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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The War of the Gods (1985) by Jarich G. Oosten

Tuatha de Danann: Irish/Celtic Gods, an illustration

Book Review
The War of the Gods (1985)
 by Jarich G. Oosten

   Comparative indo european linguistics and mythology is a deep well. The Indo European languages: English, French, German, Slavic languages, Farsi, Hindi, all the other European languages that aren't basque.  Basically every major language that isn't East Asian, Semitic(Arabic, Hebrew) and Tamil (Southern India.)   Thus, there is some original language, often called "Proto Indo European" that describes a people whose descendants would make up a majority of the world's population in 2015.

  Unfortunately, this was a line of thought very much embraced by Hitler and the Nazi's in support of their disturbed ideology.  Hitler, the Nazi's and his favorite scholars identified the "master race" as Aryans.  Aryans actually did exist, it was the name that Vedic invaders gave themselves when they entered into India.

  Oosten takes the approach of stacking myths from several different cultures: Scandinavian, Roman, Irish and Hindi are particular favorites.   His thesis that there is some kind of proto war of the gods that spans across the different Indo European languages.  In These War of the Gods he attempts to identify different "structural elements," typically starting with the best attested example of the particular element and then bringing in additional examples from different civilizations.  This i isn't state of the art scholarship- and it is more interesting in terms of just seeing someone stack parallel mythos next to one another.

  Also, the elements themselves are interesting:
 The war of the gods itself:  Between two (or more) groups related by blood- he talks of "wive giving" and "wive taking groups," where a group of "new gods" displaces the "old god."  Here, the best example is the Scandinavian wars between the giants and gods and the war between the Aesir and the Vanir.
 The cycle of the mead: This is the story of a sacred beverage- best known from the "Soma" of Vedic myth, which is a holy, intoxicating beverage.  For western europeans, this became mead- a honeyed, fermented alcoholic beverage.  In the cycle of mean a god steals the sacred beverage from some keeper and then makes it available to the other gods.
  Oosten also compares the lesser known Irish myths regarding the battle of Mag Tured to the better known "history" of the Roman kings.  Oosten argues that in the former case, history has been turned to myth, and in the later, myth has been transformed into history.

  Without getting too heavy into the subject, any artist searching for deeper rhythms of human understanding should have some idea about these underlying myths that link disparate cultures.  These are ideas that resonate beyond an individual language/culture.  While not universal, they point towards a universality of mind among all humanity.

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