There’s not one worldview of the cosmos among ancient pagans. But, the first people to be called pagan were the people who spoke Indo-Europeans(IE) languages. And among the different IE there is a demonstrable single origin of their worldviews. That means the heart and ideology of the paganisms Greeks, Celts, Romans, Germans, Balts, Slavs, Indian, and Iranian stem from a root. These cultures are part of the same language family and their pre-christian religions are as linked as are their languages.
I’ve written at an exhaustive length just some of the commonalities of IE paganisms in Cup, Axe & Plow: The Hidden Ideology of European Paganism. And I may have mentioned this before in some wise, but in short… the development of the yamnaya package, is the reason I’m writing this in English.
So this article is about the commonalities in IE paganisms.
Fire and Water(or Ice)
All throughout our sources, we see a pattern of two forces which mingle to create all things. They must often be separated because they are mingling too much.
In the lower climates, Water is what is symbolized, but in the northern areas you see Ice. In Norse paganism the world of Fire and Ice is separated after the primordial beings, some gods… some not gods, but primordials nonetheless, come out of the melting ice.
There are classical references to Fire and Water being the most ultimate forces which can, at any time, reclaim and overtake the cosmos in the Gaulish worldview.
In Pre-Vedic Proto-Indo-European(PIE) paganism, there is a primordial body of water, and a fire is kindled on it, and it is through the interactions of fire and water that the cosmos is created.
Each and every IE paganism is a ‘fire religion‘, especially for the Celtis whose holidays are called ‘the four fire festivals‘. Celtic paganism especially echoes this when talking about the foundational water beneath all reality, the waters of the Well of Segais, or Connla’s Well. These waters are described as being so pure the burn hot.
I’m not going to touch too much on the mediterranean branches of the IE language tree because their creation myths are influenced by the middle east and the Etruscans that it is almost a whole other branch of IE paganism. Uranus is similar to the mesopotamian Ea, even Kronos and Zeus exhibit signs of influence from these regions.
It is worth mentioning that in the mediterranean regions, there seems to be a mother earth father sky union before other things. There is also a greek egg creation myth where a cosmic egg splits and the top half becomes sky, and the bottom half becomes earth.
In the Asian and Northern IE paganisms, however, you see a clear pattern that the consort of the land is not the sky, but rather the mortal sovereign become semi-deified or heroicized when married to the land.
In any case, the only supreme beings that exist in these paganisms are the forces which bore everything. They aren’t beings, but impersonal forces like gravity.
Neither are they elements, but instead, they are symbols of cosmic fire and cosmic water with no gender, and I see them as impersonal.
Water symbolizes chaos and potential. It contains the elements and potentials of energy transfer in the cosmos. It is the source of entropy. Physics considers concentrated energy to be a state of order, and things in equilibrium, like water in a well, in a state of disorder. Total thermodynamic disorder happens when all energy is trapped and cannot from from one thing to another.
It’s not chaos like you would usually think of it where things are in shambles and all over the place. If you look closely, even those situations behave according to rules of order, just in unpredictable ways. Instead this chaos is the state which the universe moves towards as it expands. This chaos is the final state an egg moves toward when it is scrambled.
The waters or well of potential, Segais, or the Norn’s well, however you want to see it, is what contains the many possible future states of the scrambled egg. When you scramble it, you take part in drawing chaos and entropy from this well into the cosmos.
The world egg myths, I think, are an outside influence. Pagans don’t have a creation, we have the eternal primordial mists generating forces like Fire and Water, out of whose interaction, generally with a cow or an ox present, gods and giants start entering the unfounded primordial world.
The gods are not responsible for the creation of your soul as much as they are for their own. They emerged out of the mists of creation just the same as you die. And if I may reveal one of the secret mysteries which I should not, all souls emerged from the mists of creation at the beginning. Their is no such thing as a new soul.
The Very First Sacrifice
Mannus seized Yemós; he struck him hard. Mannus took the knife and said the words of the sacrifice. He divided the body and from it made the world. From the skull he made the sky, from the brain the clouds, from the eyes the celestial lights, from the hair the plants, from the flesh the soil, from the bones the rocks, and from the blood the rivers and streams. The Cosmos was ordered, the Xártus established.
And when the world was made, Mannus lived in it, ruling as king and priest of it.
But the soul of Yemós took the final journey to the land on the far side of the river of memory, the flowery plain surrounded by high walls of earth. There he now sits and rules as king.
– Reconstructed PIE creation myth, from Deep Ancestors, Ceisiwr Serith, 2009 (p.21-22).
