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Thread: Iranian Elements in Germanic Religion

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Iranian Elements in Germanic Religion

    Iranic-Germanic similarities and criticism thereof.

    The problem of Iranian components in the Germanic religion has been discussed for decades. Obviously, a clear distinction needs to be made between what is genuinely Iranian and what Germanic religion and mythology shares with the Iranian as well as with other Indo-European Systems of belief. This immediately excludes the considérations based on the Dumézilian tripartite ideology; also to be dismissed are the data on sporadic horse sacrifice in Germany, on the occurrence of a divine beverage of immortality, on the absence of temple buildings or iconic représentation of the deities in primitive cuit.

    Also to be left out of considération are the scarce manifestations of a fire-cult, the appearance of chariots as cuit objects, the comparison of the Tacitean eponymic heroes of three Germanic tribes with the Scythian Lipoxaïs, Arpoxaïs and Kolaxaïs, mentioned by Herodotus. Not convincing either is the assumed parallelism between the alleged dual nature of Odin and the opposition between Arjra Mainyu and Spdnta Mainyu under Ahura Mazda or the équation established on flimsy ground between Odin and Vayu; a comparison between xsadra and ON regindômr is hardly cogent.

    To be sure, the Ossetic Sozryko shares a number of features with Loki, and Dumézil has definitely made the most of it, and it may be significant that in both cultures - Germanic and Ancient Iranian - butter was used in funeral rites; the carrying away of deities by demonic powers is however frequently attested, and that the number of einherjar corresponds to a 15th of the small stars created by Ahura Mazda is not particularly impressive: juggling with numbers is a common Indo-European habit.

    If striking Irano-Germanic correspondences are to be found, they appear essentially in the cosmogony and the eschatology. Already in the thirties, Hermann Güntert demonstrated the parallelism between the slaughter and cutting up of the primal giant Ymir in the Scandinavian myth about the création of the world and definite Iranian traditions, but since then a number of similar mythological explanations have been listed, and with the Vedic purusa medha in RV X, 190, the comparison of the Germanic cosmogony with Iranian data is no longer as striking.

    To be sure, the equations between body parts and elements in the constitution of the world found in the Manichean Skand-Gumanig-Vizar are the closest to the Germanic ones, but both narratives are merely variants of an obviously older [Indo-European] myth, which illustrates the constant interchange between microcosm and macrocosm. Therefore the hypothesis of a close relation with Manichean myth has been abandoned long ago.
    Source: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23658217

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    There are going to be similarities between any two Indo-European cosmologies simply because they have a common origin. A couple modern occult German writers, Norbert Juergen-Rathoffer and Ralf Ettl make a big deal of alleged connections between Germanic cosmology and those cultures of ancient Iraq, including sometimes the Hittites. I don't believe a word of this.

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    I am less critical than Polome. Even academics forget Germanics moved onto the steppe, even in the Caucasus and Asia Minor. There was an East Germanic state called Theodoro even in the Early Modern period till its language disappeared. Some of the similarities will be from common origin. Others will be from the Migration Age, the trade routes and missionary activity.

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Where did Odin come from? Snorri had similar ideas (As = Os). Snorri's account was blurred with reminiscence of Gothic raids into Asia - there is still a Kurdish Garmiyan (=Germania) and somehow words like 'earth' got into Kurmanj.

    Problem is Colarusso's etymology for *Wodanaz might explain Votan, but not Ud-doen. Mind you its questioned now whether Odin can be derived from *Wodanaz (which itself is impossible to derive from wut-). Before the amber route between the Black and Baltic seas Iranic/Caucasic > Germanic borrowings would not have been north of Alania. Odin may have come late to Scandinavia, he was unknown to the Lapps. Though most people think of *Wodenaz as the prototypical Germanic god, debate is whether his name is Celtic or Ossetic.

