Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Gilding the Shadow

- yanking the less-used parts of the Indo-European Mythos for our Frankenstein version of the same.

We seem to have accidentally/on purpose reconstructed elements of the proto Indo-European mythos in our current fantasy worlds. 

It happened strangely. The tides of history rolled over cultures, avoiding some until late, preserving others. We have the Norse myths, largely textualised by Christians, the Roman myths left behind after the Empire receded. We have fragments of pseudo-celtic myth through the Arthurian stories and we have very late additions, fragments of the old pagan religion of Lithuania wiped out close to the renaissance.

And we have the 'key to all mythologies' the Indian Vedic religion, which the west largely has access to due to European empires bumping into India. And we have the Iranian stuff and a bunch of other smaller things I forgot.

But in the anglo-influenced 'western' worlds of fiction the big ones are Greece, Rome and 'Vikings'. Plust maybe a dab of King Arthur. The Greek and Roman mythos are the safe spaces to play in fiction during the Renaissance, I think the Norse comes in later and well, to cut a long story short; Mallory > Sir Walter Scott > a jewish depression baby in New York making comics about King Arthur because he saw him in movies growing up and that means he's American Culture.

Add in another major point of fissure and reconstruction in the 60s probably and bobs your uncle. Or to be more precise; Sky Father sees all, Earth Mother nourishes, the hammer/lightning wielding hero fights the serpent and releases the waters (thanks), elves or whatever come from the otherworld which might also be the land of the dead, guarded by a river and a big dog (don't forget your ferryman coins), and that land is ruled by a grim dude who might be the Sky Fathers brother, who he may have also killed to start the world, and that sacrifice was witnessed by the first priest who might kind of be the first man? His name was Manu anyway. Regardless, the world will end in a giant super-fight between an Archdemon and a another hero of some kind but before that happens remember to praise the dawn, be careful around snakes as they are immortal, respect the spirits in trees and throw your sword, or bronze axe or whatever, into a pool of water because those are also gateways to the Otherworld. Also rivers have sexy spirits in them.

All of the above paragraph are from the reconstructed Indo-European mythos (accuracy levels = unknown without time travel but fuck it), and all were essentially divided up by the inheriting and influenced cultures, who respectively went super fucking hard on different aspects, a well as altering, swapping back and forth etc.

Basically imagine that the Indo Europeans cooked a bunch of cultures a meal (probably a nightmare banquet), and then every subsequent culture started adding to and changing parts. Some cultures grew, or their own cultural influence was vast, affecting many people, though they changed a lot, others were small but relatively unchanged. Most were lost.

Then from about 1500 to 1900 a Euro-oriented culture says "Fuck this", takes every remaining fragment they can find, puts it all in a blender, mixes it and starts telling stories based on the resulting taste.

And oddly enough, a lot of fictional properties.. end up producing bizarre ghost-echo facsimiles of the original myths.

Lot of mixed metaphors there and a long explanation for what's a simple essential concept; since we are in some way vibing with the shadow of the Indo-European mythos, I would like to reach back to find a few of the less-popular fragments of the assumed original and to bring them back to gild the shadow of our stately dreams.


What if Apollo was a hot babe who was also kinda sexually predatory? Well! By frankensteining various derivations of the Dʰuǵh₂tḗr Diwós, "Sky Daughter", child of the Sky, and merging them into one horrific glorious post-indo-european whole, we can do just that!

From the Vedas we can take the positive light-bringer elements that later got appended to Apollo in the west;

"Ushas (Vedic Sanskrit: उषस् / uṣás) is a Vedic goddess of dawn in Hinduism.[1][2] She repeatedly appears in the Rigvedic hymns, states David Kinsley, where she is "consistently identified with dawn, revealing herself with the daily coming of light to the world, driving away oppressive darkness, chasing away evil demons, rousing all life, setting all things in motion, sending everyone off to do their duties". She is the life of all living creatures, the impeller of action and breath, the foe of chaos and confusion, the auspicious arouser of cosmic and moral order called the Ṛta in Hinduism."

"She dispels darkness, reveals treasures and truths that have been hidden, illuminates the world as it is.  ....  She symbolizes reality, is a marker of time and a reminder to all that "life is limited on earth". She sees everything as it is, and she is the eye of the gods, according to hymns 7.75–77."

Not only that but we can add that classic Indo-European element - COW POWER.

"Ushas is described in Vedic texts as riding in a shining chariot drawn by golden-red horses or cows, a beautiful maiden bedecked with jewels, smiling and irresistibly attractive, who brings cheer to all those who gaze upon her.

"Hymn 6.64 associates her with wealth and light, while hymn 1.92 calls her the "mother of cows" and one, who like a cow, gives to the benefit of all people."

Good so far, but there to this we can add the Greek elements of beauty;

"The dawn goddess Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers or rosy forearms as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise. In Homer,[27] her saffron-colored robe is embroidered or woven with flowers; while the singer in the Homeric Hymn to Helios calls her ῥοδόπηχυν (ACC), "rosy-armed" as does Sappho; rosy-fingered and with golden arms"


"The delicate and fragile beauty of her appearance seems to be in total contrast with the carnal nature that was often attributed to her in myth and literature."

Because the Greek Dawn Goddess is horny on main;

"Eos fell in love with mortal men several times, and would abduct them in similar manner to how male gods did mortal women. Her most notable mortal lover is the Trojan prince Tithonus, for whom she ensured the gift of immortality, but not eternal youth, leading to him aging without dying for an eternity. In another story, she carried off the Athenian Cephalus against his will, but eventually let him go for he ardently wished to be returned to his wife, though not before she denigrated her to him, leading to the couple parting ways."

