About 2.3 million years ago, the first beings who could be called “human” came to walk this Earth. As they competed amongst one another, as well as other primates, the homo sapien, or Thinking Man, emerged victorious. This marks the birth of our humanity.
At first, we lived as nomads, eating berries, fruits and nuts, and some meat. Over time, humanity came to discover fire and invent the wheel, and this enabled them to make better tools, hunt, cook their food, and create better clothes. They were able to live together in groups.
Humans also had one thing that separated them from all other creatures: the ability to self reflect (Mind). They had all sorts of visions and experiences, and they began to wonder about their own existence. At first, they expressed this in rituals, song and dance. Eventually, they began to record their experiences and spiritual visions in art that they made on cave paintings. According to anthropologists, the emergence of cave paintings marks the end of what we call “pre-history” and the beginning of history.
Modern schools still teach the outdated notion that cave paintings were simply a depiction of things that these ancient people saw, or scenes from daily life. The truth is far from it. Proper studies of these paintings have confirmed that the activities shown are spiritual and occult in nature. We find depictions of shamans, rituals, spirits, animal totems and psychedelic visions. This is loosely known as animism, which gradually evolved into shamanism.
Eventually, a long, long time after this, humanity invented agriculture. This is usually called the beginning of civilisation, and it happened around 10,000 B.C.E (before common era). Humans finally began to settle down, since they no longer had to hunt and gather food. They began to develop religion, and some form of social hierarchy as well as trade.
However, many historians consider the invention of writing to be the true birth of Civilisation. This happened between 5000 and 3000 B.C.E, and here we find the emergence of homogenous societies, walled cities, the division of labour, institutional religion and record keeping.
For a long time, historians and anthropologists believed that human Civlilisation began in one single place. For some weird, Eurocentric reason, they decided that this must have been Hellenic Greece. After all, the art in the Renaissance depicted things from classical Greece, and everyone knew that the Greek gods predated Christianity, and after all, philosophy and writing and math and religion and everything else must have been from Hellenic Greece….right?
I mean…what about Alexander the Great (who wasn’t even Greek, but Macedonian)!. And so, for a staggeringly long time, Greece was called the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’. At this time they didn’t know that Greece itself was about 2500 years older than they thought, and Hellenic culture was preceded by Minoan, Cretan and Mycenaean culture. I kid you not, they used to think that Angkor Wat was built by Alexander. Before Carl Jung himself, people of the 19th century thought of ‘ancient’ history as being about 500 – 1000 years old.
But then you see, the British decided that they really, really liked digging. The dig sites in Egypt, the Middle East and Indus Valley pushed our knowledge back thousands of years. And it was discovered that Civilisation was actually much older.
Most of you probably learned in school that Mesopotamia (or Sumeria) is the Cradle of Civilization. However this is also wrong. Recently, anthropologists have begun to agree that Civilisation did not start in a single place at a single time. Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long.
Civilisation started gradually, and in several places independently. It did not start with a singular city/ kingdom like Egypt, Sumeria or Greece, but rather in regions. All of these regions are located along the equator, and thus served as places with a good climate and plenty of water, which is perfect for farming and building cities.
All civilisation can be traced back to essentially six ‘cradles’, and spread outward to other communities and tribes: the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, China, the Indus Valley, West Africa and the Mesoamerican region.
And yet, there was a seventh, which acted like a kind of ‘binding’ or unifying force, connecting the other six.
A seventh group of people emerged around the same time as all these cultures. Unlike their civilized counterparts, these people emerged in a relatively colder climate. They did not know agriculture, and did not record their language. These people’s understanding of the world was more primitive, and more mystical. They engaged in ritual warfare, blood sacrifice, and consumed a variety of psychedelic substances.
While less sophisticated for their time (living as nomads while everyone else was building cities, as late as 2000 B.C.E), these people had mastered one art: war. And they waged it without restraint, developing entire cults of elite warriors, and expanding like a wild fire across the Eurasian steppe.
Unlike Rome, Egypt and China, their influence is not immediately obvious. We do not talk about their philosophies, marvel at their art, sing songs about them or learn about them in school. And yet, every human being alive today most likely has traces of their blood in his or her veins. Even those who do not, most likely speak a language descended from theirs, or lives in a culture influenced by them. In the collective consciousness of humanity, there is a shamanic current of magick that can be tapped into by every living man and woman, as powerful as the currents of Pagan, Abrahamic, Dharmic and Totemic magick. In fact, you’re reading this blog post in a language that was probably similar to theirs.
So settle in, because today i’m going to tell you a story. A story of war, drugs and deviance. A story of magick, of blood, and the strange things that happen at the very edge of civilisation. This is the story of the Indo-Europeans, and their magick, and how it is hidden away from most modern magicians.
Despite many political ideologies claiming otherwise, the Indo-Europeans are not actually very ancient. They are also not the only shamanic culture (obviously), and similar traditions can be found in basically ALL ancient cultures.
Understand that Shamanism died out a pretty long time ago, and got replaced by the more organised cults we recognize. Practically all cultures were originally shamanic and animistic. While such cultures may have been technologically backward, they represent the most spiritually connected humanity has ever been. Today, we basically have no way to study such periods in our cultures. Even if we look back at the oldest records from, say, Egypt, we find organised religious cults, with priesthoods and temples. Yes, we can find some remnants of shamanic cultures in Siberia, Africa and America, but these are already on the verge of disappearing.
However, the Indo-Europeans were a peculiar set of cultures, and they remained shamanic until very late. The latest Indo-European shamanic tradition to die out was Norse paganism (heathenism), which was around until just 1000 years ago. It was soon replaced by the Christianised, Nordic culture we recognize today.
Now yes, you could say that parts of Africa and the Americas remained shamanic until much more recently, but due to colonisation these traditions disappeared really quickly, as Christianity and Islam rapidly spread through the regions. As strange as this sounds, the British were the only colonial power that had some interest in studying and recording the shamanic cultures they encountered. This is why there are still some tribal cultures in India left. But India being India, it’s probably going to be another century until someone gets around to properly studying the non Indo European, Adivasi traditions of India and detailing them.
