Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The return of the Golden Age

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 8, 2015

The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.

Asha (aša) is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.” Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.

The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’. The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.”

Muṣaṣir (Akkadian for Exit of the Serpent/Snake), in Urartian Ardini (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”), was an ancient city of Urartu, attested in Assyrian sources of the 9th and 8th centuries BC. Ḫaldi (Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk) was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). His shrine was at Ardini. Hayk or Hayg, also known as Haik Nahapet (Hayk the Tribal Chief) is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation.

Khaldi was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bow and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as ‘the house of weapons’.

It has been suggested by early 20th century Armenologists that Old Persian Armina and the Greek Armenoi are continuations of an Assyrian toponym Armânum or Armanî. There are certain Bronze Age records identified with the toponym in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources.

Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt mentions in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. Armin is a given name or surname, and is:an ancient Zoroastrian given name, meaning Guardian of Aryan Land.

Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. Aratta is described in Sumerian literature as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.

The Hurrians (cuneiform: transliteration: Ḫu-ur-ri) were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language called Hurrian, and lived in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia. The largest and most influential Hurrian nation was the multi-ethnic kingdom of Mitanni, the Mitanni perhaps being Indo-European speakers who formed a ruling class over the Hurrians.

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which existed in many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi.

Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix. He suggests that at the beginning of the Late Bronze Age most would have spoken either Hurrian or Aryan but by the end of the 14th century most of the Levant maryannu had Semitic names.

The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, but it is specifically their deities which show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya), though some think that they are more immediately related to the Kassites.

The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence. A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.

Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was an Iron Age kingdom centered on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Urartian-speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region.

That a distinction should be made between the geographical and the political entity was already pointed out by König (1955). The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau, and the Caucasus mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands. The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but was conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC. The heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms.

Ensi means dream interpreter (en, enigmatic background+sig, to dwell; to complete), and city ruler (Old Sumerian), city governor (post-Sargonic) (en, lord, manager,+si, plowland,+ genitive; cf., nísañ, governor). They held most political power in Sumerian city states during the Uruk period (c.4100-2900 BCE).

In the city state of Ashur, the hereditary ruler bore the Akkadian language version of the title énsi, while the patron deity was regarded as šarrum (“King”).

This title Ar, Ari, Arya, or Aryan appears to have originally designated the Early Aryans as “The Ploghmen” from the Sumerian Ar, Ara, “plough”, which is now disclosed as the source of the Old English ear, “to plough, to ear the ground” and of “ar-able”, etc.

The Aryans are now seen to have been the traditional inventors of the plough and of the Agricultural Era of the World; and the sense of Ara or “the exalted ones” appears to have been used for this title when this gifted race became the rulers of the various aboriginal tribes-the Sumerian also gives the plough sign the meaning of “raise up, exalt” as the secondary meaning of ploughing as “the uplifting” of the earth.

Arura or aroura, is a Homeric Greek word with original meaning “arable land”, derived from the verb aroō, “plough”. The word was also used generally for earth, land and father-land and in plural to describe corn-lands and fields.

The term arura was also used to describe a measure of land in ancient Egypt (similar in manner to the acre), a square of 100 Egyptian cubits each way. This measures 2700m² or 2/3 of an acre. The oldest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek a-ro-u-ra, written in Linear B syllabic script, originally meant “plough”.

The ard, ard plough, or scratch plough is a simple light plough without a mouldboard. It is symmetrical on either side of its line of draft and is fitted with a symmetrical share that traces a shallow furrow but does not invert the soil.

Enlil (nlin) (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). Enlil was known as the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants to grow.

Enlil was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Sumerian religion, and later in Akkadian (Assyrian and Babylonian), Hittite, Canaanite and other Mesopotamian clay and stone tablets.

As Enlil was the only god who could reach An, the god of heaven, he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship. Enlil was assimilated to the north “Pole of the Ecliptic”. His sacred number name was 50. Among the titles accorded to him are “king of lands”, “king of heaven and earth”, and “father of the gods”.

