The war between the Aesir and Vanir


In Snorri Sturluson’s preservation of pre-Christian Scandinavian mythos, he outlines two groups of gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Though ultimately presented as a united pantheon in comparison to beings such as the giants, there are references to a war between these two divine factions. But, there is still scholarly debate as to the significance of the division between the Aesir and Vanir.

At one extreme some contend that the division was concocted by Sturluson himself for stylistic or poetic reasons. In contrast, others suggest that the Aesir-Vanir division is substantive, and reflects deep historical origins. The Vanir, in this telling, are the fertility gods of pre-Indo-European peoples. The Aesir, are the gods of the Indo-Europeans. The war between the two factions then is a memory of the conflict between the indigenous farmers, and the incoming Indo-European pastoralists. Sturluson himself suggested that the gods of the Norse mythos were simply deifications of great historical personages of the past, lending credence to the idea that the folklore preserved the memory of history.

Ultimately we may never know the real story behind the Aesir-Vanir war (if it ever occurred). But a new paper in The American Journal of Archaeology sheds some light on the transition to Indo-European language in modern Denmark’s Jutland, Talking Neolithic: Linguistic and Archaeological Perspectives on How Indo-European Was Implemented in Southern Scandinavia:

…Farming arrived in Scandinavia with the Funnel Beaker culture by the turn of the fourth millennium B.C.E. It was superseded by the Single Grave culture, which as part of the Corded Ware horizon is a likely vector for the introduction of Indo-European speech. As a result of this introduction, the language spoken by individuals from the Funnel Beaker culture went extinct long before the beginning of the historical record, apparently vanishing without a trace. However, the Indo-European dialect that ultimately developed into Proto-Germanic can be shown to have adopted terminology from a non-Indo-European language, including names for local flora and fauna and important plant domesticates. We argue that the coexistence of the Funnel Beaker culture and the Single Grave culture in the first quarter of the third millennium B.C.E. offers an attractive scenario for the required cultural and linguistic exchange, which we hypothesize took place between incoming speakers of Indo-European and local descendants of Scandinavia’s earliest farmers.

There is a lot of interesting detail in the paper itself. First, the Corded Ware arrived in Jutland in ~2850 BCE, but only occupied the western and central parts of the peninsula. The Funnel Beaker complex, along with influences and interactions with the hunter-gatherer Pitted Ware culture, persisted in robust form until ~2600 BCE in the east of Jutland. Additionally, the authors note that there was a notable cultural geographic division which separated the former Funnel Beaker territory as it was in ~2600 BCE down to ~1500 BCE, when the two zones fused together into a unified Nordic Bronze Age culture.

An explicit analogy is made to the character of prehistoric Aegean society, where a pre-Indo-European matrix was coexistent with Indo-European cultures which arrived from the north for centuries, and even millennia, down to the Classical Greek period (the Pelasgians).

But the similarity is closer than just one of form: the language of the Funnel Beaker people may have existed on a dialect continuum with the farming peoples of the Mediterranean. That is, Neolithic Europe was probably united by an ethno-cultural linguistic complex similar in scale and quality to that of the Bantus in modern Africa.

One of the hypotheses about the origins of the Vanir is that they were agricultural fertility gods. As it happens many of the hypothesized borrowings of non-Indo-European words into Germanic are of agricultural nature. Additionally, the table within the paper illustrates that many of these words span very different Indo-European language families. The implication is strong that Minoan, Basque, and the pre-Indo-European languages of Northern Europe are genetically related to each other.

Genetics does not illuminate everything, but I do think that it gives a certain solidity now to the nature of demographic turnover and variation in prehistoric Europe. With that in mind archaeologists and folklorists can interpret the mythologies and legends which have been passed down to us from the liminal periods on the edge of history and prehistory.

For example, the thesis that pre-Indo-European religion revolved around cthonic deities of the earth (e.g., the Tuatha de Danann) makes a lot more sense if you believe that these people were agriculturalists. In contrast, the Indo-Europeans from the east arrived as pastoralists, and it is not, therefore, a surprise that the one Indo-European god who has an undisputed cognate across all branches of the Indo-European peoples is the sky god, whether he is known as Zeus, Jupiter, or Dyauṣ Pitār.

