religion

The Sacred And The Profane * Mircea Eliade (isbn 015679201X)

Another Eliade that I found second hand. This little book speaks about the religiosity of mankind. He compares known and less-known traditions and religious expressions, symbolism and mythology. Fairly interesting, especially on a few parts where he comes with new information (for me). Quite some stress on African religion, but also Germanic mythology and initiation ceremonies in different cultures.
(26/2/04)
Read quotes of Eliade here.

Mitra-Varuna * Georges Dumézil (1940/48 * 1996)

It is a shame to see how few books by Georges Dumézil (1898-1986) have been translated into English and how even fewer books are actually available. Dumézil is famous for being at the cradle of the Indo-European hypothesis, being an imminent scholar in the field of comparative religions and mythology and (later) for recognising the tripartite divsion which comes back in all kinds of Indo-European fields. He may not really have been a ‘Traditionalist’ in the meaning of Guénon’s ‘school’, but he certainly has inspired many Traditionalists. Of the few books that are available through Amazon in English, I chose this one, because Dumézil more or less has an Indian starting point, but here also dedicated a few chapters to the Northern mythology. The book is only 190 pages, well translated by Derek Coltman and reads easily. In a few chapters Dumézil does get a bit scholarly though. The first version of this book was published in 1940. Dumézil has in particular been looking for pairs in Indo-European myths. Oppositional pairs, but just as well supplementary. The brothers Mitra and Varuna were used as example. For the 1948 second edition, the writer has rewritten parts of the book, because in the meantime he built his trifunctional hypothesis, so ‘things do not come in twos, but in threes (as well)’. Not too much information about this in the book though, but in the conclusion Dumézil explains that the pairs remained the starting point, but the trifunctional division is compatible with the other hypothesis, because the pairs come back on each of the three levels or classes.
The book starts with the Roman pair of Romulus and Remus, the Luperci and mythical founders of Rome, takes a few other characters from Roman mythology, continues with Greek mythology (Jupiter and Fides) and then passes Iranian (Ahura and Mithra) mythology to go to the Northern double function of *Wʹdhanaz and *Tͮwaz. All this comes to a conclusion in which the writer summarizes his findings and adds some extra information.
I loved to read the comparisons and cross-references, but I have the idea that this book shows only a tip of what Dumézil has to offer. Maybe his later books give a more complete view of his ideas. Unfortunatetly -like I said- there are not too many titles available in English, so I am afraid that I will have to get (or download!) myself some of the books in French.
(13/6/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Dumézil here.)
1940/48 * 1996 urzone * isbn 0942299132

Hêliand – text and commentary * James E. Cathey (2002 west virginia univesity press * isbn 0937058645)

All I wanted was to read the Heliand. I couldn’t find the text here and eventually notice that Amazon has it. Did I accidentally order the wrong book? Another book does seem to be just a translation of the text, yet I got myself a scholarly “text and commentary”. Maybe it was the first part of this subtitle that tricked me, since “text” means, half of the text in the original language (which is nice nonetheless, but why half?). “Commentary” means scholarly comments on the text itself, not on the content, but on the literary style, the use of words, historical setting, etc. all very nice for students of ancient languages, but this was not what I was looking for…
(10/10/06 -2-)
The Lord’s Prayer from this text in the original language and translation here.

De Godsdienst Der …

De Godsdienst Der Kelten * J.P. Boosten (1950)
De Godsdienst Der Romeinen * J.L.M. de Lepper (1950)
De Godsdienst Der Germanen * R.L.M. Derolez (1959)
De Godsdienst Der Slaven * F. Vyncke (1969)

I was looking for descent books about the religion/worldview of the traditional peoples of my native area (North-West Europe). There are many cheap books with many pictures about the Viking and Celtic mythology and the like, but serious books? There are a few classics about the Germans/Teutons in German of course, but like I said in my review of the “Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte” of Richard Meyer, they are out of print and almost impossible to get. Besides, something in my own language would be welcome too, because my German surely isn’t bad, but I definately miss information when reading in that language. A while ago I was in my usual and local second hand bookshop and saw the first two books from the series “De Godsdiensten Der Mensheid” (“The Religions Of Mankind”) of which “The Religion Of The Celts” seemed very interesting (the other is “The Religion Of The Primitive Peoples”). A whole range of upcoming titles was anounced, under which “The Religion Of The Germans, Slaves, Lithouanians and Lets” and “The Religion Of The Romans”.

Kelten
The first title about the Celts is so far the only serious book about the Celts and their religion that I know. It was released in a softcover, while from number three on, the series come in a hardcover. J.P. Boosten did a wonderfull job explaining how he got his information, who the Celts actually were, he gives a lengthy explanation about the religion with an historical overview, speaks about the temples, rites and magic, druids, afterlife, folklore, etc., etc. The book is only 240 pages, but extremely informative. I am not familiar with the subject enough to know if in the last 50 years information has been disproved or enlarged, but I am very satisfied with this book, also because it has many wonderfully-looking pictures, which seems to be characteristic to the series.