In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.

Ekur (É.KUR) is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer.

In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur.

In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”). This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.

The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.

The priests of the Ekur festivities are described with en being the high priest, lagar as his associate, mues the leader of incantations and prayers, and guda the priest responsible for decoration. Sacrifices and food offerings were brought by the king, described as “faithful shepherd” or “noble farmer”.

Another name which specifies the relationship of Aralu to the world is Ekur or ‘mountain house’ of the dead. Ekur is one of the names for the earth, but is applied more particularly to that part of the mountain, also known as E-khar-sag-kurkura (É.ḪAR.SAG.KUR.KUR-‘a’ “house of the mountain of all lands”) where the gods were born. Before the later speculative view was developed, according to which the gods, or most of them, have their seats in heaven, it was on this mountain also that the gods were supposed to dwell. Hence Ekur became also one of the names for temple, as the seat of a god.

Göbekli Tepe (“Potbelly Hill”) is an archaeological site at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. It is called Portasar (“Mountain Navel”) in Armenian. The tell includes two phases of ritual use dating back to the 10th-8th millennium BCE.

The site was deliberately backfilled sometime after 8000 BCE: the buildings were buried under debris, mostly flint gravel, stone tools, and animal bones that must have been imported from elsewhere. Eeach enclosure was deliberately buried under as much as 300 to 500 cubic meters (390 to 650 cu yd) of refuse consisting mainly of small limestone fragments, stone vessels, and stone tools. Many animal, even human, bones have also been identified in the fill. Why the enclosures were buried is unknown, but it preserved them for posterity.

It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. Schmidt engaged in some speculation regarding the belief systems of the groups that created Göbekli Tepe, based on comparisons with other shrines and settlements.

He assumed shamanic practices and suggested that the T-shaped pillars represent human forms, perhaps ancestors, whereas he saw a fully articulated belief in gods only developing later in Mesopotamia, associated with extensive temples and palaces.

This corresponds well with an ancient Sumerian belief that agriculture, animal husbandry, and weaving were brought to mankind from the sacred mountain Ekur, which was inhabited by Annuna deities, very ancient gods without individual names.

The Anunnaki (also transcribed as: Anunaki, Anunna, Anunnaku, Ananaki and other variations) are a group of deities in ancient Mesopotamian cultures. The name is variously written “da-nuna”, “da-nuna-ke-ne”, or “da-nun-na”, meaning “princely offspring” or “offspring of Anu”.

An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world. Omphalos stones marking the centre were erected in several places about the Mediterranean Sea.

Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus. In the ancient world of the Mediterranean, it was a powerful religious symbol. Omphalos Syndrome refers to the misguided belief that a place of geopolitical power and currency is the most important place in the world.

The omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.

The omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, represents, in Christian mediaeval tradition, the navel of the world (the spiritual and cosmological centre of the world).

Jewish tradition held that God revealed himself to His people through the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple in Jerusalem, which rested on the Foundation stone marking the centre of the world.

Boötes is a constellation in the northern sky, located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere. The name comes from the Greek, Boōtēs, meaning herdsman or plowman (literally, ox-driver; from bous “cow”). The “ö” in the name is a diaeresis, not an umlaut, meaning that each ‘o’ is to be pronounced separately.

In ancient Babylon the stars of Boötes were known as SHU.PA. They were apparently depicted as the god Enlil, who was the leader of the Babylonian pantheon and special patron of farmers.

Arcturus (α Boo, α Boötis, Alpha Boötis) of the constellation Boötes is the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. As one of the brightest stars in the sky, Arcturus has been significant to observers since antiquity. In Mesopotamia, it was linked to the god Enlil, and also known as Shudun, “yoke”, or SHU-PA of unknown derivation in the Three Stars Each Babylonian star catalogues and later MUL.APIN around 1100 BC.

