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Author Topic: Paganism in Fairy Tales  (Read 638 times)

Zlote Jablko

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Paganism in Fairy Tales
« on: December 11, 2018, 05:03:02 am »
Hello everyone,

I thought I would bring up a subject that's of great interest to me. When you say that you attribute religious/mythological significance to fairy tales, most people will look at you kind of funny. On the other hand, we have had a thread recently about working with Baba Yaga, so it seems there is some acceptance that at least certain fairy tale figures are unambiguously pagan or mythological.

I actually have a theory that Slavic fairy tales like those of Baba Yaga are especially archaic. During the 19th century, many romantic scholars analyzed fairy tales in depth and tried to find deeper mythological meanings in them. Modern scholarship tends to be much more skeptical. Yet most western scholarship has focused on Germanic fairy tales like those of the Grimm's collection. In the past, it was assumed that these were preserved fossils of "Aryan" culture.

In reality, I've found that the paganism in Grimm's fairy tales seems much more degraded than that in Slavic stories. Both have a story about a bird stealing golden apples and being pursued by a hero. Yet the Grimm's version of this story, "The Golden Bird" is a silly animal fable about a foolish hero who only succeeds because of the aid of an extremely exasperated fox. Meanwhile, if we look at the Serbian "Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples" we see a much more mythological story in which the hero discovers that the Peahens are shapeshifting princesses (Daughter of the Sea, in some stories) and later has to rescue one from Koschei the Deathless or a Dragon. The Slavic variants of this story actually have many parallels to the Nart Sagas of the North Caucasus, which affirms their pre-Christian nature.

 Of course that's not to say that German fairy tales don't have their little gems of pagan belief, like Frau Holle for example, but they just seem harder to find. That's not surprising, because we know that a lot of folklore was probably destroyed by industrialization and the uprooting of old-fashioned agrarian life. By the 19th century, when many of these stories were recorded, you had many places in Eastern Europe where peasant life was not very different from the middle ages. Germany was much more modernized, and that probably had an impact on the German folk memory. Also, the proto-Germanic language probably dispersed across Europe around 500 B.C., during the iron age, whereas the Slavic migrations didn't happen until the middle ages. So the Slavs stayed isolated and formed a cohesive group for about a thousand years after the Germanic tribes had scattered and diverged from one another, which could have helped preserve ancient narratives in the Slavic folk memory.

I've compiled a list of Eastern European fairy tales that I consider to be relics of Slavic paganism below.

I was wondering if anyone else has delved into fairy tales or folklore in order to recover past knowledge. If so, what has been the result?



Slavic Fairy Tale List:

Russian-
Vassilissa the Beautiful
The Frog Tsarevna
Maria Morevna
Ivan the Cow's Son
Nikita the Tanner
Finst Falcon
The Crystal Mountain
Koschei the Deathless
Elena the Wise
Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What
Vassilissa Golden Tresses
The Sea King and Vassilissa the Wise
King Bear
Water of Youth, Water of Death, Water of Life
Prince Danila Govorila
Ivan the Peasant's Son and the Little Man Himself
God and the Devil
The Lime Tree
King Kojata
Baba Yaga

Balkan/South Slavic:
The Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples
Kiss Miklos and the Green Daughter of the Green King
Mirko the King's Son
The Reed Maiden
Praslea the Bold and the Golden Apples
The Three Brothers and the Golden Apples
Bash Chelik


West Slavic:
The Jezinkas
The Wood Lady
Three Doves
Vitazko
Plavachek the Coal Burner's Son
Good Ferryman and the Water Nymphs
Princess of the Brazen Mountain
Princess Miranda and Prince Hero
The Eagles
The Mouse Hole and the Underground Kingdom
The Frog King
The Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Allknow

https://chestofbooks.com/fairy-tale/Russian/index.html
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/sfs/index.htm
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/52596/52596-h/52596-h.htm
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/36668/36668-h/36668-h.htm


EnderDragonFire

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2019, 07:36:12 am »
fairy tales

Well, in India, where you have a largely unbroken, continuous, evolving religious heritage going back over four millennia, fairy tales are totally religiously influenced. Certainly, there is a distinction between canonized stories from the Vedas and other holy books, and local folk tales and legends, but the figures in those stories still, nonetheless, tend to come directly from local religious beliefs.

