[Dedicant Path Requirement] Book Report: In Search of the Indo-Europeans, J.P. Mallory

For my Indo-European studies reading requirement I chose to read In Search of the Indo-Europeans by J.P. Mallory. In this book, he covers who the Indo-Europeans were, where they lived, where they might have come from, and what we can learn about them, their culture, and religion based on a reconstruction of their language and archaeological evidence.
The first section of the book covers how reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language led to the idea that these disparate groups speaking clearly related languages must have descended from one original people. In the next two chapters, Mallory discusses what we know about these many groups – one chapter dealing with Asian groups, one chapter dealing with European groups – and what we can infer about their common predecessor based on comparative linguistic analysis.
The next two chapters deal with culture and religion. The first chapter is a general summary of what we think we know about Indo-European culture – what animals they raised, whether they were nomadic pastoralists or agriculturalists, the technology that was available to them, what kind of trade systems and social hierarchies seem plausible – based on the words linguists have been able to reconstruct. The second chapter is a substantial survey of Indo-European religion – Mallory discusses Dumezeil’s tripartation and whether it seems like a reasonable model to apply to Indo-European religion and society, as well as detailing elements that repeat across various Indo-European cultures: things like the sacrifice of horses, human sacrifice, divine twins, and dualistic ideas about the world.
In the latter half of the book, Mallory summarizes various competing theories about where the Proto-Indo-European homeland might have been located, as well as what artifacts the Proto-Indo-Europeans left behind and where. He also devotes a chapter to how the Indo-Europeans spread throughout Europe and Asia, and what this might tell us about where they came from.
I found this book – although dense and somewhat complicated – to be extremely informative and helpful in terms of understanding the underpinnings of some aspects of ADF’s ritual and theological tradition. While I had read the basic explanation of tripartation provided in the Dedicant’s Manual, reading the section on Dumezeil’s and his ideas in In Search of the Indo-Europeans helped me understand why we use this construct. I also found the discussion of dualism (man/woman, light/dark, earth/sky) particularly interesting, because I have always been a little nonplussed by the dualistic ideas evident in so much of paganism when we generally espouse the idea that tolerance and equality are of primary importance, as well as the idea that there is strength in diversity. Getting a better look at the history of pagan dualism helped me integrate the idea of it in a way I was not able to before.


About November Jones

November Jones lives in a small but very colorful house with three cats and her very noisy partner, codename: Batman.

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