Earth and the dead

The Indo-Europeans in all probability disposed of their dead by inhumation. This was the normal practice in the fourth millennium, which is when the latest phase of undivided Indo-European has to be dated, in all the lands that come into serious question as the original habitat. The deceased terrestrial returned to his Mother Earth. She had therefore a connection with the dead as well as with life and growth. In a famous funeral hymn in the Rigveda, in verses used in later funerary ritual, the dead man is advised:

upa sarpa mataram Bhumim etaim, I uruvyacasam Prthivim susevam, Slip in to this Mother Earth, the wide-extending Broad One, the friendly, and she is asked mata putram yatha sica, I abhy enam BhQma Qrnuhi.

As a mother her son with her hem, wrap him round, O Earth. (10. 18. 10 f.)

In Greek epitaphs from the fourth century bce and later, Earth is said to conceal the deceased's body, or to have received him lovingly, in her KoXnoi, a word suggesting the folds of a garment: CEG 551. 1 oM/a oov iv KoXnois, KaXXioroi, yaia KaXvnrei, cf. 606. 9; 611. 1 o]M/a n¿v iv K^Xnoioi Kard x6^v tfSe KaX[vnrei; 633. 2 - n^Xa S) oe fiiXws vneSe^aro yaivno KoXnois.58 On one of the 'Orphic' gold leaves from Thurii, from the same period, the dead man declares Seonoivas Svno KoXnov eSw x6ovias aoiXeias, 'I have ducked down into the KoXnos of the Mistress, the Queen of Earth'.59 In some Roman devo-tiones and curses the Di Manes are associated with Tellus or with Terra Mater.60 She is evidently conceived as an underworld power in concert with the spirits of the dead. As mentioned above, the Latvian Mother of Earth, Zemes maate, had a similar role and presided over the dead. So did the Old Prussian Zemynele (Mannhardt (1936), 577, 603 f.).

57 Schleicher (1857), 189, 'die schwarze Erde soll mich nicht tragen'.

58 Similarly, doubtless under Greek influence, in the epitaph of P. Cornelius P. f. Scipio, CIL i.2 10. 6 (c.170 bce), quare lubens te in gremiu(m), Scipio, recipit I Terra.

59 A1. 7 Zuntz. On other leaves (those of the B series) the deceased announces to the guardians of the Water of Recollection that he is a child of Earth and Heaven and therefore entitled to pass.

60 Cf. Livy 8. 9. 8; 10. 28. 13, 29. 4; Suet. Tib. 75. 1; CIL vi. 16398.

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