The rest, such as Spain, Germany and France, either did not understand the importance of this or did not care. They quickly converted local populations, and spread their language. Now there are the Australian aborigines who actually seem to have a fully intact shamanic culture, preserved roally with astonishing accuracy and going back 60,000 years, possibly even before the last ice age. But for whatever reason people act like the Aborigines don’t exist. That is to say, I haven’t found enough relevant information to put it into the context of shamanic magick. Perhaps someone else will do a better job.
I hope what I’m saying makes sense. If we look at a majority of cultures today, it is impossible to say what is a remnant of shamanism.
With the Norse, we have this unique case where a culture was encountered by the ‘civilised’ world, but remained intact long enough for detailed records to be taken. By studying what was recorded of Norse culture, we have a great way of doing a comparative study with other cultures, and slowly piecing together Indo-European traditions and culture, such as the Slavic, Avestan, Vedic, Ainu, Tocharian, Baltic, Germanic and Italo-Celtic. Of course, as we will see in this post, most of what is recorded about Norse paganism is ALSO completely wrong, hence the title. But, it’s better than nothing. Another such culture is the Germanic one, which was recorded to some degree by the Romans. However, this too is biased and distorted.
So, to reiterate, I’m not saying the Indo-Europeans are the only ones who had these ideas, or that they are superior to others. All i’m saying is: ancient shamanism represents magick and spirituality at it’s most potent form, and Indo-European shamanism is one of the best ways to study it, because the Indo-Europeans were 1. very profilic and widespread, 2. very recent, and 3. the only ones which are well documented (norse and germanic). Due to this, we have reconstructed and studied their beliefs better than basically ANY shamanic culture.
We have been studying Indo-Europeans for over 100 years now, while we have only begun to study the shamanic past of other cultures. Also, due to the current existence of Hinduism, and by extension the Vedas, Indo-European shamanism is the only shamanic culture which has authentic written records. Parts of the Vedas are essentially the only written records of an ancient shamanic religion in existence. There was the Avesta, but the book was lost at one point and what we have today is a reconstruction made from oral accounts by the later Persians. As we have discussed before, the Norse Sagas were recorded by Christians, while Germanic culture was recorded by Romans.
I’m not going to delve into the exact details of the Indo-European migration pattern. You can watch this video to watch a time lapse of how they spread, and the cultures that are their closest successors. Also, this post is about Indo-European culture, not ethnicity, and these concepts are not limited just to those who have more Indo-European ancestry. If you like a spiritual practice or idea, you’re free to use it.
The Indo Europeans were an ethno-linguistic group of people that first emerged around the 4th millennium B.C.E, though they are most likely about twice as old as that. Technically, we should call them ‘proto-Indo-European’. The word ‘Indo-European’ is simply a word that refers to the cultures of North India, Persia, Europe, Central Asia and Russia (and some others). Technically, all modern people of these regions are Indo-European. The people we are talking about were the common ancestor to such cultures, hence the word ‘proto’.
However, to save me the trouble of having to write ‘proto-Indo-European’ again and again, I’m just going to call them Indo-European.
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t actually know exactly where they came from. There are many hypothesis, the most common being that they originated from Anatolia, Armenia or (most popularly) around the Caspian.
They were tribal nomads, with a heavy emphasis on war. To understand the Indo-European world view, we must understand their cosmology.
Many of you may be aware of the Indian caste system. This system began in the Vedic period. Although over the millenia it has become vast and complex, in the VEdic age it included just 4 ‘castes’. These were the Brahmins (preists), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (Merchants) and Shudhras (labourers). However, originally there were only the first 3 (mentioned in the Rigveda), and ‘shudhra’ is a much later addition.
Thus, the idea of a triple hierarchy is fundamental to the Indo-European mindset. They used this to organise their societies and also to understand and approach their Gods and spirits. Indo-European society was divided into 3 classes. At the top were the priests and kings, in the middle were warriors, and at the bottom were merchants and craftsmen. We can imagine that slaves, prisoners and other such people would fall outside the class system. In India, this idea would reemerge ‘untouchables’ in the middle ages. In other words, the Indo Europeans very much believed in an ingroup vs outgroup mentality. If you ever wondered why the Vikings raided foreign cultures with such brutality and lack of mercy, this should explain it.
This system determined social status. Thus, Indo-European cosmology also divided the world into 3 groups: the heavens, the earth and the underworld. We can actually see some remnants of this in the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades ruling the sky, the sea and underworld respectively. Many Indo-European cultures have 3 gods who play a primary role in creating the Universe.
Another common motif is sacrifice. These societies were highly sacrificial, and animal sacrifice in the performance of various rituals was common. It seems even human sacrifice took place, but we’ll get to that later. In the Vedas and Norse poetic eddas, such rituals of sacrifice are recorded. It also appears that at times, in some places, cannibalism may also have occurred.
Therefore, most Indo-European mythology also talks about the 3 primary Gods ‘sacrificing’ a being to create the world. You are all probably familiar with the Greek story of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades killing their father Kronos and casing him into Tartarus. However, the original story probably involved his pieces being used to make the world. In Vedic mythology, the brothers Indra, Agni and Varuna sacrifice the primordial giant Purusha (meaning ‘man’) to create the world. In Norse mythology, this is done by Odin and his brothers to the giant Ymir.
The Indo Europeans believed heavily in spirits, and spirits most likely were more important than Gods. Look at Russia and Central Asia today, where people still largely believe in all sorts of spirits and urban legends derived from them, despite being Christian.
Finally, the Shaman was a vital figure in Indo-European culture. To us modern occultists, this figure is the one that most closely resembles us. The Shaman was not a priest. Instead, they lay outside the social heirarchy, a figure both feared and revered.