The Spring Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn upon the celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Arcturus, Spica, and Regulus. This triangle connects the constellations of Boötes, Virgo, and Leo. It is visible rising in the south eastern sky of the northern hemisphere between March and May. The lion’s mane and shoulders also form an asterism known as “the Sickle”.

Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra). It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica  (α Vir, α Virginis, Alpha Virginis), the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

Regulus (α Leo, α Leonis, Alpha Leonis) is the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Rēgulus is Latin for ‘prince’ or ‘little king’. The Greek variant Basiliscus is also used. It is known as Qalb al-Asad, from the Arabic قلب الأسد, meaning ‘the heart of the lion’.

Leo was one of the earliest recognized constellations, with archaeological evidence that the Mesopotamians had a similar constellation as early as 4000 BCE. The Persians called Leo Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jews, Arye; the Indians, Simha, all meaning “lion”.

George Lovi of Sky & Telescope magazine had a slightly different Spring triangle, including the tail of Leo, Denebola, instead of Regulus. Denebola is dimmer, but the triangle is more nearly equilateral. These stars forms part of a larger Spring asterism called the Great Diamond together with Cor Caroli.

In the Babylonian star catalogues, Ursa Minor was known as MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA, the Wagon of Heaven, Damkianna. It appeared on a pair of tablets containing canonical star lists that were compiled around 1000 BC, the MUL.APIN, and was one of the “Stars of Enlil”—that is, the northern sky. The possible origin of its name was its appearing to rotate like a wheel around the north celestial pole.

Ursa Major (also known as the Great Bear and Charles’ Wain) is a constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere. Its name, Latin for “the greater (or larger) she-bear”, stands as a reference to and in direct contrast with Ursa Minor, “the smaller she-bear”, with which it is frequently associated in mythology and amateur astronomy.

The constellation’s most recognizable asterism, a group of seven relatively bright stars commonly known as the “Big Dipper”, “the Wagon” or “the Plough” (among others), both mimicks the shape of the lesser bear (the “Little Dipper”) and is commonly used as a navigational pointer towards the current northern pole star, Polaris in Ursa Minor.

The Big Dipper and the constellation as a whole have mythological significance in numerous world cultures, usually as a symbol of the north.

Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, by the Ugaritians with El, by the Greeks Cronus and by the Romans Saturn.

Saturn is a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in myth. 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.

In later developments he came to be also a god of time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. Under Saturn’s rule, humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in the “Golden Age” described by Hesiod and Ovid.

The position of Saturn’s festival in the Roman calendar led to his association with concepts of time, especially the temporal transition of the New Year. In the Greek tradition, Cronus was often conflated with Chronus, “Time,” and his devouring of his children taken as an allegory for the passing of generations.

The sickle or scythe of Father Time is a remnant of the agricultural implement of Cronus-Saturn, and his aged appearance represents the waning of the old year with the birth of the new, in antiquity sometimes embodied by Aion. In late antiquity, Saturn is syncretized with a number of deities, and begins to be depicted as winged, as is Kairos, “Timing, Right Time”.

The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury. He was celebrated at what is perhaps the most famous of the Roman festivals, the Saturnalia, a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry, celebrated the harvest and sowing, and ran from December 17–23. Saturn the planet and Saturday are both named after the god.

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 was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

The Romans identified Saturn with the Greek Cronus, whose myths were adapted for Latin literature and Roman art. In particular, Cronus’s role in the genealogy of the Greek gods was transferred to Saturn. As early as Livius Andronicus (3rd century BC), Jupiter was called the son of Saturn.

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.

In Greek mythology, Cronus was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans, the divine descendants of Uranus, the sky, and Gaia, the earth. He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus.

Cronus was usually depicted with a harpe, scythe or a sickle, which was the instrument he used to castrate and depose Uranus, his father. In Athens, on the twelfth day of the Attic month of Hekatombaion, a festival called Kronia was held in honour of Cronus to celebrate the harvest, suggesting that, as a result of his association with the virtuous Golden Age, Cronus continued to preside as a patron of harvest. Cronus was also identified in classical antiquity with the Roman deity Saturn.