24 thoughts on “The war between the Aesir and Vanir

  1. Some suggested reading for Norse Myth.

    Where to begin:

    Kevin Crossley-Holland – The Norse Myths – The best retelling. Includes stories from the Poetic Edda, as well as Snorri’s Prose Edda.
    H. R. Ellis Davidson – Gods and Myths of Northern Europe – Most accessible general introduction.
    Carolyne Larrington – The Norse Myths – Includes introduction to heroic myths, not just myths of the gods. More up to date.

    Original texts:

    Snorri Sturluson – The Prose Edda, translated by Jesse L. Byock
    The Saga of the Volsungs, translated by Jesse L. Byock
    The Poetic Edda, translated by Jeramy Dodds

    Dodds is the only really poetic version in English, highly recommended. Lee Hollander is a slog to read, but has more helpful notes. You won’t get much out of the Poetic Edda unless you already know the stories and a fair bit of background about the gods and heroes though. Many of the stories are not in Snorri, so you will need Crossley-Holland.

  2. [T]he one Indo-European god who has an undisputed cognate across all branches of the Indo-European peoples is the sky god, whether he is known as Zeus, Jupiter, or Dyauṣ Pitār.

    Or Tue (Tyr) as in Tuesday.

    Funny how Odin and Thor seem to have taken over his prominence and many of his traits in the north.

  3. A similar story crops up in Hurrian myth and in the Titanomachy.

    The Titans were the old gods, including (in Greece) some nature gods like Rhea. The sons of Cronus rebelled and threw the Titans into the underworld. There they sometimes shake the world’s foundations, or send monsters to our world to plague it.

    When we read the Titanomachy in the Greek tradition, it is already mixed with several other traditions that made more sense to an Aegean audience than to a Ukrainian Steppe audience.

  4. Re: the borrowed words themselves I wonder if tracking them through sound changes in different IE languages will reveal anything about how the entered the language.

    I guess, do all the versions of the borrowed terms that exist across IE languages look identical once internal IE sound changes are adjusted for? If so, then probably borrowed only once, either into the earliest IE community into Europe, or later and then shared around the IE-dialect continuum.

    If they’re different, then they would be from interacting with differentiated farmer communities who speak different languages.

    However, seems like so far there’s not a lot of genetic evidence for the big interactions with previous farmers in any region, particularly for regions outside Spain and the Balkans, and it’s not so clear that any of the IE language families that have lasted to leave a written corpus originated in either of those regions (except Albanian and Greek).
    With present day IE languages, we know there’s a good amount of y-dna and haplotype structure (for haplotypes seems mainly the big structure is between speakers of the Balto-Slavic branch and a possible Germanic-Romance-Celtic branch, e.g http://eurogenes.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/ancient-ibdcm-matrix-analysis-offer.html). However doesn’t seem to be so clearly linked to different Neolithic farmers (e.g. with apparently virtually complete replacement in Britain and Ireland?).

    Ancient Bronze Age samples have markedly different haplotype sharing patterns, comparing e.g. Irish Bronze Age or Unetice with strong connections to British Isles and lesser extent Western Europe, and Hungarian Bronze Age strong connections to Slavic populations. Signals for pre-Bronze Age populations look much less clear.

  5. I’ve always been perplexed to make of the aesir-vanir thing in light of the asuras and devas of Indian religion. There, the devas are supreme while the asuras (a word cognate to aesir) are subordinate. At least in Buddhist suttas, the asuras are described as more warlike and competitive than the devas. Meanwhile, in nearby Iran, the situation is reversed, with the ahuras supreme over the daevas (at least in Zoroastrianism; I’ve never seen any info on pre-Z Iranian paganism).

  6. The two earliest Swedish Battle Axe men to have been sequenced were both R1a and autosomally resembled far east Europeans like Mordovans and Kargopol Russians. This is also true for the earliest Dane.

    http://eurogenes.blogspot.com/2015/06/genetic-substructures-among-late.html

    In this way, they are exactly like Corded Ware men from Germany, who also were almost exclusively R1a and had very little EEF ancestry. By 2000 B.C. the people living in Denmark and Sweden looked genetically Scandinavian in the modern sense and carried R1b. So there was a likely a major population movement that occurred after 2500 B.C. that changed the genetics and language of the place. The best candidate is probably Bell Beaker.