The Indo-Europeans expanded rapidly because of the importance they placed on war. Many of them had elite groups of warriors, whose sole job was to live in packs and conduct raids on foreign tribes. This is most likely the precursor to the Norse idea of the Berserker, as well as werewolves (man-wolf).
They also focused heavily on developing their techniques of warfare. One of the reasons why the Indo-Aryans came to dominate Northern India, was because they had swords and war chariots. The natives of the Indus Valley could not counter this with their spear infantries. Infact, the Swastika which was a symbol of war and violence, became a symbol of peace and prosperity only in recent times. To the Indo-Europeans, ‘prosperity’ meant raiding and war. This idea continued well into the modern era, with the Vikings raids being the last example of such aggression. In India, cows are considered sacred because they are used in agriculture. However, the horse was the precursor to the cow. In the Vedas, horses are depicted as the primary sacred animal. Cows were sacred too, but as a sacrificial animal. All Indo European cultures venerated the sacred cow, and even the solar bull. However, as the Indo-Europeans became agrarian, the cow became a symbol of agriculture. Killing cows probably became taboo to stop farmers from killing their own cows in times of hardship, or perhaps so that people would not steal agricultural cows and kill them for meat.
However, the Indo-Europeans lacked stability. The average life expectancy was probably around 30 years. While most warlke cultures assimilate others into their ranks, the opposite happened to the Indo-Europeans. They themselves became assimilated into the larger societies they encountered. The relationship was not just of war, but also trade, cultural interaction and the exchange of ideas and technology. The Indo-Europeans brought weapons, psychadelics and mythology, while the cultures they encountered had agriculture, math and systems of economy and religion.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no ‘pure’ Indo-Europeans. The people of Russia, Europe and North India are a complex admixture of different groups. Therefore, we cannot call them ‘white’, ‘aryan’ or ‘asiatic’. They simply spread across the world and assimilated into all the cultures they encountered. Even in Northern Europe, which appears to be ‘pure’, there were people living there prior to the Indo-European migration. These are often called Eastern and Western hunter gatherers. The Western hunter gatherers came from Africa, while the Eastern ones were native to Europe. The Indo Europeans merged into these two cultures, producing the various cultures of Europe we see today.
Culture is not race. Ethnicity, language and culture are linked, yes, but they do not define each other.
This is why I called them a ‘unifying’ or ‘binding’ force. The Indo-Europeans even expanded into East Asia, and the Tocharians of China, as well as the native Ainu people of Japan are examples of Indo-European cultures.
One distinctive trait of Indo-European culture is how colourful it is. While seemingly not as elegant as the cultures it merged into, the use of bright colours and psychedelic patterns is noteworthy. This is something Hollywood often forgets in depictions of Vikings, showing them wearing dark, grungy clothes and using a lot of black, when in reality they are always described in accounts as wearing brightly colored clothing.
This may be the reason why North Indian culture has so much emphasis on bright colours and psychedelic patterns, while South Indian clothing and culture is usually more minimalist and serene.
The Figure of the Shaman
The Shaman was an occultist. They would impart both wisdom, as well engage in obscenities.
A shaman did not choose to become a shaman, but instead he was chosen. There is evidence that this happened in all Indo-European cultures. Once chosen by the spirits, the shaman had little choice in whether he or she would accept. In fact, it seems in some cultures the choices were: accept your role and die.
However, it’s not all that bleak. When we look at siberian shamans, it seems that the people who become shamans are outliers anyways. According to Dr. Jordan Peterson regarding Siberian shamans, the people who become shamans are already intuitive and sensitive, and already have spiritual experiences. For the Siberians the people who are to be shamans would have unusual or eccentric traits, having an affinity for ritual and expression, and preferring to spend time alone in places like graveyards or forests. They develop a kind of “mania” where they go off into the forest and live as animals. It is the job of the shamanic initiate to overcome these trials, get past their mania, and integrate their experiences into their own culture, so that they may return and become guides to their tribes. When people encounter something they don’t understand, they turn to the shaman for answers.
As Terrence McKenna once noted, the shaman was like a figure whose designated job was to ‘be weird’. He would be allowed to do what he wanted, and live at the edge of the village, and come when called. He would tell people how they were meant to interact with the unknown, and how to read omens, and what decisions to make in times of great upheaval. A Shaman was someone who ‘generated culture’. I agree with this notion.
In Germany, Shamans would sometimes take autistic or deviant children under their wing, and use their specific inclination for visionary experiences, training them to be shamans. In other words, these ancient societies wanted to ensure that each and every person had a role to play in society. Even people who could not live as normal, had to be given a place in the world. This is the exact opposite of what we do today. While we can easily point to Christianity and blame them, it was in fact the Hellenic Greeks who were the first to ban certain types of magick and spiritual practices that offended their puritan and aesthetic sensibilities. Rome took this to the extreme at times, and as well all know, the Church was born out of the dying legacy of Rome, and retained this tendency for puritanism.
According to Peterson, the difference between a true shaman and someone who’s simply gone mad, is the ability to integrate their experiences. By the way, this is why occult traditions like kabbalah, rosicrucianism, neo-paganism, satanism, vedanta etc. have a religious basis. Religion and culture gives a framework within which an occultist can place his experiences, and convey them to others. Anybody who has practiced magick for long enough, knows that eventually you run out of words to describe your experiences. The ancient sufi mystics struggled with this, so they chose to express themselves in song and dance. Without religion, we would have no way to tell others what was going on. By falling back on mythologies, folk legends and scripture, we can express ourselves, and also convey the gravity and importance of magick. “I invoked the Archangel Mikhael” carries a lot more weight that “I had a strange experience where something unspeakable communed with me”.
