-European cultures (Winn 333).  When discussing migration, while the Greeks moved from the east and eventually settled along the Mediterranean coast and surrounding areas, the Vedics appear to have migrated from the Iran and Afghanistan areas into what is now India.  This migration happened at the same time the Indo-Iranians were migrating.  So, while the Greeks migrated into a new area and then came in contact with an indigenous culture, it seems likely that the Vedics and Indo-Iranians came in contact with each other while both were migrating, though it is debated in what order they came in contact and in what region (Winn 186-7).

The Vedas were written down no later than 1400 BCE, which was around the same time that the migration from the Indo-Iranian lands to northwest India occurred.  Unlike the Greek language, which appears to have borrowed extensively from the indigenous culture, the text of the Indic text of the Rig Veda bears enough resemblance and parallels to the Iranian language that it is almost certain the two cultures had extended contact during which time their languages evolved alongside each other (Winn 187).  It was at first assumed that Sanskrit was the mother of the Indo-European languages, though upon further examination it is generally agreed upon now that it is a sister language to the Indo-European family tree of languages, all of which date back to an even earlier Proto-Indo-European language (Ford).  Sanskrit has been used extensively in the reconstruction of the PIE language, while the other IE languages, including Greek, have been used to aid and verify the reconstructed words (Winn 333-4).

The Vedic religion has gone through changes and evolutions in religion, most notably transitioning from the ancient worship of Vedic deities as they are mentioned in the Vedas, to the modern religion of Hinduism.  At first this appears to be similar to how the Ancient Greek religion evolved as more and more ancient poets wrote hymns and other texts, slowly altering the perception of the deities, and eventually splitting off into their Roman and later forms.  However, within the Vedic society as more texts were added, the focus of worship shifted into a less Indo-European polytheistic practice observing the tripartition of classes and placing an importance on ritual, and moved more towards a monism practice focusing on the ideas of all things being one and individual reflection more than ritual practice (Winn 187-9).

In the same way that Greece can still be considered and Indo-European culture, I think the Indic culture can still be considered Indo-European.  While it may not follow the same religion as it did in ancient times, it still displays the hallmarks of an Indo-European society with its common root language and observance of social structures, particularly with India’s caste system.


  1. From its beginnings, ADF has defined itself in relation to Indo-European pagan traditions. What relevance do you think historical and reconstructed IE traditions from the past have in constructing or reconstructing a Pagan spirituality for the present and future? (minimum 600 words)

ADF has defined itself as a neo-pagan religion that focuses on the cultural and religious practices of Indo-European traditions.  There are a few points that need to be made regarding this focus: the difference between reconstruction and reimagination, how this applies to the focus on reputable sources, and the depth and community of the new religion that results from these sources.  These three points are relevant to the continued growth of ADF because of the ways they allow us to move towards a deeper and more meaningful spirituality.

First, I think it is extremely relevant that ADF is a neo-pagan religion, rather than a reconstructionist religion.  By reimagining the practices of the Indo-European cultures we’re able to move towards things that will allow ADF to continue to progress towards a mainstream religion.  It also allows us to maintain a path that will continue for multiple generations rather than the few that so often happens with new religions.  Our ability to reimagine, rather than reconstruct allows us to take the best pieces from the ancient religion and culture, and leave behind those which no longer apply to our current society and modern culture.  We are able to apply the social justices we’ve learned over the centuries to our new religion.  By doing this we are acknowledging that religion evolves over time, and are making an educated guess at the direction the worship practices would have gone.  Overall, this means that knowing the historical Indo-European traditions is imperative to both reconstruction and reimagination of those traditions.

Second, when beginning the process of this reimagination it is relevant to ADF’s practice that we focus on scholarly work and reputable sources.  These sources are about the historical traditions of the ancient Indo-European cultures. This focus allows for both accurate reconstructed practices and better guesses at what those practices would look like if they had continued to evolve.  Because of this focus on scholarly work, members of ADF are given opportunities to study the ancient religions and beta-test new ideas.  If these new ideas work, they then have the sources to back up what they’ve done, and thus continue the path of Our Druidry through the present and into the future.  Being able to draw from these historical traditions is relevant to ADF.