In Vedic and Norse paganisms, we have two near identical creation myths that work better with what we see about cosmic or mythic Fire and Water. The dismemberment myths of Ymir and Purusha are more than similar. And we have more than 3 cognates of it for it to be considered a Proto-Indo-European trait. The 9 duile or ‘elements‘ comes from this dismemberment.In Purusha’s case it was Agni, the first Priest. Ymir was killed by Odin, the first Gothi. In Irish myth, Noah’s granddaughter Cessair comes to Ireland with a Giant named ‘Cosmos’ or Bith. We’ve got the seven and nine duile from other poems as well. I’ve written a neo myth called the Invasion of Banba which has Fintan Son of the Ocean, the ‘Ard Brehon’ performing the first sacrifice.
This is a second stage of creation in the cosmos. The unfounded cosmos exists, but after the first sacrifice, the world we know came to exist. It is through destroying the wholeness of a singular being, that all the things and mortals in the world were created.
The gods are not creators, they are arrangers and builders. They arranged elements of the cosmos, but were not the prime movers of the first cause, nor did they create existence or anyone’s souls.
I personally believe we are not all ‘one’ but that we were all ‘one’ before the first sacrifice. Purusha is described as being a man, and Ymir is cognate to Yama, the first mortal in Asian IE paganisms, lord of death in them as well as in Tibetan Buddhism.
I do believe all of our souls have unique attributes that match our egos, and what we do in life turns those gears. But fundamentally, we are all the same model of souls and the only thing that makes some of the ancestors the eldest and wisest is because they’ve turned their gears to the final destiny of what is right.
The cosmos tree is called the *Xartus in PIE religion, which grows out of and over the primordial waters growing out of the fire’s interaction with the water. For Irish pagans there are 9 cosmos trees surrounding well of Segais‘ ‘pure’ burning waters. In Germanic paganisms you’ve got Yggdrasil or the Irminsul, and you’ve got your local tribal tree. In Ireland we’ve got 5 ancient sacred trees that were cut down in the 5th century. The one at the kings hill was our world tree, the Ash at Uísnech. It was mythologized as having branches that hung low and stretched for 20 miles in every direction.
In greece the Omphalos was placed in the center of the world at Delphi and it acts as the center spoke up to the pole star. Some of these are from myth, or were real, or both. But the ‘sacred center‘ is a common concept in any IE faith.
The ideas of Innangard and Utengard are important to the concept of the sacred center. The center is always here and everywhere. It is a real place locally for us on Austin’s Capital Hill, it is a real place across the sea in Meath, but it is also wherever we establish it.
In my mucking about with IE devotional polytheism and entheogens, the spirits were seriously adamant that we are nowhere else but the sacred center and we were there at all times. They also said that there is nowhen else but the present. Apparently, this world is an illusion and we are actually in the center of all, all together at the only moment that actually exists and never passes. But that’s just my UPG that has become SPG. After telling me about it, they took me there… and you were there.
Two, Three, or Nine Worlds
The world always comes in threes in our paganism. In Vedism there is this world and the realm of the gods in the celestial realms, the war gods reign the atmospheric realm, and the is the terrestrial realm which we dwell upon.
In Norse paganism you’ve got references to both Land Sky and Sea as well as Slavic Paganism. Celtic pagans are more widely known for their use of Land Sky and Sea.
In addition to that there are the Irish Otherworlds, which are really more than one, countless places in another place beyond this world. Although, you see the word Otherworld used a lot.
Hel used to be in the North in the days of Tacitus, As well as the realm of the Dead in Odysseus’ necromantic rites.
The many worlds of other places exist in threes, like the Norse 9 worlds, or this world is seen in threes via Land, Sky and Sea or Terrestrial, Atmospheric, and Celestial with an Otherworld or many Otherworlds.
The Affairs of Gods and Men
What is the purpose of the cosmos. There is one and there is none at the same time. This is the greatest mystery of mysticism that exists.
The concept of Fire and Water encompases it, the idea of mead encompasses it. That mystery is Coincidentia Oppositorum, which means a coincidence of opposites.
The entire universe is a coincidence of opposites itself, a spectrum collapsed and wrapped in on itself. Made of two joined halves of things which should not join.
And so the purpose of the universe is to experience joy and suffering so we can manufacture meaning. And there is no purpose innate in the universe, no meaning present in the objectivity of it. This must be so, for if not we could not make meaning. You can only create meaning where there is none. If the universe had a purpose, all the meaning making we’d do within it would be meaningless.
So we live on, be here now, with all of Us, and our kin through time, those whom we’ve been born with again and again, in this world and the Otherworlds.
Existence is a machine which is used to extract knowledge, wisdom, lessons. Take the good with the bad, because, you can’t have anything without its opposite or skewed pair.
So we form alliances with the tribes of men, tribes of gods, tribes of the dead, tribes of the spirits. We see life in all things, and we see the Primordial Giant as all that is dead and all that is living, we’re mere steps on his dance through that first sacrifice.
The Indo-European cattle/gift cycle is the purpose, because it generates meaning, alliship, and keeps the blood and sap of the Cosmos Tree flowing and chaos beings like Etin or Fomorians from coming in and wrecking things