As with Saturn, Cronus overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus. The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five (or more) Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and then the present (Iron), which is a period of decline, sometimes followed by the Leaden Age.

By extension “Golden Age” denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age peace and harmony prevailed, did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age with a youthful appearance, eventually dying peacefully, with spirit living on as “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus (397 e) recounts the golden race of humans who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean literally made of gold, but good and noble.

There are analogous concepts in the religious and philosophical traditions of the South Asian subcontinent. For example, the Vedic or ancient Hindu culture saw history as cyclical, composed of yugas with alternating Dark and Golden Ages. The Kali yuga (Iron Age), Dwapara yuga (Bronze Age), Treta yuga (Silver Age) and Satya yuga (Golden Age) correspond to the four Greek ages. Similar beliefs occur in the ancient Middle East and throughout the ancient world, as well.

In classical Greek mythology the Golden Age was presided over by the leading Titan Cronus. In some version of the myth Astraea also ruled. She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, but in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra. According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.

European pastoral literary and iconographic tradition often depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and simplicity, untainted by the corruptions of civilization — a continuation of the Golden Age — set in an idealized Arcadia, a region of Greece that was the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them. This idealized and nostalgic vision of the simple life, however, was sometimes contested and even ridiculed, both in antiquity and later on.

In Old Norse, ǫ́ss (or áss, ás, plural æsir; feminine ásynja, plural ásynjur) is the term denoting a member of the principal pantheon in the indigenous Germanic religion known as Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr. The second pantheon comprises the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage the Æsir-Vanir War, which results in a unified pantheon.

The cognate term in Old English is ōs (plural ēse) denoting a deity in Anglo-Saxon paganism. The Old High German is ans, plural ensî. The Gothic language had ans- (based only on Jordanes who glossed anses with uncertain meaning, possibly demi-god and presumably a Latinized form of actual plural *anseis). The reconstructed Proto-Germanic form is *ansuz (plural *ansiwiz). The a-rune ᚫ was named after the æsir.

Unlike the Old English word god (and Old Norse goð), the term ōs (áss) was never adopted into Christian use and survived only in a secularized meaning of “pole, beam, stave, hill” or “yoke”.

Æsir is the plural of áss, óss “god” (gen. āsir) which is attested in other Germanic languages, e.g., Old English ōs (gen. pl. ēsa) and Gothic (as reported by Jordanes) anses “half-gods”.

These all stem from Proto-Germanic *ansis ~ ansuz, which itself comes from Proto-Indo-European *h₂énsus (gen. hn̥sóus) “life force” (cf. Avestan aŋhū “lord; lifetime”, ahura “godhood”, Sanskrit ásu “life force”, ásura “god” (< *hn̥suró)). It is widely accepted that this word is further related to *hens- “to engender” (cf. Hittite hass- “to procreate, give birth”, Tocharian B ās- “to produce”).

Old Norse áss has the genitive áss or ásar, the accusative æsi and ásu. In genitival compounds, it takes the form ása-, e.g. in Ása-Þórr “Thor of the Aesir”, besides ás- found in ás-brú “gods’ bridge” (the rainbow), ás-garðr, ás-kunnigr “gods’ kin”, ás-liðar “gods’ leader”, ás-mogin “gods’ might” (especially of Thor), ás-móðr “divine wrath” etc. Landâs “national god” (patrium numen) is a title of Thor, as is allmáttki ás “almighty god”, while it is Odin who is “the” ás.

The feminine’s -ynja suffix is known from a few other nouns denoting female animals, such as apynja “female monkey”, vargynja “she-wolf”. The word for “goddess” is not attested outside Old Norse.

Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune of the Elder Futhark, ᚨ. The name is based on Common Germanic *ansuz “a god, one of the main deities in Germanic paganism”.

The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a (), like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph. The name aleph is derived from the West Semitic word for “ox”, and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on a Egyptian hieroglyph.

