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)
In Vedic mythology, there are the samhitas of the four Vedas, which date from between the second to the first millennium BCE: The Rgveda, which is used for recitation; the Sama-Veda, which is used for chanting; the Yajur-Veda, which is used for liturgy; and the Atherva-Veda, which is named for a group of priests. These documents are the foundational texts of the Vedic religion, but they are also cited as foundational texts of Classical Hinduism, and are almost always translated through that lens. Unfortunately, according to Puhvel, “classical Hinduism… is worlds removed from the cultures of the early Vedic period” (Puhvel, 46). In fact, many “serious” scholars of the Vedas have problems with non-Hindu translators like Wendy Doniger, leading to an increase in bias. This is especially true with movements like Hindutva (the Hindu nationalist movement), which, over the last five years, have led to an increasingly strict and conservative reading of the ancient texts and are actively trying to subvert or destroy other versions.
Greek texts include the Iliad and the Odyssey, both by Homer, but the only written copies of these epic poems are from well after his death, so their compositional age is unknown. As well, works by Hesiod (Theogony and Works and Days – 7th to 6th century BCE) and the Homeric Hymns (Hymns in the style of Homer, also 7th to 6th century BCE for composition) are considered foundational texts. There is some discussion to be had about all of these texts, as they were typically carried in the oral tradition for a long time before being written down, so changes almost certainly occurred over time. Generally speaking, the Greek texts are better translated and have less cultural baggage, as they were not translated by conquerors or religious people who overtook/replaced the original religion, but were preserved, and often studied, in the original language. Since they are still studied as part of the regular education curriculum, many modern translations seek as much as possible to reflect (what best we know of as) ancient Greek culture as accurately as possible. Even for scholars who do not read ancient Greek, there are often many translations that can be compared to gain better understanding of the original texts.
The foundational texts of Norse mythology are the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century in Iceland by a Christian monk named Snorri Sturluson, the Gesta Danorum, written in the 12th century in Denmark by Saxo Grammaticus, the Poetic Edda, a collection of earlier poems and sagas collected in the 13th century in Iceland, and various Sagas, mostly from Iceland as well, that were collected over the course of Iceland’s Christianized history. These texts are both well preserved and dangerously full of bias – because they were written by Christian monks, they often have layers of Christian morality and meaning layered over older stories, and there is a good deal of euhemerization that goes on (especially in Saxo’s work), turning the divine stories of the gods into stories of kings and other mortals. Complicating the matter, most of these texts were (of course) written as Old Norse poetry, and so English speakers must often choose between comprehending the text itself and understanding the complexities of the written poetry styles common to that era.
2. 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
The Vedic creation myth, as told in the Rg Veda, tells of a formless world in which there is neither existence nor non-existence. From that void came the life force, which may or may not have formed itself, and from this existence came the gods (Rg Veda 10.129). This one great god (who is called The Arranger in a later hymn) brings forth from the waters “the sacrifice” (10. 121.8), who is, in the next hymn, revealed to be the cosmic giant Purusa. The gods then create the world by dismembering Purusa in the ultimate Vedic sacrifice, and from his body came all the beasts in the air and the forests and in villages (10.90.8). As well, the four castes of Vedic society were created from the parts of his body: “His mouth became the Brahmin; his arms were made into the Warrior, his thighs the People, and from his feet the Servants were born.” (10.90.12) They also create the sun and moon, the gods Indra and Agni, and the Wind, as well as the various realms of the earth – his navel becomes the middle realm, his feet are the earth, and his head becomes the sky. In this one moment of ultimate sacrifice, this prime creator (who is referred to by many titles) brings the world into being.
The Norse creation myth is exceptionally similar to the Vedic, in which, in the beginning, there is a formless void – Ginnungagap – between the realms of endless fire in the South and endless ice in the North (Crossley-Holland 3). Within that void fire and ice mixed to become a mist, and from that mist the first giant Ymir is born. The first man and woman are born from under his arms, and the race of frost giants is born from his legs rubbing together. A primal cow is also there, called Audhumla, and she licks a block of ice-salt to reveal Buri, the first man. His son’s sons, named Odin, Villi, and Ve, combine to slay Ymir and to create the world from his 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. They then create the nine realms, with mild Midgard being made out of Ymir’s eyebrows. Their own realm of Asgard can be reached via the Bifrost bridge, but all of the realms are connected by Yggdrasil, the great World Tree. In another version of creation (the Lay of Rig), it is Heimdall who fathers the races of men – the thralls, the karls, and the jarls, setting up a sort of three-caste society for the Norse people (Crossley-Holland 18).
