Da jætten Koljo rejste rundt i verden

Nedenstående artikel blev bragt 13. februar 2015 i Finlands – og Nordens – største avis, Helsingin Sanomat. Den er her oversat til dansk af artiklens forfatter, Lauri Dammert. Oversættelsen, der er let bearbejdet af Adam Hyllested, bringes med tilladelse fra avisen.

Tegning af Aiju Salminen

Tegning af Aiju Salminen. ©Helsingin Sanomat og Aiju Salminen

Urfinsk lånte ord til germansk og keltisk
De nyankomne indoeuropæere lærte ord af de uralske skovfolk, bl.a. en mængde betegnelser for svin

af Lauri Dammert

Jætten Koljo, som ofte forbindes med døden og med det underjordiske, rejste for flere tusinde år siden fra Ural-bjergene ud i verden for at blive forvandlet til germanernes dødsgud Hel. Koljo kom hjem til Finland igen som ordet Helvetti ’helvede’.

Koljo var ikke alene. Den danske sprogvidenskabsmand Adam Hyllested påviser i sin ph.d.-afhandling, at de indoeuropæiske folkeslag lånte flere ord fra urfinsk og dets slægtsprog.

Sammenlignende sprogvidenskab har en politisk dimension. Den er tit blevet brugt, når man ville vise sit eget folkeslags overlegenhed over et andet. Et kendt eksempel er den påstand, at de uralske folkeslag var teknologisk og politisk betydeligt mindre udviklede end de tilrejsende indoeuropæiske. Derfor lånte de et utal af ord fra de nyankomne, som ikke var særligt interesserede i skovbeboernes måde at tale på.

“Det er imidlertid sådan, at de allerfleste sprog, som har haft kontakt med et andet, har udvekslet ord både frem og tilbage,” siger Adam Hyllested. “Jeg var sikker på, at ord måtte være lånt i begge retninger også i dette tilfælde.”

Han fandt i de indoeuropæiske sprog et større antal uralske ord. En overraskelse var, at mange af disse ord havde med værktøj, dyr, religion og handel at gøre. De kunne eksempelvis være hamara ‘bagsiden af en økse’, som blev til germanernes ord for ’hammer’; pung; flere ord som betyder ‘gris’; det hellige træ pihlaja ’røn’, som blev til  skandinavernes pil, og det allerede nævnte helvede. Hyllested sporer til og med det germanske ord halv tilbage den urfinske handelsterm halpa ’af ringe værdi’, ‘halvennettu ’forklejne’; og han fører søpapegøjens navn lundi/lunne tilbage til det ursamiske ord for ‘fugl’. “Samerne måtte jo betale skatter til de norske konger bl.a. i form af fjer. Dette viser, at ordudveksling har forekommet langt ind i middelalderen,” påpeger Hyllested.

Ord med uralske aner fandtes til og med i så fjerne sprog som keltisk, der kom til Irland og Wales.

Den hellige gris
Lad os vende tilbage til grisene. Hyllested siger, at de uralske folk nok holdt svin som husdyr. De havde også en mytologisk betydning. Indoeuropæerne, som vandrede hertil over stepperne annammede en hel mængde af betegnelser for svin: Ordene *mokku- og *sukko- i urkeltisk samt det danske ord so har eksempelvis deres rødder i det urfinske ord, der er blevet til finsk sika, karelsk čugu og nordsamisk sokki. Bagved førstnævnte term står ifølge Hyllested en ældre form af det finske ord emakko ’so’, som tillige forekommer i mange af vores slægtsprog. Da de nye europæere tog ordet til sig, inkorporerede de også grisens religiøse dimension.

“Ligesom ordet halv har også flere af de ord, som betegner svin, ellers en ukendt oprindelse,” påpeger Hyllested. “Det viser sig nu, at man kan forklare dem via urfinsk. Og det er mere overbevisende at finde en hel gruppe af ord end nogle løsrevne. Forekomsten af urfinske ord i urgermansk og urkeltisk beviser, at ordudvekslingen var mere livlig end hidtil antaget.”