Finally, most relevant to the continuing ADF spiritual community, it is important to answer the question, “Why restrict cultures to only Indo-European ones?” or “Why allow more than one culture?” This is important for a number of reasons.  Due to the commonalities that Indo-European cultures share, it allows for a common discourse and a common ground between members who worship following the practices of many different hearths.  Also, by allowing all Indo-European cultures to be represented it allows for a broader community base in a religion that has a minority following it.  It also allows for the common language that all ADF members can relate to, such as discussion of the Three Kindreds, the Earth Mother, and the Gatekeeper.  In addition, by focusing solely on Indo-European cultures we can draw deeply from a few sources, rather than shallowly from many.  This allows for less inconsistencies or discrepancies within a ritual when blending multiple cultures.  All these reasons for focusing on the historical traditions of ancient Indo-European cultures, and the ways they are now reconstructed and reimagined make the resulting religion that ADF is fostering a more coherent and valuable whole.



Ford, Clark, Ph. D. “Early World History: Indo-Europeans to the Middle Ages.” Iowa State University. N.p., Fall 2012. Web. 02 Jan. 2013. <>.

“Greece.” Topic Pages. Boston: Credo Reference Contributors, 2013. N. pag. Credo Reference. 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 Jan. 2013. <>.

Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989. Print.

Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. Print.

 Winn, Shan M. M. Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness: The Indo-European Roots of Western Ideology. Lanham: University of America, 1995. Print.

Indo-European Mythology 1

  1. List and discuss the major primary sources for the mythology of three Indo-European cultures, including their dates of origin and authorship (if known). Discuss any important factors that may cause problems in interpreting these sources, such as the existence of multiple revisions, or the presence of Christian or other outside influences in surviving texts. (minimum 300 words)


The major primary sources for Norse mythology come from the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson, and the Poetic Edda. These were written after the rise of Christianity, in the 13th century CE, and as such one should consider what influence Christianity had on these myths. The myths were written down based on oral tradition, and by authors whose cultures had already been exposed to Christian influences. Other sources regarding the Norse and Germanic peoples come from invading cultures, like the Romans. This means that when examining these sources the reader should take everything with a grain of salt.


The major primary sources in Greek mythology are those written by Hesiod and Homer, around the 8th Century BCE. This includes Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, as well as the Homeric Hymns, written by those who followed in Homer’s tradition. The work of Homer, while influential and an excellent resource for Greek myth, should be carefully chosen when used for interpretation of ancient religion because there are so many translations. There is also the issue that the majority of the Greek lore started out as an oral tradition, and thus, changes likely occurred before Homer began writing it down (“Homer”).


The primary sources for Vedic lore are all contained in the Samhitas, which was written during the early Vedic period, somewhere between the 17th and 11th centuries BCE. The Samhitas is a collection of the four Vedas: the Rig-Veda (for recitation), the Sama-Veda (for chanting), the Yajur-Veda (for liturgy), and the Atharva-Veda (which was named after a type of priest). The Rig-Veda is the largest and most important of these. Unfortunately since no physical remnants remain of the Vedic time period, reading from the Rig-Veda and trying to reconstruct the religion of the time is a lot of guesswork done in the context of a Christian society. It is simply a collection of hymns, though most of the hymns are to Indra, Agni, and Soma (Puhvel 46). One of the problems in understanding this work is that the connotation of some words has shifted in translations. For example, in the word mitra, the meaning shifted from “contractor” to “friend” (Puhvel 48). There is also the current problem of the knowledge that Hinduism has grown out of Vedic lore, and thus current culture and current influences may have an effect on the reconstructed worship of this ancient religion.


  1. Summarize, then compare and contrast the myths of at least two Indo-European cultures with respect to the following topics (you need not use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for each topic): (minimum 300 words for each)

tales of creation

Both Norse and Greek mythology describe a tale of creation that begins with a sort of nothingness, a void, that is then suddenly expanded and organized to create the world. In both myths, after the world is created, the various things that make up the world and the beings that live there are added. The Greek tale of creation is told in Hesiod’s Theogony. In the beginning there was nothingness, a void of Chaos. From Chaos came Gaea (the earth), Tartarus, and Eros. This titanic form of Eros (procreation) caused Gaea to create Ouranos (the sky), Ourea (the mountains) and Pontos (the sea), and Chaos to also create Nyx (night), Erebus (darkness) and Kronos (time). From these beings the rest of the world continued to form, from the oceans, to the sun and moon, day and the air, the beings that dwelt on the earth, and then the Titans. The Greeks continued to talk about how the Olympians came to be from the Titans, and the betrayal that led to the Olympians becoming the principle gods of the land (Hesiod Theogony).