There are many folk tales, which are understood to be fictional, that nonetheless feature Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Durga, and other such overtly theological figures. From my somewhat limited understanding of Japanese folklore, where Shinto evolved naturally from older religious ideas, the case is very similar, with Kami and deities frequently appearing in traditional folk stories.

Based on these two examples, I would say that having mythological origins for western folks tales is also quite likely.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Zlote Jablko

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2019, 09:19:23 am »
Well, in India, where you have a largely unbroken, continuous, evolving religious heritage going back over four millennia, fairy tales are totally religiously influenced. Certainly, there is a distinction between canonized stories from the Vedas and other holy books, and local folk tales and legends, but the figures in those stories still, nonetheless, tend to come directly from local religious beliefs.

There are many folk tales, which are understood to be fictional, that nonetheless feature Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Durga, and other such overtly theological figures. From my somewhat limited understanding of Japanese folklore, where Shinto evolved naturally from older religious ideas, the case is very similar, with Kami and deities frequently appearing in traditional folk stories.

Based on these two examples, I would say that having mythological origins for western folks tales is also quite likely.

It’s actually pretty remarkable that you just replied to this, Ender. Yesterday I was perusing books at my local bookstore and saw a $4.00 book on Punjabi fairy tales. I opened it and was immediately drawn to the title of a story about a snake woman, which reminded me of Baba Yaga. I understand that in Indian tradition, there are snakelike beings called nagas in the underworld, and that this reflects indigenous tradition.

Still, it was shockingly similar to European witch stories. A Yogi tells a king how to expose her true form, then trick her into an oven, just like Hansel in Gretel. It’s noteworthy that the Russian witch Baba Yaga is often interchangeable with a snake, and is featured on many stories where she gets pushed into the oven. Actually, her name may mean something like “old lady snake.”

The French story of Melusine may fall into a similar category, although she’s not demonized so thoroughly.

Anyway, this is one reason why I favor a very early date for the dissemination of many of these tales. Some scholars say they date to the 18th century or the Middle Ages. It’s hard to explain the distribution in those cases however. People underestimate the power that oral tradition once had.




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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2019, 10:37:11 am »
Anyway, this is one reason why I favor a very early date for the dissemination of many of these tales. Some scholars say they date to the 18th century or the Middle Ages. It’s hard to explain the distribution in those cases however. People underestimate the power that oral tradition once had.


When talking about the Old World. They seem perfectly happy to draw parallels between new world oral traditions ranging from main to Argentina, and everywhere in-between. I dunno why but anything in Europe is supposed to be modern, and not ancient - it's like people think Christianity wiped the slate completely.

I opened it and was immediately drawn to the title of a story about a snake woman, which reminded me of Baba Yaga. I understand that in Indian tradition, there are snakelike beings called nagas in the underworld, and that this reflects indigenous tradition.

Yep. Naga are complicated... in some stories they are very much villains, and in other stories they're very wise and helpful - not unlike Chinese dragons. Makes me wonder if there might not have been two different snake traditions in India that were syncretized at some point in the pre-Vedic Era - a PIE tradition with bad snakes, and an East Asian one with benevolent snakes. So you wind up with kinda bipolar naga, who on one hand bring prosperity and blessings, and serve the Gods - but on the other hand have a reputation for biting and killing people, and who are often murdered and reviled in myths.

Still, it was shockingly similar to European witch stories. A Yogi tells a king how to expose her true form, then trick her into an oven, just like Hansel in Gretel. It’s noteworthy that the Russian witch Baba Yaga is often interchangeable with a snake, and is featured on many stories where she gets pushed into the oven. Actually, her name may mean something like “old lady snake.”