Hyllested betoner, at ordudvekslingen fandt sted i løbet af flere kulturperioder og i løbet af 4000-5000 år. Det, at ordene forekommer både i de keltiske og de germanske sprog, beviser, at disse to folkeslag, som engang talte forskellige dialekter af samme ursprog, holdt sig tæt forbundne også efter invandringen til Europa. Og at de var i kontakt med de uralske sprog.

Jætten Koljo holder udkig i det finske skovlandskab.

Jætten Koljo holder udkig i det finske skovlandskab.

Ordenes udtale forandres over tid, men efter visse faste mønstre og lovmæssigheder. På den måde kan man spore ordenes oprindelse. I de germanske sprog forvandles k regelmæssigt til h og o til a, så *kolja blev til germansk *haljō og med tiden lige så regelmæssigt til nordisk Hel, som indgår i Helvede.

En lægmand kan dog ikke nemt finde disse sammenhænge i moderne sprog. ”De fremtræder klarere og hyppigere, når vi studerer og sammenligner ældre sprogformer og dialekter i både långiver- og modtagersprogene”, forklarer Hyllested.

Hyllested giver altså vore formødre en æresoprejsning – for ord lånes kun, når man har behov for dem. Urfinnerne har altså alligevel haft et og andet interessant at give til de folk, der kom fra steppelandet.

Ti ord, der rejste ud i verden
1. Finsk hamara ‘bagsiden af en økse’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘hammer’, svensk hammare
2. Finsk punka ‘lille tyk person’, oprindelig ‘udbulning, rund ting’, estisk pung ‘knop; pung’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘pung’
3. Finsk pihlaja ‘røn’ ~ de skandinaviske sprogs ord for ‘pil(etræ)’
4. Finsk harava ‘en rive’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘harve’
5. Finsk sika ‘svin’, emakko ‘so’ ~ de keltiske sprogs ord for ‘svin, gris’
6. Finsk halpa ‘af ringe værdi, billig’, opr. ‘reduceretF’, halvennettu ‘forklejne’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘halv’
7. Finsk minkki ‘mink’ er til gengæld lånt ind i finsk, men dette og de germanske sprogs ord for ‘amerikansk mink’, tidl. den europæiske ‘nertz, flodilder’ kommer af et østligere uralsk ord
8. Finsk haamu ‘spøgelse, genfærd, ånd’, hahmo ‘skikkelse, form, gestalt’ ~ de germanske sprogs ord for ‘en ham’ (dyrehud), tidligere også ‘skytsånd’ og ‘legeme’
9. Samisk baggi ‘opsvulmet ting; lille, tykt og kompakt dyr (især rensdyr)’ ~ nordisk bagge i diverse dyrenavne, fx nordbagge ‘en lille tyk hest’, svensk skalbagge ‘bille’
10. Nordsamisk loddi ‘fugl’, i Vikingetiden *londe (~ finsk lintu) ~ nordisk lundi ‘søpapegøje’

©
Adam Hyllested
Word Exchange at the Gates of Europe – Five Millennia of Language Contact
Københavns Universitet 2014

When morphological analysis produces knowledge on ancient societies

At the research centre Roots of Europe – Language, Culture, and Migrations the majority of scholars dealing with the first of the three branches, language, is concerned mainly with morphology. Within this field of study, focus mainly lies with nominal word formation: Birgit Anette Olsen on Proto-Indo-European, Benedicte Nielsen Whitehead on Latin, Anders Richardt Jørgensen on British Celtic, Jenny Larsson (within the first year of the project period) on Baltic and myself on Germanic and Old Norse.

Seen from the outside, one might rightfully question the relevance of morphological studies to the study of how these “native” languages of Europe were established within their cultural and social context, as stated in the aims and goals section of the Roots of Europe general project description.