The Norse myths describe the creation of the world as it came into being guided by three brothers: Odin, Vili, and Ve. In the North was icy Nilfhiem, and in the south was fiery Muspell. In the middle was Ginnungagap, a mild place where Ymir, a frost giant, lived and sweated out the race of frost giants. This is similar to how in Greek lore there was a place of Chaos, and then from that void came Gaea, where things could begin to live and thrive.

The Norse myth goes one to explain how Ymir was killed by the three brothers, Odin, Vili, and Ve as they grew tired of his and the other frost giants evilness. This is much more violent that what happens in the Greek myth, where Eros served as a catalyst for the creation of the rest of the things. The Norse world was made out of Ymir’s body. His flesh became the earth, his bones the mountains, his blood the lakes and seas, and his skull the sky, held up by four dwarves. The brothers took the embers from fiery Muspell and threw them up into the sky making the sun, and moon, and stars. This follows a similar pattern to Greek myth when Gaea created the sky, mountains, and sea and how then other parts of the world were formed from there.

The Norse brothers Odin, Vili, and Ve then divided the world so there would be a place for the giants, Jotunheim, and a safer place made of Ymir’s eyebrows, Midgard. This division of the world in Greek myth happens earlier in the creation of the world. Gaea (who holds both the realm of man and Mt. Olympus, the realm of the gods) and Tartarus both come from the void of Chaos. The Norse brothers then made man and woman from an ash and elm tree and put them in Midgard. In Greek myth the addition of man comes much later, and the gods must experiment with different types of mortals until they finally create the race of man as we know it. In Norse myth the Sun and Moon were children of a man, Mundilfari, and were put in the sky guiding the chariots of the sun and the moon while chased by wolves. The dwarves were made from the maggots that had crawled over Ymir’s body. This differs from the Greek myth where the Sun and the Moon were Titans, from the line of Gaea.

The creation story in Nordic lore explains next how Odin, Vili, and Ve built their own realm above Midgard, and called it Asgard, and they were linked together by Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. The Aesir all crossed the bridge to dwell in Asgard. All the regions of the world are under the branches of Yggdrasil, the great ash tree (Crossley-Holland 3). In Greek myth, the realm of the Gods is not as firmly separated from the realm of man. The closest place is Mt. Olympus, which exists on Gaea, just as the realm of man does.

tales of divine war

Divine war, as described in the lore of various Indo-European cultures, is often the tale of a new set of gods replacing an older set of gods. Often the older gods have more primal qualities, and the newer gods introduce levels of wisdom and reason. This can be seen in the Greek myths where the Titans have many more of the primal qualities, having been the creating forces of the world, and the Olympians begin to introduce new concepts, like justice and order, into the world. This is similar to what can be seen in the Norse divine war between the Aesir and the Vanir. The Vanir, being fertility and wilds gods have more primal qualities, whereas the Aesir are more logical, creating order in the world. In the treaty that exists in the Norse myth this is even more pronounced, as the Aesir give Honir and Mimir (thought and memory) to the Vanir, even as the Vanir teach some of their more primal and magical skills to the Aesir via Njord, Freyja and Freyr.

The divine war that is most recognizable in Greek mythology is the war between the Titans and the Olympians. The story is told in Hesiod’s Theogony. The Titans were the gods that came first, out of Gaea and Ouranos. During this war, the sides were not as clear as initially implied, since some Titans sided with the Olympians and other Gods who fell into neither category also were involved. The overthrow of the Titans takes place when Rhea, mother of the Elder Olympians, saved Zeus from being eaten by his father, Kronos. This was the beginning of the division. Zeus and the Olympians were constantly at odds with his father, Kronos, and the Titans, and war broke out that lasted ten years, with neither side being able to win.

Zeus appealed to the other Elder gods, specifically Obriareus, Cottus, and Gyes, who had been cast down by Kronos, to aid him in the fight. They recognized that if the war continued, only strife could come out of it, and so, having been rescued by Zeus after having been betrayed by Kronos, they decided to join the ranks of the Olympians and other deathless gods to fight Kronos and the Titans. At this point Zeus no longer held back his power of thunder and lightning, and seemed likely to destroy the world itself in his wrath. With the new aid of Cottus, Obriareus, and Gyes they were able to bury Kronos and the Titans in rocks down in Tartarus. There they are guarded by those three, bound in chains, and sealed off from the rest of the worlds by a great golden fence made by Poseidon (Hesiod Theogony).

