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Household spirits

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  • mrcaws
    What about domestic/household spirits in PIE religion? Consider Slavic Domovoi, Roman Lares/Genius, Celtic brownies etc. The domovoi and the genius in
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 1, 2003
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      What about domestic/household spirits in PIE religion?

      Consider Slavic Domovoi, Roman Lares/Genius, Celtic brownies etc.
      The domovoi and the genius in particular have some attributes in
      common. Both the domovoi and the genius sometimes took the form of a
      snake or an old man or ancestor, and were propitiated with offerings
      in exchange for its goodwill.

      Cort Williams
    • Ken Pfrenger
      ... That is interesting....I had never thought about it before. To me many of these spirits seem connected more to the land than to the specific cultures that
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 10, 2003
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        --- In PIEreligion@yahoogroups.com, "mrcaws" <MrCaws@h...> wrote:
        > What about domestic/household spirits in PIE religion?
        >
        > Consider Slavic Domovoi, Roman Lares/Genius, Celtic brownies etc.
        > The domovoi and the genius in particular have some attributes in
        > common. Both the domovoi and the genius sometimes took the form of a
        > snake or an old man or ancestor, and were propitiated with offerings
        > in exchange for its goodwill.
        >
        > Cort Williams

        That is interesting....I had never thought about it before. To me many
        of these spirits seem connected more to the land than to the specific
        cultures that live there.....but surely worth looking into.

        Slán
        Ken
      • CeiSerith@aol.com
        In a message dated 4/10/2003 12:09:46 PM Eastern Daylight Time, ... I have, I m embarassed to say, not done enough research into this topic. (Embarassed
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 10, 2003
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          In a message dated 4/10/2003 12:09:46 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
          kenpfrenger@... writes:


          > > Consider Slavic Domovoi, Roman Lares/Genius, Celtic brownies etc.
          > > The domovoi and the genius in particular have some attributes in
          > > common. Both the domovoi and the genius sometimes took the form of a
          > > snake or an old man or ancestor, and were propitiated with offerings
          > > in exchange for its goodwill.
          > >
          > > Cort Williams
          >
          > That is interesting....I had never thought about it before. To me many
          > of these spirits seem connected more to the land than to the specific
          > cultures that live there.....but surely worth looking into.
          >
          I have, I'm embarassed to say, not done enough research into this topic.
          (Embarassed because I once wrote a book on practicing Paganism as a family,
          which of course included a lot of home-based stuff. I can only plead that
          that was before I had learned to do decent research.)
          I'm not sure, however, that we can link all of these with the land rather
          than the home. It would make sense that the domestic cult would travel with
          the IEs; witness the widespread hearth goddess cult. However, it would also
          make sense for fairly migratory intrusive IEs to pick up the house-related
          cult of the settled substrate. On the third hand, it is just the domestic
          cult that has survived best the conversion to Christianity and other
          non-Pagan religions, so it would seem to be very conservative, which argues
          against instrusive IEs changing their own. And one more vacillation, the
          people who have preserved the domestic cult best can be described as third
          function; does this mean simply that the growth of rationalism, which has
          affected mainly the upper classes, destroyed traditional beliefs, or that it
          was the third function people who most strongly held to the domestic cult in
          the first place? I think that the evidence from pre-Christian times in Rome,
          Greece, and India argues against the latter, however.
          This is a very interesting area of speculation. I know that a lot of
          general folkore work has been done on it, but I don't recall seeing anything
          specifically on IE domestic cult, except for the fire.

          Ceisiwr Serith


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Mark DeFillo
          I m another who hasn t done research into this specific area, but I have some general impressions and ideas. The idea of household spirits who are propitiated
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 12, 2003
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            I'm another who hasn't done research into this specific area, but I have
            some general impressions and ideas.

            The idea of household spirits who are propitiated seems to me to be
            (possibly with a few exceptions) a pan-Eurasian phenomenon shared by IE's.
            Whether or not it was part of PIE culture, I have no evidence available at
            present.

            Most IE's have been migratory to some extent, even if within their homeland
            areas according to some. And there seem to be similar rites for claiming and
            sanctifying one's home and land, which are reflected (and coupled with legal
            necessity) even in modern customs of "walking the bounds". This seems to
            include making a relationship with the local minor spirits/gods, of which
            household gods are those of the house itself and perhaps immediate vicinity.
            It is therefore not a matter so much of coopting the religions of previous
            human inhabitants, but of dealing with the more-permanent numinous
            components of the landscape, which all inhabitants have to deal with one way
            or another, or else ignore (which no "pagans" seem to do.)

