Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The trifunctional hypothesis

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 17, 2014

The trifunctional hypothesis

The trifunctional hypothesis of prehistoric Proto-Indo-European society postulates a tripartite ideology (“idéologie tripartite”) reflected in the existence of three classes or castes—priests, warriors, and commoners (farmers or tradesmen) – corresponding to the three functions of the sacral, the martial and the economic, respectively.

This thesis is especially associated with the French mythographer Georges Dumézil who proposed it in 1929 in the book Flamen-Brahman, and later in Mitra-Varuna.

Dumézil postulated a split of the figure of the sovereign god in Indoeuropean religion, which is embodied by Vedic gods Varuna and Mitra. Of the two, the first one shows the aspect of the magic, uncanny, awe inspiring power of creation and destruction, while the second shows the reassuring aspect of guarantor of the legal order in organised social life.

Whereas in Jupiter these double features have coalesced, Briquel sees Saturn as showing the characters of a sovereign god of the Varunian type. His nature becomes evident in his mastership over the annual time of crisis around the winter solstice, epitomised in the power of subverting normal codified social order and its rules, which is apparent in the festival of the Saturnalia, in the mastership of annual fertility and renewal, in the power of annihilation present in his paredra Lua, in the fact that he is the god of a timeless era of plenty and bounty before time, which he reinstates at the time of the yearly crisis of the winter solstice.

Also, in Roman and Etruscan reckoning Saturn is a wielder of lightning; no other agricultural god (in the sense of specialized human activity) is one. Hence the mastership he has on agriculture and wealth cannot be that of a god of the third function, i.e. of production, wealth, and pleasure, but it stems from his magical lordship over creation and destruction.

Although these features are to be found in Greek god Cronus as well, it looks they were proper to the most ancient Roman representations of Saturn, such as his presence on the Capitol and his association with Jupiter, who in the stories of the arrival of the Pelasgians in the land of the Sicels and that of the Argei orders human sacrifices to him.

Sacrifices to Saturn were performed according to “Greek rite” (ritus graecus), with the head uncovered, in contrast to those of other major Roman deities, which were performed capite velato, “with the head covered.”

Saturn himself, however, was represented as veiled (involutus), as for example in a wall painting from Pompeii that shows him holding a sickle and covered with a white veil. This feature is in complete accord with the character of a sovereign god of the Varunian type and is common with German god Odin.

Briquel remarks Servius had already seen that the choice of the Greek rite was due to the fact that the god himself is imagined and represented as veiled, thence his sacrifice cannot be carried out by a veiled man: this is an instance of the reversal of the current order of things typical of the nature of the deity as appears in its festival. Plutarch writes his figure is veiled because he is the father of truth.

Pliny notes that the cult statue of Saturn was filled with oil; the exact meaning of this is unclear. Its feet were bound with wool, which was removed only during the Saturnalia. The fact that the statue was filled with oil and the feet were bound with wool may relate back to the myth of “The Castration of Uranus”. In this myth Rhea gives Cronus a rock to eat in Zeus’ stead thus tricking Cronus.

Although mastership of knots is a feature of Greek origin it is also typical of the Varunian sovereign figure, as apparent e.g. in Odin. Once Zeus was victorious over Cronus, he sets this stone up at Delphi and constantly it is anointed with oil and strands of unwoven wool are placed on it. It wore a red cloak, and was brought out of the temple to take part in ritual processions and lectisternia, banquets at which images of the gods were arranged as guests on couches.

All these ceremonial details identify a sovereign figure. Briquel concludes that Saturn was a sovereign god of a time that the Romans perceived as no longer actual, that of the legendary origins of the world, before civilization.

Little evidence exists in Italy for the cult of Saturn outside Rome, but his name resembles that of the Etruscan god Satres. The potential cruelty of Saturn was enhanced by his identification with Cronus, known for devouring his own children. He was thus equated with the Carthaginian god Ba’al Hammon, to whom children were sacrificed.

Later this identification gave rise to the African Saturn, a cult that enjoyed great popularity til the 4th century. It had a popular but also a mysteric character and required child sacrifices. It is also considered as inclining to monotheism.

In the ceremony of initiation the myste intrat sub iugum, ritual that Leglay compares to the Roman tigillum sororium. Even though their origin and theology are completely different the Italic and the African god are both sovereign and master over time and death, fact that has permitted their encounter. Moreover here Saturn is not the real Italic god but his Greek counterpart Cronus.

Saturn was also among the gods the Romans equated with Yahweh, whose Sabbath (on Saturday) he shared as his holy day. The phrase Saturni dies, “Saturn’s day,” first appears in Latin literature in a poem by Tibullus, who wrote during the reign of Augustus.

Saturn

Saturn the planet is named after the god Saturn (Latin: Saturnus), a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in myth. Saturn is a complex figure because of his multiple associations and long history.

According to Varro, Saturn’s name was derived from satu, “sowing.” Even though this etymology looks implausible on linguistic grounds (for the long quantity of the a in Sāturnus and also because of the epigraphically attested form Saeturnus) nevertheless it does reflect an original feature of the god.

A more probable etymology connects the name with Etruscan god Satre and placenames such as Satria, an ancient town of Latium, and Saturae palus, a marsh also in Latium. This root may be related to Latin phytonym satureia.

Another epithet of his that referred to his agricultural functions was Sterculius or Stercutus, Sterces from stercus, “manure.” Agriculture was important to Roman identity, and Saturn was a part of archaic Roman religion and ethnic identity. His name appears in the ancient hymn of the Salian priests, and his temple was the oldest known to have been recorded by the pontiffs.

