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Author Topic: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift  (Read 2052 times)

Altair

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Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« on: August 05, 2013, 10:33:56 am »
Languages evolve, and populations that once spoke the same language will end up speaking different (although related) languages given enough time, if those populations become distinct. For example, English is a Germanic language, but an English-only speaker and a German-only speaker couldn't converse with any understanding. The English word for the stuff in oceans, lakes, and streams is "water"; in German it's "Wasser". Different words meaning the same thing.

So what about deities? Are (for example) Odin and Wotan the same god, and only the name changes, depending on the people? Or are they different, if similar, gods? How does one make that determination?

Invariably one's understanding of the nature of deity comes into play in this. It's relatively easy for soft polytheists like myself to answer this question, but I'm interested in what hard polytheists have to say too.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Aiwelin

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2013, 11:28:50 am »
Quote from: Altair;117930
So what about deities? Are (for example) Odin and Wotan the same god, and only the name changes, depending on the people? Or are they different, if similar, gods? How does one make that determination?

 
What an interesting question!  I'm closer on the 'hard' side of the spectrum of polytheism, but it's not an easy question to answer for me.  I've been doing a lot of ADF studying lately: it's a pan-Indo-European religion because those religions (and the language groups they represent) are believed to have originated from one common language (proto-Indo-European) and from that language and modern scholarship reconstructions have been made of a proto-Indo-European religion.  There are very common motifs such as the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hearth goddesses and storm or rain gods.  All these deities, and many of their names, can be traced back to this common language.  Does that mean that all the deities that fit that archetype or can be traced back to it linguistically are the same deity?  I don't believe so.

I don't really know how to explain it; but I believe that as cultures evolve, their deities often evolve with them.  As a group of people becomes more agricultural for example, they begin to call on their deities for help with this agriculture, their deities gain more experience and interest in that area or different deities who are naturally inclined to agriculture begin to answer the call instead.  I think this accounts for cultural drift and changing ideas of deities as cultures divide and grow apart.

I believe that the Anglo-Saxon Wodan is a different spirit from Odin; but that's all UPG.  I don't have any idea about Wotan and Odin - I think that's something you can't know except by asking the deities themselves.
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Juni

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2013, 01:25:16 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117930
So what about deities? Are (for example) Odin and Wotan the same god, and only the name changes, depending on the people? Or are they different, if similar, gods? How does one make that determination?

Invariably one's understanding of the nature of deity comes into play in this. It's relatively easy for soft polytheists like myself to answer this question, but I'm interested in what hard polytheists have to say too.

 
Sunflower made a post on the old board, here, and through talking about her personal pantheon she mentions the idea of deity cognate-siblings/parents/etc. (I hope you don't mind me linking, Sunflower!) Aster made a post here on a related subject, and my ideas about the nature of deity are something of a combination of the two. I think not being tied to a physical body can do interesting things to an identity. Can an entity, once worshiped and named identically by two distinct group but later called by different (but similar) names and symbols divide themselves into pieces, a sort of divine mitosis?

I'm a hard polytheist, but I also work with Celtic and Kemetic deities, which makes a hard-line approach to polytheism...tricky. In my interactions, I work under the assumption that they're all separate and distinct, until/unless they tell me otherwise. I figure it's just polite.
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Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2013, 03:19:52 pm »
Quote from: Juni;117952
Sunflower made a post on the old board, here, and through talking about her personal pantheon she mentions the idea of deity cognate-siblings/parents/etc. (I hope you don't mind me linking, Sunflower!) Aster made a post here on a related subject, and my ideas about the nature of deity are something of a combination of the two. I think not being tied to a physical body can do interesting things to an identity. Can an entity, once worshiped and named identically by two distinct group but later called by different (but similar) names and symbols divide themselves into pieces, a sort of divine mitosis?

I'm a hard polytheist, but I also work with Celtic and Kemetic deities, which makes a hard-line approach to polytheism...tricky. In my interactions, I work under the assumption that they're all separate and distinct, until/unless they tell me otherwise. I figure it's just polite.


Thanks for the links, Juni--both with interesting points of view. I found Aster's analogy to the different names the same person uses in different contexts particularly on point.

But still...that's easy for me to accept as a "softy". "Hard-liners" must at some point confront the issue of whether it's just a different name, or if they're different gods. Is the delineation always made as Sunflower seems to do in her post: primarily by UPG?

As for deities where the linguistic connection is tenuous or nonexistent (some of Aster's Brighid examples), I don't even want to go there. That's tackling the hard-soft question head on, which I'm not looking to rehash. But where there *is* a linguistic connection--where clearly at one point in the past, everybody was using the same word to talk about the same deity--I'm curious how that plays out.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2013, 03:24:19 pm »
Quote from: Aiwelin;117937

Does that mean that all the deities that fit that archetype or can be traced back to it linguistically are the same deity?  I don't believe so.

I don't really know how to explain it; but I believe that as cultures evolve, their deities often evolve with them.  As a group of people becomes more agricultural for example, they begin to call on their deities for help with this agriculture, their deities gain more experience and interest in that area or different deities who are naturally inclined to agriculture begin to answer the call instead.  I think this accounts for cultural drift and changing ideas of deities as cultures divide and grow apart.