The divine war in Norse mythology is between the Aesir and the Vanir, and the tale is recounted in the Völuspá of the Poetic Edda. It seems as though they are fighting to determine who should receive the honor, worship, and sacrifices of man. Odin leads the Aesir after he has tried to kill Gullveig three times over with his flaming spear, and the Vanir retaliate. It looks like neither side can win, similarly to what happened in the war between the Olympians and Titans, and so they exchange hostages. Honir and Mimir for Njord and his children: Freyja and Freyr (Bellows). In both myths members from each group of gods needed to be switched sides in some way so that one side could come out victorious. In this sense it is interesting to note what values carried forward as the new gods came into power. 

tales which describe the fate of the dead

The Norse and the Greeks both have stories that delineate where the dead go after life. The Greeks have a very complex view of the afterlife, with proper burial of the dead being very important in getting the psyche to its final place, and the Underworld is a huge place with many different ends for people within it. Generally speaking though, those who were heroes in their lifetime, or who did good deeds, were sent to the Elysian Fields (Homer Odyssey), while those who committed crimes were punished in Tartarus, which is also where the Titans who fought against Zeus ended up (Hesiod Theogony).

The Norse view of the afterlife is similar in that those who are heroes in life, who die valiantly in battle, are picked up by the Valkyries and taken either to Freyja or to Valhalla. Valhalla is a wonderful place where the warriors can fight all day and feast all night. When Ragnarok comes, these warriors will fight with Odin in the last battle. Others who die a less eventful death are sent to Hel, the Goddess and the place, which is very cold. Hel appears to also be where Gods who die are sent, as in the case of Baldr.

In both Norse and Greek myths access to the Underworld is said to lie somewhere to the north. In Greek myth, it is “somewhere in the northern mists, on a shore at the ends of Ocean, among the Cimmerians on whom the sun never shines” (Puhvel 138). In Norse myth when Hermodr is sent to bring Baldr back from the dead, he must ride Sleipner “downward and northward” until he gets to the gates of Hel (Puhvel 214). It is interesting how this general view of the Underworld has shifted from being presumably north, to being to the south, which is what we typically think of now as “down” since the invention of maps. I think it is likely that since in both cultures the further north they would travel, the colder and less civilized things would get. To the north were likely places that either had no life, or where life was so alien to what they were used to that they found it difficult to recognize.

  1. Explain how each of the following elements of ADF ritual does or does not resonate with elements of two different Indo-European cultures (you need not use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for each element): (minimum 100 words each)

Earth Mother

In ADF Ritual the Earth Mother is honored both first and last.  In Greek mythology Gaea is the Earth Mother.  She is honored as the supporting force of the world, and a Titan Goddess.  The Earth was still honored in Ancient Greece; however, for the purposes of a deity that is honored both first and last in Greek cosmology, that place goes to Hestia.  She is the Goddess of the hearth and home and is honored both first and last in ritual for all that she provides for us, and as both the first- and last-born of Kronos (Hesiod). So, worshiping within the Greek hearth culture in ADF, honoring the Earth mother fits, though not as the first and last honored in ritual.

This differs from the presence of an Earth Mother type deity in Norse mythology. In the Prose Edda, in the Gylfaginning, there is an explanation of how the earth was created and divided up, but the earth is not personified in the same way that it is in other cultures (Sturluson). In this case, the earth seems to get convoluted with the spirits of the land. So honoring the Earth Mother in a Norse context as a deity figure in ADF ritual does not resonate well, though respecting and thanking the earth for the bounty it provides does. 

Deities of Land

The Deities of the Land are those Gods and Goddesses who dwell on the earth with man. In Greek mythology this get convoluted because the Twelve Olympians are designated because they dwell in the sky on Mt. Olympus, but they are clearly not all Sky Deities, and each have their own role that they fill. Generally I consider the Land Deities to fall into two categories: the domestic (including the hearth) and the wild. So, in Greek mythology some Land Deities in the domestic sense may be Hestia, Demeter, and Dionysos, whereas some of the wild Land Deities may be Pan, Gaea, and Artemis (Atsma).

In Norse mythology the Deities of the Land are generally the Vanir. Some of the deities in the wild places are Skaði, Goddess of winter and the hunt, as well as fertility deities such as Freyr and Freyja. A more domestic land deity could be Gefjun, an agricultural goddess that helped with plowing the land to make the earth in the beginning, and Idunna , guarding the orchard of golden apples (Sturluson).