Nevertheless, one need not search too far in order to find an immediate response to such a critique. Several of the individual subprojects suggest or at least hint at the possibility that systematic categorisation of the noun-forming suffixes in the individual linguistic branches of Indo-European can provide answers to questions as those stated in the preceding paragraph if such a categorisation be carried out by theoretical analysis of the relevant material according to, mainly, the comparative method. How fantastic this idea may seem, it is actually quite straightforward: If the comparative method can prove that one or more elements – be they phonemes or morphemes – of a given word in one language correspond systematically to other elements in another language, these elements – and consequently these two languages – must be related to one another and must originate from a common source. In other words, if the comparative method can prove the interrelationship between a noun-forming suffix in one language and a noun-forming suffix in another language, these two noun-forming suffixes must be related to one another and must originate from a common source.

Thus far, scholars of Indo-European linguistics probably have not gained much new insight from reading this blog post. What might be at least partially new, though, is the theory that I present in my article “Rodnominers struktur og produktivitet i germansk” [The structure and productivity of root nouns in Germanic] (to pe published this year in E. Hansen, A. Holsting & H.F. Nielsen, eds. Ældre germansk sproghistorie. Et uformelt minisymposium. Mindre Skrifter 29. Center for Middelalderstudier, Syddansk Universitet, Odense.) and that I will also present in an elaborated form at the 14th international conference of the Society of Indo-European Studies to be held September this year in Copenhagen.

Layering model of root nouns in GermanicThe basic outline of the theory is that root nouns in Germanic may be divided into four chronological layers according to various morphological and morphonological criteria. One of these layers consists of root nouns inherited from Proto-Indo-European and subject to paradigmatic levelling of Ablaut according to the phonotactic attributes of the root, while substrate root nouns such as those introduced – and phonotactically and morphologically defined – by Guus Kroonen’s forthcoming article “Non-Indo-European Root Nouns in Germanic: Evidence in Support of the Agricultural Substrate Hypothesis” (to be published this year in R. Grünthal & P. Kallio, eds. Linguistic Map of Prehistoric North Europe. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne. Helsinki, Société Finno-Ougrienne) constitutes yet another layer.

Generally, I expect lexical ‘layering models’ based on criteria similar or identical to the ones in my forthcoming article to be particularly valuable for palaeolinguistic analysis. The reason is that such layering models may reveal what parts of the Germanic lexicon had already been adapted at the Pre- or early Proto-Germanic stage from other sub-, super- or adstrate languages; what parts are of common Indo-European origin; what parts belong to only a restricted part of the Germanic-speaking area and what parts may be later cultural loans from known or unknown sources.

Consequently, I believe that this ‘layering model’ of Germanic root nouns constitutes a brilliant example of one of the hallmarks of the Roots of Europe centre, viz. the aim of producing apparent models on how morphological analysis may produce knowledge on ancient societies.

Health and illness in Prehistoric Europe: Linguistic evidence of beliefs in preventive care, causes and treatments

Alongside its use for perfumes and incenses, lavender is one of the most profitable medicinal herbs. This species from the Canaries, Lavandula canariensis, has been used as a laxative, to bring down fevers, as an anti-inflammatory drug, and against parasitic worms. Photo by Adam Hyllested.

 To stay sound and healthy is obviously one of man’s timeless concerns. Most early societies seem to have believed that diseases could have both natural and supernatural causes. Blame was often heaped upon evil spirits that had entered into the body of the diseased, while plants and plant-derived ingredients constituted the most common drug, also as tranquilizers, to heal wounds and bites, and for preventive purposes, e.g. as laxatives
or for skin care or prenatal care. Other methods, not all equally widespread, involved ceremonies with magic formulae, spells and amulets; the use
of animals, e.g. leeches for bloodletting or larva debridement; honey as a general antiseptic; geophagy (eating soil or clay); enema by clysters (made by e.g. animal bladders); and (primitive) surgical procedures.