One great example is St. Jerome, who had a terrifying vision of a flaming face that threatened to completely shatter his sanity. It was only because he could fall back on religion, and express his vision as the Holy Trinity, that he was spared the fate of losing his mind. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
For the Indo-Europeans, the shaman was regarded with both fear and reverence. This fact may offend people, but these shamans were frequently androgynous. Not necessarily in appearance, but in behavior. The practice of magick dissolves those strong, dualistic boundaries between gender. This is why I question the caliber of those gnostics and kabbalists who so confidently claim that homosexuality is evil or that certain magick may be practiced only by one gender. Even the author of the Book of Abramelin is forced to admit that magick could be practiced by both men and women, even though he was clearly influenced by the beliefs of his time.
So yes, the indo-european shamans did not fall into rigid categories. Sometimes, they would cross dress in order to perform certain rituals. In Norse mythology, Odin is a shamanic figure (he’s NOT the ‘allfather’. More on that later). He is often shown to have bisexual tendencies and traits. However, shamans were also in control of their desires. Unlike what modern culture espouses, they were not sexually promiscuous nor did they chase after pleasure. They weren’t ascetic, but they practiced a high level of self control.
Often, the shamans would be aided by spirits, and there were many types of these. In modern times we make strong distinctions between “angels” or “demons” or “gods” or “spirits”. But to the shamans, these did not exist. Spirits were spirits, and categorized only by their nature and the role they played. Unlike the assertions of some thelemites and kabbalists, the spirits were understood to have free will. They were conscious beings, just like us. Some were ancestors, some were former shamans, some were divine spirits, and the others were animals totems. The shaman would commune with them to gain knowledge, perform tasks, and tell the future.
The end goal for the shaman, as it is for us modern magicians, was to solidify the body of light and integrate the shadow. Through this, he would gain immortal life. Some shamans were also vampyric. This is most likely the origin of the legend of vampires, and perhaps even the native american wendigo.
Anthropologists often use the word “cult” to refer to the various facets of Indo-European beliefs. But this does not mean we are talking about “cults” in the modern sense. For example, when we say ‘Indo-European Snake cult’, that doesn’t mean there was some single religious group that spread across all the tribes and worshiped a snake god. It refers to the collective tendency among Indo-Europeans of revering serpents.
There are many Indo-European cults that form many aspects of modern magick.
The Hearth Cult is perhaps the most evident in modern day religions. Originally, the tribes were fire worshipers. In the Indo-European tribes who spread into Europe, this became the hearth cult. This is why even in modern day Europe, you have the fire place as a central piece of the house. We tell children that Santa Claus climbs down the chimney of the fire place and comes bearing presents. Originally, the most important Gods of the house dwelt in the fire place, as did the ancestors, and they brought good fortune to people. I wonder if these two are linked. In the warmer climates or Persia and India, the fire cult became the sacrifical fire. The Vedic Hindus conducted fire rituals, the Zoroastrians use it as the primary object of devition to this day.
The Death Cult refers to the ancestor worship that was common among Indo-Europeans. Ancestors were very, very important to these people. Ancestors does not just mean your biological predecessors, but even ‘spiritual’ ancestors. For example, a Shaman could regard all previous Shamans as his ancestors. When a woman got married, she would leave her previous lineage behind and the ancestors of her new family “adopted” her. This may be why even today, women often change their last name. In India, there is this idea of “gotra”. Modern Hindus have forgotten what it means, but it basically means “ancestral lineage”.
This may sound patriarchical, but the Indo-Europeans used this to ensure that ancestral property could be passed on. Yes, there were matriarchal Indo-European tribes as well, and in these the opposite would happen. To the Indo-Europeans, the left side of the body was to do with death, while the right side was to do with life. You will notice that we still adhere to the idea of the left and right hand paths of magick.
For the Northern tribes of Indo-Europeans, the dead would be buried in burial mounds. These ancestors could then be communed with, and all magick of necromancy (the art of divination by speaking with the dead) would be done at such mounds. The Norse believed that sleeping on mounds at night would grant visions of the dead, and that such mounds should not be desecrated. Notice that in Ireland, there are many folk tales of spirits and ghosts appearing near ancient burial mounds.
The wolf cults and bear cults are pretty important. To the ancient Indo-Europeans, war and the concept of warrior hood was important. Practically all societies to ever exist had rites of initiation for young boys, enabling them to become men. Many tribes also held such rites for girls to become women. In the Rigveda, it is said that in order to become a man, young boys must sacrifice a wild dog in a ritual ceremony. They must then wear this skin and live in the forest as wild dogs, away from the village of tribe. Eventually, they would return to the tribe as men. I find it interesting that even now, most people will attend four years of college between school and proper adulthood.
It was common with many other Indo-European tribes as well. In Norse tribal society, groups of young men who had been banished from the tribe would live in the wild and form their own packs. They were called vargr (wolf). These packs would later become elite groups of savage warriors, donning the skin of bears and wolves and going into battle during the Viking age. These were the “berserkir” (those who wear the bear skin).
Indo-European wolf cults are most likely where the story of werewolves come from. Donning the skin of wolves, the warriors would try to awaken their own primal, animal nature. Native American shamans are also known to use the skin of animals to ‘transform’ into animals. I myself have had such atavistic experiences during my invocations of certain dark spirits associated with death and violence. We know that many Indo-Europeans called themselves “Aryan”. I have seen it suggested that maybe this was the root word for Ares, the Greek God of War.
Some other aspects of Indo-European spiritual life were the emphasis on purity. Divination and oral traditions were also a huge part. Even in many late pagan successors, such as ancient Greece, you would have Oracles, all of whom were virgin girls. In Germany and Northern Europe, the male heads of the family would take part in divination rites using runes, while female elders would preserve and pass on sacred songs and hymns.
Another common story is the idea of two warring factions of Gods, who also co-operate and intermarry. The Devas and Asuras, the Aesir and the Vanir, the Olympians and Titans etc.
