Conclusion

We must now take stock and ask how much of the comparative material surveyed in this chapter can be projected back to atavistic mythologies. Do these nymphs, satyrs, giants, etc., all represent inherited concepts, or must we reckon extensively with secondary diffusion by folk-tale? If these beings had a place in the Indo-European world-view from the beginning, what was their social or poetic status? Did they rank beside the heavenly gods as recipients of cults and hymns? Did they play an equal role in stories of heroes? Or was there always a dichotomy between 'higher' and 'lower' mythology, the one sustained by bards, the other by grandmothers?

Not for the first or last time in this book, there are more questions than answers. But unanswered questions are better than unasked ones.

Pusan and Pan agree well enough in name and nature—especially when Hermes is seen as a hypostasis of Pan—to make it a reasonable conclusion that they are parallel reflexes of a prototypical god of ways and byways, a

guide on the journey, a protector of flocks, a watcher of who and what goes where, one who can scamper up any slope with the ease of a goat. We do not know enough about the north European gods of roads to tell whether they were the same god in origin. If they were, that would put him back from the Graeco-Aryan to the MIE level.

With the nymphs we cannot trace any one name across linguistic boundaries. But they show such a remarkable uniformity of conception from India to the Celtic West that the hypothesis of a common Indo-European background seems unavoidable. Neither independent development nor diffusion has any plausibility as an explanation. If the Lycian Eliyana and Wedri are genuine Luwian survivals, nymphs can be assumed not just for MIE but for PIE, though confirmation from Bronze Age evidence would be welcome.

Our elves and satyrs, goblins and giants are a more motley crew, and while we can recognize many recurrent traits, it is difficult to see so coherent an overall pattern as with the nymphs. It is unlikely that the Indo-Europeans had no concept of such creatures, but we cannot define with any sharpness of outline what their conceptions were.

One thing that does seem clear is that these were not gods to whom one prayed, sang hymns, or made offerings. One might recite spells to ward them off, as in the Atharvaveda (e.g. 1. 16; 2. 14; 4. 36 f.; 8. 6) we find incantations to banish demons and injurious spirits (raksasah). They are thus in a different category from the god of ways: there are regular hymns to Pusan in the Rigveda and to Pan and Hermes in Greek, celebrating the deity and seeking his favour. Nymphs come somewhere in between. There are no hymns to the Apsarases in the Rigveda, and those addressed to them in the Atharvaveda are of an apotropaic character. In Greek I think there are none to the Nymphs until we come to the late, intellectual corpus of Orphic Hymns, composed in the Imperial period. On the other hand there were genuine popular cults in Greece and other countries, reflecting the belief that nymphs were resident in certain places and had a generally beneficent interest in their human neighbours.

The distinction between 'regular' hymns, crafted by professional poets on traditional metrical and formal principles, and spells and incantations, which have their own distinctive rhetoric, will be explored in the following pages.

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