 

By definition, prehistoric practices are not described directly  in any written sources. Indeed information might be gathered from the earliest attestations to the extent that they reflect an older state of affairs. In the ancient Iranian Vendidad, it is claimed that “divine words” are a better cure than knives or herbs, and numerous chapters are devoted to charms against evil spirits. Extensive catalogues are known from ancient India, notably the Sushruta Samhita (3rd or 4th c. AD), and from Greece and Rome such as the Hippocratic Corpus, Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica (77 AD) and Marcellus Empiricus’ De medicamentis (4thc.) with information on the popular use of plants for medico-magical treatment, some of which may continue much earlier traditions. However, in many cases ancient sources give no clear botanical meaning of a plant name, and even when the species can be defined, the status of the name may be unclear – we do not always know whether a given name represents a popular designation, a translation  or simply an innovation by the author.

De Materia Medica by Dioscorides, originally written in Greek in the 1st century AD as Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς ("regarding medical materials"), has been preserved in several medieval editions. This richly illustrated version is the Vienna Dioscurides from 512-513 AD.

Archaeology can provide clues by human remains as may typological studies of aboriginal societies living under supposedly similar conditions, or even ethnobotanic studies of cultures believed to have retained ancient customs (such as the 3rd Danish Pamir Expedition 2010). However, since plants are subject to quick decay and spirits notoriously intangible, the archaeological evidence remains scarce and, as a result, conclusions suffer from a comparatively large degree of uncertainty (with the recent DNA-based identification of 15 plant species in ointments and herbal pills from a Greek shipwreck from 130 B.C. as one notable exception).

This is where etymology enters into the picture. As argued by J.D. Langslow (in Indo-European Perspectives, Oxford 2004), medical language is probably one of the most promising fields for semantic and etymological investigation. A way of linking information gained from archaeology and linguistics is the palaeolinguistic method: if the word for a certain creature, object or phenomenon is attested with regular sound correspondences in two or more languages, we must conclude that it existed in the homeland at the time before the dispersal of the protolanguage. Systematic studies of the European core vocabulary would have to include a stratification of the linguistic data, distinguishing between

In Germany and Austria, holly (ilex) is placed in stables to protect horses from evil spirits. This may be due to the near-homonymy of 'mare' and 'female incubus' in most Germanic languages (cf. e.g. the ambiguous Danish name maretorn).

1) substrata from indigenous non-Indo-European peoples
2) words of common Indo-European heritage
3) words belonging to a more restricted area
4) later cultural loans from known or unknown sources

From such an investigation, we would be able to draw conclusions as to which parts of the health domain, as it is known from the earliest attestations of Indo-European cultures, actually represent a Proto-Indo-European tradition, and which parts have arisen at a later stage, whether from creative innovation, contacts between the Indo-European branches or contacts with other language families. This may in turn tell us something more general about patterns of cultural evolution throughout history. Theoretically, it is not impossible that clues about forgotten types of plant medicine may be provided by new etymologies that will appear.

Searching for common anomalies often proves valuable. The almost identical Baltic words for two otherwise dissimilar plants ‘henbane’ (drignė) and ‘fool’s parsley’ (drignelė) make up a strong semantic parallel to those found in other Indo-European languages; thus, the Greek names for the two plants are apollon, apollinaris and aithousa respectively – Aithousa was the name of one of Apollon’s mistresses and meant ‘gleaming, burning’, and the traditional Latin name of the latter was exactly Apollon (borrowed from Greek). According to our cooperation partner Bernd Gliwa, these common names probably refer to dilation of the pupil of the human eye which is a well-known effect of both plants.