The Phoenician letter is derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head and gave rise to the Greek Alpha (Α), being re-interpreted to express not the glottal consonant but the accompanying vowel, and hence the Latin A and Cyrillic А.

In the Norwegian rune poem, óss is given a meaning of “estuary” while in the Anglo-Saxon one, ōs ᚩ takes the Latin meaning of “mouth”. The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune (ᛅ), which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār).

Since the name of a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz “god”, or *ahsam “ear (of wheat)”.

The Anglo-Saxon futhorc split the Elder Futhark a rune into three independent runes due to the development of the vowel system in Anglo-Frisian. These three runes are ōs ᚩ (transliterated o), æsc ᚫ “ash” (transliterated æ) and ac “oak” ᚪ (transliterated a).

One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *hewsṓs- or *hausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.

Derivatives of *hewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ēōs, Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *hews-tro-.

The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *hwes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-.

The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European New Year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).

Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.

As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).

J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Erigone “early-born” in Greek.

The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.

The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the New Year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.

Numerous theories have been proposed for the etymology of Vanir. Scholar R. I. Page says that, while there are no shortages of etymologies for the word, it is tempting to link the word with “Old Norse vinr, ‘friend’, and Latin Venus, ‘goddess of physical love.’”

In Norse mythology, Njörðr is a god among the Vanir. Njörðr, father of the deities Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed Vanir sister, was in an ill-fated marriage with the goddess Skaði, lives in Nóatún (Old Norse “ship-enclosure”), described in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning as located “in heaven”, and is associated with sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility.

In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a goddess associated with fertility. Nerthus is attested by Tacitus, the first century AD Roman historian, in his ethnographic work Germania. The name Nerthus is generally held to be a Latinized form of Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz, a direct precursor to the Old Norse deity name Njörðr.

While scholars have noted numerous parallels between the descriptions of the two figures, Njörðr is attested as a male deity. Various scholarly theories exist regarding the goddess and her potential later traces amongst the Germanic peoples, including that the figure may be identical to the unnamed sister-wife of Njörðr mentioned in two Old Norse sources.

In Germania, Tacitus records that the remote Suebi tribes were united by their veneration of the goddess at his time of writing and maintained a sacred grove on an (unspecified) island and that a holy cart rests there draped with cloth, which only a priest may touch.

The priests feel her presence by the cart, and, with deep reverence, attend her cart, which is drawn by heifers. Everywhere the goddess then deigns to visit, she is met with celebration, hospitality, and peace. All iron objects are locked away, and no one will leave for war. When the goddess has had her fill she is returned to her temple by the priests. Tacitus adds that the goddess, the cart, and the cloth are then washed by slaves in a secluded lake. The slaves are then drowned.

Nerthus is often identified with the van Njörðr who is attested in various 13th century Old Norse works and in numerous Scandinavian place names. The connection between the two is due to the linguistic relationship between Njörðr and the reconstructed Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz, Nerthus being the feminine, Latinized form of what Njörðr would have looked like around the first century.

This has led to theories about the relation of the two, including that Njörðr may have once been a hermaphroditic deity or that the name may indicate the otherwise forgotten sister-wife in a divine brother-sister pair like the Vanir deities Freyja and Freyr.

While developments in historical linguistics ultimately allowed for the identification of Nerthus with Njörðr, various other readings of the name were in currency prior to the acceptance of this identification, most commonly the form Hertha. This form was proposed as an attempt to mirror the Old Norse goddess name Jörð ‘earth’.

Writing on this topic in 1912, Raymond Wilson Chambers says “strange has been the history of this goddess Nerthus in modern times. Sixteenth century scholars found irresistible the temptation to emend the name of ‘Mother Earth’ into Herthum, which nineteenth century scholars further improved into Hertham, Ertham. For many years this false goddess drove out the rightful deity from the fortieth chapter of the Germania”.