The similarities between these two stories are remarkable, given the vast distances of time and space between their creation (and subsequently their being written down). In both tales a primal giant is slain, and from his body the world is created – he fathers the first people, but then is slain in the ultimate sacrifice to create the world. In the Vedic myths, however, the prime creator seems to disappear, and the gods later take its place, where as in the Norse myths Odin goes on to take a very primary role in the later tales of the Aesir (though Villi and Ve are mostly forgotten). The end result is an ordered cosmos, emerging out of a chaotic void, with the sky made of the skull of a giant, and several “castes” of people to populate the “middle world”.
I admit to being very curious about the significance of Ymir’s eyebrows. While it seems very sensible to create the middle world out of the middle of the giant (his navel), I don’t typically associate eyebrows with being the middle of anything.
Tales of divine war
The most recognizable divine war in Greek mythology is that between the Titans and the Olympians. The most complete version of this tale is told in Hesiod’s Theogony, where the Titans were the gods that came first, descended from Gaea and Ouranos. In this tale Rhea, the mother of the Elder Olympians, saves Zeus from being eaten by his monstrous father, Kronos. This begins the division between the Olympians and the Titans, and war breaks out that lasts for ten years, with neither side fully able to win. (This division is not always clear, as some Titans side with the Olympians, and there are other gods involved as well.) Eventually some of the Elder gods get involved to break the tie, and Zeus unleashes his full wrath upon the Titans, who are ultimately defeated and imprisoned.
In Irish myth, the wars between the gods are part of a whole series of invasions of the island of Ireland. Most famous is the battle between the Tuatha de Danann and the Formorians, after the defeat of the Fir Bolg. The monstrous and scary Formorians, whose name means something like “the undersea ones” or “the great under(world) ones” (places of primal ancientness), are the inhabitants of Ireland before the Tuatha de Danann arrive (Squire 48). They attack the (invading) Irish Tuatha, and bring out both heroic traits and destructive ones, thus fulfilling their role as agents of chaos. The Tuatha de Danann are eventually victorious, though some of the Formorians are incorporated into their ranks through marriage, and some even have children with members of Danu’s tribe.
In these two stories, as in many others, we find a very comparable tale of divine war that replaces an earlier race of deities (often deities of chaos) with the deities of order and civilization. “Just as the Olympians struggled with the Titans, the Aesir fought the Jotuns, and the Devas the Asuras, so there is warfare in the Gaelic spiritual world between two superhuman hosts” (Squire 47). While I’d argue that the Norse tale of the Aesir and Vanir war also has elements of this similar divine struggle, Squire’s point stands that in many Indo-European cultures a prior race of chaotic beings is displaced by the eventual gods of civilization. Unlike the Olympians, who were one generation descended from the Titans, the Tuatha de Danann are not descendants of the Formorians, but instead their successors as rulers of Ireland. In both stories, the older, chaotic race is not totally displaced, and some members are seen to either fight for, or eventually join up with, the victorious side.
Tales which describe the fate of the dead
The Greek myths take death – and the procedures for dealing with death – very seriously. Funeral preparations (such as coins on the eyes to pay the ferryman, Charon, to cross the river Styx into Hades) were extremely important, and it was the task of the living to ensure that the dead reached the proper realms. Once dead, there were several destinations. The truly wicked went to Tartarus, a realm below Hades, where the Titans are said to be chained up eternally. (This fate doesn’t seem to happen to many people.) Epic heroes go to the Elysian fields, where they will spend the afterlife in great comfort. Most people go to Hades, which, while reported to be dark and shadowy in some places, in others has enough light to grow a meadow of asphodels and pasture horses (Puhvel 138-9). Hades is both the name of the underworld and the name of the god who rules it.