In ADF ritual we don’t generally worship the deities by division of location, though that is not to say that they aren’t honored, just that they are more often grouped collectively as the “Shining Ones.” However, when doing invocations to the Shining Ones it is not unusual to see them divided up in some way and called upon based on the archetype they represent, such as “Those Shining Deities who dwell in the realm of Man.” So in both Greek and Norse mythology is makes sense to honor the Deities of the Land.

Deities of Sea

The Deities of the Sea are those Gods and Goddesses who have dominion over the waters of the earth. I would consider this to be both the freshwater sources and the saltwater sources. We don’t do much with the sea deities in ADF, and when we do they generally get clumped in with the deities of the land as those who dwell in the realm of man.

In Greek mythology the older, Titan God who has dominion over the waters is Okeanos (Hesiod Theogony). Okeanos is the firstborn of the Titans and is the great freshwater river that encircles the earth and is often paired with Tethys, as the mother of all rivers.    It is interesting that the English word for Ocean comes from Okeanos, but when we refer to oceans we are referring to bodies of saltwater and Okeanos is associated with freshwater. In Greek mythology the God that is in charge of what we would consider the sea is Poseidon. He has dominion over the saltwater ocean, and he is the one that the people would pray to in order to gain his blessing in sailing out to sea (Hesiod Theogony).

In Irish mythology the Deity of the Sea that is most recognizable is Manannan mac Lir, the son of the sea. Similar to Greek mythology, the saltwater sea is associated with horses, and the waves are often described as having the look of horses. Manannan is often called to work with the Folk as a Gatekeeper because he can “travel beyond the ninth wave.” The freshwater deity within Irish mythology is Danu, the flowing one. She is associated with the sacredness of pure water sources, such as rivers like the Danube (Rees).

It makes sense to honor the deities of the sea within the Greek or Irish hearth culture, but as we don’t generally worship the deities by division of location in ADF, or the deities of the sea specifically, I would say it currently doesn’t resonate. I think if people did begin to honor the deities of the sea more, that it would definitely resonate, but in current practice it simply isn’t done that often. By expanding our understanding of the Deities of the Sea to include both freshwater and saltwater entities it becomes easier to identify with them, and honor them in ritual. I think the reason we don’t often honor the Sea Gods in ADF may be because many of our members are in land-locked areas, or even if they do live near a water source, their livelihood or life is not intrinsically linked to the sea like it was for the ancients. I think this is something that members can and should begin addressing as nature awareness. Just as they explore how they interact with the land around them, exploring how they connect with the waters of the earth is equally important. If that were the case, I think worshiping the Deities of the Sea would resonate more within ADF ritual. 

Deities of Sky

The Deities of the Sky are those Gods and Goddesses who have dominion over the things in the heavens, above the realm of man. In Greek mythology some of these deities are Titans, some major gods, and some minor gods. The Titans, Helios and Selene are the Sun and the Moon, respectively. Zeus is the Olympian taking the role of the thundering/ weather deity, while some of the minor sky deities are Boreus, Iris, and the Aurai.

In Norse mythology, just as not all Olympians are Sky Deities, not all of the Aesir are either. Sunna is the light of the sun. Thor is the Thundering God, though unlike many of the other Indo-European mythologies, he is not the patriarch of the pantheon, but rather the son of the patriarch, Odin.

As before with the Deities of Land and Sea, in ADF we typically don’t specifically worship the deities based on their location, so in that sense this does not resonate with ADF ritual; however, they are often honored as deities of the occasion. The Sky Deities who are associated with the sun are often honored at Winter and/or Summer Solstice as a deity of the occasion.


The Outsiders in ADF liturgy are those beings or things that are cross with the purposes of the ritual. In Greek mythology the role of the outsiders could be given to the Titans, though they are not typically shunned in Greek myth, but were rather just the older generation of gods. Popular culture likes to paint them as the ‘evil’ that came before the Gods, but in most cases this is highly inaccurate. Ancient Greek culture puts much more emphasis on coming into ritual clean, both physically and spiritually (Hesiod Works and Days). Thus, the portion of the ritual designated to treaty with the Outsiders would fit best with the purification of entering ritual space and ‘casting off’ those things that aren’t needed, or would be at cross-purposes with the ritual within yourself, and in that way it does still resonate with ADF ritual.