Freyr or Frey is one of the most important gods of Norse religion. The name is conjectured to derive from the Proto-Norse *frawjaz, “lord”. Freyr was associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and was pictured as a phallic fertility god, Freyr “bestows peace and pleasure on mortals”.

Freyja (Old Norse for “(the) Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death.Her name is the name for Friday in many Germanic languages. Freyja’s husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names.

Scholars have theorized about whether Freyja and the goddess Frigg ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples. Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name, but it was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization.

“Gold” is cognate with similar words in many Germanic languages, deriving via Proto-Germanic *gulþą from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰelh- (“to shine, to gleam; to be yellow or green”). The symbol Au is from the Latin: aurum, the Latin word for “gold”.

The Proto-Indo-European ancestor of aurum was *hé-hus-o-, meaning “glow”. This word is derived from the same root (Proto-Indo-European *hu̯es- “to dawn”) as *héu̯sōs, the ancestor of the Latin word Aurora, “dawn”. This etymological relationship is presumably behind the frequent claim in scientific publications that aurum meant “shining dawn”.

The term Golden Age (Greek: chryseon genos) comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five (or more) Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and then the present (Iron), which is a period of decline, sometimes followed by the Leaden Age. By definition, one is never in the Golden Age.

By extension “Golden Age” denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age peace and harmony prevailed, did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age with a youthful appearance, eventually dying peacefully, with spirit living on as “guardians”.

Plato in Cratylus (397 e) recounts the golden race of humans who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean literally made of gold, but good and noble. The English word elf is from the Old English word most often attested as ælf (whose plural would have been *ælfe). Although this word took a variety of forms in different Old English dialects, these converged on the form elf during the Middle English period.

During the Old English period, separate forms were used for female elves (such as ælfen, putatively from common Germanic *ɑlβ(i)innjō), but during the Middle English period the word elf came routinely to include female beings.

The main medieval Germanic cognates of elf are Old Norse alfr, plural alfar, and Old High German alp, plural alpî, elpî (alongside the feminine elbe). These words must come from Common Germanic, the ancestor-language of English, German, and the Scandinavian languages: the Common Germanic forms must have been *ɑlβi-z and ɑlβɑ-z.

Germanic *ɑlβi-z~*ɑlβɑ-z Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *alp- or *albʰós is generally agreed to be cognate with the Latin albus (‘(matt) white’), Old Irish ailbhín (‘flock’); Albanian elb (‘barley’); and Germanic words for ‘swan’ such as Modern Icelandic álpt.

These all come from an Indo-European base *albh-, and seem to be connected by whiteness. The Germanic word presumably originally meant ‘white person’, perhaps as a euphemism. Jakob Grimm thought that whiteness implied positive moral connotations, and, noting Snorri Sturluson’s ljósálfar, suggested that elves were divinities of light.

This is not necessarily the case, however. For example, Alaric Hall, noting that the cognates suggest matt white, has instead tentatively suggested that later evidence associating both elves and whiteness with feminine beauty may indicate that it was this beauty that gave elves their name.

A completely different etymology, making elf cognate with the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen in Indian mythology, was also suggested by Kuhn, in 1855. While still sometimes repeated, however, this idea is not widely accepted.

The Ribhus are three at first mortal beings who according to Sayana attained godhood by austerities. Their individual names were Ribhu (or Rhibhu), Vaja and Vibhvan, but after the name of their leader they were collectively called Rhibhus or Ribhus (ṛbhú-, pl. ṛbhava).

Their name’s meaning is “clever, skillful, inventive, prudent”, cognate to Latin labor and Gothic arb-aiþs “labour, toil”, and perhaps to English elf. In the Rigveda the adjective in its lexical meaning “skillful” is also applied to Indra, Agni and the Adityas.

There are analogous concepts in the religious and philosophical traditions of the South Asian subcontinent. For example, the Vedic or ancient Hindu culture saw history as cyclical, composed of yugas with alternating Dark and Golden Ages.

