The Good Qualities of the Pagan Warrior

Preface

To Druids, truth is as important as practice. When looking at warriors, we look through the lense of their ideology. When we rebuild our paganism using reconstrucitonist methods, we start with the Proto-Indo-European(PIE) ideology and define it as anthropologists do, as a thing which “provides the basic metaphysical assumptions, tying the observed and observable phenomena of the natural and human environment into a kind of unity, filling the voids of knowledge with religious and magical beliefs, and ultimately supplying a system of justification of the circumstances of existence” (Littleton 227).

The first step in that method, is to take what we know of the Indo-Europeans and imagining how it would have evolved into modern times, like Vedism evolved into Hinduism. We don’t want to practice the pagan religions of the iron age, we want to envision how they would have evolved if not subsumed by Christianity. We’re not glorifying or over romanticizing the past, it’s always sucked.  We just focus on what was and from that what should be today. For each person that’s different. For each person, their beliefs either goes against or supports the status quo, or both in different threads of their life.

"Siege of Tyre" from  1474 via WikiMedia.
“Siege of Tyre” from 1474 via WikiMedia.

Nature of Proto-Indo-European(PIE) Culture

This is continued from Cup, Axe & Plow: The Hidden Ideology of European Paganism. In this article we illustrate the divine proportions to which the Indo-Europeans explained their world and society through myth. A basic rundown is that the first function of sovereignty is a role filled by priests, the second function of force is fulfilled by warriors, and the third function of nourishment is fulfilled by cultivator herdsmen. In that article we discuss how societies used to be neatly divided like this, but aren’t any longer. We also discuss how the mythology in every surviving Indo-European body of myth contains some, if not many, reflections of the reverence of this structure. The Indo-Europeans based these structures on ability and merit, and then honored this interdependence as something sacred as it crystallized. The first two functions are all that is needed to move in to a new area, dominate or acculturate another more-primitive people. To educate them and advance the technology of the local population. In some cases, it may be true that the Indo-Europeans dominated peoples, but there doesn’t seem to be archeological evidence that this was always the case. Warbands moved in and took over lands, they settled them regardless and there was bloodshed. The Yamnaya package is likely the reason these local populations neighbored and adopted the cultures willingly. The Yamnaya package was a set of cultural advancements and new ideas that aided survival of small groups, and therefore was the bomb diggity.

The study of Linguistics, and the legacy that Dumezil picked up is less than two hundred years old. But it wasn’t until 1921 that Jones demonstrated that Greek, Latin, and Gothic were distant cousins to Avestan and Sanskrit (23). Bopp in 1833 suggested the term Indo-European as an alternative to Indo-Germanic before that. Proto-Indo-European began its reconstruction between 1841 and 1873.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans are a transitional phase between neolithic ages and bronze ages(25). They began migrating in 3500 B.C.E. from their homeland, and from all the evidence, this is most likely the Pontic-Caspian Steppes of Russia (31).

The weapons of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, or PIE people, were the club, the mace, the axe, the bow, the sling, the knife or dagger, the pike and the spear (26). They had all this though they didn’t have any words for working metal and their word for copper is a sumerian loan word. They had battle chariots though. The were breeders of domestic farm animals and farmers. Hunting was of minor importance. They had plows and were the first people to domesticate the horse.

They were semi nomadic. They would use any excuse to pile their possessions into an oxcart, burn their huts and move on (27). Dumezil’s ideas that PIE social structure was tripartite was reinforced by other scholars, and other models have been presented that weren’t really popular(27).

A Few Indo-European Common Themes

Though most of the theories in Dumezil’s “Ambrosia Cycle”, a group of theories regarding sacred drinks among Indo-European cultures, were shaky and unfounded; the period revealed helpful information that stayed with the tripartition theories and sacred intoxication as worship and mysticism (44).