Celtic and Germanic languages share a lot of terminology from specifically this field (among them ‘fever’, ‘leprous’, ‘sorcery’, ‘demon’, several generic words for ‘illness’, medicinal herbs such as ‘Angelica’ and ‘holly’, and as many as 10 terms for ‘wound’ or ‘injury’). These items all look too old to be mutual loans, and since it can be showed by other means that Celtic and Germanic are not more closely related than each of them are with several of the other Indo-European branches, this indicates that at a certain point in their early history they shared a common vocabulary of both archaisms and innovations, reflecting post-Indo-European common beliefs in causes of illnesses and their treatments. Some of them may have been taken over from the same third source.

"Dancing elves" by the Swedish painter August Malmström (1866). In Germanic and Slavic folklore, it was believed that "fairy rings" (naturally occurring rings of mushrooms) were the result of elves dancing in a ring during the night or in the morning mist. Peeing into a fairy ring could cause diseases. The notion of sprites as the source of illness seems to be a near-universal.

It is remarkable that, while the Germanic word *lubja- meant ‘strong plant-juice’ as well as ‘magic remedy; poison; magic’, its Celtic relative *lubī meant simply ‘wort’. Finnish luppo means ‘lichen’ and is known to be an inherited word in the Uralic language family to which Finnish belongs. Lichen is used in traditional folk medicine as a laxative and against various kinds of pains, infections and inflammation. This points to a Uralic origin of the Germanic and Celtic words (there are no better candidates).

When dealing with plant-names one must be aware of the phenomenon of folk taxonomy whereby traditional ethnobotanical taxa may disagree with those of modern science (e.g. Lithuanian jonažolė ‘Hypericum’ but also ‘certain plants flowering at St. John’s, June 24th’). Our forefathers had other criteria for the classification of plants and animals. Sometimes these were given the same name because of a purely physical similarity, in other cases rather according to similarities in societal utility value or even mythological conceptions. Besides, some species have only a new scientific term and no separate folk name, either because they have lost it or because it was never relevant and the species was designated by a more generic term. Dialect material is extremely important because plant names and animal names often vary within small areas.

Some of the many surgical devices found in The House of the Surgeon at Pompeii.

Relevant semantic fields may furthermore include words referring to symptoms; poison; nutrition and diet; fungi; salt, minerals and stones; exercise; hygiene and sanitation; body parts and bodily fluids; virginity, fertility and reproduction; maternal health, pregnancy and birth; puberty; congenital defects; body modifications; mood and sleep; mental disorders; ageing; cleansing of the dead; veterinary issues; folk legends; health deities; medical professions; and medical equipment.

Sø kom der ein hjasi høppande forbi…

kroonen2011 In my dissertation ‘The Proto-Germanic n-stems’, I have presented evidence suggesting that a number of Germanic n-stems retained the root ablaut of the original PIE paradigm. In most cases, this paradigmatic alternation usually is not directly attested, but must nevertheless be reconstructed on the basis of diverging ablaut grades found in the different Germanic daughter languages. Thus, the co-occurrence of for instance Old High German rīdo ‘fever’ < *hrīþan- and rito ‘id.’ < *hridan- points to a Proto-Germanic (PGm.) paradigm nom. *hrīþō, dat. *hrideni continuing Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *kréit-ōn, *krit-én-i. In this particular case, the reality of the ablauting paradigm was further substantiated by Schaffner (Das Vernersche Gesetz, 2001: 549-551). Schaffner noted that the Benedictine monk Notker (950-1022) actually still had it in his Old High German idiolect, the nominative rîdo being accompanied by the dative ríten (the circumflex and acute accents indicate a long and a stressed vowel consecutively). It must be stressed, however, that the bulk of the cases are not as clear-cut, the ablaut only becoming evident by comparing forms from several different Germanic dialects.