I personally believe our modern concept of Angels and Demons came from this. It is a relatively unknown fact that the Avesta is Indo-European. The Avestans also believed in the Devas and Asuras (although to them, the terms were reversed). Eventually Zoroaster reformed the religion. In this way, Zoroastrianism is the first truly dualistic, monotheistic religion. However, it retained some of it’s Indo-European traits. You could even call it the first Abrahamic religion. In fact, many Jewish myths and concepts are taken directly from it, as the Jews were in Babylon for a while, and the Old Testament was written after they were released and sent back to Palestine/Israel/Judea. Many people are not familiar with the fact that Judaism was, originally, highly monistic. This is why in some ancient Jewish sources, Satan/Sataniel is depicted as an angel. It was only after their exile, that Judiasm starts to take in the highly dualistic nature of Zoroastrianism. This is when the separation of God and his angels and the Devil and his demons comes from.
So, in a way, the Angels and Demons are akin to the Indo-European factions of deities. We will see why this matters later. Just remember that the Indo-Europeans were monists, not dualists. The Dualism comes about specifically in Zoroastrian mythology. However, most turned dualist after becoming exposed to Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. These were/are, after all, the religions of the Age of Pisces. And Pisces is dualistic.
And almost all Indo-Europeans believed in the cyclical nature of Time. To them, Time was not linear, but moved in cycles. There were no “end times”, but rather the transition from one Age to the next.
Psychadelics also played a major role in their belief systems. For the Vedic people, there was a substance called soma, which was consumed before rituals. We know that the Norse most likely consumed psilocybin mushrooms, perhaps even before battle and during rituals. In Siberia, the Shamans use amanita muscaria mushrooms, usually using their own body or the body of the reindeer as a filter, and drinking the urine which contains the psychadelic compound without the toxins. The Mycaneans and Minoans also used psychadelics, as did most likely the Germanic and Celtic people.
There are many more cults, but you get the general idea. Now That I’ve given a rough idea of who and what the Indo-Europeans were, I want to talk about how our perception of the ancient pagan, vedic and shamanic past has been utterly distorted in modern times.
The Cult of the Sky Father
“Cult of the Sky Father” sounds like an insult that an edgy pagan or atheist would hurl at the abrahamists.
It may interest you to know that I’m actually referring to a late facet of Indo-European culture.
When most people think “pagan”, what comes to mind? Why, Zeus, Odin and Thor of course. The “enlightened culture” that existed before Christianity destroyed it and ‘stole’ its gods. Why, anybody can see the parallels between the Abrahamic and Pagan religions, right?
But not entirely.
I suggest that you read my invocation of Dionysus. In that post, I went over the general history of Greek religion, which I will use as an example.
Greece does have significant Indo-European impact. When people think of ancient Greece, they always think of Hellenic Greece. Many people do not realise that Hellenic world represents one of the final stages of Greek civilisation, when the religious and spiritual thought had declined a lot, and people were increasingly materialistic. Hellenic Greece was preceded by Mycenaean and Minoan cultures, and is actually nearly 2500 years older.. For most of this time, Zeus was not the primary deity. In fact, even in Hellenic Greece different Gods were worshiped in different City States.
In Mycenaean culture, the Elusinian Mysteries were very prominent. Persephone, Hades, Poseidon and Dionysus were primary deities, and the spirituality focused a lot of Cthonic (underworld) aspects. Zeus (the sky father) only came into focus in the later, philosophical period. In fact, I’d say the prominence of Zeus only became truly apparent with Rome, and it’s over emphasis on the worship of Jupiter and Mars.
Now let’s talk about the Norse. Today people think of the Norse Pantheon as resembling the Greek pantheon, with Odin residing as the “allfather” over his council of Gods.
In truth, the primary deities in Scandinavia were originally Tyr and Thor. The Cult of Wotan was brought into Scandinavia by Germanic tribes, after which Wotan was known as Odin and his worship became immensely popular. However, he was not the God of Light or the Sun. He was actually a God of Death and related to divination. Almost all stories of Odin present him as an extreme and ambitious figure, who discovered many abilities of Magick. Yes, Tyr was a war god, while Thor was a heroic figure. But these were not the first nor the most popular Gods worshipped by the Norse. The figure of Loki is most likely far older than Thor, as a god of the hearth. The idea of Tyr and Thor as sky fathers itself may have been a later projection, to make them more like Zeus.
In fact, if we’re really talking about “sky father”, then historians generally agree that most Indo-European ‘sky fathers’ came from one specific deity, which they call Dyeus (meaning father of heaven). This is where the more modern Latin word Deus (meaning ‘God’) comes from. Zeus, Tyr, Jove, Indra, Perkunas and all other Patriarchs in Indo-European myths are derived form this one concept. And yet, it is questionable how much we actually understand Dyeus, and how much historians are projecting the Christian Deus onto Dyeus.
Most likely the original Germanic Wodan was a deity to whom sacrifices were made, and who aided in the work of divination. He has also been noted to have cannibalistic and bestial tendencies. But then again, all of this is coming from Romans, who thought the Germans were barbarians, so who knows how true it even is (we will discuss this more in the next section).
Are you beginning to see my point?
Christianity is not the first religion to introduce the “sky father” nor Judaism. And, the previous sky fathers like Zeus and Odin are not the ‘original’ pagan deities either.
For some reason, people look at history in a very dualistic manner. They see history as being clearly separated between “ancient” times and “modern” times. They also think that both these periods were generally the same and consistent across space and time.
For example, many modern pagans people think that first there was the pagan era, where there was some sort of universal pagan faith follow by all people in Europe and the Middle East. Then came the Abrahamic era, and suddenly the pagan religions were subverted and replaced by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which were exactly the same as they are now.
Many modern Hindus think the same. They think Hinduism was some singular, homogeneous force that existed from pre-historic times until the Classical Era, when it got replaced by Buddhism. Then it got subverted by Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages, and returned to it’s original form in the 19th century.