There are similar themes between Othinn’s band in Valhalla, the Harii and Berserkir, etc and the Indo-Iranian Gandharvas, Greek Kentauroi, so on and so forth. The slaying and dismemberment of Ymir is near identical to the dismemberment of Purusha (64). Beowulf and Indra have homological connections as slayers of serpents. Thorr and Indra’s similarities only begin as wielders of lightning striking weapons, and have many more as are shared with other Strikers like like Lugh and Dagda.

Nuada lost an arm, Tyr lost an arm, they both lost ‘Wholeness’ and become unfit to rule as kings. So wholeness, health, hael, and completeness as a requisite for leadership was a common theme among Kings whom warriors would follow. Understanding these gods in the context of greater IE themes, we can better understand Nuada/Nodens and Tiwas/Tyr as a god of Law/Contracts, settling contractual disputes, behaving in a fashion benefiting mankind and binding mankind to the gods (65). Tyr is a wise king and can see his fate, all his actions act to serve humanity(and a couple of gods), so they can survive the divine war and grow the cosmos into the same hael and wholeness he originally represented.

Like Mtra and the PIE god of he comes from Dyēus Ptēr, Tyr would concern himself with the maintenance of moral and legal order of the cosmos. I believe the majority of IE Magico-Religious counterparts to this god also stem from Dyēus Ptēr, I could be wrong, but all them have names or epithets which include “father”: Othinn, Dagda, or Varuna. And this god is concerned with the magical manipulation of the cosmos, as well as the maintenance of religious and cultural order like the lorekeeping and religious practices among men(65). The roman reflection of this, Dumezil thought, is Jupiter and Dius Fidius (69).

Poetry, Oral Tradition, the Sacredness of the spoken word are common IE traits (67).

Roman, Germanic, and Irish examples exist of mythological figures, who used only one eye, and had one arm. Nuada lost his arm in the First Battle of Maige Tuired and Lugh, the hero god of skill, used the crane stance to cover his eye and bind his arm to gain power before striking Balor, who was blind in one eye. Horatius Cocles was blind in one eye and fought an entire army, while Mucius Scaevola thrust his arm into a ritual fire. And each of us knows that Othinn and had some of the same problems after gifting the Norns with an eyeball.

This is evidence of the tendency of IE loresmiths to interlink blindness and maimed themes with magical power, illustrating the joint aspects of sovereignty. Each, wholeness and unwholness, complements the other and through their joint venture, they can maintain the order of the cosmos(87,99).

One-eyedness is a characteristic of storytelling and clairvoyance (174). Lugh, Othinn, Slavic storytellers(in real life), and Cuchulain all prophesied after temporary or permanent one-eyedness (174).

Dumezil sufficiently illustrates that the Tripartition Ideology characteristic of Norse, Celtic, Iranian, Early Roman, Hellenic and Indian cultures was truely IE in origin and not just borrowed or occurred by chance (100). One can surmise a lore keeping tradition going back to the Proto-Indo-Europeans of 5000 years ago maintaining this ‘ideologie’. If it wasn’t important, it wouldn’t have remained when the names and features of the gods changed from this time to that.

The Romans, Dumezil says, deployed three devices to ensure victory in battle, each associated with the IE ideology. The first was a ritual to Mars, The second was a votum, or votive offering promised to be paid after a victory was ensured; usually a temple to Jupiter(104), and the third was a devotio, or a promising of himself by the general of his body and all the bodies of the enemy dead to the subterranean gods and the gods of the earth.

The Vedic and Roman IE religions shared a preoccupation with the excrement of yoked animals as a divinatory device (110). Entheogens are seen in Anglo saxon magical traditions and the root word for giddy likely means to be possessed by a god. Taliesin has tales of drops of wisdom and hazelnuts, all of which are likely the result of fungal ingestion. Both Vedic and Roman methods of a type of excrement divination involved determining if a yoked animal produced excrement or not, and probably what condition it was in. Whatever ill foretellings that were seen were averted by removing the yoke from the animal. On the other hand, bull excrement was essential to victory(110). See what I’m hinting at?