It seems like that's a reasonably common motif in story's about Naga - they're killed in ovens and bonfires. I wonder why that might be? Not sure. I have read multiple stories where that happens though - even when they're the protagonists, people are usually trying to burn them, specifically, rather than kill them otherwise.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2019, 11:42:56 am »
Yep. Naga are complicated... in some stories they are very much villains, and in other stories they're very wise and helpful - not unlike Chinese dragons. Makes me wonder if there might not have been two different snake traditions in India that were syncretized at some point in the pre-Vedic Era - a PIE tradition with bad snakes, and an East Asian one with benevolent snakes.

It seems like that's a reasonably common motif in story's about Naga - they're killed in ovens and bonfires. I wonder why that might be? Not sure. I have read multiple stories where that happens though - even when they're the protagonists, people are usually trying to burn them, specifically, rather than kill them otherwise.

Since you bring up the comparison with Chinese Dragons, that's kind of interesting.  I'm not sure to what extent these are truly ancient tales, or patterned after European ones in later times, but there is definitely a branch of Chinese dragon-lore where they are portrayed very similarly to the Faerie Court( wondrous food that turns to common stone if you try to take it home with you, odd taboos, etc), though generally a bit more benevolent. 

Anyway, point is, in those tales they are often said either to fear fire, or to have a powerful aversion to the scent of candle wax or lamp oil and use only enchanted gems as light sources.   I'm not sure of the reasoning behind it, either, but it may have to do with the fact that Chinese dragons are primarily storm spirits, heavily associated with rain, water and lightning, and thus might be averse to their opposite element.

I'm pretty sure my ascended-human-dragon has a human/earthly reason for banning me from candle usage, but the   folkloric associations might be mildly reinforcing.  Sort of "I don't like those things anyway and even tradition won't back you up for using them!".  That's getting off-topic for this thread though.

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2019, 02:28:44 pm »
Naga are complicated... in some stories they are very much villains, and in other stories they're very wise and helpful - not unlike Chinese dragons. Makes me wonder if there might not have been two different snake traditions in India that were syncretized at some point in the pre-Vedic Era - a PIE tradition with bad snakes, and an East Asian one with benevolent snakes.

Chiming in to observe that ambivalent serpent symbolism is definitely not limited to India, and benevolent snakes are not limited to East Asia. Western Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean surroundings have lots of deeply complicated snake symbolism. Even early Judaism had a lot of ambiguity in its relationship with the snake--before the anti-idolatry "reforms" of later rulers, a huge copper serpent was kept in the Temple itself! It was said to have been created by Moses to honor God, and there's a fair amount of evidence that before the snake's later vilification in Western religion, it was to some degree seen as a sacred animal by early Jews.
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Zlote Jablko

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2019, 07:07:52 pm »
Chiming in to observe that ambivalent serpent symbolism is definitely not limited to India, and benevolent snakes are not limited to East Asia. Western Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean surroundings have lots of deeply complicated snake symbolism. Even early Judaism had a lot of ambiguity in its relationship with the snake--before the anti-idolatry "reforms" of later rulers, a huge copper serpent was kept in the Temple itself! It was said to have been created by Moses to honor God, and there's a fair amount of evidence that before the snake's later vilification in Western religion, it was to some degree seen as a sacred animal by early Jews.

I was going to say something similar regarding Europe. Snakes are ambiguous in mythology and folklore, as is Baba Yaga. She often is called a snake or a “brown snake.” and either is pushed into a stove or *lives behind the stove.*

That ties her into household snakes like the Lithuanian Zaltys, also kept by the stove to bring good luck. So that’s a very different take from the witch who gets burned in the oven.

Jumping wayyy back into the Iron Age of Eastern Europe, Greek sources (Edit: Herodotus) say the Scythians believed themselves to be descendants of a woman who was a serpent from the legs down. She was their ancestral grandmother (their Baba?)