I believe that the Anglo-Saxon Wodan is a different spirit from Odin; but that's all UPG.  I don't have any idea about Wotan and Odin - I think that's something you can't know except by asking the deities themselves.


So deities evolve with the cultures they pertain to. So can they branch off to become, eventually, a different deity?

Ideas like that are easy for me to swallow as a "softy", but hard polytheism would seem to make that a more difficult sell. As with Sunflower, I see in your post that UPG plays a big role in making the determination. And maybe that's all one can do.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Darkhawk

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2013, 03:28:32 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117970
So deities evolve with the cultures they pertain to. So can they branch off to become, eventually, a different deity?

Ideas like that are easy for me to swallow as a "softy", but hard polytheism would seem to make that a more difficult sell.

 
I'm not at all sure why you'd think that.
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Juni

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2013, 03:48:58 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117970
Ideas like that are easy for me to swallow as a "softy", but hard polytheism would seem to make that a more difficult sell.

 
Why?

Two distinct words with the same etymological root are still two distinct words. They may have similar meanings, connotations, and usage, but they're still not the same word. I don't see why that would be more difficult for me, as a hard polytheist, to get than a soft polytheist.
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Juni

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 03:55:18 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117969
"Hard-liners" must at some point confront the issue of whether it's just a different name, or if they're different gods.

 
Not really?

I work with who I work with. If they tell me they're also someone else- or they're related to someone else, or totally not anything to do with someone else- then I've got some UPG to work off of. But they may not tell me anything.

Whether or not they're also someone else is only important if that information impacts on how I work with/for them. Do I want to know them better, understand them better? Sure. But I'll never grasp them entirely. They will never fit neatly into a box of my understanding. Being a hard polytheist doesn't mean I need a specific, defined list of names, attributes, and personality. I'm not playing D&D! ;)
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Neteruhemta RaShuSet

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 04:07:30 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117970
So deities evolve with the cultures they pertain to. So can they branch off to become, eventually, a different deity?

Ideas like that are easy for me to swallow as a "softy", but hard polytheism would seem to make that a more difficult sell. As with Sunflower, I see in your post that UPG plays a big role in making the determination. And maybe that's all one can do.

 
I think the train of thought is a little mucky with this.

Hard polytheism means in my opinion, the belief of deities as distinct from one another. Without getting in to weeds, it's a recognition of individual identities that run the universe. The belief of separation is already there. Now Odin can equal Wotan, because they're still being considered as individual.

I think it starts to go to a Recon vs UPG argument when it gets in to whether they are the same or different, rather than hard vs soft polytheist.

Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 06:27:28 pm »
Quote from: Juni;117972
Why?

Two distinct words with the same etymological root are still two distinct words. They may have similar meanings, connotations, and usage, but they're still not the same word. I don't see why that would be more difficult for me, as a hard polytheist, to get than a soft polytheist.


Well we all agree that (sticking with the first example) "Odin" and "Wotan" are different words, despite having common roots. But do they refer to the same being, the way "water" and "Wasser" refer to the same thing, despite being distinct words?

(I'm not trying to play semantic games here; semantics is necessarily an integral part of the discussion.)
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 06:32:57 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;117971
I'm not at all sure why you'd think that.


I suppose this betrays my (mis)conception of hard polytheism as viewing each god as a distinct individual who has existed as such in perpetuity, before mankind came to know him/her and long after active worship may have faded. To my mind, that view of deity precludes a new deity "budding off" from an existing deity to develop along with a splinter cultural/linguistic group.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 06:34:49 pm »
Quote from: Juni;117976
Not really?

I work with who I work with. If they tell me they're also someone else- or they're related to someone else, or totally not anything to do with someone else- then I've got some UPG to work off of. But they may not tell me anything.

Whether or not they're also someone else is only important if that information impacts on how I work with/for them. Do I want to know them better, understand them better? Sure. But I'll never grasp them entirely. They will never fit neatly into a box of my understanding. Being a hard polytheist doesn't mean I need a specific, defined list of names, attributes, and personality. I'm not playing D&D! ;)


Point well taken.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Juni

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 06:35:09 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117989
Well we all agree that (sticking with the first example) "Odin" and "Wotan" are different words, despite having common roots. But do they refer to the same being, the way "water" and "Wasser" refer to the same thing, despite being distinct words?

(I'm not trying to play semantic games here; semantics is necessarily an integral part of the discussion.)

 
They can, but they don't have to all the time. I see no reason why a deity cannot have more than one name- I have more than one, after all- and why two deities might share attributes and a name and not be the same entity (as I am certainly not the only pagan Juni with a love of cats).
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Altair

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2013, 06:36:56 pm »
Quote from: Neteruhemta RaShuSet;117977

I think it starts to go to a Recon vs UPG argument when it gets in to whether they are the same or different, rather than hard vs soft polytheist.


Another point well taken.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Darkhawk

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Re: Linguistic Drift vs. Deity Drift
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2013, 06:38:13 pm »
Quote from: Altair;117989
Well we all agree that (sticking with the first example) "Odin" and "Wotan" are different words, despite having common roots. But do they refer to the same being, the way "water" and "Wasser" refer to the same thing, despite being distinct words?

 
I neither know nor care.

As a general rule, if the god says that they want to be called by a particular name, I use that one; if they say that multiple names are acceptable, I use a variety; if they say that that name is not them, then I don't call them that, it's rude.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

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