The same energy seems to have been refracted in different cultures. Especially in the Greek/Roman mythos the original was split, order reason and hope ending up with Apollo, while irresistable beauty leads to Aphrodite, together they consume most of the original god elements leaving only a vague Dawn Goddsee behind.

But what if we had ALL OF THESE TOGETHER? We could have a super-hot golden rosy-fingered, saffron veiled Dawn riding her chariot pulled by red-gold cows across the firmament, upholding reason and order, defeating chaos, but also SUPER HOT and horny as fuck, and jealous, just abducting hot guys and not letting them go until they admit she is hotter than their wives.


"Another reconstructed myth is the story of the fire in the waters. It depicts a fiery divine being named *H₂epom Nepōts ('Descendant of the Waters') who dwells in waters, and whose powers must be ritually gained or controlled by a hero who is the only one able to approach it"

This one doesn't have the same "condesive" power as Sexy Dawn but it does have a particular poetic beauty which I have not seen replicated in fiction.

Fire in general is interesting in the reconstructed Indo-European mythos. 'Eternal flames' are common. The Zoroastrian seem to have inherited one part of that and in middle ages Lithuanian culture warriors for the church said it was easier to shut down the sacred eternal flames than to cut down the sacred groves as the fires gave themselves away by their brightness. Fire is also associated with sacrifice, which is a heavy, heavy strand in the mythos. Reality began with a sacrifice and the sacrifice of animals and animal flesh remains important, usually they are shared with or sent to the gods by fire, the Fire-God forming a kind of link between the mortal and divine realms.

"In one Vedic hymn Apām Napāt is described as emerging from the water, golden, and "clothed in lightning", which has been conjectured to be a reference to fire."

Nechtan of Irish Myth guarded a sacred well;

"Nechtain son of bold Labraid
whose wife was Boand, I aver;
a secret well there was in his stead,
from which gushed forth every kind of mysterious evil.

There was none that would look to its bottom
but his two bright eyes would burst:
if he should move to left or right,
he would not come from it without blemish."

Another well from the same mythos;

"Connla's well, loud was its sound,
was beneath the blue-skirted ocean:
six streams, unequal in fame,
rise from it, the seventh was Sinann.

The nine hazels of Crimall the sage
drop their fruits yonder under the well:
they stand by the power of magic spells
under a darksome mist of wizardry."

And from there to the numerous wells in Norse mythology. The Urðarbrunnr, the Well of Fate where the Norns go to weave the Skien of men;

Two sections of the book Skáldskaparmál reference Urðarbrunnr. The first reference is in section 49, where a fragment of a work by the 10th century skald Kormákr Ögmundarson is recited in explaining how "Odin's fire" is a kenning for a sword. The passage reads "A sword is Odin's fire, as Kormak said: Battle raged when the feeder of Grid's steed [wolf], he who waged war, advanced with ringing Gaut [Odin's] fire." and that Urðr "rose from the well."

and "Mímisbrunnr", the Well of Wisdom which seems to have a similar nature

"High explains that, beneath this root" [of Yggdrasil] "is Mímisbrunnr and that the well contains "wisdom and intelligence" and "the master of the well is called Mimir. He is full of learning because he drinks of the well from the horn Giallarhorn. All-father went there and asked for a single drink from the well, but he did not get one until he placed his eye as a pledge.""

What do we get if we condense all of these? A primal fire, perhaps that of the first sacrifice, hidden beneath water. A deep water it seems, and dark. 

In many versions the three Fates (very common across the Mythos) guard or dwell nearby. In some particular animals live there, the original swans from which all others descend, or the Salmon of Wisdom, who eat the magical Hazel Nuts which drop into the water.

There is always fire or brightness under the water, a God, the flashing of Salmon, or the knowledge of Fate. Probably you are going to lose at least one eye, likely both. Odin sacrifices one to drink from the water, those who look into the well of Nechtain have their eyes melt out. 

A God arises "golden, and clothed in lightning". Apām Napāt in the Vedas and also in early Zoroastrianism. Deep water, bright eternal fire, knowledge of Fate, a connection to the Divine and divine sacrifice, and the sacrifice of eyes for those who look.

Of course both Warhammer and Warcraft have their own 'Well of Eternity'. In Warhammer Tzeetch throws his chief Demon in to discover eternal knowledge and ends up with a mutated Kairos Fateweaver, who can see past and future at the same time, lies and tells the truth at once and who is curiously blind to the present.

(I am out of time for this post but may return to the subject in future).


  1. This is exactly the sort of content I come to your blog for. Nowhere else can I get a deep discussion of speculative mythology that ends with Warhammer lore.

    I will definitely be using the "fire-under-water" image myself.

  2. The 'fire under the water' image sparks thoughts about volcanic vents, the strange life that live around them and the possibility of life where nothing should live.

    1. There is a lot of speculation that the original 'inspiration' if there was one, was underwater volcanic activity of some kind. A less charismatic version suggests swamp gas.

  3. Riveting. Are you going to uncover the recurring use of a Tree and a semi-mortal hero returning beyond death next?

    If you want to opine on the origins of fantasy you should examine the first authors of proper fantasy, i.e., authors that were the first to set their tales not in the mythological past, but in a world that is entirely separate and fictional. William Morris, E.R.R. Eddison, David Lindsey et al.

    1. So far as I know neither the Tree nor the hero returning beyond death are strongly suggested in the proto indo-european mythos so no. Of semi-mortal heroes being descended from gods there are a few but that has been covered in other fantasy a great deal and is therefor not a fit subject for this series (if it becomes one).

  4. This is one of my favorite posts you have ever made. Please continue this series, or point me in a direction where I can study and do this myself.

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Indo-European_mythology or https://www.amazon.co.uk/Horse-Wheel-Language-Bronze-Age-Eurasian/dp/069114818X