    The point is, other than in Norway, R1a is not all that common in Scandinavia and so the Corded Ware people probably spoke a language ancestral to Balto-Slavic, not Germanic. I think there were at least two Indo-European waves into North-central Europe and possibly three, given that I1 has not been found in any of these early bodies.

  7. “The implication is strong that Minoan, Basque, and the pre-Indo-European languages of Northern Europe are genetically related to each other.”

    Maybe. I’m inclined to see four major layers:

    1. A very diverse and localized bunch of languages related only at great time depth of European hunter-gatherers.

    2. A first wave Neolithic language family with a few main branches.

    3. A non-IE, non-Afro-Asiatic language family that might be Uruk related and also related to the pre-Hittite non-IE language(s) in Anatolia, Minoan, some Caucasian languages.

    4. IE languages (probably more than one wave with new waves replacing older waves in many areas).

    Baque would probably be either (2) or (3), but it is hard to know which.

    (In this scheme Uralic doesn’t correspond to any of these and is intrusive from the east from Northern Asia.)

  8. “In Snorri Sturluson’s preservation of pre-Christian Scandinavian mythos, he outlines two groups of gods, the Aesir and the Vanir. Though ultimately presented as a united pantheon in comparison to beings such as the giants, there are references to a war between these two divine factions. But, there is still scholarly debate as to the significance of the division between the Aesir and Vanir.”

    RE: The Aesir-Vanir War, it should be noted that Snorri is not our only source, as the struggle is also attested in the Poetic Edda. From Henry Bellows Adams’ translation of the “Völuspá” :

    “Broken was the outer wall of the Æsir’s burgh. The Vanir, foreseeing conflict, tramp o’er the plains. Odin cast [his spear], and mid the people hurled it: that was the first warfare in the world.”

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14726/14726-h/14726-

    h.htm#VOLUSPA_THE_VALAS_PROPHECY

    How Foundational was the War of the Foundation?

    As Razib notes, this is a broadly attested IE myth (cf the already discussed Aesir-Vanir War,the Rape of Sabine Women, etc).It Should also be borne in mind that there’s a school of thought (cf Dumézil) that posits that the War of the Foundation/War of the Functions goes back to the proto-Indo-Europeans themselves. Hence, perhaps the arrival of IE pastoralists in Northern Europe merely reinforced a pre-existing mythic reflex?

  9. RE: Further reading on Norse Myth,

    Thursday’s list is quite good. And I quite agree with his observation regarding the difficulty of the Poetic Edda. So, yes,before tackling the Poetic Edda, you should definitely first read an introductory text and the Prose Edda.

    If anyone wants some info on Norse Myth in visual form, a Norse specialist named Jackson Crawford has been doing a series of videos on YOUTUBE. The material is quite basic (I haven’t encountered anything that I didn’t already know), but it provides a firm footing for the genuine tyro:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_l33RAAjrg

  10. Agree that Jackson Crawford’s videos are worth looking into.

    However, I would recommend reading Crossley-Holland, not just Snorri, before the Poetic Edda, as there are a fair number of stories in the Poetic Edda that are not in Snorri, and it is really helpful to know the story first before reading the poetic version.

  11. Well, as Syonredux mentioned, since at least the 1940s, the Aesir and the Vanir conflict and later reconciliation have been interpreted, notably by G. Dumézil, as a structural part of the Indo-european divine pantheon creation myth. For example, one sees the same mythological pattern in the Rape of the Sabine women in Roman mythology.
    Indeed, as the Vanir and, symbolically, the Sabine women represented the demographic and agricultural divine sphere, while the Aesir and Romulus (descended from the war god and chosen to rule by the god of sovereignty) figured the sovereign, magical and military aspects of the divine, many interpret the Aesir-Vanir and Romulus-Sabines stories as the final episodes of the establishment of, respectively, Norse and Roman divine pantheons.
    Given this Germanic and Latin convergence and the fact that one could probably find similar mythological structures in other Indo-european traditions, I believe that there is no absolute need to see behind the said mythological patterns real historical events. After all, mythology, and thus also religion, are not simply reducible to being a simple mirror of past events.