The Rg Veda contains many different explanations of the fate of the dead. Both cremation and burial are mentioned as rituals for disposing of dead bodies (10.16, 10.18). There are also several different fates suggested for the dead, once they enter Yama’s realm (Yama is the lord of the dead). Hymn 10.14 speaks of heaven, and leaving behind all imperfections to join with those in the perfect realm. Hymn 10.16 speaks of a new body and possibly prefigures the later beliefs in reincarnation (where the body goes to the afterlife with Yama, but the soul is dispersed to the wind to join a new body, or, per Hymn 10.154, is reborn through sacred heat). There are many different groups of people addressed in the funereal hymns, including the ancestors of the dead man, who are already in heaven, the gods (particularly Yama), the dead person themself, mother earth, and Death itself.
Oddly, both of these myths have a lord of the dead who has notable dogs (see Hades and Cerberus, and Yama and his dogs, as mentioned in 10.14.11-12). All told, however, the Vedic view of the afterlife, with the body ascending to heaven after it has been purified, is much gentler, rich in friends and ritual nourishment, and a world of light and renewal. Hades, by most accounts, is at the very least a fairly dreary place, where the dead exist in a sort of limbo, fed only by ritual sacrifices (Puhvel 138).
3. 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 for each)
Tacitus describes the Germans worshiping Nerthus as Tellus Mater, mother earth, though there is no source on whether she was a lover of the sky father god (Tiwaz) or not. Later Anglo-Saxon sources have charms to “Eorþan Modor” – literally “Earth Mother” – as a protector of the fields and a giver of blessings to farmers, and the Norse deities include Jord, whose name is also cognate with “Earth”, and who is the mother of Thor. Within the Germanic traditions, at least, some reverence for the earth is warranted, though we do not have evidence of an entire cult devoted to her. The Greeks viewed Gaia as the mother who bore the fruitful earth as we know it, though she did not have a strong place in their devotional culture like Hestia (the hearth goddess) does. Interestingly, the Vedic deities do not have an earth mother with a name, but in at least one hymn, the earth is instructed to wrap up the dead like “a mother wraps a son in the edge of her skirt” (Rg Veda 10.18), showing that they too saw the earth at least in a vaguely protective, motherly light, and she is given reverence in other hymns next to a sky father (1.160).
ADF’s preferential treatment of the earth mother is thus fairly well represented in ancient cultures, though they were unlikely to be given honor at every single ritual as is the custom in ADF.
Deities of Land
The Norse land deities are typically the Vanir, who may be more ancient than the Aesir who replaced them. Of the Vanir tribe, we really only have three names – Njord, whose name is cognate with Nerthus (the Germanic Mother Earth), but whose domain is sea trade, and his two children, Freyr and Freyja. Both Freyr and Freyja are deities related to fertility, though Freyr specifically has influence over crops and the agricultural cycle. As well, he is the primary deity of frith, the bonds of civility and society that members of each tribe are bound by.
The Greeks have an interesting relationship with land deities, as the Olympians are typically introduced as living on Mt. Olympos (which puts them in the sky realm). But deities like Demeter are intimately tied to the agricultural cycle and typically dwell on the land with people, and so can be considered land deities. For the most part, however, the deities of agriculture were non-Olympian chthonic gods (Atsma).
Within ADF these deities are given varying levels of precedence, but in my experience the deities are most often called to as one group (the “Shining Ones”), and are thus not divided up by where they live or have their function.
Deities of Sea
The most prominent Irish sea deity is Manannan mac Lir, who travels over the ocean in a coracle (a little boat), and is said to “travel beyond the ninth wave.” If we expand the definition of sea deities to include freshwater deities, the Irish have a longer list, including Danu, who is a river mother with a large number of rivers apparently named after her, including the Don, Dnieper, and Danube, as well as Boann, the goddess of the river Boyne.
The Greeks have two major sea deities – the Titan Oceanus (who is associated with freshwater, even though we get our name for “ocean” from him) and the Olympian Poseidon. In Hesiod’s Theogony, Oceanus is the firstborn of the Titans and is the freshwater river that encircles the world. Poseidon is the deity who has dominion over the sea and sea travel, and people would make offerings to him for safe travel in their ships in the Mediterranean.
Though many folk in ADF work with Manannan as a gatekeeper, it is not typically because he is associated with the sea, so much that he is a psychopomp and ferries people to the lands of youth beyond the seas. As such, most members of ADF do not directly address sea deities… unless you happen to be a member of Nine Waves Protogrove (and quite possibly other coastal protogroves) where we have a ritual specifically to honor the deities of the sea every year.