At collecting further evidence for the preservation of this ablaut, it turned out to be insufficient make use of only the oldest Germanic languages, e.g. Gothic, Old High German and Old Norse. Although these  language certainly are more archaic than their middle and modern Germanic descendants, the material tends to be deficient due to the lack of textual sources. It was therefore essential to include modern standard languages plus the pertaining dialects in order to acquire a more complete picture of the paradigmatic ablaut. Thus, the reader will often encounter forms adopted from “periferal” sources such as the Dutch, German and Norwegian dialects, Faroese, Swiss German and the Cimbrian variety of Tyrolian as spoken in Italy. It goes without saying that this decision hugely increased the amount of time required for gathering data. I would therefore also like to express my utmost gratitude to Corinna Scheungraber, who in her highly thorough review of my dissertation draws attention to exactly these efforts.

One particular interesting case in which a modern dialect plays an important role at the reconstruction of different PGm. ablaut grades is presented by the word for ‘hare’. Throughout the Germanic language continuum, this word is attested with an a in the root, cf. OHG haso, G Hase, Du. haas < PGm. *hasan-. The dominance of the a is not complete, however. In my book, I have drawn attention to the West Norwegian form jase (see Grunnmanuskriptet), which in the dialects also occurs as hjase (e.g. in Telemark). According to the known sound changes, these forms must have developed from PGm. *hesan- by the regular breaking of *e into –ja-. It thus appears that these Norwegian dialects prove the existence of an ablauting doublet *hesan- ~ *hasan-. I have accordingly proposed to reconstruct the original paradigm as nom. *hesō, gen. *haznaz, the e-grade being expected in the nominative.

It may seem surprising that the preservation of the Indo-European ablaut has largely been overlooked by the field. The reason for is quite obvious, however. As stated above, the evidence for ablaut can often only be found in the later Germanic languages or dialects rather than in “core languages” such as Old Norse or Gothic. Conversely, unawareness of the existence of the ablaut appears to have caused many a linguist trouble at interpreting the data, as is also noted by Scheungraber. For instance, Bjorvand & Lindeman in their etymological dictionary (Våre arveord, 2000: 347) make a brave attempt at explaining away the e-grade implied by Nw. (h)jase. They do so by assuming a spontaneous j-insertion (j-innskudd) in a further unattested form *hase (standard Nw. has hare < *hazan-, cf. OE hara, E hare). I fail to see, however, how the assumption of two ad hoc‘s would be more elegant than simply taking the data at face value.

In my view, historical linguistics is all about respecting the data, whether it be from old or modern sources, central or periferal languages, standard languages or dialects. And to be frank, the quality of the data pointing to *hesan- is, in spite of its relatively late providence, rather good, and to my mind leaves no room for speculation. The form (h)jase is attested throughout the West Norwegian dialect area, i.e. from Telemark to Sunnmøre, as can be concluded from Grunnmanuskriptet‘s entry linked to in the above. It further occurs in one of the oldest forms of Norwegian lyric poetry, i.e. in a gamlestev noted down by M.B. Landstad in his famous Norske Folkeviser (1853). The genre dates back to the 13th century, and this time depth is usually also reflected by the use of extremely conservative morphology and vocabulary. Those who still dare to doubt the reliability of the evidence, I invite to listen to Arve Mogen Bergset’s rendering of Kjeringi med staven (‘Woman with a stick’), a traditional folk song recorded in the 19th century. At 35s, a life and kicking ‘hjasi’ comes “høppande forbi”, i.e. hopping happily along, just to say “titi tiri ti”.

Call for Papers: Etymology and the European Lexicon

kuastud1maj08

Photo by Anne Trap-Lind.


Etymology and the European Lexicon

14th Congress of the Indogermanische Gesellschaft
University of Copenhagen, 17-22 September 2012

 

 

 
Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that the 14th Congress (Fachtagung) of the Indogermanische Gesellschaft / Society for Indo-European Studies / Société des Études Indo-Européennes will be held in Copenhagen from Monday 17 to Saturday 22 September 2012, and will be hosted by Roots of Europe at the University of Copenhagen.

The 14th Congress is dedicated to the theme of Etymology and the European Lexicon. Priority will be given to submissions which raise issues of general relevance to Indo-European studies, rather than dealing with isolated problems within individual branches; however, all submissions relating to this general theme are welcome.