    This type of tale partially describes the story about Ud-doen. This tale was heard and written down by the Ossetian Scholar Dzambulant Dzanty from the famous Ossetian teller Khulyx ("The Lame") in the village of Great Iron (Bolshoe Osetinskoe) at the time of haymaking, June, 1910, as well as another one of "Iry Dada." According to the account of the Dzambulant Dzanty, Khulyx was a poet himself and in some of his own works followed the patterns of the old Ossetian oral traditions. Many of his poems were learned by heart and sung by Ossetians, especially those in which he deplored the shortcomings and mistakes of some of his fellow Ossetians. He was over seventy in 1910 but in spite of his age was quite lively and used to sing the old tales at the folk festivals ... Three brothers, descendants of the old Ossetian clan, Burgalty, lived in the village Senkhay around two miles from the town of Mozdok. The elder Burgalty said that "no one knows our wonder better than Khulyx." The tale about "Ud-doen = Odin" was published in French by Dzambulant Dzanty in 1953 in Paris. The Russian translation was made and recently presented to modern Ossetian readers by the author of this article.

    According to the legend, in very remote times, a boy was born in the High Mountains of the Central Caucasus (Ossetia) to a woman stunned by a thunderbolt through the magic of the giant Nalat (in Ossetian language-cruel, malicious). The woman died immediately after giving birth to the child. The neighbors took care of the poor little orphan and gave him a name - Ud-doen -which means in the Ossetian language: "I am soul" or "I am life." When Ud-doen grew to be a strong young man he discovered the secret of smelting bronze and forging very sturdy weapons whose surface shone like the sun. The first thing he accomplished was to kill the cruel "uaig" - the giant Nalat, thus taking the revenge for his mother's death. Then, according to the customs of the remote ancestors of Ossetians-Alans, the Scythians, he gathered a host of followers, young and old, and left for the North in search of the maiden with long golden hair. It was his dream to find this northern beauty. After many adventures, at last Ud-daen and his warriors happened to reach Scandinavia. There he was revered as a God - Odin. He married the daughter of the local tsar. Their reception is not surprising if we take into account that these Caucasian knights used the perfect metallic weapons in comparison to those of the native tribesmen. When Ud-daen-Odin grew old and felt he may soon die, he together with his old warriors, left for the Caucasus, but to rule over the Skandinavian folk he left his son - Votan. When Ud-daen-Odin arrived in his native land he died and was cremated by his followers on the top of a mountain by the banks of the river Karma-Don. It is interesting to note that this gidronim (hot springs) is translated from Ossetian as "Hot river or water" because it is famous for its healing, medical quality. This place still functions on the famous Sanatorium- "Karma-Don". According to Dzambulant Dzanty, the hill - the place of cremation of Ud-daen originally was known in Ossetia-Alania as "The pick of Odin" and later (probably after convertion to Christianity - early X-th century C.E.) was transformed into "The Mountain of Christ". Nowadays, Ossetians call one of the highest peaks of the Caucasus by this name: Mount Kazbek.

    It is a curious fact that the old Ossetian teller Kulyx could hardly read and write and certainly had no knowledge of the Norwegian sagas but he preserved in his mind what he had learned from his forefathers. This short story contains many remarkable aspects but the materials dealing with mentioning the native invention of technology for smelting bronze and forging bronze weapons is of particular interest for us here. George Vernadsky collected much historical toponimical and linguistical data to prove that the connections between Scandinavia and the Caucasian go far back to the times of the deep antiquity. It is also commonly recognized by the specialists that Ossetian folklore preserves the resonance of the historical raids of their Scythian and Sauromatian (i.e. Cimmerian) ancestors which took place long before BCE. According to the famous historian of the ancient Caucasus, E.I. Krupnov, the nucleus; i.e. the substance of these Ossetian legends was created during the late bronze and early iron age. Osssetian archaeologist Bagrath Tekhov in his numerous works also showed that Scythians in the late stages of the Koban bronze culture of the Central Caucasus contributed greatly in the development of its metallurgy. Furthermore, we should mention that during their famous raids to Palestine and Asia Minor, Scythians and Cymmerians had among their troops the Caucasian blacksmiths who casted the bronze arrowheads of so to call "Scythian type" in the small portable moulds to supply the needs of the cavalry. Such tales give us ground to assert that Ossetian legends about Ud-doen-Odin could reflect the original experience of native Caucasian bronze technology disseminated by moving nomads to different parts of the ancient world.
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/41882293