Romeinen
So I decided that I also needed the other two titles that are of interest. On the internet I found secondhand versions of “The Religion Of The Germans” and that of the Romans. The last seems to be published not too long after the book about the Celts. It was the third that I read and it speaks about old information and new (classical writers versus modern scientific (archeological) investigation), that religion for the Romans was something personal, but also a matter of the state, feasts around the year, the many gods, the way they were worshipped, priests and priestesses, mystery-cults, the high level of tolerance towards other religions and so on. Also very informative with many wonderfull photos and a good index.

Germanen
After reading the massive “Altgermanische” by Meyer I didn’t really know if a similar, but much thinner, Dutch book would bring anything new. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Derolez seems to have made a readable summery of the different “Altgermanische”s that had appeared in his time. He of course read the more modern books such as that of Jan de Vries. Also he is very familiar with (also then of course) more modern investigations in comperative religion like those of Dumezil. Derolez did a fine job and however his book has by far not as many pages and the “Altgermanische” that I have, it seems that most information and theories are dealt with. Also Derolez proves himself critical towards the authorities that most people based themselves on in that (and this!) time and shows their flaws and insecurities, but highlights the goods points. This makes this book not only interesting from informational viewpoint, but also for those who want to study the available information critically. Of course -again- the book is 45 years old.

Slaven
Of the books in these series that I now have I find ‘the religion of the slavs’ the least good. The structure is about the same as the others. First something about the peoples and their history, then the sources of the investigation and then a rather structured part with information and at the end a good index and a long bibliography.
Vyncke has split the books in a part about the East Slavs (Russians) and the West Slavs (from halfway nowdays Germany towards the Baltic area). It appears that the history and the convictions are about the same. For sources there are mostly Christian writers, a little bit of archeology, folkore and comparison with other Indo-European religions. According to Vyncke the Slavic religions were “not polytheistic, nor monotheistic, but had elements of both”. The writer (or editor) keeps repeating that there was probably one god who was worshipped under a variety of names in the different tribes. He calls them “clannumina”. Also the writer says several times that the Christians who wanted to convert the Slavs said that they “worshipped creation, not the creator”. On a few occasions he says that the Slavs worshipped nature (trees and animals) and that the clannumina originally had fertility-functions. “The cult of nature was an essential part of this religion because the numina did not trancendent matter.” (p. 120). Vyncke gives four stages for the development of both Slavic religions. 1. Animism (belief in spirts, etc.) and manism (worship of ancestors); 2. clan-gods; 3. more individual gods for protection of families; 4. forming a counter-balance against Christianity (making of idols and temples, etc.).
Not the best in the series, but still an informative book about Slavic paganism and a good reference book with descriptions of gods and holy places.

I was in doubt whether or not to review these titles. They are no longer in print and you will have to search for them second hand. I can advice the website www.antiqbook.nl for that. Also because the books are 50 years old, they may very well be surpassed by newer investigations, but on the other hand, Jan de Vries’ “Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte” is still an authority while the reworked version is of the same time. Also as far as I know, these are the only good books about the subjects in Dutch and there haven’t been much basic books made available after them (as far as I know). So when you are also still looking for something serious about the Celts, Germans/Teutons and Romans, and you can read Dutch of course, these are titles that you may want to look out for.

Colonia Ulpia Traiana Götter & Kulte * Michael Zelle (ISBN: 3792717840)

Colonia Ulpia Traiana was a Roman city and is nowadays Xanten in Germany. Xanten is not too far from the Dutch border near Nijmegen, which was also a Roman city a few thousand years ago. I thought to have information that a Mithras-temple has been found in Xanten (see my article on this subject), so I visited what is nowadays the archeological park Colonia Ulpia Traiana. On this site the ancient city is slowly excavated and the findings are partly rebuild, and visitors can walk around and look at the remains of a massive temple, smaller temples, a large amphitheatre and other buildings. There proved to be no Mithraeum in Xanten, but since my interest is raised over the question whether Mithraism mixed with local beliefs (as Cumont suggests), I was delighted to find this publication from the archeological park.

Götter & Kulte is written in German and is a square book of 150 pages. It starts with a nice account of the different peoples in low Germany of the Roman period. There were not only Germans/Teutons there, but also Gaulls (?: “Gallier”). Zelle tells a bit about the belief of the Germans and then about the beliefs of the Romans. Then follows a piece about the Gaulls and the Romanisation of the German and Gaullish faiths. It is interesting to see how syncretistic the Roman conquerers were.

The main part of the book is of course about the religions and cults in the city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Zeller speaks at length about the findings, links it with pieces in different museums and explains everythings wonderfully. Typical Roman, but also German and Gaull cults are dealt with, because they were obviously still practiced, both ‘in pure form’ as mixed with Roman (folk)beliefs. The most interesting part is about “oriental cults” being the mystery-religions that were practised. Unfortunately not all known mysteries were practised in CUT, so you get information about Mithraism, the Dionysus/Bachus-mysteries and Iupiter Dolichenus, but for example not the mysteries of Isis or Kybele.