Possible subjects or subthemes could include the subgrouping of the Indo-European languages (e.g. NW Indo-European, Balkan Indo-European, the Centum-Satem division, Italo-Celtic, Balto-Slavic), the European lexicon as evidence for when and how Europe became Indo-Europeanized (e.g. semantic “packages”, Wörter und Sachen, culture-words), issues relating to pre-IE substratum languages, or to conditions in other European language families (Vasconic, Tyrrhenian, Uralic, Altaic, Semitic etc.) that may shed new light on IE or on the relations between IE and these languages.

There will be no keynote speakers or parallel sessions; all submissions will be given equal consideration, but slots are limited.

Authors wishing to have a paper considered for the congress should submit an abstract of no more than 1,000 words (not including references) to rootsofeurope@hum.ku.dk. The closing date for submission of abstracts is the 20 February 2012. Accepted papers must not be published before the time of the conference.

Further information, including registration forms and information regarding travel and accommodation, will be posted on the website of Roots of Europe (rootsofeurope.ku.dk) in due time.

Inquiries should be directed to the secretaries at Roots of Europe: Janus Bahs Jacquet (jacquet@hum.ku.dk) and Tobias Mosbæk Søborg (tms@hum.ku.dk).

Best regards from
Jens Elmegård Rasmussen
on behalf of the organizing committee, the Roots of Europe team in Copenhagen

Sproget afslører Odins alder

”…og gjorde Danerne kristne”, står der på Den Store Jellingsten, der er blevet kaldt Danmarks dåbsattest, og som markerer indførelsen af kristendommen i det hedenske Norden. Den førkristne, nordiske mytologi er dog blevet ved med at spille en betydelig rolle for den fælles historiske bevidsthed.

Nationalmuseet har således netop fået fondsmidler til et nyt forskningsprojekt, hvis mål det blandt andet er at undersøge, hvor gammel den nordiske religion er. Selvom det er et fagligt definitionsspørgsmål, hvornår en religion kan siges at have udviklet sig til en ny religion, så har det meste af den førkristne kults substans – de elementer, den er sat sammen af – dog en fælles oprindelse med de øvrige gamle indoeuropæiske religioner, og som sådan lader den sig ikke lige datere med startdato. Sikkert er det dog, at den efter denne definition er ældre end de ældste arkæologiske fund, der har forbindelse til det specifikt nordiske.

Odin, asernes øverste gud, påkaldte sig stor opmærksomhed i 2009, da en lille sølvfigur fra ca. år 900 blev fundet ved Lejre. Figuren bestod af en person siddende på en stol eller en trone med to fugle på hver side. Personen blev af Tom Christensen fra Roskilde Museum identificeret som Odin omgivet af ravnene Hugin og Munin.

Foto: Mogens Engelund

Foto: Mogens Engelund

Den foreløbige datering af Odin er fra arkæologernes side baseret på ikonografiske gengivelser på især smykker. Her er de hidtil ældste mulige dateringer fra en lille gruppe dragtsmykker fra ca. 300. Men også arkæologerne mener, at Odin sandsynligvis er ældre, idet en række shamanistiske træk – som beskrevet i kilderne – meget vel kan række betydeligt længere tilbage. Dette passer fint med de sproglige forhold.

Gudenavnet Odin svarer til det vestgermanske Wotan og kan dermed rekonstrueres for i hvert fald nordvestgermansk, den fælles forfader til de nordiske og de vestgermanske sprog (som i vore dage bl.a. er tysk, hollandsk, engelsk og frisisk). Men den form, vi rekonstruerer, er ganske givet fællesgermansk, altså fra før Kristi fødsel. Dels kan man se det på orddannelsestypen, hvor suffikserne varierer på en måde, der kendes fra så tidlige sprogstadier (nordisk -inn, vestgermansk -an). Dels tyder gotiske gravsætninger på, at goterne har ofret til en gud, der ligner Odin meget – og gotisk er det bedst kendte af de nu uddøde østgermanske sprog, den tredje gren af germansk. Hvem navnet så henviser til – er det den samme gud – er som sagt et religionshistorisk definitionsspørgsmål. Men som gudenavn må det gå mere end 2000 år tilbage.