In Norse mythology the giants are most often given the role of Outsiders. The frost giants are those beings with whom Thor was always fighting. In the lore they are even separated from the rest of Midgard by mountains, and there is a wall around Asgard in part due to them (Sturluson). The treaty with the Outsiders in this sense is a more traditional bargain where an offering is given in exchange for the beings leaving the ritual alone, and resonates a bit better with ADF ritual.

 Nature Spirits

In Greek mythology the spirits of the land are generally called nymphai. The nymphs are broken up into categories based on what aspect of the land or natural phenomena they are associated with. For example, the dryads are associated with trees, the okeanids with freshwater and rain clouds, the naiads with the rivers, the anthousai with flowers, and the epimelides with pastures and meadows (Atsma “The Nymphai”).

In Irish mythology the sidhe-folk would be what we could consider to be Nature Spirits. They, like the nymphs, were otherworldly, but didn’t carry nearly as much weight and interacted with humans on a much more regular and intimate level. The sidhe-folk are said to live in mounds or hillocks and show mankind wondrous things. Sometimes these are good, and sometimes the sidhe-folk are acting mischievously and causing trouble (Squire 136).

In both mythologies these beings resonate well with how we approach the Nature Spirits as one of the Kindreds. In ADF ritual I think we offer more generally to the spirits of the land and the nature that surrounds us, not necessarily deifying things as much of the lore suggests was done in some way in the past. We also offer to the more otherworldly creatures though, which fits very well with the lore.


The Ancestors are those, often heroic or wise, who have come before. In both Greek and Norse mythology the Mighty Dead and Ancient Wise are revered and honored, which resonates very well within ADF ritual. The other aspect of working with the Ancestors to gain knowledge and guidance is also well supported in the lore of both cultures.

The Greeks have several myths that involve going to speak with the dead either to get advice, gain wisdom, or retrieve loved ones, as with Odysseus when he goes to meet Tiresias (Homer The Odyssey) or Orpheus when he tries to bring back Eurydike (Atsma). The heroes, such as Herakles, Perseus, Jason, and Odysseus are also remembered in the stories and myths that were told. In addition, we have evidence that the ancient Greeks participated in Ancestor worship. For example, one of the Greek festivals celebrated was Genesios, a festival to honor the dead (Parke).

The Norse also honored their dead, as is evidenced by the lore in reference to where the Honored Dead would go, namely Valhalla. The heroes, such as Sigurd, were also remembered in the stories and myths like in Greece. Another similarity is going to the dead to gain wisdom. In Baldr’s Drapa, Odin goes to the underworld in order to find out why Baldr is having bad dreams. He raises the dead and forces the corpse, the volva, to talk to him and reveal the reason why (Bellows). There is also evidence of seiðr magic, or communing with the spirits, likely the dead, for knowledge, with Thorbjorg the Volva in the Saga of Erik the Red (Sephton).


  1. Discuss how the following seven elements of ADF’s cosmology are (or are not) reflected in the myths of two different Indo-European cultures. For this question, please use the same two cultures as a basis of comparison for the entire question. (minimum 100 words each)


The Upperworld is the world of the Gods, specifically the Shining Ouranic Gods. In ADF we call to the gods of the Upperworld often for their wisdom and power. In Norse mythology this place is in Asgard. This is where the Aesir, the guardians of man, dwell alongside the Einherjar, slain warriors, in Valhalla, the Vanir in Vanaheim, and light elves in Alfheim. Asgard is connected to the other worlds via Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).

In Greek mythology this place is Mt. Olympus. This is where the Olympians and others of the Theoi dwell. While Mt. Olympus is still part of the earth, it is inaccessible to man. The majority of the myths in Greek lore have to do with what the Gods do when they are in the realm of man, or how they interact in the middle realm, before going back to dwell on Mt. Olympus. So, while they live in the sky, on Mt. Olympus, above the middle realm, the place itself is not well defined like it is in Norse myths (Atsma).


The Midworld is the world where Man dwells, sometimes with various mythological beasts, nature spirits and other Gods. In ADF we call to the beings in the Middleworld to join us at our fire and accept our reverence for sharing this world with us. We know we’re not alone here, and seek to walk in as much harmony as possible with all the beings that dwell alongside us in the Middleworld.

In Norse mythology the Middleworld is called Midgard and a vast ocean that contains Jormungand, the world serpent, surrounds it. Jotunheim, the land of the giants, and Utgard, the giants’ citadel in the outerworld also exists in the middle of the Norse tricentric view of the worlds. Man also shares Midgard with the Dwarves and the Dark Elves (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).