In truth, history is complex. It is a large tapestry of different beliefs, groups and ideologies. All spiritual traditions evolve over time, and sometimes absorb or get subverted by other traditions. It also differs vastly from region to region. Christianity and Islam are a special case, because no religion in history ever went to the same lengths to subvert and wipe out other religions. These were the first religions that introduced the idea of conversion, heresy and apostasy on a large scale. Perhaps it is correct to say that Christianity was a specific Judeo-Hellenic cult that went way too far, and Islam emerged as a response to it.
Yes, we can point a finger at the Abrahamic religions. But the truth is that the Cult of Wotan was just as ‘foreign’ to Northern Europe as Christianity. The truth is that the worship of Zeus may have been just as forced upon the Orphic cults as Christianity. In fact, Zues was probably less popular than Christ. We say Christianity and Islam sterilised spirituality. But did the Hellenic philosophical religions not sterilize it first in Greece?
To clarify, I’m not defending modern Christianity and Islam. I do think they’re sterilised, but so are many new age traditions and neo-pagan religions. Do not be so convinced that Odin and Zeus and Osiris are ‘true’ Gods and the Abrahamic ones are ‘untrue’. Even in Egypt, the Cult of Horus subverted and replaced the Cults of Ra and Seth at one point. I’m sure this is obvious, but a religion does not stay exactly the same for over 9000 years. Heck, things don’t even stay the same for a hundred years. Think about how different you and your beliefs are from your grandparents.
Additionally, let us not forget that Christianity and Islam have also evolved over the ages. Followers of these two religions will not admit to this, but we know it’s true. Let’s not forget that these religions are simply the most modern evolution of older religions.
Let us take a look at the Hindus. The Vedic people practiced animal sacrifice, and all manner of other rituals. They were warriors, and put a great emphasis on visions, intoxication and embracing their “wild side”. They practiced magic, performed rituals of ecstasy, and subjected the young men and women to rites of initiation. They greatly valued qualities of leadership and independence, and aggression.
Indra was a God of War, not of the Sun or Rain. It was much later than this tribal war god became a God of the Sky and Rain.
Hinduism today has a distinctly Victorian and Socialist characteristic, and you can barely call it Vedic in any real sense. If anything, I’d say it’s entirely from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Introduction of the figures of Krishna and Brahma happened quite late, compared to the Vedic deities.
“Alright Raven, we get it. Religion evolves and differs over time and place. Odin, Brahma and Zeus are not necessarily the ‘original Gods’ and Christianity and Islam are not entirely to blame. But shouldn’t everyone just follow what makes sense to them?”
Oh, absolutely. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work with the deities that make sense to you. My own beliefs and practices are a vast mixture of various traditions.
However, there’s another thing I need to mention. This one is more important than the last, and the one that will really drive home the point.
People tend to forget that when we look at mythology, we are often looking at the writings of very specific people. For example, most of our understanding of Greek mythology comes from Hesiod (poet from 6th century BCE), who compiled most of it. In other words, this is his personal opinion, and understanding of these myths. Our knowledge of Norse mythology comes from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda. For Vedic myths, we are largely relying on the translations made by English historians as late as the 19th-20th centuries. For the Avesta, the originals were lost in a fire, and then the book was reconstructed centuries later based on memory and oral tradition. Our understanding of Slavic mythology comes almost completely from one German monk, called the Chronica Slavorum.
This affects some traditions more than others. For example, the Egyptians left over 9000 years of literature and history, and detailed records of their spiritual, religious and magical practices painted on stone walls. Stone tends to last for a long time. And we can translate it with full accuracy. The same could be said for Abrahamic myths. While a bit fragmented, we still do have very old documents. Hermetic, Mayan, Chinese and Aztec traditions are also well recorded and preserved.
But some are not. The Indo-European cultures were largely oral. Even when people like Hesiod wrote down myths, it was often centuries after they had been conceived, and any truly mystical or occult connotations had been lost. As far as Hesiod was concerned, these myths to him were the same as biblical myths are today: something to believe in, and a list of religious duties to perform. Secondly, most early records are lost.
For example, we know that the Vedas must be thousands of years old. And yet, these were written on palm leaves, and have long since disintegrated. The earliest records we have are on tree barks from 1100 BCE. Even if the Indo-Europeans made written records, most of these were probably on non-durable material like leaves. We are now forced to reconstruct their beliefs using burial mounds, such as those left by the Norse, the Britons and the Celts. For Aryans, we don’t even have those, since neither Zoroastrians nor Hindus preserve the bodies.
Coming back to agendas, let us consider Greek mythology once again. Have you ever noticed how many of the Greek gods seem to be..well, assholes?
No offence, but let’s get real. These are essentially Gods that were worshiped in a powerful and intellectual civilisation. Why then, do Zeus and Poseidon appear to be an arrogant perverts, Dionysus a drunkard, or Apollo a playboy? Why are the Gods so often petty, childish or foolhardy? Why would a culture like the Greeks worship them, even before the Hellenic era. Well the answer is simple: people with agendas.
Ovid was a Roman poet who is well known for having written about Greek myths You see, Ovid was exiled by Rome for criticizing Emperor Augustus. So, naturally, he had a bit of an anti-authorotarian bias. In his collections of mythology, he would often frame the stories to play up the negative aspects of the Gods, and portray mortals as hapless victims.
Let’s take a modern example. Think about how modern people interpret the Bible to make Jehovah out to be violent, judgmental and arrogant. This is because Christianity and Judaism are fading out, while Paganism and Satanism are beginning to boom. Such similar things happened many times in history. Many pagan myths we have today were recorded in a time when people already lost interest in them, and were beginning to poke holes in them.
Let us take Hindu myths. In many, many Hindu myths, the Vedic gods are made out to be arrogant and petty. Indra, who was the primary God of the Indo-Aryans, is often portrayed as being embarrassed or humbled by other Gods like Krishna or Shiva. This has led to many modern Hindus believing that the Vedic gods were somehow lesser to the non Vedic ones. In truth, many of these legends came around when Vedic religion was waning, and being replaced by Puranic and Bhakti traditions. They represent a biased opinion of certain individuals, not even necessarily a whole culture, and definitely not a mystical or spiritual truth.