In both Rome and India, eight legged cow sacrifices were performed in the form of late stage pregnancies(112). In India they were done toward or for the kingship and king of the gods, but in Rome they were directed to or for the sovereign people as kingship disappeared from Rome early.

Indo-European colors for the three functions are white for the first, red for the second, and blue, green or black for the third(114). These colors are drawn from Celtic, Norse, Vedic, and Hittite sources. In every instance, though, the clergy were symbolized by white and the warriors by red. This is somewhat challenged in Ireland where the colors of some Druids were speckled or multi-colored, however, that was a cloak description and the bard’s colors are attested and white is associated with the highest levels. The color system was complicated, and that is another post.

The horse sacrifice is common to Indo-Europeans as well. The Roman and Vedic records of horse sacrifice attest them well. Varuna and Jupiter alike are connected with horses (114). Dagda is called Horseman Great-Father in one of his names, Eochaid Ollathair. So we are left to conclude that the Magico portion of the First function are associated with the horse and therefore horse sacrifices, which could be the tied into the reasons for the taboo of the Flamen Dialis and Brahmanas inability to touch a horse, even during their sacrifice. This places horses with all three functions, cultivators, warriors, and the magico-sovereign priests.

Gatekeeper gods are called dieu premiers and, as discussed earlier, and are gods which open the ways to other gods. Janus as god of openings and exits is seen as a god that bridges heaven and earth as well as last year with this year. Just like Heimdallr, Janus brings forth certain aspects of men. In Janus case, he brought forth civilization, and in Heimdallr’s case, he was the first to speak at the Thing(106).

The Indo-European Warrior in Myth

Of the second function, the warrior gods and heroes are prone to, to an extreme degree, take “independent” action (118). Terms like autonomy, mythologists apply to the vedic second functional gods (119). And while kingly gods make up the both sides of the first function, they are generally sourced from the warrior class.

In India, the three headed son of Tvastar correlates to the story of Horatius and Tullus Hostilius and the Avestan story where a three headed dragon, Azi Dahaka, is killed. In each of these stories, the slayer from the second function requires ritual purification afterward because they committed an offense against the first function (119).

The parallels between Tullus and Indra are notable in that they both experienced conflict where they challenged the magico-sovereign religious order in fury. In Rome the three tribes of the  Albans were destroyed instead of a three headed dragon or serpent god. In an alternate Indic tale of Indra killing serpents, it Trisiras or Tricephalous who was slain. He was also a brahman by chance. Fury, Excess and Autonomy were common traits of the second function, the warrior class. These actions could lead to the occasion tribal drama, like killing a priest of a kinsman. And though sometimes done in the name of tribal interests, these excesses weren’t tolerated (120). That these concepts pierced the mythic barrier into cultural lore, and these heroes required purification after their victories to led to or from the social unacceptability of these acts. The traits of the Indo-European warrior take on more meaning in the context of the ideology of the Indo-Europeans (120).

Fury, Excess and Autonomy were common traits of the second function, the warrior class. These actions could lead to the occasion tribal drama, like killing a priest of a kinsman. And though sometimes done in the name of tribal interests, these excesses weren’t tolerated.

Later in the tale both Indra and Tulls are betrayed the same way and Littleton believes that in PIE society, this rebellion against the sovereign order was projected into the sacred and codified in myth as a way to quell the social disorder that arises from such excesses in bad behavior. And so the folly of such behavior becomes part of the ideology we’re exploring (123).

In fact, this particular set of transgressions and those of Vāyu, Hercules, and Starkadr helped Dumezil conceive of the IE warriors other “sins” against all three classes. In short, the IE hero god breaks contracts and alliances resulting in “cowardly use of physical force” irritating the second function(other warriors), killing a sacrosanct member of the first function(Brahmin or Priests), and assuming other forms to seduce wives of prominent third functional figures (123).

