• Proto-Indo-European Religion
• Indo-European Languages
• Proto-Indo-European Goddesses
• Proto-Indo-European Myths
• Proto-Indo-European Rituals
• Festivals, Food and Farming
(PIER) is the study and reconstruction of the religion of the
Indo-European-speaking people. Standard methods of historical linguistics can be
used for the reconstruction of common words and their meanings in the various Indo-European languages. This allows for a reconstruction of the Gods and Goddesses
and some of the rituals, myths and poetry used by the linguistic ancestors of
this group of speakers. While archaeology offers information about material
culture, linguistic analysis offers insight into the intangible aspects of human
culture, including religion, views about the organization of the natural world,
beliefs about supernatural beings, processes and objects, and emotional
Efforts have been made to identify the cultures that have been reconstructed based on linguistic analysis with particular archaeological cultures, but this has not been possible in many cases and has not yet led to an identification of the “Indo-European homeland” although for many years that has been an important topic. A major cause of this failure has been the political, national and religious agendas which have perverted genuine scholarship.
Proto-Indo-European Religion should not be confused with Neopaganism. Neopaganism is an umbrella word that is used to refer to a great variety of Pagan, polytheistic or nature religions, generally in Western Europe and in English-speaking countries worldwide. These religions are often the creative production of particular individuals or are based on popular social trends, most notably cultural romanticism, mysticism and theosophy in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some are overtly racist especially in northern Europe, while others reinvigorate a real or imagined cultural heritage of mainly English-speaking people in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Goddess religion is also of this type. Generally, such groups are not interested in maintaining standards of scholarly or historical accuracy, since these are religions and as such they appeal to and provide for the personal needs and interests of individuals, something which the monotheistic religions have conspicuously failed to do.
Proto-Indo-European religion is based on the scholarly study of older religions and only a few groups of people have tried to celebrate the actual rituals and customs as was done in the past. Of course, in India no scholarship or reconstruction is necessary--Indians continue to maintain their ancient religion as they have always done.
Trends in Past Research
There are about 15 schools of thought relevant to Proto-Indo-European religion; just four are addressed here.
Nature Theory and Christian Theology
There is a short discussion on the Cybalist list about some of the issues with Catholic fascism as a theory in Indo-European religion. You might like to take a look at Message 68005 with a response in Message 68008, another response in Message 68010 and finally Message 68080.
Be warned: Genetic Studies which are supposed to map out the history of human migration are completely irrelevant to the history of the Indo-European-speaking peoples since the topic is language group not genetic group which often have no connection to each other. Anyone of any genetic group can learn any language and multilingualism is the norm for most people. The vast majority of arguments about genetics which are being flipped around on the internet and some that are published in journals are pseudo-scientific gibberish.
Modern Scholarly Standards
The scholarly approach to Proto-Indo-European religion requires the examination of the forms of words with their phonological component and their semantic component at the same time. Such an analysis makes it possible to reconstruct a history of the development of the Indo-European religion including the precise pattern of cognate and borrowed elements (see the Grimm's Law Chart for a very brief explanation of the concept). While this includes an element of comparative religion, it is balanced and checked by the linguistic analysis which is precise and objective. It makes it possible, at least in some cases, to determine exactly which Gods, rituals and myths are native cognate forms in a particular language, and which ones are borrowed from one language to another, which direction the borrowing took and at least a relative chronology about when the borrowing happened. Without this precise linguistic analysis, most of what passes for “comparative religion” is just a glass bead game.
Goddesses: There are at least 40 deities that can be reconstructed to the Proto-Indo-European religion. Gender is not a fixed characteristic of Proto-Indo-European Gods and Goddesses, since they are often deified forces of nature which do not have gender. The Indo-Europeans have always known this, but it seems to have deeply confused western scholars who have been trapped in sexist and patriarchal ways of thinking. Among the Goddesses reconstructed so far are: *Pria, *Pleto, *Devi, *Perkunos, *Aeusos and *Yama.
Myths: There are at least 28 myths that can be reconstructed to Proto-Indo-European. Some of these have been known for years and are described in early popular books like George Cox’s The Mythology of the Aryan Nations. These have since been confirmed by additional research, including some in areas which were not accessible to the early writers, such as Latvian folk songs and Hittite hieroglyphic tablets. One of the most widely recognized myths of the Indo-Europeans is the myth in which *Yama is killed by his brother *Manu and the world is made from his body. Some of the forms of this myth in various Indo-European languages are given in this article about the Creation Myth of the Indo-Europeans.
Rituals: The rituals of the Indo-Europeans can be reconstructed including the standard form of invocation and offering and poetic phrases that appear in the songs of praise. The most widespread ritual of the Indo-Europeans is a food offering in which the people thanked their deities for the food they had by offering a little bit of it to them symbolically. This process had the wider social value of sharing food within the household, community and state and is the basis of Indo-European community religion. It is clearly based on a food-sharing culture which developed before the invention of money. This same ritual is still the most typical form of offering in India where it is called a puja. The most typical food offered at a puja, and one which is distinctly Indo-European, is a dairy product: milk, butter, ghee and yoghurt in India, milk, cheesecake and similar products in Greece and Rome (olive oil is often substituted) and cheese and butter in northern Europe. Fruit, grain and bread products are also offered. Water, milk and alcoholic drinks are especially poured in memory of the dead and as an offering to water sources such as rivers.
Calendar: It is not yet possible to reconstruct the Indo-European calendar since it has been adapted to local conditions and environment, however some festivals have been reconstructed at least to continuous areas, such as the northern countries or the Mediterranean region. Many of the festivals of the agricultural year can be reconstructed, and their assignment to particular deities is consistent across the Indo-European-speaking world.
The Proto-Indo-European Religion is a beautiful religion stretching back 6000 years at least and offering a round of customs and traditions and a standard of behavior and morals that represent an ancient memory of the right way to do things and the best standards for human aspirations. The myths and songs of praise, recorded as poetry from the oldest sources, notated musically in more recent times and still sung in India are among the finest treasures of the human species. The early thinkers among Indo-Europeans such as the Greek philosophers and the Vendantists continue to provide the clearest written guide to those who want to explore the relationship between ourselves and the world around us, natural, human and celestial.
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/pierintro 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 1/28/2012, at piereligion.org/pierintro.html