The Greek middle world is not as well defined as it is in other cultures. The whole world is described as the earth, which is completely encircled by Okeanos, the deep-running river. There is a great sky dome (Ouranos) that stretches over top of the earth, from river’s edge to river’s edge. Even the sun, moon, and stars were said to rise and set in his waters. Below the earth is the pit of Tartarus. It forms a sphere that contains everything divided into two hemispheres. In the top half, live the gods and men, and in the bottom, the Titans (Atsma).

Divisions Of Middleworld (e.g., 4 Quarters, 3 Triads, 8 Sections)

In Norse mythology Midgard was divided vaguely into four different sections. Midgard was the land of Man and surrounded by a vast ocean. Beyond the ocean was the land of Jotunheim, where the giants dwelled. Their citadel was called Utgard. North of Midgard was Nidavellir where the dwarves lived, and south of Midgard was Svartalfheim where the dark elves lived (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).

The best division of the Greek middleworld would be the land, sea, and sky. The land, deified in Gaea, is defined best as a disk that is surrounded by the encompassing waters of Okeanos. Okeanos would be the sea, the deep-running river that holds the land together. The sky, deified by Ouranos, is the dome that covers the sea and the land. This fits within ADF cosmology, specifically with Ceisiwr Serith’s prayer: “The waters support and surround us / The land extends about us / The sky stretches out above us” (Serith).


The Underworld is the Land of the Dead and the chthonic deities. In ADF the Underworld is where we direct our call when we’re seeking to gain the wisdom of the Ancestors and the Deities that dwell there alongside them. In Norse mythology this is Niflheim, and the citadel is Hel. Hel is the realm of the dead for those who didn’t die valiantly, and those who are considered evil pass through Hel to die again in Niflheim, the world of the dead. There is also Valhalla, which is technically in the Upperworld, but is the place for the warriors who die in battle to go (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).

In Greek mythology the Underworld is where Hades and Persephone rule over the dead. It is divided into multiple realms for the dead to dwell, based on how they lived in life, including Tartarus and the Elysium Fields (Atsma). Some interesting similarities between the Greek and Norse Underworlds are both are said to be far to the north, both have a river that separates them from the realm of the living, both are in some way guarded by dogs, and both can substitute the name of the ruler (Hel/Hades) for the name of the place.


In ADF we hallow the Fire and call to it as a Gate between the worlds. In ritual it becomes more than mere flame and becomes one of the ways that the Kindreds hear our words more clearly and are able to receive the sacrifices we send them. Fire is an important part of Greek culture and resonates well within ADF cosmology. It is how the sacrifices the Folk make actually get delivered to the Gods. This sacred fire is deified in Hestia. She is the sacrificial fire and the hearth fire, dwelling both in the homes of man and on Mt. Olympus. Because she is the sacrificial fire, every time sacrifice is made, part of it goes to her. She is honored as the first- and last-born of the Olympians, and because she chose to continue serving the hearts and hearths of man (Hesiod Theogony) (Atsma).

In Norse culture fire is seen as important, especially when used to send off the dead. The dead in Norse myths, for example, Sigurd and Baldr, had funeral pyres that were lit. A similarity to Greek culture is the fire being seen as a way to send sacrifices to the deities. Perhaps this is why it made sense to burn the dead, because if they were going to Valhalla, then they were going to the realms of the gods, and could be delivered there via fire, the same way the sacrifices were.


In ADF we hallow the Well and call to it as a Gate between the worlds. The liturgical phrasing that is often used is “Let our voices resound in the Well” meaning that we’re calling through this Gate so that, like the Fire, the Kindreds might hear our words more clearly. In Norse mythology there are three Wells that immediately come to mind. They are said to be at the roots of Yggdrasil, presumably feeding the World Tree. There is the Well of Memory (Mimir) where Odin gives up an eye to gain the knowledge and wisdom that is there. This is also where Heimdall leaves his horn until Ragnarok comes. There is the Well of Fate (Urd), where the Norns live and carry out their business. There is also the well where the dragon Nidhogg lives (Hvergelmir). It is from this place that he delivers the insults to be carried by the squirrel Ratatosk up to the Asgard (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).