The Germanic second functional anti-Hero who parallels with Indra and Tullus is Starkadr, who in the Saxo Grammaticus is written as Starcatherus. First, he assassinates a first functional king by strangulation, also a first functional death. He agrees to assassinate a king and does so in a third functional manner, while bathing. And finally he fought with cowardice in battle which caused a war to be lostStarkadr also offended all three functions by his excess behavior (125).

I think this records for society, the ills of the tribe and of the hero who believes he is doing right but is shrouded in a sense of ego or of false worldviews and outlooks brought on by his behaviors. And so, every heroic trait or principle is diminished in the pursuance of of some false sense of righteousness.

The warrior class in its strengths was used as a tool for expansion and was “thus the prop and the pivot of the social system.” This ultimately led to conflict in the form of the “structural opposition between the warrior class and the others.” (128).

Such an opposition, if left unbridled, would lead to a deadly chaos for a society(128). In different IE groups the mechanisms to keep these powers in check worked to varying degrees. In northern climates, the need for warriors to farm must have been extreme. So these notions mostly collapse by late viking age scandinavian society, however, the shift of Gothi toward chieftain and away from a primarily priestly role could signify potential breakage of these structures in harsher climates, for whatever reasons. I believe the nobility welcomed Christianity because of problems with the second function. At least in Ireland, a new form of the first function could add a layer of better control upon the warrior bands. People would be, in my opinion, looking for tamer times filled with fewer terrors. Yet warriors can lose their vigor through misdeeds (124). Perhaps this mythological codification of these notions is supposed to keep warriors introspective of how others would view their behavior.

In conceptualizing the IE warrior and second function, understanding the justification to claiming disputed territory is key to understanding the warrior’s ideology. In Indra’s case, Vishnu took three steps forward, which changed the mechanisms of the cosmos to produce an auspicious victory for him. In another tale Indra secures blessing of Soma by Vasistha, a Brahman, and the disputed territory becomes well founded, or subject to the sovereignty of those who took it (125).

In Rome, the urbs had ritually been well founded or “well based” (like vedic sudhatu-) since Rome’s founding, however the Fetiales were priests whose sole concern was with with making disputed territory which conquered, justified territory as “well supported”. The rituals involved in making a territory “well based” was to use a bouquet of herbs (129). In India the herbs are used to signify Vishnu’s head and thus are involved in his taking three steps forward. In Rome, the herbs are touched to the heads of horses, likely in an act of sympathetic magic where the sovereignty of the horse head, the portion given to the gods in sacrifice, into the herbs for an act of claiming the land. Were I to conduct this ritual today, the sovereignty of my entire worldview transferred into herbs would be well transferred into the land by a scatter of the herbs by invading forces. Overtime those herbs will take root in the soil and land.

A swedish follower of Dumezil was Stig Wikander. His main contribution was to demonstrate that IE peoples were defined by a warband of ‘chariot warriors’ and a king separate from the other two strata of society, the priests and the cultivators(156).

Bhaga and Aryaman feature in the mahabharata as Dhritarashtra and Vidur who counsel Yudhisthira, the incarnation of Dharma and thus Mitra, and the first of these characters are both blind and take the role of fate, while Aryaman takes the role of god of peaceful Noblehood. This fits with Baldr(Peaceful) and Hodr(Blind), and Iuventas and Terminus in Rome. So there is a structure to the ‘helpers’ or ‘counselors’ of the Judicial god. Just as the mahabharata ends and these two gods come into greatness, Baldr and Hodr will reign after Ragnarok (135).

In Rome there were a group of war priests called the Salii. There were two salii orders, both had magical armor and weapons. The first worshiped Mars Gradivus and were responsible for expressing the fury of war among the warriors. The second worshiped Quirinius, and were responsible for affected demobilization and the giving up of arms. The warlike order was supposedly founded by Numa of the first function, the peaceful order was supposedly founded by Tullius Hostilius (162). My own assessment of this is that the judicial binding figure has his finger on the pulse of the tribe and knows when it is time for war, the warriors have their finger on the pulse of war and know when it is time for peace. So the Indo-European hero is a peace bringing hero, and thus the first function establishes war and the second function ceases war. This relates the the Indo-European cattle cycle and what the word war means in Sanskrit and Indo-European, a desire for more cows. This might mean that the sovereign class are responsible for estimating when raids should occur.