Regarding Enders theory about India, there is a similar one about Neolithic Europe championed by Marija Gimbutas. According to her, the Neolithic Europeans venerated Serpents before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. She points to the Minoan snake Goddess, and the fact that the chief Basque Goddess had a snakelike consort. Similarly, it’s said in Lithuania that killing a Zaltys (house snake) will cause the Goddess Saule to cry.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2019, 07:10:06 pm by Zlote Jablko »

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2019, 02:22:08 am »
Regarding Enders theory about India, there is a similar one about Neolithic Europe championed by Marija Gimbutas. According to her, the Neolithic Europeans venerated Serpents before the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. She points to the Minoan snake Goddess, and the fact that the chief Basque Goddess had a snakelike consort.

Marija Gimbutas is excruciatingly discredited academically, and her visions of an ancient matriarchal utopia are too simplistic for my taste anyway. Regardless, I agree that there's a pretty clear mythic undercurrent in many, many cultures of serpents as powerful, terrifying, divine animals that go beyond classifications of good and evil.
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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2019, 03:17:03 am »
Marija Gimbutas is excruciatingly discredited academically, and her visions of an ancient matriarchal utopia are too simplistic for my taste anyway. Regardless, I agree that there's a pretty clear mythic undercurrent in many, many cultures of serpents as powerful, terrifying, divine animals that go beyond classifications of good and evil.

The matriarchal utopia stuff is precisely what is discredited. Many other aspects of her work have contributed to our current understanding. For example, her work placing the PIE homeland in the steppes has actually aged pretty well.

What many modern experts like David Anthony will say today is that “Old Europe” was seemingly more egalitarian than what came later. That doesn’t mean matriarchy. It could even have been overtly patriarchal, just with less obvious differences in social status. Anyway, the Neolithic snake cult is an idea that still gets kicked around. It seemed relevant.

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2019, 04:14:18 am »
The matriarchal utopia stuff is precisely what is discredited. Many other aspects of her work have contributed to our current understanding. For example, her work placing the PIE homeland in the steppes has actually aged pretty well.

Fair enough, although the "Minoan snake goddess" in particular is pretty strongly associated with outdated ideas about ancient matriarchal utopias, which is probably why I responded the way I did. That may be a less kneejerk-inducing phrase to those outside of my context, I suppose.

Quote
What many modern experts like David Anthony will say today is that “Old Europe” was seemingly more egalitarian than what came later. That doesn’t mean matriarchy. It could even have been overtly patriarchal, just with less obvious differences in social status.

I would agree with that as well; it's certainly something that I've noticed in my research on the evolution of Hellenic culture and religion.

Quote
Anyway, the Neolithic snake cult is an idea that still gets kicked around. It seemed relevant.

It is relevant, I think, and my position remains the same: I don't think it's necessary to posit the existence of a Neolithic cult in which snakes were regarded as benevolent as some kind of semi-discrete substratum absorbed by a later Indo-European culture that saw snakes as malevolent. The ambiguous nature of the serpent is, in many ancient cultures, continuous throughout history until fairly late, and easily explained simply by the nature of the beast itself.

Granted it's not a completely baseless theory, since some religions have leaned more heavily on negative associations for the snake and some for positive ones; Zoroastrianism is one of the former and there's reason to believe its origins (or at least major influences) lie in the same steppes as the PIE homeland. But I still think that in many cases, the majority of the perplexing ambiguity of the snake lies somewhere deeper and more mystic than the artefacts of cultural fusion, since we see similar conflicting symbolism in cultures with greater non-IE influences, such as Greece, or even those such as Egypt which had little IE influence at all.
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Zlote Jablko

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2019, 09:37:21 pm »
Fair enough, although the "Minoan snake goddess" in particular is pretty strongly associated with outdated ideas...-

Granted it's not a completely baseless theory, since some religions have leaned more heavily on negative associations for the snake and some for positive ones; Zoroastrianism is one of the former and there's reason to believe its origins (or at least major influences) lie in the same steppes as the PIE homeland. But I still think that in many cases, the majority of the perplexing ambiguity of the snake lies somewhere deeper and more mystic than the artefacts of cultural fusion, since we see similar conflicting symbolism in cultures with greater non-IE influences, such as Greece, or even those such as Egypt which had little IE influence at all.