Deities of Sky
The Vedas address the deity Indra, who is primarily a thunder god, and who leads the gods in fights against demons, drought, and darkness. He carries a lightning bolt and uses it in his battles (Puhvel 54). Similarly, Zeus is the main sky deity of the Greeks, and he also has the power of thunder and lightning at his disposal (Atsma). In similar roles, you have Jupiter and Thor and Taranis, all of whom have power over thunder and lighting and storms.
ADF typically approaches these deities for their power over storms, but some ADF groves and protogroves have begun to honor a Sky Father (parallel to the Earth Mother) for his guidance and protection, as well as his bringing order to the cosmos. Other sky deity functions include the sun and stars, as well as other weather forms.
In Norse mythology, the Jotuns (or Giants) are seen as the ultimate outsiders – they are cunning, but chaotic, and often oppose both gods and humanity. They live in their own realm of Jotunheim, and though Thor is often seen dispatching them with great ferocity, some of them come to live among the Aesir, and often they intermarry – Freyr, for example, has a Jotun wife named Gerda (Crossley-Holland 54-58).
Similarly, in Vedic myth, the interactions between the gods and the demons was a complex subject – while they were often at odds with each other, there were other times when they appear merely as rival “factions” within the greater supernatural structure, each with their own agenda and roles (Puhvel 53).
Though both cultures exhibit complex interactions with the outsiders, they both have protective structures in place to protect humanity from them, leading me to believe that in general, it wasn’t a good idea for humans to have much to do with them if they could avoid it. ADF’s interactions with the outsiders changes from group to group, with some groups ignoring them entirely, while others make propitiatory offerings to keep the outsiders at bay, while still others ask a protective deity (like Thor) to stand guard over the ritual and keep any unruly outsiders from disturbing the peace.
Spirits of nature are a varied group and contain many types of non-human creatures that inhabit the middle-realm with humanity. They are sometimes friendly to humans, such as the Vedic demons that help with harvests, but are as often as not fairly indifferent, or simply different. In some traditions they are even actively hostile, such as with the many Anglo-Saxon charms against being harmed by the many different types of “elves” – decidedly non-human types of beings that nevertheless share this plane with us.
ADF presents the Nature Spirits as one of the three kindreds, with the Gods and the Ancestors, and often includes the spirits of animals and plants as well as the various types of “other” beings that share the earth with us. As such ADF’s practice is somewhat different than the Vedic or Anglo-Saxon understanding, but might be closer to the Greek belief in the different types of nymphs, as spirits of the land or other natural phenomena.
In Vedic myth, the ancestors are closely tied to Agni, the fire deity who delivers them to heaven. Once they reach heaven, they are in the realm of Yama, but they can be spoken to and sacrificed to, as per Hymn 10.14 of the Rg Veda , that they will be “helpful and kind.” In the Greek afterlife, heroes such as Odysseus and Orpheus travel to the realms of the dead either for counsel (with Tiresias) or to rescue someone from the otherworld (Eurydice). They can also be contacted through ritual action, namely through “the taste of sacrificial blood” (Puhvel 138). The Greeks also seem to make a distinction for the epic heroes, like Perseus, who attain at least a great deal of fame after death and often become objects of hero cult like worship. This was different than the typical familial ancestor veneration, and in some places became part of civic worship alongside the Gods (especially in situations where the people venerating the hero were in no way descended from them).
ADF remembers our ancestors at each high day, and often especially at the November high day (which is based in Irish myth, not Greek or Norse), which is in keeping with most of the Indo European traditions for remembering the dead. As well, we seek counsel from them, much like Odysseus did, and like several figures in Norse myths do.
4. 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)
In Norse Mythology, the upperworld consists of Asgard, the realm of the Aesir, as well as Vanaheim, the realm of the Vanir gods, and Alfheim, the land of the light elves (Crossley-Holland xx). Asgard is a wide realm containing the halls of the gods, as well as Valhalla, all encircled by a vast wall. The Greeks consider Mt. Olympus to be the upper realm of the Gods, where they watch over the mortal world and live in great halls, much like the Norse gods do, but unlike the Norse gods most of the Greek myths happen when the Gods interact with mankind, on the middle world. ADF typically addresses our calls to the “Shining ones” as part of the Upperworld, though (as addressed in other questions) there are deities in other places as well.