Much of Germanic, Iberian, Britannic and Celtic mythology is recorded by Romans, who believed them to be barbarians. While personally I think the Romans would have been much more true to what they say and objective in their approach, remember that they were not exactly held up to any rigorous standard of documentation. At the end of the day, it really is just the opinions of Roman historians.
So what is my point? Simply, that pretty much all Indo-European mythology we have is extremely recent, compared to how old these ideas really are. These are, more often than not, written by specific individuals. But that’s not even scratching the surface. Because now we have to deal with Christianity (oh boy).
If you read my previous post about the Fae, you’ll see how Irish and Celtic mythology was distorted to fit into Christianity. So I’ll skip over that, since Irish culture is far more native to the Isles than it is Indo-European.
What about Slavic myths. The monk, Helmold, who recorded their beliefs, was in the region for the express purpose of converting Slavs. He tells us as a matter of fact that the Slavs believed in a good god (Belobog), and a bad one (Chernobog). Isn’t it curious how that seems so reminiscent of God and Satan? Chernobog even has horns. To this day, historians have been unable to find concrete evidence of Slavic dualism, or that these gods were actually worshipped the way Herlmold described. It is just as likely that he wanted to present Slavic religion as being similar to Christianity, or maybe it was a simple misunderstanding on his own part. WHo knows what Chernobog and Belobog really were meant to be.
Did you know ALL of Norse mythology that we have today comes from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda? Both of these were written in the 13th-15th century, hundreds of years after Norse religion had died out. In fact, they are Icelandic, which was far more devout in Christianity than Scandinavia. Almost everything we believe comes from one, Christian writer called Snorri Sturluson.
But why would a Christian record these pagan myths? Well, it’s simple. Much like modern Pagans, people in Snorri’s time were also proud of their heritage. Pagan or not, these were their ancestral myths and folk tales after all. The same happened in the Greco-Roman world as well, which is why we still know of those Gods.
People like Snorri Sturluson wanted to make a record of their own heritage, but they still were uncomfortable with (or perhaps simply ignorant of) the actual pagan worldview. So, they altered the myths to make sense in their own time. We do this even today, by revising mythology and folktales to adhere to 21st century standards.
However, this led to many aspects of true Norse spirituality being completely lost. For example, we already discussed how Odin was not the Allfather, nor even a Sun god. Thor probably wasn’t his son. This was all an attempt to liken Odin and Thor to Jehovah and Jesus. This is why Thor seems so unnaturally gifted and ‘perfect’ in all the stories. Loki, who probably started out as an Indo-European deity of the hearth, and later also played the role of a Jester, became increasingly likened to Satan. In truth, Loki was nothing like how he is portrayed in modern times. Instead, he almost appears to be the same as Dionysus or Hermes. An androgynous, shamanic figure at times.
The story of his ‘hideous’ children Jormungandr, Hel and Fenrir is also Christian. After all, the wolf was sacred to the Indo-Europeans, and there is little evidence it was ever a harbinger of destruction. The symbol of the serpent biting his own tail was one of protection and familial bonds, and the story of Thor fighting the evil Jormungandr at the end of time is most likely Christian too. After all, it was a serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Hel simply represented the duality of life and death, and there was nothing about her being malicious or evil. In fact, the entire prophecy of Ragnarok most likely is very recent, and borrowed from Revelation. This is supported by evidence. Who can say, what the original myth was.
I question even the validity of Valhalla, and warriors waiting till the end of time. That sounds awfully similar to the second coming of Jesus. In fact, Snorri literally says that at the end of time, after Ragnarok happens, the “mighty, nameless one” will appear. He is alluding to a supreme deity who is even greater than the Norse gods.
Hmm…a supreme ineffable deity. Now where have I seen that before.
You know those rituals they always show in Hollywood shows about Vikings putting people on a boat and lighting it on fire? Did you know that no historical evidence of it exists?
The whole thing comes from the accounts of one Islamic historian called Ibn Fadlan, when he encountered the Rus Vikings, in Belarus of all places.
He most likely did not distort anything, but his biases are clear in his work. He also relied on a translator, and the Belarusian translators themselves were not pagan. So it is questionable if Ibn Fadlan understood everything he say, and even if the people he relied on to tell him knew themselves. It is difficult to say how much of what the Rus Vikings did was Nordic, and how much Baltic, and if it has any Norse or Indo-European basis. In fact, we don’t even know how common this ritual was, or even if all Rus Vikings did it, and not just this specific community. For all you know, the whole thing was a show to impress Ibn Fadlan. In my opinion, to casually use his accounts in all depictions of Norse pagans is extremely careless.
Think about how we thought Vikings wore horned helmets until very recently. This was due to the desire by their foes to demonise them. The infamous blood eagle is also a fabrication, and it is very unlikely the Vikings ever did this. This represents yet another problem with oral traditions, that all accounts of them come from those that observed them, and were frequently their enemies.
You know, there’s a certain trend I notice among modern occultists. They always accuse Judaism, Christianity and Islam of “stealing” ancient pagan motifs.
Now, we have already clarified that since these religions naturally evolved out of older traditions. But you know what, it does seem interesting how these ancient religions SO CLOSELY resemble modern ones.
I mean, isn’t it quite amazing how Odin and Zeus and Brahma are old bearded men, just the the Christian God? Isn’t it amazing how all these religions had a saviour figure, very similar to Christ, such as Dionysus, Krishna, Thor, Mithra and Horus.
Isn’t it also funny how all religions have an evil serpentine figure, resembling Satan, such as Loki or Hades, who is the “bad guy”.
I should hand it to the Indo-Europeans. Somehow tribal nomadic shamans in cold forests developed the exact same conception as tribal shepherd seers in the desert. And how convenient that all of these conceptions match the ideas and beliefs of Western European protestant Christians, right around the time they were becoming the dominant hegemonic powers.