The Kali yuga (Iron Age), Dwapara yuga (Bronze Age), Treta yuga (Silver Age) and Satya yuga (Golden Age) correspond to the four Greek ages. Similar beliefs occur in the ancient Middle East and throughout the ancient world, as well.

In classical Greek mythology the Golden Age was presided over by the leading Titan Cronus. In some version of the myth Astraea also ruled. She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, but in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra.

European pastoral literary and iconographic tradition often depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and simplicity, untainted by the corruptions of civilization — a continuation of the Golden Age — set in an idealized Arcadia, a region of Greece that was the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them. This idealized and nostalgic vision of the simple life, however, was sometimes contested and even ridiculed, both in antiquity and later on.

There are hints that Freyr was associated with elves, particularly that Álfheimr (Old Norse: Ālfheimr, “Land Of The Fairies”), also called Ljosalfheim (Ljósálf[a]heimr, “light-elf home”), one of the Nine Worlds and home of the Light Elves in Norse mythology, is mentioned as being given to Freyr in Grímnismál.

In medieval Germanic-speaking cultures, elves seem generally to have been thought of as a group of beings with magical powers and supernatural beauty, ambivalent towards everyday people and capable of either helping or hindering them. However, the precise character of beliefs in elves across the Germanic-speaking world has varied considerably across time, space, and different cultures.

For a long time, views about elves in Old Norse mythology were defined by Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, which talks about svartálfar, dökkálfar and ljósálfar. However, these words are only attested in the Prose Edda and texts based on it, and it is now agreed that they reflect traditions of dwarves, demons, and angels, partly showing Snorri’s “paganisation” of a Christian cosmology learned from the Elucidarius, an encyclopedic work or summa about medieval Christian theology and folk belief, originally written in the late 11th century by Honorius Augustodunensis, influenced by Anselm of Canterbury and John Scotus.

Scholars of Old Norse mythology now focus on references to elves in Old Norse poetry, particularly the Elder Edda. The only character explicitly identified as an elf in classical Eddaic poetry, if any, is Völundr, the protagonist of Völundarkviða.

Although the relevant words are of slightly uncertain meaning, it seems fairly clear that Völundr is described as one of the elves in Völundarkviða. As his most prominent deed in the poem is to rape Böðvildr, the poem associates elves with being a sexual threat to maidens.

The same idea is present in two post-classical Eddaic poems, which are also influenced by romance or Breton lais, Kötludraumur and Gullkársljóð and in later traditions in Scandinavia and beyond, so may be an early attestation of a prominent tradition. Elves also appear in a couple of verse spells, including the Bergen rune-charm from among the Bryggen inscriptions.

However, elves are frequently mentioned in the alliterating formulaic collocation Æsir ok Álfar (‘Æsir and elves’) and its variants. This shows a strong tradition of associating elves with the Æsir, or sometimes even of not distinguishing between the two groups. A kenning for the sun, álfrǫðull, is of uncertain meaning but is to some suggestive of a close link between the elves’ and the sun.

The collocation is paralleled in the Old English poem Wið færstice; in the Germanic personal name system; and in Skaldic verse the word elf is used in the same way as words for gods. Sigvatr Þórðarson’s skaldic travelogue Austrfaravísur, composed around 1020, mentions an álfablót (‘elves’ sacrifice’) in Edskogen in what is now southern Sweden.

There does not seem to have been any clear-cut distinction between humans and gods; like the Æsir, then, elves were presumably thought of as being human(-like) and existing in opposition to the giants. Many commentators have also (or instead) argued for conceptual overlap between elves and dwarves in Old Norse mythology, which may fit with trends in the medieval German evidence.

Because Snorri Sturluson identified Freyr as one of the Vanir when that word is rare in Eddaic verse, very rare in Skaldic verse, and is not generally thought to appear in other Germanic languages, it has long been suggested that álfar and Vanir are, more or less, different words for the same group of beings, and even that Snorri invented the Vanir. However, this is not uniformly accepted.

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