• Proto-Indo-European Religion
• Indo-European Languages
• Proto-Indo-European Goddesses
• Proto-Indo-European Myths
• Proto-Indo-European Rituals
• Festivals, Food and Farming
is Jaan Puhvel’s word for the mutual demonization that occurred when Zarathustra
demonized the Gods of the Sanskrit speakers, and the Sanskrit speakers (Rig Vedic
priesthood) demonized the Gods of the Zoroastrians (Avestan
speakers) in turn. Conspicuous examples are the Devas and the Ashuras. Sanskrit speakers referred to the Devas as
good Gods and the word devi, deva is a word for ‘a god, any god,’ whereas the
Ashuras are demons in later Sanskrit literature. The Zoroastrians used the word
ahura (cognate with Sanskrit ashura) as a word for ‘a god, any god,’ and Ahura
Mazda is their highest God, whereas the daevas (cognate with Sanskrit devas)
The observation of the mutual demonization was made as early as 1884, by Martin Haug who “postulated his thesis that the transition of both the words [Ashuras and Devas] into the designations of the demons.... is based on a prehistoric schism in religion....” according to Alfred Hillebrandt, p. 264, Vol. 2, Vedic Mythology. The same observation is reported by Jacob Grimm, who describes the Persian introduction of dualism and various devils (p. 985, Teutonic Mythology). By the way, this dualism with its long complex history is the reason that the English words ‘divine’ and ‘devil’ have ultimately the same etymology, though they have the opposite meaning. The disparaging meaning given to Daevas had once been attributed by western scholars to a “moral reaction against Vedic polytheism” but it has “no longer any supporter,” according to James Darmesteter (writing in 1895, on page lii, in an intelligent introduction to Volume 4, Sacred Books of the East), and this was certainly the consensus view among western scholars in the 1800’s. However modern western scholars like Mallory and Adams still refer to Zoroastrianism as a “religious reformation” of Vedic religion (p. 408-9, Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World).
This demonization is not limited to the Sanskrit and Avestan languages. The close correspondence between the Zoroastrian Gods and the Germanic Gods has long been recognized, and is referred to as the Aesir-Asura correspondence. The exact time and reason for this correspondence is unknown, but it cannot be reconstructed to the early Proto-Indo-European mythology, and more likely dates to the time of the expansion of Zoroastrianism under the Sassanian kings. Furthermore, this dualism and demonization were absorbed by the Hebrews during their sojourn in Babylon, and from there it passed into Christianity, according to George Cox, quoting M. Bréal, see p. 174 and 562, although interestingly, it is the “Asheras” that are demonized by the Jerusalem priesthood in the Old Testament.
The mutual demonization is not limited to the Devas and Ashuras. Most of the deities of the Proto-Indo-Europeans were divided into one group or the other at the time of the division, and while the majority of the most important Gods were retained by the Sanskrit speakers and their descendants (modern Hindus), many of the high status deities of the Germanic-language-speaking people correspond to the replacement Gods of the Zoroastrians. Because of the importance of Sanskrit and Old Norse to the early mythologists, and their failure to recognize the wider scope of this division, it was difficult for them to perceive this. Unfortunately many modern linguists have followed in their footsteps and have continued to overlook this important evidence, both positive and negative, which clearly defines the larger Indo-European pantheon.
A version of this article was originally posted on Wikipedia but it was repeatedly vandalized by religious bigots. The page was published at pierce.yolasite.com/pandemonium but Yola was hacked in Nov. 2011 and they could not salvage their servers. It is now published here with many revisions based on continuing research.
© 2007, last updated 4/11/2011, at piereligion.org/pandemonium.html