Hmm….wait a minute. It’s almost like….like all these records ‘pagan’ myths were actually translated and compiled down by materialistic Protestants, centuries after the the original authors had written them (and eve then, with mistakes). It’s almost like….like they intentionally altered and distorted pagan myths to be more protestant, in order to spread their religion and subvert populations. It’s almost like most of us do not speak the ancient languages needed, and heavily rely on the translations.
Jokes aside, I’m not joking. This is really the case, at least regarding Indo-European cultures.
Before the 20th century, the idea of ‘objective history’ did not exist. Then some blokes from a smol, wet island managed to beat their baguette munching and bull chasing cousins in taking over the world. As they were digging for treasure, they realised that they’d dug too deep. And funnily enough, there seemed to be about 10,000 years worth of civilisation between buddhist stupas and dinosaurs.
And thus, history was born.
There’s no two ways about this. Our modern understanding of history is strongly influenced by an Anglican protestant perspective. Our morality and spirituality are distinctly Victorian. Even a majority of our modern day magick is influenced by Victorian era neo-paganism. The Theosophists, the Golden Dawn, Wicca and Thelema were all created by and for a very specific section of English aristocratic society. Yes, even Satanism (let’s not forget that David Myatt lived in England most of his life). Left hand path pagan traditions like Thursatru appear to be pagan, but are Gnostic and Satanic for all intents and purposes. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them, but that they aren’t historical.
Now sometimes you run into Hoodoo and Voudoo, which have more French influence. But the distinction between French, German and English philosophy in the 18th-19th centuries is not too great. These are after all, the cultures which spawned the Enlightenment.
By the way, I’m not saying they were all necessarily English. But if it was written by say, Indians, it was the Indians educated by and in service of the Colonial government. The point is that England was the hegemon at the time, and all cultures were influenced by the world view of the English nobility and aristocracy. And when it wasn’t English, it was Judeo-Christian. After all, there were many scholars of this time who were expressly trying to revive Judaism and Christianity. And yet most of these people were educated in English, French and German universities. Put simply, I’m referring to culture, not race. And it doesn’t take much to see which cultures dominated the last few hundred years.
Read the modern translations of the Vedas, the Prose Edda or the Theogony. Who made them? Well, Colonial era historians. Our modern schooling system also came from this same place. We discussed how these books were already biased. But remember that even when you are reading, say, the Chronica Slavorum, you’re not even reading the flawed Latin writings of a German monk. You are reading whatever remnant some Colonial era historians found in some old abby, compiled and translated into English based on their best understanding of Germanic Latin of the 12th century, likely putting their own protestant and Victorian era biases into the work, sometimes even intentionally changing it to match some agenda, to make some cultures look weaker, or to make Christianity sound universal. That’s a far cry from what some Slavic tribesman probably conveyed to some translator in old Slavonic, who then did his best to explain it to the already biased Helmold. Slavonic, an Indo European langiage, is now a largely dead language and replaced by modern Cyrillic Russian. When you make such radical changes to language, you will obviously lose a lot. We can thank the Bolsheviks for this.
To say nothing of the plague of Fascism and Marxism that took over the world later. Did you know that when the Nazis began to excavate ancient Germanic tools, Hitler specifically asked them to alter and change the records because he couldn’t tolerate the idea of Romans having been superior in technology to Germans at one point?
Ironically, it was actually some early fascist philosophers who took a great problem with Colonial distortion. For example, the famous French proponent of nazism Savitri Devi (Maximiani Julia Portas) correctly pointed out that Hinduism was originally highly tribalistic and ethno-cultural, and that it had been changed in recent times to appear more philosophical, pacifistic and Christian. Nietzsche pointed out a similar trend amongst the Germanic people, claiming that they had been ‘tamed’ or ‘pacified’ by Christianity.
While I despise fascism, and while both of them were using this as a basis to attacks Jews/ Judaism, the essence of their argument is correct.
These days, there is a great attempt at reconstruction. But this is a very recent phenomena. And 19th century biases have stuck around. Even now, many people get upset if you try to replace their 19th century version of history with a truer history. Of course, biases persist even today. We must be careful not to replace one flawed narrative with another one.
The point of this post is not to criticize Protestants. It is not to bash materialism or the enlightenment, nor make a case for regressing back to some tribal morality and belief system.
I simply wanted to draw attention to two things. First, that the spirituality of the Indo-Europeans has been distorted by various groups to suit their own needs. By extension, the shamanic beliefs of all cultures, and shamanism itself gets distorted frequently by people who really do not understand it very well. In a time where shamanic and pagan traditions are making a resurgence, I think it is important to present accurate information, so that we don’t just swap out one religious dogma for another.
Second, the problem of moral relativism. Much of our perspective of the past is shaped by recent and arbitrary interpretations. We accept certain morals simply because we inherited them, without questioning them. As such, even magick in modern times is throttled by beliefs and values that people think are ancient but aren’t really. This is why you have the new age cults, which are essentially Evangelical materialists who swapped out Abrahamic symbols for Pagan ones, but retained all the rigidity and flawed theology, most of which isn’t even truly Abrahamic, but Socialist. Heck, in many cases people’s opinions are shaped by the American hippie movement of the 1960s.
Oh how shallow the of the Mysteries have become.
Magick is meant for the liberation of the sufficiently developed individual. Such a feat cannot be achieved merely through rituals and spells, or by changing religions. To simply become a Satanist, pagan or Buddhist does not make one empowered, any more than it empowered the Norse pagans who converted to Christianity for political clout 1000 years ago. However, it DID empower those Roman pagans who became Gnostic 2000 years ago. Because they did not just adopt a new religion, but instead freed themselves from social norms and rigid moral virtue that made slaves of them. By thinking for themselves, they became themselves.
All the ideas I’ve presented here are simply to cut down preconceived notions, and show how easy it is for one to be misled by propaganda, and how true knowledge is hidden away in plain sight. That is all. It is up to you, what you make of it.
Until Next Time