Also space is made free for family- or personal religious practises and then how all this developed towards Christianity. Zeller is open about the questions that he could not answer and things that need further investigation and ends with a magnificent overview of all the gods and goddesses that something has been found off in and near CUT. The origin, nature, iconography and findings of a long range of gods and creatures is given: Aesculapius (Greek god), Alateivia (only known in CUT), Ambiamarcae (probably German goddesses), Amor (Roman god), Apollo (Greek god), Apollo Dysprus (local military god), Bacchus (Italian/Roman god), Bonus Eventus (Roman god), Ceres (Italian/Roman goddess), Concordia (Roman god), Diana (Italian goddess), Dioskuren (Greek twin-gods), Epona (Celtic goddess), Fides (Roman god), Fortuna (Italina/Latin goddess), Gabiae (German goddesses), Genius (Roman gods), Gorgo (Greek goddesses), Hercules (Italian god), Hercules Magusanus (Germanic mix), Hludana (Germanic goddess), Isis (Egyptian goddess), Iuno (Italian/Roman goddess), Iunonae (Gaull/Germanic gods with Roman name), Iuppiter (Roman god), Iupiter Ammon (mix with Egyptian god), Iupiter Dolichenus (mix with Syrian god), Lar (Roman creatures), Luna (Italian goddess), Kybele (small-asian goddess), Mars (Roman god), Mars Cicollvis (mix with probably Gaull god), Matres (goddesses in both Gaull and German folk beliefs), Matres Annanptae (probably Germanic), Matres Marsacae (Germanic), Matres Brittae (Brittish), Matres Frisaviae Paternae (Frisian), Matres Treverae (Gaull), Matronae (Germanic), Matronae Aufaniae (Germanic), Mercur (Italian/Roman god), Methe (Ebrietas) (Greek), Minerva (Roman version of Italian goddess), Mithras (“originally a Persian god”), Neptunes (Italian/Roman god), Numen (Roman creatures), Pan (Greek god), Pluto (Italian/Roman), Priapos (small-Asian god), Quadruviae (Latin/Germanic gods), Silen (Greek), Silvanus (Italian god), Sol (Italian), Spes (Roman goddess), Tarvos Triganaros (Celtic), Tellus (Roman goddess), Venus (Italian/Roman goddess), Vesta (Roman goddesses) and Victoria (Roman goddess).

Very informative booklet!

Ontslaap Nu In Mijn Armen, Mijn Lief * Koenraad Logghe (1996)

The complete title of this booklet is Ontslaap nu in mijn armen, mijn lief – het doodsgebeuren: een heidens alternatief. The first word is a Dutch word that isn’t used very often. It is a beautifull word which means something like ‘pass away’, ‘to fall asleep’. Then the title of this booklet means ‘Pass away in my arms, my dear – the befall of death: a pagan alternative’.

The booklet is written by Koenraad Logghe of Werkgroep Traditie from Belgium. It was published by Traditie itself and can only be ordered by Traditie. I suppose that you have guessed that it is written in Dutch. As the title suggest the booklet is about dying, death, rituals, etc. in a ‘pagan perspective’. The writer starts with discribing how illness and death are hidden away in our society. Not that long ago a person died in company of his/her loved ones who knew what to do in the periode of dying and thereafter. Nowadays many people die in a hospital and special companies take care of the burial or cremation.

Then Logghe continues to explain the difference between burial and cremation, speaks about ancient burial rituals (like with the use of cromlechs or burial mounds) and how our ancestors (might have) looked at this important face of life. Then follows detailed information about the Norse/Germanic symbols around death, rituals, the different ‘souls’, heilagr, örlogr, etc., etc. This part is a very nice compilation of this information together. The second half starts with a more psychological part about how relatives experience the death of a loved one, followed by a long part with possible rituals, songs, poems, information for speeches, etc.

Ontslaap is a very nice booklet to give you ideas about how the forgotten practices around death and dying can be revived and given meaning again. Also the first half is very helpfull to get a quick idea how our ancesters actually saw this whole process and how it fitted in their worldview. A very nice little book (about 150 pages), but you will have to contact Traditie to get a copy of it.

De Godsdienst Der Germanen * R.L.M. Derolez (JJ Romen en Zonen 1959)

After reading the massive Altgermanische by Meyer I didn’t really know if a similar, but much thinner, Dutch book would bring anything new. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Derolez seems to have made a readable summery of the different Altgermanisches that had appeared in his time. He of course read the more modern books such as that of Jan de Vries. Also he is very familiar with (also from then of course) more modern investigations in comperative religion like those of Dumezil. Derolez did a fine job and however his book has by far not as many pages and the Altgermanische that I have, it seems that most information and theories are dealt with. Also Derolez proves himself critical towards the authorities that most people base themselves on in that (and this!) time and shows their flaws and insecurities, but highlights the goods points. This makes this book not only interesting from informational viewpoint, but also for those who want to study the available information critically. Of course -again- the book is 45 years old.