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Indo-European Mythology 1, Requirement 6

Myths often reflect the social structure of the cultures from which they come. Generally describe the social divisions in two different Indo-European cultures (e.g.: Dumézil's Priest/King-Warrior-Provider division, or the Vedic Brahmin-Kshatriya- Vaisya-Sudra castes) and show how they are reflected in that culture's myths. (minimum 300 words)

Primarily, the social divisions are shown in mythology through the interactions of humans with the Gods. A primary source for these divisions in modern interpretation includes the ritual of horse sacrifice in the Vedas. In this sacrifice, we see that there are three sacrifices given: a horse, a hornless ram, and a he-goat, each of which seems to correspond to one of the three divisions of the tripartite society. Similarly, in this ritual, the horse is divided up into three parts, each of which is offered to a deity that is associated with one of the three functions.

In Norse mythology, we have two deities of battle: one for the nobility (or warrior class) and one for the common people (or herder-farmer class). Odin is the deity of nobility, while Thor is the patron of the common person. Their aspects reflect this as well, with Odin being primarily concerned with wisdom, poetics, and tactical formations, while Thor was generally concerned with brute strength and fertility.

In the Celtic world, we have the (eventual) divine king who appears at the doors of Tara and offers up his skills, skills which are generally owned by one or another of the classes. He is admitted not because he knows the skills, but because he ties all three classes together into a single person, thus showing himself to be a part of each class, owned by none but in turn owning all of them.

These divisions, though, should not be taken too seriously. Too often, we find ourselves caught in the pull of the tripartite functionality, and we would often do well to avoid such traps, for tripartition is, after all, only a theory that doesn't even always hold up well in reference to archeology. Mallory puts it best when he notes: we should "hold the mythological evidence out for examination against the archeological record, yet not make demands for proof higher than its own practitioners would willingly admit." (Mallory, 142)


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