Comparative Mythology

Julianus reviews Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvel in the Bkwyrm archive.

This book focuses primarily on the Indo-European cultures with some reference to the ancient Near-East. The author displays a comprehensive grasp of his subject as he traces common themes from Ireland to India. Using a combination of historical linguistics (some knowledge of the subject will help the reader here) and comparison of myths and epics he provides what might almost be a genealogy of archetypes in the Indo-European psyche, archetypes that are still very much alive. I was particularly struck by a kind of reverse-Euhemerism the author often uses: rather than saying that the gods are simply mythologized mortals, he frequently reveals the mortals in various epics to be “historicized” gods. He also thankfully does not try to reduce everything to one pet theory. Due to the extensive cross-referencing of material the reader may wish to go through the book twice in order to catch all the connections. If you want to know more than the usual generalization that “the Indo-Europeans worshipped a patriarchal sky-god,” or want to flesh out 777, then this is definitely the book for you.

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