The middle world is where humanity dwells, alongside many other non-human beings, animal and other nature spirits, and some deities. In Norse mythology, Midgard is the name of the middle world, and it is encircled by an ocean so vast that it cannot be crossed (Crossley-Holland xxi). As well, Jotunheim, the world of the Giants, Nidavellir, the land of the dwarfs, and Svartalfheim, the land of the dark elves are considered part of the middle world, though all are – to some degree – separate from Midgard. The Greek concept of the middle world is much less well-defined, but is similarly encircled by a vast ocean or river (Oceanus) which encompasses the whole world (sometimes believed to be at the equator) – including the realms of the sun and stars, which rise and set into the great waters each day (Atsma). It makes the most sense to refer to Midgard as the middle world in ADF’s cosmology.
Divisions Of Middleworld (e.g., 4 Quarters, 3 Triads, 8 Sections)
As mentioned previously, Norse mythology divides the middle world into Midgard, Jotunheim, Nidavellir, and Svartalfheim. Jotunheim also includes Utgard, the Giant’s citadel and the great Outer World. All of these realms are in some way connected to and reachable from Midgard – Nidavellir is said to exist in caves and pot holes – and as well, Asgard and Midgard are connected by Bifrost, a flaming rainbow bridge (Crossley-Holland xxi). Greek myths divide the middle realm into Land, Sea, and Sky, though typically you do not see invocations spelled out as such; it is viewed as a vast disc of earth (Gaia), surrounded by Oceanus, the sea that holds and surrounds the land, and the sky is the great dome of Ouranos. Hecate is also invoked as holding the keys to Land, Sea, and Sky. We do know that the Greeks had the mathematics to prove that the Earth is round (and not flat), but that does not seem to have affected their mythology much.
Either of these concepts is usable in ADF, but the commonly referred to divisions of the middle realm as Land, Sea, and Sky more typically come from invocations in another Indo-European culture (Irish Celtic). Either division is useful within ADF, though calling out to the Land, Sea, and Sky is very poetic, and is something that many ADF groups do as part of their rituals.
The Norse underworld is Niflheim, nine days northwards and downwards from Midgard. In this sense, the land of the dead is literally “under” the Middleworld. Niflheim is often split into two realms, Hel and Niflhel, with Hel ruled over by the goddess bearing the same name, and being the realm where most of the dead would reside, while evil people would pass through to Niflhel and some sort of torment (Crossley-Holland xxi-xxii).
The Greek underworld is similarly the realm of the dead and of the chthonic deities. It is ruled over by Hades and, for half of the year, Persephone, and is similarly divided into different places depending on the life of the dead person. In both cultures the underworld is down and to the north, ruled over by a deity bearing the same name as the underworld, separated from the land of the living by a river, and guarded by dogs (Puhvel 138).
Both the Norse and the Greeks separate their heroic dead from the average dead, but in Norse myth the heroic dead go to the upperworld – which is a little counterintuitive with the way ADF typically approaches the ancestors as part of the underworld. (Deified heroes in Greek myth also make the transition to the upperworld.) In general, Hel and most of Hades are most relevant to the way ADF conceives of approaching the underworld.
Norse mythology has an entire realm devoted to fire (Muspelheim), and it is one of the two primary creative forces from which the universe is made – the other being the realm of ice. Muspelheim is thought to be to the south of Midgard, and just as the world was created from fire, the fire giants will rise up to destroy it at the end of time. As well, fire was one of the methods that the Norse used to send off their dead, especially heroic dead.
The Greeks saw fire as a method of sacrifice, specifically through Hestia, who – being both the fire and a deity – always consumed part of the sacrifice and was the first and last offering in a ritual (Atsma). The smoke of the fire carried the messages of humans up to the gods in their home on Olympos.
The Greek concept of fire is more similar to ADF’s concept of fire as the primary method of sacrifice and as a gate into the other worlds (especially the upperworld). Like the Greeks, ADF does not typically offer sacrifice without some type of fire to transform it into the form by which the Gods can partake. Having the fire function as a gate is somewhat similar to Hestia’s role, in that she provides the method by which the Gods are contacted, but I think ADF’s understanding of this is more similar to Agni’s role in Vedic myth.