I’ve mulled this over, and I agree that people have long had mixed feelings about snakes. They are fascinating, alien, and/or frightening to many of us. There’s a lot to unpack there.

At the same time though, I’m wondering what you think of the Minoan snake Goddess. From what I can find, she seems to belong to a household cult. Her figurines are distributed throughout home-based shrines. The common interpretation is that this is analogous to the household snake tradition of the later mainland Greeks.

As mentioned though, this household snake cult shows up as far north as Lithuania. (Refer to “Zaltys” online.) If it shows up among the non-Indo-European Minoans, then it does make some sense to suggest that it belongs to an originally non-IE layer of European tradition. Snakes may be ambiguous everywhere, but this “household snake” cult seems to have a
specific regional distribution.

Likewise, the underworld dragon or serpent slaying myths associated with IE mythology are almost too many to list. It seems like these two traditions did clash at times. Like Ender said, you ended up with kind of a “bipolar” underworld serpent in some traditions.

It’s noteworthy that the term “Lamia” was adopted by the south Slavs as a term for an evil dragon. Of course in Greco-Roman tradition she was a snake woman. A good dragon is called a “Zmey” in much of the Balkans. The name may be related to the Baltic fairies known as Laumes and to the Roman spirits of the dead known as lemures.

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2019, 06:22:03 am »
Marija Gimbutas is excruciatingly discredited academically, and her visions of an ancient matriarchal utopia are too simplistic for my taste anyway.

This phrasing makes me wonder how much you're conflating Gimbutas's own speculations with the Gimbutas fanfic of her followers (and possibly also confusing her with Margaret Murray, w/r/t academic discreditation). Much of the really utopian and oversimplistic stuff isn't in her work at all, but is the result of non-anthropologists taking her ideas and running away with them - and, not uncommonly, misunderstanding or misrepresenting what Gimbutas did or didn't claim.

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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2019, 05:10:50 pm »
At the same time though, I’m wondering what you think of the Minoan snake Goddess. From what I can find, she seems to belong to a household cult. Her figurines are distributed throughout home-based shrines. The common interpretation is that this is analogous to the household snake tradition of the later mainland Greeks.

As mentioned though, this household snake cult shows up as far north as Lithuania. (Refer to “Zaltys” online.) If it shows up among the non-Indo-European Minoans, then it does make some sense to suggest that it belongs to an originally non-IE layer of European tradition. Snakes may be ambiguous everywhere, but this “household snake” cult seems to have a specific regional distribution.

The famous figurines of the popular Minoan snake goddess are actually extraordinarily rare in the archaeological record; we have a handful of heavily reconstructed pieces from one place and that's it. I tend to shy away from making clear statements about what this particular symbol--the woman in characteristic Minoan dress with upraised arms holding serpents--means for that reason. I have theories, but they're hard to justify in a recon context.

But you're quite correct that some kind of serpentine figure who functions as a household guardian does seem to have originated somewhere around Minoan Crete and to have parallels in many non-IE cultures both in that region and elsewhere. There's persistent evidence that this god or spirit had generally positive associations with good fortune and protection.

On the other hand, we don't have any religious texts telling us the cosmologies associated with these benevolent serpent cults in Minoan Crete and other parts of Europe. In multiple nearby non-IE cultures, such as Egypt and some Ancient Near Eastern peoples, who also had some divine and protective associations for snakes, we do have those texts--and they feature some of the same anti-serpentine/dragon chaoskampf motifs seen among IE peoples. Marduk slays Tiamat to proceed with creation, Baal defeats the sea serpent Yam to establish his sovereignty, the Netjeru subdue Ap-p to protect the world order. So I'm hesitant to assume too much benevolence from snakes in Minoan religion based on archaeological evidence and some trace motifs in later worship.