    This web page has information about a mortal Odin. Treat it with skepticism and an open mind. The "Odin people" mentioned are probably Udis of Caucasian Albania.

    http://www.wilmer-t.net/fornnorden/A...HumanOdin.html

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    It's tempting to reconstruct a myth in which Nanna, like Demeter or Inanna, spends 1/2 a year in the underworld. Nanna (=Mesopotamian Inanna) was important in Sogdiana. She presumably arrived through Rus. This brings up something else. Dumuzi fought Enkidmu for Inanna as in Saxo's account of the Baldr cycle (Inanna Prefers the Farmer). But I need to know more about Sogdian religion to chase this up. Snorri and Saxo had no knowledge of Sumerian myth.

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/sum/sum09.htm

    Now I don't want to go into detail about Iranian myths. But Ferdowsi's tale of Siyavash and Sudabeh is related and Sudabeh is the destructive side to (I)Nanna. Ferdowsi collected sources from conservative areas of C Asia where Siyavash was pure god of vegetation. You can compare him to Snorri. Somehow Dumuzi > Siyavash > Baldr and Inanna > Nanna. Siyavash's name is similar to Siva, Mame-Sivan and Siyah-Gales but such theonym was not loaned alongside Nanna's.

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    The whole thing appears very interesting. Problem is, the vast majority of us don't have a JSTOR access and don't see more than the abstract and/or the part you posted here. Mind posting a line or two on each point raised with the examples given, in a quick round-up?
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    The whole thing appears very interesting. Problem is, the vast majority of us don't have a JSTOR access and don't see more than the abstract and/or the part you posted here. Mind posting a line or two on each point raised with the examples given, in a quick round-up?
    Polome wrote this in 1997, since then others touched on the topic (for example Yuri Stoyanov, The Other God).

    • Ragnarok is similar to the Persian eschatological myths - the long winter and the Wolf Age
    • Myrkvidr is possibly inspired by the Mandeans and Manicheans
    • Nartic elements in the Geste des Narbonnais

    As with the Arthurian cycle compiled in France, it gets difficult to tease apart the Germanic, Celtic, Classical and Iranian-Caucasic contributions. After Littleton published the Scythian elements in the canon, Graham Anderson wrote a book about its Classical prototypes, adding in Turkic and Iranic parallels hitherto unmentioned. This shows the mixtures going on in the Migration Age and distant sources should be expected for parts of Germanic mythology - which was mostly recorded after even the Viking period. In the old sources Atli (=Atilla) is certainly respected enough that even Hunnish influences in the north are possible. A few people see hints of something quite eastern in the role of Odin and his two raven(?) brothers because as you probably know Eurasian cosmogonic myths often include ornithomorphs and brother gods. This is touched on in Stoyanov's footnotes though Hunnish and Uralic influences upon Scandinavians are another matter. The Uralic languages still border the North Germanic, after all.

    Speaking of Odin, HED saw a lot of parallels between Odin and Mithras, this is the "eastern link" Caucasus specialist John Colarusso was able to expand upon. The Gundestrup cauldron, one line of evidence, depicts a tauroctony similar to that of Roman Mithras and upon the well known Mitannian (Indic? Dardic?) Seal of Shaushtatar. The Mithraic imagery famously includes not only a bull but ravens, snakes, canines and cockerels: all except for the last are connected to Odin. Cockerels are not especially related to Odin in the sources but they had a role in the funerary rites, according to HED.

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