The exact meaning of Enki’s name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.

He was the first god of the Capitol, known since the most ancient times as Saturnius Mons, and was seen as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. Under Saturn’s rule, humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in the “Golden Age” described by Hesiod and Ovid.

In later developments he came to be also a god of time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. Macrobius states explicitly that the Roman legend of Janus and Saturn is an affabulation, as the true meaning of religious beliefs cannot be openly expressed.

In the myth Saturn was the original and autochthonous ruler of the Capitolium, which had thus been called the Mons Saturnius in older times and on which once stood the town of Saturnia. He was sometimes regarded as the first king of Latium or even the whole of Italy.

At the same time, there was a tradition that Saturn had been an immigrant god, received by Janus after he was usurped by his son Jupiter and expelled from Greece. In Versnel’s view his contradictions – a foreigner with one of Rome’s oldest sanctuaries, and a god of liberation who is kept in fetters most of the year – indicate Saturn’s capacity for obliterating social distinctions.

The Golden Age of Saturn’s reign in Roman mythology differed from the Greek tradition. He arrived in Italy “dethroned and fugitive,” but brought agriculture and civilization for which things was rewarded by Janus with a share of the kingdom, becoming he himself king.

Saturn is associated with a major religious festival in the Roman calendar, Saturnalia. Saturnalia celebrated the harvest and sowing, and ran from December 17–23. Macrobius (5th century AD) presents an interpretation of the Saturnalia as a festival of light leading to the winter solstice.

The renewal of light and the coming of the New Year is celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The Winter solstice was thought to occur on December 25. January 1 was New Year day: the day was consecrated to Janus since it was the first of the New Year and of the month (kalends) of Janus: the feria had an augural character as Romans believed the beginning of anything was an omen for the whole.

Thus on that day it was customary to exchange cheerful words of good wishes. For the same reason everybody devoted a short time to his usual business, exchanged dates, figs and honey as a token of well wishing and made gifts of coins called strenae. Cakes made of spelt (far) and salt were offered to the god and burnt on the altar.

Ovid states that in most ancient times there were no animal sacrifices and gods were propitiated with offerings of spelt and pure salt. This libum was named ianual and it was probably correspondent to the summanal offered the day before the Summer solstice to god Summanus, which however was sweet being made with flour, honey and milk. Shortly afterwards, on January 9, on the feria of the Agonium of January the rex sacrorum offered the sacrifice of a ram to Janus.

Saturn had two consorts who represented different aspects of the god. The name of his wife Ops, the Roman equivalent of Greek Rhea, means “wealth, abundance, resources.” The association with Ops though is considered a later development, as this goddess was originally paired with Consus. Earlier was Saturn’s association with Lua (“destruction, dissolution, loosening”), a goddess who received the bloodied weapons of enemies destroyed in war.

Enki

Capricorn is the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Capricornus. It spans the 270–300th degree of the zodiac, corresponding to celestial longitude. Capricorn is ruled by the planet Saturn. In astrology, Capricorn is considered an earth sign, introvert sign, and one of the four cardinal signs.

Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this area from December 22 to January 19 each year, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Capricorn from approximately January 15 to February 14.

In Sumerian and Akkadian mythology Hanbi or Hanpa (more commonly known in western text) was the father of Enki, Pazuzu, the king of the demons of the wind, the bearer of storms and drought, and Humbaba, also Humbaba the Terrible, a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun.

Although Pazuzu is, himself, an evil spirit, he drives away other evil spirits, therefore protecting humans against plagues and misfortunes. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that the figure of Capricorn derives from the half-goat, half-fish representation of the Sumerian god Enki (Sumerian: EN.KI(G)), later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology.

The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord”; it was originally a title given to the High Priest; ki means “earth”; but there are theories that ki in this name has another origin, possibly kig of unknown meaning, or kur meaning “mound”.

Enki was the deity of crafts (gašam); mischief; water, seawater, lakewater (a, aba, ab), intelligence (gestú, literally “ear”) and creation. Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth.

Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû; Usumu (Akkadian) is a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki in Sumerian mythology. He is readily identifiable by the fact that he possesses two faces looking in opposite directions.

The main temple to Enki is called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization.

His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.

In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground.

Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.

Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE mention “the reeds of Enki”. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried. This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology.

In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.

Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water’”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth).

His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud, who is readily identifiable by the fact that he possesses two faces looking in opposite directions.

He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.

In 1964, a team of Italian archaeologists under the direction of Paolo Matthiae of the University of Rome La Sapienza performed a series of excavations of material from the third-millennium BCE city of Ebla. Much of the written material found in these digs was later translated by Giovanni Pettinato.

Among other conclusions, he found a tendency among the inhabitants of Ebla to replace the name of El, king of the gods of the Canaanite pantheon (found in names such as Mikael), with Ia.

Jean Bottero (1952) and others suggested that Ia in this case is a West Semitic (Canaanite) way of saying Ea, Enki’s Akkadian name, associating the Canaanite theonym Yahu, and ultimately Hebrew YHWH.

This hypothesis is dismissed by some scholars as erroneous, based on a mistaken cuneiform reading, but academic debate continues. Ia has also been compared by William Hallo with the Ugaritic Yamm (sea), (also called Judge Nahar, or Judge River) whose earlier name in at least one ancient source was Yaw, or Ya’a.

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