            One place that might bear fruit for research would be the "vastu-shastra"
            literature of India. This is what some call the "feng-shui" of Hinduism, but
            deals with all aspects of housebuilding, architecture, layout, etc. Both in
            the Aryan vastu-shastra, and in the Dravidian culture, there is
            personification of houses, which is at least a related concept.

            It would be a good idea to refine the topic at hand with some clear
            definitions of what is meant by "household spirits", and what would
            constitute a cultus around them. For example, what relationship, if any, to
            that would the Indian house-personification lore have? (Personification
            implies a spirit. Other areas of the lore of vastu seem to have possible
            connections, but it is an area I only have a very vague familiarity with.

            ~Belenios/Mark

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          • mrcaws
            ... Hinduism, but ... Both in ... any, to ... (Personification ... possible ... with. Funk and Wagnall s Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend
            Message 5 of 5 , Apr 13, 2003
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              --- In PIEreligion@yahoogroups.com, "Mark DeFillo" <


              .... might bear fruit for research would be the "vastu-shastra"
              > literature of India. This is what some call the "feng-shui" of
              Hinduism, but
              > deals with all aspects of housebuilding, architecture, layout, etc.
              Both in
              > the Aryan vastu-shastra, and in the Dravidian culture, there is
              > personification of houses, which is at least a related concept.
              >
              > It would be a good idea to refine the topic at hand with some clear
              > definitions of what is meant by "household spirits", and what would
              > constitute a cultus around them. For example, what relationship, if
              any, to
              > that would the Indian house-personification lore have?
              (Personification
              > implies a spirit. Other areas of the lore of vastu seem to have
              possible
              > connections, but it is an area I only have a very vague familiarity
              with.

              Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and
              Legend defines household spirits as: "Supernatural beings of general
              European folklore, who frequent homes and farms; often helpful, often
              mischievous and tricky, sometimes malicious" I would argue that any
              kind of observation of ritual behavior(food offering, thanking the
              spirit etc) directed towards the household spirit indicated some
              level of cultus.

              Not familiar with Vastu Shastra, and only slightly familiar with Feng
              Shui, so I'm not really sure.

              More info on some household spirits:

              Roman "Lares" was a term used to denote a variety of spirits, but
              usually referred to "Lares Familiares", who were usually represented
              by small statues placed in a nook somewhere in the house(often near
              the hearth). Offerings of food were given to them. Most Roman
              households had a lararium. These small statues usually depicted two
              young boys, which has led some to compare them to the dioscuri.
              If not propitiated, the lares withdraw their blessings and may become
              mischievous.

              Also, there was the Roman"Genius" of a place. This was usually
              associated with the ancestors of the pater familias. The genius was
              believed to be the ancestor, who is able to visit his household from
              the underworld and took the form of a snake, and was also given food
              offerings.

              Funk and Wagnalls has this to say about the idea of similar spirits
              to the genius under the entry "house snakes":
              "The genius of the Roman house who foretold the destiny of the
              family. Among Teutons the house snakes embodies the souls of the dead
              ancestors and watched over children. In Greece and Russia a snake
              coming into the house is regarded as a good omen. The people believe
              that they have received a guardian spirit who will "watch over his
              own" In Armenia the house snake brings good luck and is treated with
              kindness. If one leaves, it is a sign that trouble and sorrow will
              fall on the household. If one suddenly arrives in the night he is
              given the hospitatlity offered to strangers, and fed immediately lest
              he depart. Almost everywhere the house snake is fed with milk.
              Similar practices and beliefs have been reported from among the
              Letts, White Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, Greeks."

              Slavic "Domovoi" were associated with the hearth as well, also
              sometimes represented by statue. Could appear as snake or rat, a
              small, hairy old man, or a likeness of the head of the household. If
              well taken care of, the domovoi would assist with household tasks at
              night and protect the household. If not propitiated with a gift, or
              if the house's owners misbehave, the domovoi may become mischievous.
              Mysterious noises, missing food, dishes, or tools may be examples of
              a domovoi's revenge. It was believed possible to "transfer" a domovoi
              from one house to another by putting coals from the old house into
              the hearth of the new house.Slavic folklore also seems to have other
              similar household spirits, some appearing as tiny old women, for
              instance.

              In the British isles, brownies and similar spirits such as the pixie
              or bwbach are also often described as tiny, very hairy old men who
              either assist with the housework or cause mischief.

              Based on the above, I might argue that there are two distinct
              categories of household spirit, the "housekeeping" variety and
              the "ancestral" variety, but the Domovoi seems to encompass both
              roles, so I hesitate.

              Cort Williams
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