    I will make one final remark, this time on Razib’s suggestion that agriculturalist peoples, contrary to pastoralists, tend to neglect sky-gods. I think this type of generalization is not warranted by our knowledge of religious development, because if one looks at the major deities of Ancient Egypt, Sumer and Assyria, all three agricultural societies, one easily finds out that these deities were mostly solar or directly linked with the skies.
    So why then think that the prehistorical agriculturalists of Europe were different from their Near-East cousins? Of course, they could have been, but how could one prove it?

  12. I think the idea in the theory is that the Indo-Europeans lacked fertility gods relating to agriculture, rather than that the pre-Indo Europeans lacked sky gods and patriarchal sky gods. That seems implausible as an assertion when even alone we consider they’re pretty common in the early neolithic survivors who are the best analogies to EEF when they enter the historical record – people like Maori, various Native American groups – and have no contact with the Indo-Europeans.

    They’d be adopting the fertility gods of the people they encounter wholesale, while the sky gods / sky father would be syncretised into their beliefs (no doubt with some alterations?).

  13. Matt, but this still does not resolve the problem.

    First, how can we now that the Indo-Europeans did not have agricultural gods? Is it proven, by the way of Indo-European lexicon and archaeology, that the Indo-Europeans did not practice agriculture while still on the steppes? No one disputes the pastoral foundations of their economy, but I believe that it is yet to be shown that in the steppes the I-E did not use some sort of limited agriculture. This means that the I-E could have had their own agricultural divinities.

    Second, while common Indo-European agricultural deity is yet to be established, I know that there was a common Indo-European fertility god, though, it seems, not directly linked to the cultivation of the soil. I am speaking here, of course, of the famous Divine Twins – the Vedic Asvins, the Baltic Dieva suneli and the Hellenic dioscouroi. All three of them certainly belonged to the original I-E pantheon. This means that fertility gods and, thus, the concept of such divinities were well known to I-E.
    So, I ask, if the concept of divine fertility was so well established with the I-E, why, when they settled among the agriculturalists they had conquered, the Indo-Europeans had to necessarily adopt the local agricultural gods? They could have as easily, even more easily if one takes in account religious conservatism, in lieu of adopting local gods from strange people, adapted their own fertility divinities to a new, agricultural context.

    Third and last, I have to admit of seeing no way how one could scientifically determinate which type of divinities were adopted/adapted by the different Indo-European peoples from the local populations, at least as far as Europe is concerned. The reason for it is simple: we have no mythological texts from the pre-Indo-European Europe. So how can you compare, when you have only one part of comparison at your disposal?

    All the aforementioned does not, of course, mean that some Indo-European peoples did not adopt, or more likely, adapt local agricultural deities. In my opinion, they most certainly did so. But, for lack of written sources, we cannot be sure which gods were directly adopted from the local European populations.

  14. I will make one final remark, this time on Razib’s suggestion that agriculturalist peoples, contrary to pastoralists, tend to neglect sky-gods. I think this type of generalization is not warranted by our knowledge of religious development, because if one looks at the major deities of Ancient Egypt, Sumer and Assyria, all three agricultural societies, one easily finds out that these deities were mostly solar or directly linked with the skies.

    Sun gods are not the same as sky gods. Turks and Mongols, also of the open steppes, worshipped a supreme sky god, Tengri, which is strikingly similar to proto-Indo-European Dyeus.

  15. we have no mythological texts from the pre-Indo-European Europe.

    so one thing is that we do have fragments. the basque pagan deities were cthonic from what i can tell. just like the tuatha de dannan.

    Sun gods are not the same as sky gods. Turks and Mongols, also of the open steppes, worshipped a supreme sky god, Tengri, which is strikingly similar to proto-Indo-European Dyeus.

    though baal/el do seem to be sky/thunder gods…so i might have to change the way i phrased it.

    No one disputes the pastoral foundations of their economy, but I believe that it is yet to be shown that in the steppes the I-E did not use some sort of limited agriculture.

    hard to believe that they were totally ignorant of agriculture. otoh the common words across the languages have pastoralist stuff, but not farmer stuff. strongly suggestive that farming wasn’t a big deal for them. (also, how fast they expanded)

  16. Twinkie, but who is confounding here sun and sky gods? I feel that You create a non-existing problem.
    (As for the original domain of many of the leading gods of Ancient Near East, I believe that Razib just answered your inquiry.)

