Anthropomorphism in Proto-Indo-European

From: C. Darwin Goranson
Message: 46637
Date: 2006-12-06

I'm rather curious as to how animals fitted into the society and the
mythology.

This little thing summarizes most of what I know so far on the
subject, but I'm sure there's still more material than this. Does
anyone know any more info on this topic, and where I could locate
articles or books on it?

I've done a bit of reading on the topic of lycanthropy and such
because of my interest in TF, and since I also really enjoy
linguistics, I've been trying to compare human-animal myths in the
Indo-European languages to see if there are any similar features.

I read an interesting piece written in Old Welsh (and translated - I
don't know much Welsh, being Canada-born) about King Arthur and
Gorlagon, a man who was turned into a wolf with the mind of a man by
his cuckolding wife. She gets a nice reward at the end - has to keep
the severed head of her affair-lover with her at all times!

Also, there are apparently some weird rituals in Hittite. A series of
cuneiform symbols spell out a word meaning "dog-man", and
elsewhere "lion-" or "panther-man", and interestingly enough, "bear-
man" (LU-hartaggas, spoken as "pesnes hartaggas", man-bear). This is
someone who is ritually associated with a bear. This is quite
reminiscent of the "berserkr" of Norse tradition, who goes into
battle without fear and is said to fight with the wildness and
savagery of a bear. The fact that in Celtic stories, Greek stories,
Germanic stories, Italic stories and with likely references in
Hittite all exist, one can pretty much be certain that there were
kinds of animal-men in the Proto-Indo-European beliefs system. The
fact alone that it exists in Hittite makes it certain.
There's actually evidence to suggest that those who committed a
serious enough crime or who were socially deviant (in particular,
homosexual, it would suggest) were cast out and it was said "Thou art
a wolf." This expression or at least variants of it exist in Hittite
and the Germanic languages. There was, however, a way for these
outcasts to redeem themselves - by doing a brave, valorous deed, such
as hunting a boar or another hard-to-catch animal.
If this isn't enough, there is much reason to believe that Proto-Indo-
European fighters associated with wolves and bears. Look again at the
berserkers, and you see only one example. I can't remember off the
bat who, but there are several other examples in other Indo-European
cultures that have the fighters associate somehow with wolves or
bears. This is surely to reflect the supposed savage and fearless
nature of the animals and to try to invoke it.
And then we come to some of the words that are used instead of the
actual "real" name of the animal. While the bear was called something
the sounded like hhurt-kyos, spelled by convention *h2r.tk^os (really
the dot's supposed to be a circle under the r, and the ^ is supposed
to be on top of the k), it was often referred to by other names, such
as "the brown one", from whence we get the English "bear"
and "bruin". Another big reference was "the honey-eater," as it is
called in many Slavic languages. Humorously enough, the word "arctic"
comes from a Greek word, "arktos," which meant "bear." Supposedly,
there were any bears in the north. Stranger, though, is the word for
fox. It's almost impossible to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European
word for it because it's been changed in one way or another in all
the Indo-European language groups (the English "fox" and "vixen"
(from Old English fuchs and f├╝chse) come from another root, *puk-,
which means "tail".). In Latin, it's "vulpes," in Greek
it's "aloopeex", in Old Indian its "lopaas'a", in Lativan
it's "lapsa," and there are a few other examples. All in all the only
thing that's definite is that there was an "l" and a "p" sound in the
original word, and probably a "w" at the beginning: *wlp- or
something like that. Also, there's the word for "hare", *kasos. It
just means "the grey one." How very exact - there was some taboo
against speaking the hare's name. I don't know why - maybe tied to
the rabbit-like pattern in the moon that you see when you look
sideways at the Man in the Moon.
However, I should mention that wolves were not always looked down
upon in this ancient culture. There was a great respect for their
social nature, always staying in families and groups - this was a
very important thing to the Proto-Indo-Europeans too, which is clear
from the number of words for family members there are - there's even
a word for brother's in-law, I think! That this respect existed is
shown to be likely because of praise by Romans and by (who else?)
Hittites, in this case a Hittite king, of the communal and familial
nature of wolves.