Okeanos is the “deep-running water” and “completely encircling” river of the world. All waters are said to draw their source of water from Okeanos, all rivers, streams, seas, and deep wells (Homer Iliad). This fits into ADF cosmology because we view the Well as the deep, chthonic waters that are the source of all waters, and that all waters are by their very nature sacred. The Underworld is said to lie on the far shore of the River Okeanos, which also continues the theme that the Well is in some way connected with how we communicate with the Ancient Wise. In this case, one would have to cross the river (reach through the Well) to gain their wisdom. The theme of the druidic number nine is also carried through in the waters of Okeanos. He is said to have “nine loops of silver-swirling waters” that split off to form the rivers of the world (Hesiod Theogony).


In ADF the Tree serves as the axis mundi, as the crossroads between the worlds. We hallow it and call for it to open as a Gate between the worlds so that we can feel connected to all the worlds around us. It serves not only as the center of our world, but aligns to the centers of all the worlds allowing our words, actions, and sacrifices to be more easily received by the Kindreds. In aligns our world with theirs so we can feel closer to them.

In Greek mythology the omphalos is the center of the world. It was established as such when Zeus wanted to find the center and sent his two eagles to fly in opposite directions around the world. Where they met, at the Delphi, was considered to be the Center, and the omphalos, the stone that was given to Kronos to swallow in place of Zeus, was placed at that spot at the Oracle of Delphi. The omphalos is said to allow direct communication with the gods. There were also “many sanctuaries in later Greek culture centered on a sacred tree” and ancient Hellenistic celebrants did dances in order to establish a connection between the worlds (Jones 6).

In Norse mythology Yggdrasil, the ash tree, is the world tree. It is considered to be the center of the worlds. Its branches stretch over all the worlds, and its roots grow through all the worlds. The squirrel, Ratatosk, is able to use Yggdrasil as a pathway to travel between the worlds and deliver messages. It truly serves as an axis mundi in the cosmology of the Norse myths (Crossley-Holland xx-xxv).


  1. To what extent do you think we can offer conjectures about Indo-European myths in general? Are the common themes strong enough that the myths seem like variations? Or are the differences so powerful that the themes are less important than the cultural variations? (minimum 300 words)

When looking at Indo-European mythology I think it is absolutely fascinating how there are similar themes that present themselves across the cultures and ages. In Comparative Mythology, Puhvel makes an excellent argument for the similarities between the various Indo-European cultures to be more than mere coincidence. The cultures seem to have a similar myth cycle. Campbell makes similar arguments in his presentation of the monomyth in The Hero With A Thousand Faces when describing the archetypes and trials in the hero’s journey.

The archetypes that present themselves in the various myths give us a wealth of information that can be used to help reconstruct myths, or at least give us general information about a specific culture. For example, in cultures that are missing archetypical myths, such as a creation myth for the Celts, or any wealth of Gaulish information, the lack of a myth doesn’t mean that one didn’t exist, simply that we don’t have the records of it anymore. There are archetypes that cause some deities to seem extremely similar, though they have different aspects. These deities are distinct and different beings with similarities that exist due to the common themes pervasive throughout human life, and the great unanswered questions that are raised as we examine the human condition. The deities in each culture fill the roles of the archetypes that are needed.

I think the themes across the myths are strong enough to allow us to postulate what missing myths might have looked like; however, the differences are also very important in giving us information about individual cultures. If we accept there is a common myth cycle across the Indo-European cultures, then it is the differences between the myths that will teach us the most about a particular culture’s values. Not all pantheons will have a deity that takes on all the same roles, or even a role at all. This can help to tell us what roles were often combined in the thoughts of the people in that culture, or what roles didn’t hold value in a particular culture. The similarities of the myth cycle, and the differences in the specific myths allow us to study what kinds of things were important to the peoples of the different cultures.

We can also look at language to see the similarities in various deities. For example, the Thundering Sky God is a strong archetype present across the Indo-European cultures, and in Greek myth Zeus “is in name identical with the old Vedic sky-god Dyaus (Indo-European *Dyews ‘Bright Sky’)” (Puhvel 130). Similarly the Norse Thor shares a root with the Gaulish Taranis, both reducing to *thunar-, meaning thunder (169). The similarities in the roots of the deity names are another point towards showing these archetypical roles being filled across Indo-European cultures as they are needed.

All in all, I think the similarities in myth cycles and language point towards the commonalities being more than just coincidence. It seems likely that all of the Indo-European cultures came from some base culture that then spread out and painted its way across the continent, sharing the language, myths, and values as it went. With that hypothesis we can use what we know of the myths and the languages to explore and compare the differences in the cultures and the values that they held.



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