That the particular figure of the serpent as household protector may be a survival of pre-IE practice is plausible, but doesn't necessarily mean that any appearance of positive associations with serpents in an IE culture indicates a non-IE substratum or admixture--which is the point I'm making. Religions with purely positive or purely negative representations of serpents seem to be relatively rare in general.

Quote
Likewise, the underworld dragon or serpent slaying myths associated with IE mythology are almost too many to list. It seems like these two traditions did clash at times. Like Ender said, you ended up with kind of a “bipolar” underworld serpent in some traditions.

As I mentioned above, there are traces of very similar motifs in non-IE religion as well. Did they borrow them from IE religion? In some cases, possibly, but in others (such as Kemetic Egypt) it seems unlikely.

I am inclined to believe there are a number of layers here. I don't think serpents acquired a clear-cut negative association in most of the religions in which they now carry it until fairly late, and a number of factors went into it when they did: the early Jewish move away from the serpent as a very ancient divine symbol and towards aniconicity and the proto-Zoroastrian influence from Persia were early ones that would feed into the later Christian efforts to both use the useful bits of the Greek Mystery cultus and distance themselves from others.

A lot of this would have been because clear-cut divisions between benevolent and malevolent spirits are fairly modern in most religions. Indo-European cultures most likely have always had more negative associations for snakes than some others, but would not in all cases have had trouble reconciling that with the idea that serpents could also sometimes be sources of good things such as wisdom, wealth, magic, power, etc. (In fact, the idea of underworld figures being sources of all of those as well as figures of terror is pretty common.) Whether that idea was entirely imported from neighboring cultures with different views of snakes or was at least partially native to the IE culture in question would be hard to say.

You do seem to get fewer positive serpent associations as you go farther north in Europe, but I can't help but wonder how much of this is related to the fact that snakes tend to be less abundant in colder climes and as such would have been less omnipresent to the people--and therefore easier to make over into a world-destroying dragon of fantasy.

Are there instances of serpent lore that result from religions mingling? Sure, that's true of any symbol. But the short of it is that with such a universal symbol as the snake, I find it implausible that cultural admixture is the primary source of ambiguity in its depiction--especially, to go back to the context of my first reply, in a region with as much and as complicated snake symbolism as India.
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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2019, 05:14:36 pm »
This phrasing makes me wonder how much you're conflating Gimbutas's own speculations with the Gimbutas fanfic of her followers (and possibly also confusing her with Margaret Murray, w/r/t academic discreditation). Much of the really utopian and oversimplistic stuff isn't in her work at all, but is the result of non-anthropologists taking her ideas and running away with them - and, not uncommonly, misunderstanding or misrepresenting what Gimbutas did or didn't claim.

That makes sense--I've probably mostly seen the fanfic version.

However, like I mentioned above, the particular reference to the Minoan snake goddess kind of set me off, as the tendency for discussion of "the Minoan snake goddess" to draw from questionable or outdated sources is extremely common. There's no reason for people outside the narrow context of my particular research to be aware of this, though--it's a pretty niche subject.
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Re: Paganism in Fairy Tales
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2019, 05:26:39 am »
On the other hand, we don't have any religious texts telling us the cosmologies associated with these benevolent serpent cults in Minoan Crete and other parts of Europe. In multiple nearby non-IE cultures, such as Egypt and some Ancient Near Eastern peoples, who also had some divine and protective associations for snakes, we do have those texts--and they feature some of the same anti-serpentine/dragon chaoskampf motifs seen among IE peoples. Marduk slays Tiamat to proceed with creation, Baal defeats the sea serpent Yam to establish his sovereignty, the Netjeru subdue Ap-p to protect the world order. So I'm hesitant to assume too much benevolence from snakes in Minoan religion based on archaeological evidence and some trace motifs in later worship.