    That said, the Indo-Europeans had not only a sky-god, but also an important solar deity – the Baltic Saule, the Vedic Savitar and Surya, as well as many less important solar deities in early Hellenic and Roman pantheons. So, besides a sky-god, solar god/goddess was an important part of the original Indo-European pantheon.

    As for, Twinkie, you recalling, correctly enough, that the Turkic Tengri was ‘strikingly similar to proto-Indo-European Dyeus’, I would like to add: and so what? We would probably find easily enough other supreme sky-gods in lands far away from Northern Eurasia who were ‘strikingly’ similar to *Dyeus. The explanation for this is that, when seen on an abstract basis, most sky-gods will have some similarities, even if they were not ‘born’ above the steppes.

    Razib, as far as the Basque folklore is concerned, I have no knowledge, thus I am not able to discuss your proposition. That said, can we be sure that the said folklore has not been strongly submitted to Indo-European mytho-poetic influences as well as strong Christian transformations?
    As for the Tuatha de dannan, not being a Celtic specialist, I cannot judge.

    As for the pastoral economy of the I-E, of course it is well established, but, as You say, they probably also practiced some kind of farming. But if farming, even if only on a small scale, was practiced by them, this allows for the possibility that the I-E could have had agricultural divinities.

    All this said, I stress again that I do not deny that many I-E peoples adopted/adapted local divinities in what is now Europe west of the steppes. But I believe that this process was very complex and varied in each part of the new I-E world. But, because of the time distance and lack of writings, we cannot really follow this adopting and adapting process.

  17. As for, Twinkie, you recalling, correctly enough, that the Turkic Tengri was ‘strikingly similar to proto-Indo-European Dyeus’, I would like to add: and so what? We would probably find easily enough other supreme sky-gods in lands far away from Northern Eurasia who were ‘strikingly’ similar to *Dyeus

    Name some, why don’t you?

    The explanation for this is that, when seen on an abstract basis, most sky-gods will have some similarities, even if they were not ‘born’ above the steppes.

    For agricultural civilizations the sun and earth fertility are visibly vital for sustenance.

    For semi-nomadic pastoralists, the wide open sky is ever-present and pervasive. Travel on horseback through a sea of grass and you will see why people who live on steppe areas universally worshipped and still do worship in some cases the “Sky Father/Lord” figure, all across Eurasia.

  18. though baal/el do seem to be sky/thunder gods…so i might have to change the way i phrased it.

    The origin of the term, Ba’al, appears disputed – sky, thunder, fertility, creator of the world. Who knows? We know more familiarly that it came to be used generically as “Lord” for both gods and earthly nobles in Phoenicia and its colonies (e.g. Hannibal, Maharbal, Hasdrubal, etc.).

    Whatever the case, I think your original phrasing is fine. This is a matter of emphasis rather than mutual exclusion.