Omens of victory and success in Rome came in a tripartite manner. A cow’s head and a horse’s head were found at the building of the temple of Juno, an omen of wealth(third function) and power(second function), And a human head was found in the founding of Jupiter’s temple, a first functional omen and one of victory (162).

That the cultivators would take up arms in times of crisis is evidenced in the existence of the Arma Quirini (224).

Dumezil had several very alt-righty and probably racist and classist beliefs, like this ideology was tied to genetics in the way that folks of a similar heredity speak the same language(227). However, in modern anthropology, culture and language are not related to genetics in any way. History shows that culture is transcendent over genetics and can shift from one peoples to another like a river shifts. Instead, the ideology is tied to the language itself and is emergent from it (228).

Dumezil defines ideology like anthropologists do, as a things which “provides the basic metaphysical assumptions, tying the observed and observable phenomena of the natural and human environment into a kind of unity, filling the voids of knowledge with religious and magical beliefs, and ultimately supplying a system of justification of the circumstances of existence” (227).

Conclusion

The nature of the warrior class that was inherent to the operation of the tribe. The Indo-European warrior was a necessary force in their day to keep cows and crops from being stolen by neighbors, and to take new lands. She or He were the pivots of society, unbridled and autonomous, fierce and prone to excesses.

However, in their excesses and overzealousness, and with their extreme tempers, they commit acts that annoy other warriors and go against the will of the tribe. Warriors can be prone to haste and therefore quick misconception and take up causes becoming the villain. It is a coincidence of opposites that their strength is their weakness.

The modern warrior recognizes these traits in themselves as they read this, and they know the plights of warriors weather you are in the military or are a first responder, or aren’t but would be the first to respond to someone you see in danger. You won’t really see these traits on the modern battlefield, though they still live with us from a time when war happened at home.

Modern warriors who are good heroes are those who, at the sight of someone in peril or being oppressed, loses themselves and can’t focus on anything else, not even ideology, other than the victims experience and how to reduce pain and cruelty in the world. Warriors who despise people for weakness are anti-heroes. And anti-heroes, rather than seeing all peoples has having areas of strength in one skill or another, see force as a sign of superiority, not, as part of their Dharma(duty) or Dán(fate/gifts), but as being one component necessary to run a tribe.

In Indo-European society, first functional physicians could possibly refuse a warrior treatment, instilling in them the idea that tribe is interlocking and that all parts are equally of value, even the ones that do not directly contribute to production, like blind seers and prophesying grandmothers.

I believe most everyone wants to be a hero in their heart but struggle with social consequences. A hero is one who discards those willingly, to do right. A warrior would rather look foolish to save someone in danger, than to let harm befall someone they could have helped. But, in light of their other traits, they(we) must do so without the misconception that haste comes with. And so we must reign in our impulses at all times, in all cases, until we are sure of the strike.

I believe most everyone wants to be a hero in their heart but struggle with social consequences. A hero is one who discards those willingly, to do right.

Thanks to Kindling the Hearthfire for being my only patron on Patreon, so far.

Sources

Littleton, Covington Scott. The New Comparative Mythology: An Anthropological Assessment of the Theories of Georges Dumezil. Berkeley: U of California, 1982. Print.
Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003. Print.
Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopaedia of Myth, Legend and Romance. Cork: Collins, 2006. Print.
Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993. Print.
Wilde, Lady. “The Coming of Lugh.” Celtic Wonder Tales: The Coming of Lugh. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2017.
Witzel, Michael. “Early Sanskritization. Origins and Development of the Kuru State.” Diss. N.d. Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 1.4 (1995): 2-26. Print.
Russell, James C. The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
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