Comparing the chaoskampf myths is its own sort of rabbit hole. As a broad category they are prevalent in the near-east. Although not all of them group very closely to their IE counterparts. The slaying of Tiamat, for example, is a creation story, which is actually fairly unique for a dragon slaying myth. On top of that, Tiamat's actual description includes udders and her "original" form is subject to interpretation. The only one I know of that features a storm deity (as is typical for Indo-European mythologies) is the one from the Baal cycle. Yet this may be due to syncretism between Baal and the storm deity of the Hurrian-Hittite religion, as evidenced by the fact that Teshub and Baal would eventually adopt the same cuneiform logogram. We know that Ugarit had close ties to the Hittite empire, or was even a part of it at times, so that one's pretty easy to explain.

To return to the subject of fairy tales, there are a number of traits that in my view kind of hearken back to a PIE myth. One is the release of water. This is a critical function of Nagas in parts of Asia, and in the Vedas we see that the slaying of the dragon Vritra is an attempt to "release the waters." This element shows up in dragon slaying tales from Germany to Iran.

The Slovak tale "The Enchanted forest sums it up: "Here in town, we have but one well from which we all drink, but we pay dearly for our water, for a dragon with twelve heads lives in a lair outside of the town, and every day we must give him one maid to devour, for if we did not, he would allow nobody to approach the well and we would all perish from thirst."

This element is ridiculously widespread if you search for it. In one account of Hercules in the Garden of Hesperides, he even strikes a rock after killing the dragon and liberates a spring of water. Allegedly just because he was thirsty, but also probably fulfilling a mythic formula. The presence of multiple heads on the dragon is also one of those traits that tends to recur specifically in Indo-European cultures.

Of course the dragon's treasure takes many forms, ranging from mundane gold to the heavenly bodies, eerily reminiscent of Apep. In one of my favorites, Kis Miklos, dragons steal the sun the moon and the stars. It does go to show that some of these parallels can emerge regardless of likely cultural diffusion. Still, the basic formula of retrieving the stolen wealth appears to be more classically Indo-European than the preventative battle to defend the solar barge that we see in Egypt. I must admit though, that's the one I find most coincidental since it involves an apocalyptic serpent who attempts to steal or consume a natural resource or force that is required by universe.



That the particular figure of the serpent as household protector may be a survival of pre-IE practice is plausible, but doesn't necessarily mean that any appearance of positive associations with serpents in an IE culture indicates a non-IE substratum or admixture--which is the point I'm making. Religions with purely positive or purely negative representations of serpents seem to be relatively rare in general.

As I mentioned above, there are traces of very similar motifs in non-IE religion as well. Did they borrow them from IE religion? In some cases, possibly, but in others (such as Kemetic Egypt) it seems unlikely.

Agreed on that. If the Baal cycle is most likely to be influenced by IE culture, then the Apep story is probably the least likely to be influenced, although it is primarily a solar myth if I understand.

Are there instances of serpent lore that result from religions mingling? Sure, that's true of any symbol. But the short of it is that with such a universal symbol as the snake, I find it implausible that cultural admixture is the primary source of ambiguity in its depiction--especially, to go back to the context of my first reply, in a region with as much and as complicated snake symbolism as India.

You're right of course that serpents are a mixed bag in many cultures. However, I still think individual traditions or cults can have disproportionate impacts on the culture at large. If one of the primary Gods of your pantheon is the dragonslayer par excellence, then that can have an outsize effect on perception.

In Greece it doesn't seem that the stories of Typhon and his children being defeated overpowered the general mythology of the serpent, but in other cultures like that of the Germanic peoples, it does seem likely that supernatural serpents or wyrms were viewed as antagonists. So the emphasis does vary from culture to culture. It could be environmental, but bear in mind also that Greece and the Balkans are generally regarded as having more continuity with the neolithic farming community than northern Europe. Also just from a geographical standpoint, they are less isolated and therefore more exposed to various influences. I do think that's a significant part of it.



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