  19. You ask me (in a rather impolite manner, but then no one chooses his upbringing) to show that there have been similar gods to *Dieus in other areas than that of Northern Eurasia.
    To answer your query, we should first define the functions of this prehistoric, hypothesized, supreme (diurnal) sky deity (that much is clear because of etymology).
    If we endeavor this definition, we see that *Dieus was developed in the most archaic pantheons in two different ways. The first one, possibly the most ancient, is seen in Rig-Veda, Baltic mythology and maybe also among the Scandinavians (Tyr is, when compared to Odin, a rather passive divinity). In these mythologies *Dieus became (or maybe it was his function from the beginning?) a passive god of the diurnal sky, not much involved, or evoked, in religion or myth, that is he was, under the respective names of Dyaus, Dievas, Tyr (? More doubtful), what is called a deus otiosus. This type of *Dieus seems to have played a role during the creation of the universe, the pantheon and the laws governing humans and gods. After the end of cosmogony, this *Dieus retreated from worldly affairs and lost, at least in Vedic and Baltic mythologies, most of his divine attributes and, consequently, most of his divine aura, and became almost a common name for the diurnal sky.
    Can it be shown that, under other skies than those of Northern Eurasia, such a bright-sky deus, primum laboriosus, deinde otiosus has existed? Well, many scholars have done so, and I can only follow them: take for example Bundjil, the supreme, but still otiosus, sky-god of some Aboriginal tribes; take the sky-god Puluga from the Andaman islands; look at Temaukel, the deus otiosus from the Tierra del Fuego; one can also mention, to complete our tour of the continents, Olorun, the creator sky-god of the Yoruba in Nigeria. For other, numerous, examples, one should consult the many volumes devoted to this type of sky-god by W. Schmidt SJ.
    Now, to speak of the other direction in which *Dieus, or to be more precise, *Dieus’ potentialities were developed, we have to turn our attention to Jupiter/Zeus/Perkunas/(Mitra-)Varuna. First, let us remark that only the first two have inherited *Dieus’ etymon, the other two have completely different etymologies, though, of course, they are functionally linked with the diurnal sky and are also inheritors of at least some of the *Dieus’ functions. That said we have to remark that at least in some parts of the Indo-European world there was some sort of change concerning the supreme sky-god. I only draw attention to this fact, because it shows how arduous, and thus perilous, the reconstruction of the prehistoric *Dieus is.
    Be that as it may, it is clear that the aforementioned descendants of *Dieus were very different from Dyaus and Dievas. But first we have to remark that, contrary to the latter, they were not anymore (?) pure sky-gods, that is gods dwelling in the highest abode of the sky, much removed from earthly affairs, but, as, for example, their thundering nature attests (Varuna did not wield thunder, but still was closely associated with the aquatic element, which denotes his closeness to atmospheric matters), were closely linked to the lowest part of the sky, the clouds. This means that they had left the lofty, but isolated, heights of the sky and descended to abide in the ‘atmosphere’, the closest part of the sky to the human world. This change of celestial altitude explains, at least in my humble opinion, the cosmological position and functions of Jupiter/Zeus/Perkunas/(Mitra-)Varuna and their difference from Dyaus and Dievas.
    These four were supreme gods, defining and deciding almost everything, controlling, among other human and divine principles, justice, political sovereignty and religious rules. Active all the time, intervening in history, giving orders to humans and deities alike, rewarding and punishing them, as well as fighting the forces of disorder to protect the cosmic order.
    After this brief definition of their functions, one can ask if these four descendants of *Dieus had counterparts, maybe not identic, but still similar, in regions outside of Northern Eurasia? But, to be earnest, is not the answer to this question already evident by now? The atmospheric supreme god Marduk in Babylon, was he not as much as a lord as our four Indo-European all-fathers? And Marduk’s successor, Bel, was he any different? And what about the Phoenician Ba’al? And finally the thundering Yahweh himself has to be called to the witness stand. But at this point, even if I do not have your wealth of knowledge, Twinkie, I dare say that the jury has heard enough.

    To resume this impolitely long comment: first, the definition of precise functions of the prehistoric *Dieus presents a serious problem. I can do no more than signal its existence. As far as *Dieus structural descendants are concerned, these can be summarily divided in two diverging groups, the deus otiosus group (Dyaus, Dievas) and that of the supreme atmospheric gods (Jupiter/Zeus/Perkunas/(Mitra-)Varuna). Finally, the gods from both of these groups can be easily compared to a number of similar deities from very different cultures, all situated far away from the Northern Eurasia.

  20. I would caution about the Tuatha Dé Danann, after all the primary sources about them are steeped in a Christianising pseudo-historical framework of Irish origins which was laid out in the 7th-8th century. In which they are not gods but a previous people defeated by the arrival of the Gael and driven underground.

    Many of the primary characters have congates in other Celtic languages such as Nuadha and Nodens, Lugh and Luggus (Pan-Celtic, namesake of city of Lyon), Ogam and Ogimos etc.

    What might be more interesting parallel to neolithic vs. Proto-IE is the battles of the Formorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann.

    The Formorians appear to represent an earlier set of gods, who are later portrayed in a bestial fashion.

    Of course there’s also interesting parallel with Greek mythology where in the war of the Olympians and Titans there are obvious family links (eg. Cronus is father of Zeus etc.) likewise the wars of the Formorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann involved for example Lugh killing his grandfather Balor of the Evil Eye (with slingshot echoing biblical narrative of David).

  21. in a rather impolite manner, but then no one chooses his upbringing

    That strikes me distinctly as an insult upon my parents. And I have a feeling if you met me in person, you’d never say that to my face (that’s my way of suggesting that you have internet-courage, not the real kind). And insulting people you never met, let alone have known, thusly is beyond “impolite.” It’s pure jackass-ery. Grow up.

