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IE Studies 2, Requirement 1

Describe and compare the image of kingship in two cultures, paying special attention to the consecration of a king. (100 words for each culture)

The king in Indo-European cultures is a sort of "complete man", bringing together the best aspects (and the blessings) of the three divisions of Dumezilian society, and originating from the warrior class. (Phuvel, 242) While kingship comes only to those in the warrior class, there is a decided difference in the manners in which they arrive there from culture to culture.

The king in the Germanic and Norse worlds is one who acheives his kingship through strength of arms and generosity fostered by leading a warband, elevating the warriors around the new king along with him. Here, women often play the role of the priest, offeing the chosen warrior a cup of mead and declaring him king at the same time. The role of the woman here is less religiously motivated (though she is fulfilling a sacred duty) than it is motivated by a sort of fictive kinship play that elevates one of the "family" of the warband to kingship and completeness. (Enright, 169)

The king in the Vedic world is chosen by the priesthood and installed through elaborate rites that not only elevate the king, but also elevate the priests. There, we have the aśvamedha, which is a slightly differnet spin on the idea of kingly consecration, with Phuvel insinuating that it might have been used to create a kingly heir, should the king be unable to produce one. (Phuvel, 271) This process, though, also turns the raj- into a samraj-, which shows that it is clearly part of the consecration process. (Phuvel, 273) The elaborate rites (which fully require the brahmins) that are involved in the ritual consecration and elevation of kings in India suggests that the priests are the ones who benefit most from consecration, rather than the warriors, as in the Norse world.


  • Enright, Michael J. Lady With a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Age. Portland, OR: Four Courts Press. 1996
  • Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins. 1987


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