Brugen af selve ordets rod i religiøs sammenhæng er i øvrigt endnu ældre, da den er fælles med keltisk – det irske ord for en spåmand, fáith, indeholder samme rod, og ordet kendes også fra romertidens mest udbredte keltiske sprog, gallisk, hvorfra det sandsynligvis er lånt til latin som vates – der i dag indgår i navnet på Vatikanet.

Man har længe vidst, at keltere og germanere var i intensiv kontakt i Romertiden, men ny forskning her fra Roots of Europe tyder på, at også deres (sproglige) forfædre – de tidlige indoeuropæiske stammer, som talte dialekter, der senere blev til urkeltisk og urgermansk, efter indvandringen til Europa i 3. årtusind f.Kr. ligefrem må have delt et religiøst fællesskab. For keltisk og germansk kan man nemlig rekonstruere et uforholdsmæssigt stort antal ord, der har med tro og magi at gøre, og som snarere ligner meget gamle arveord end senere låneord. Blandt dem er ordet rune, der spiller en rolle i forbindelse med Odins magi, men også fx ’enøjet’ (gotisk haihs), et af Odins kendetegn, er en ny specialiseret betydning fælles for de to grupper; i latin betød det beslægtede caecus ’blind’.

Det kan ikke ud fra keltisk og germansk alene med sikkerhed bevises, at Odin som færdigt dannet gudenavn er så gammelt som 2000 f.Kr. Men hans oldnordiske tilnavn Herjann ’hærføreren’ forekommer også som Coriono- i det keltiske stammenavn Coriono-totae ’hærførerens folk’ – som ifølge den østrigske sprogforsker Wolfgang Meid ikke henviser til en menneskelig hærfører (som i græsk koiranos), men derimod til guden Lugus, der regnes for den keltiske pendant til Odin.

Så vidt det rent sproglige. Men Odin indtager også som figur i den fælles indoeuropæiske mytologi en plads, som kan sammenlignes med guder som Zeus i den græske og Jupiter i den romerske mytologi. Utallige træk kendt fra de andre indoeuropæiske religioner genfindes i de nordvesteuropæiske – altså den keltiske, den germanske, og den nordiske religion. Et enkelt vigtigt eksempel, der også har med Odin at gøre, er mjødens betydning som formidler af åndelig aktivitet  gennem beruselse. Mjøden svarer i mytologisk sammenhæng blandt andet til offerdrikke som f.eks. somaen i gammel indisk vedareligion.

Samlet tyder alt dette på, at Odin som grundlæggende figur er fra fællesindoeuropæisk tid, nok ca. 4000 f.Kr., selvom hans shamanistiske træk i nordisk mytologi kan være senere fremmed påvirkning eller uafhængig udvikling. Ordrodens brug i religiøs kontekst er mindst fra 2000 f.Kr., mens Odin som gudenavn nok er fællesgermansk, altså mindst fra lige før Kristi fødsel. Altså betragteligt tidligere, end arkæologien kan afsløre.

Som religionshistorikeren Kirsten Backhausen har formuleret det, hersker Odin blandt sine mange ansvarsområder over visdom og digtning og dermed over sproget. Enhver bevidstgørelse handler om at formulere en viden og, for at kunne drage nytte af denne viden, om at kunne fastholde og videregive den til andre.

I vores 2010-sammenhæng kunne man næsten kalde Odin ”formidlingens gud”. Med dette første blogindlæg håber vi ikke blot at have viderebragt en portion ny viden – men også at have vist, hvordan sprogvidenskaben kan bibringe arkæologien og religionsvidenskaben en ekstra og ofte ret afgørende dimension.