    Bundjil, the supreme, but still otiosus, sky-god of some Aboriginal tribes; take the sky-god Puluga from the Andaman islands; look at Temaukel, the deus otiosus from the Tierra del Fuego; one can also mention, to complete our tour of the continents, Olorun, the creator sky-god of the Yoruba in Nigeria. For other, numerous, examples, one should consult the many volumes devoted to this type of sky-god by W. Schmidt SJ.

    I know nothing of these, so I will take your word on the matter. And while you show remarkable erudition about obscure deities, you seem not to understand the crux of the matter.

    The original issue at hand is NOT that non-semi-nomadic pastoralists from the steppes do not have Sky Father gods; it’s rather that for the semi-nomadic pastoralists of (and out of) the steppes, the Sky Father figure was (and still is) preeminent. Indeed, Mircea Eliade makes an explicit observation in his “Patterns in Comparative Religion” that the proto-Indo-European Dyeus and Turko-Mongolic Tengri were not simply similar in individual characteristics, but structurally so (and more so than with religions of the agricultural Middle East and the Mediterranean). This is hardly surprising given the similarity of the origin environments (and likely lifestyles) of the two peoples.

    So while intensive agricultural populations might have sky deities as well, for populations that depend on soil fertility for survival, the religious structure surrounding that figure was usually very different. I think that point is hardly “so what?” as you oh-so-politely put it earlier.

    By the way, this topic for me is not purely academic. Although a large majority of my extended family is Christian, a few older relatives of mine remain shamanists and worship a local variant of Tengri. As a child, I was dragged by one of these relatives to see a Tengrist shaman who apparently conjured up my East Asian given name years prior.

  22. Twinkie, in my opening sentence, I implied your impoliteness, because, when discussing one of my previous propositions, instead of politely disagreeing with me and stating your reasons, You just brusquely threw at me: “Name some, why don’t you?” We are at Razib’s blog, not on a Yahoo forum, so some measure of politeness is, I believe, in order.
    That said, I should have stated my disapproval of your manners in a different way and should have not mentioned your upbringing, because, of course, it questions your parents. I offer for this my sincere apologies to You and I hope that your parents are doing well.

    As for the “crux of the matter”, I think I have given my opinion clearly in the previous comment. So, when dialogue is impossible, it is better to cease trying and just keep silent.
    Just one observation on your remark :
    “The original issue at hand is NOT that non-semi-nomadic pastoralists from the steppes do not have Sky Father gods; it’s rather that for the semi-nomadic pastoralists of (and out of) the steppes, the Sky Father figure was (and still is) preeminent. ”
    If You had thought about what I sincerely wrote in my previous comment, You would have immediately seen the problem of your statement. I will just recall to You briefly that the Vedic Arya were semi-nomadic pastoralists freshly out of the steppes, but, as a supreme god, they did not have a pure sky-god, but an atmospheric one.

    As for Tengri, You are correct (but when did I dispute it?), I read the same thing about it in Eliade’s book You mention (If I recall correctly, in the same work You will find information on the obscure supreme deities I mention in my previous comment).

    Finally, even if our discussion was not without its unpleasantness for which, I believe, we both bear some responsibility, I still somewhat enjoyed it, it made me think again about this mysterious *Dieus and it incites me to study Tengri.

    Without ill-feelings, I wish You and your parents the best.

  23. I offer for this my sincere apologies to You and I hope that your parents are doing well.

    I don’t wish to carry out a long conversation with an internet stranger about courtesy, but your apology strikes me as disingenuous. If you were actually sorry, the right thing to do is apologize, no if’s and but’s, and certainly no “because.” Accompanying an ostensible apology with lectures about how the other person started it all and how he ought to behave is passive-aggressive, not sincere. And certainly not manly.

    You just brusquely threw at me: “Name some, why don’t you?”

    Yes, it was brusque, but no more brusque than “So what?” and a whole lot less dismissive and condescending than the latter.

  24. Twinkie, as I already said, I feel that it is impossible to communicate with You.

    Apart of impolitely – and only inadvertently – involving your parents, for which I presented my apologies, I said nothing out of the frames of normal conversation to You.
    So be calm and sincere. After all, if You are sincere with yourself, You will admit that my comments have certainly enlightened You about comparative Indo-European religion.

    Everything should be all right.

Comments are closed.