There are three wells in Norse Mythology, and each sits below one of the main roots of the world tree, Yggdrasil. One is in Asgard – the Well of Urd (fate); one is in Jotunheim (part of the middle world) – the Well of Mimir; One is in Niflheim, the Well of Hvergelmir (Crossley-Holland xxiii). These three wells are sources of wisdom and knowledge. The Well of Urd is guarded by the three Norns, where the gods gathered each day in council, while the Well of Mimir is where Odin sacrificed his eye to drink from it to obtain great wisdom.
For the Greeks, wells are often connected to ritual purity, as well as to the Ancestors. Rivers and lakes are all part of the great encircling Oceanos, across which is the underworld, and so they can be seen as a type of portal.
ADF merges these two visions of the well into one greater myth, where the well is both a place of wisdom and a place of purity, as well as an access point into the realm of the underworld. Functioning as a gate, as ADF typically approaches the well, doesn’t have a direct parallel in either of these cultures, but is closely related enough to be at least something to discuss. In both cultures, you must cross a river to get to the realm of the dead, and for the Greeks, the waters of Oceanos are thought to underlie the entire world, so it makes some sense that – if you have to cross the waters to get to the Dead, you could talk to them through a Well, which is connected to those waters.
The Norse world tree Yggdrasil holds a very prominent place in Norse mythology. Often said to be an ash tree, but sometimes a yew, the nine worlds were hung in its branches, and it was the pivot point around which the universe rotated. This tree has no known origin, and will later survive the destruction of the worlds in Ragnarok (Crossley-Holland xxiii). Odin hung on the tree for nine nights to gain the wisdom of the runes and many animals make their home in and around the world tree.
The Greek cosmology does not associate with any one sacred tree, but does hold that trees can be sacred homes to spirits (nymphs), often placing them in special and sacred places. The Greeks do have a “center” about which the world is said to rotate in the omphalos stone at Delphi. Directly translated, omphalos means “navel” and is the stone which Rhea used to substitute for Zeus, that he would not be devoured by his father. The Delphians believed it to be the center of the world, and the gods can be reached through communication with it (Atsma).
ADF’s concept of the axis mundi is clearly most similar to the Norse concept of Yggdrasil, in which we have a great tree that is the center of the worlds, about which the other realms rotate. We use the tree to align to the various worlds and realms into which we speak and make offerings.
5. 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)
The themes that cut across Indo-European myths are very strong. So strong, in fact, that I think they can be dangerous. It is easy to start to think of these works as all variations on a monomyth, or a single myth cycle, when, in reality, each variation has its own cultural flavor, its own history, and its own context.
While it would be tempting to create, for example, a Gaulish creation myth using the myths we have from Scandinavia, Greece, and Vedic India, that myth would not, in essence, be Gaulish. It would lack the context that growing up in a Gaulish culture would give it, as well as the essential Gaulish-ness that would come out of years of development within that context. So while we could certainly make some conjectures, and those similarities are fun to conjecture about, it think it is extremely unwise to go about making up myths because we know the cultures were similar.
In the same way that we approach Tiwaz, Jupiter, Zeus, and Dyaus as different gods in different cultural contexts, I think we owe the Norse, Roman, Greek, and Vedic cultures the same level of respect when it comes to their myths. If we can discuss the similarities of the gods while still allowing that they are individuals, approaching them individually in our rites, I think it makes sense to do the same with the myths about those gods.
That said, I think the comparisons are also important, as it can help us learn what makes the Indo-European cultures part of one larger language and cultural group, as well as give us some interesting variations to discuss as we compare myths. Reading Puhvel’s Comparative Mythology, there is a strong argument for connecting these cultures, and perhaps a lot can be learned through comparing them. Knowing that the Vedas and the Eddas both contain a creation myth about a giant who is partitioned into the world is valuable – but reading the Rg Veda and seeing the ultimate holy sacrifice described as Purusa is dismembered has a very different feel than reading about Odin, Villi, and Ve as they kill Ymir to create the world. Perhaps that is merely a variation because of who was doing the writing, but I think the differences are important to remember.
Atsma, Aaron J. The Theoi Project : Greek Mythology. 2011. Web. 11 May 2016. <http://www.theoi.com/>.
Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Random House, 1980. Print.
Gundarsson, Kveldulf. Our Troth, Volume I. North Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2006. Print.
Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Print.
–. Rg Veda. Trans. Wendy Doniger. New York: Penguin Books, 1981. Print.
Squire, Charles. Celtic Myth and Legend. London: Dover Publishing, 2003. Print.