Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!
 
Dacians,

  

Many thanks to my special friend who offered me the source of these facts.



The following information was gathered from “Zalmoxis, The Vanishing God” by Mircea Eliade. The book was originally published in 1970 as “De Zalmoxis a Gengis-Khan: Etudes comparatives sur le religions et le folklore de la Dacie et de l’Europe Orientel”. The purpose is to present the essential from the religion of Geto-Dacians.
 
Table of Contents:
 
This page changes weekly. If you like it and want to know more about Dacians and their rituals, check back periodically, or enter your email address below and you will receive an email letting you know when it changes.

Powered by NetMind
 
Click Here
 
 
RELIGIOUS MEANINGS OF ETHNIC NAMES

According to Strabo, the original name of the Dacians was daoi. A tradition preserved by Hesychius informs us that daos was the Phrygian word for "wolf.' P. Kretschmer had explained daos by the root *dhäu, "to press, to squeeze, to strangle."' Among the words derived from this root we may note the Lydian Kandaules, the name of the Thracian war god, Kandaon, the Illyrian dhaunos (wolf), the god Daunus, and so on. The city of Daous-dava, in Lower Moesia, between the Danube and Mount Haemus, literally meant "village of wolves. Formerly, then, the Dacians called themselves "wolves" or "those who are like wolves," who resemble wolves. Still according to Strabo, certain nomadic Scythians to the east of the Caspian Sea were also called daoi. The Latin authors called them Daliae, and some Greek historians daai. In all probability their ethnic name was derived from Iranian (Saka) dahae, "wolf." But similar names were not unusual among the IndoEuropeans. South of the Caspian Sea lay Hyrcania, that is, in Eastern Iranian "Vehrkana," in Western Iranian "Varkana," literally the "country of wolves" (from the Iranian root vehrka, "wolf'). The nomadic tribes that inhabited it were called Hyrkanoi, "the wolves," by Greco-Latin authors. In Phrygia there was the tribe of the Orka (Orkoi).

We may further cite the Lycaones of Arcadia, and Lycaonia or Lucaonia in Asia Minor, and especially the Arcadian Zeus Lykaios" and Apollo Lykagenes; the latter surname has been explained as "he of the she-wolf," "he born of the she-wolf," that is, born of Leto in the shape of a she-wolf. According to Heraclides Ponticus (Fragm. Hist. Gr. 218), the name of the Samnite tribe of the Lucani came from Lykos, "wolf." Their neighbors, the Hirpini, took their name from hirpus, the Samnite word for "wolf." At the foot of Mount Soracte lived the Hirpi Sorani, the "wolves of Sora" (the Volscian city). According to the tradition transmitted by Servius, an oracle had advised the Hirpi Sorani to live "like wolves," that is, by rapine. And in fact they were exempt from taxes and from military service, for their biennial rite-which consisted in walking barefoot over burning coals-was believed to ensure the fertility of the country. Both this shamanic rite and their living "like wolves" reflect religious concepts of considerable antiquity. There is no need to cite other examples. We will note only that tribes with wolf names are documented in places as distant as Spain (Loukentioi and Lucenses in Celtiberian Calaecia), Ireland, and England. Nor, indeed, is the phenomenon confined to the IndoEuropeans.

The fact that a people takes its ethnic name from the name of an animal always has a religious meaning. More precisely, the fact cannot be understood except as the expression of an archaic religious concept. In the case with which we are concerned, several hypotheses can be considered. First, we may suppose that the people derives its name from a god or mythical ancestor in the shape of a wolf or who manifested himself lycomorphically. The myth of a supernatural wolf coupling with a princess, who gives birth either to a people or a dynasty, occurs in various forms in Central Asia. But we have no testimony to its existence among the Dacians.
A second hypothesis comes to mind: the Dacians may have taken their name from a band of fugitives - either immigrants from other regions, or young men at odds with the law, haunting the outskirts of villages like wolves or bandits and living by rapine. The phenomenon is amply documented from earliest antiquity, and it survived in the Middle Ages. It is necessary to distinguish among:

a) adolescents who, during their initiatory probation, had to hide far from their villages and live by rapine;
b) immigrants seeking a new territory to settle in;
c) outlaws or fugitives seeking a place of refuge. But all these young men behaved "like wolves", were called "wolves", or enjoyed the protection of a wolf-god.
During his probation the Lacedaemonian kouros led the life of a wolf for an entire year: hidden in the mountains, he lived on what he could steal, taking care that no one saw him. Among a number of lndo-European peoples, emigrants, exiles, and fugitives were called "wolves." The Hittite laws already said of a proscribed man that he had "become a wolf.'' And in the laws of Edward the Confessor (ca. AD. 1000), the proscribed man had to wear a wolf headed mask (wolfhede). The wolf was the symbol of the fugitive, and many gods who protected exiles and outlaws had wolf deities or attributes. Examples are Zeus Lykoreius or Apollo Lykeios, Romulus and Remus, sons of the wolf-god Mars and suckled by the she-wolf of the Capitol, had been "fugitives." According to the legend, Romulus established a place of refuge for exiles and outlaws on the Capitol. Servius informs us that this asylum was under the protection of the god Lucoris. And Lucoris was identified with Lykoreus of Delphi, himself a wolfgod. Finally, a third hypothesis that may explain the name of the Dacians centers on the ability to change into a wolf by the power of certain rituals. Such a transformation may be connected with lycanthropy properly speaking-an extremely widespread phenomenon, but more especially documented in the BalkanoCarpathian region-or with a ritual imitation of the behavior and outward appearance of the wolf. Ritual imitation of the wolf is a specific characteristic of military initiations and hence of the Männerbünde, the secret brotherhoods of warriors. There are reasons to think that such rites and beliefs, bound up with a martial ideology, are what made it possible to assimilate fugitives, exiles, and proscribed men to wolves. To subsist, all these outlaws behaved like bands of young warriors, that is, like real "wolves."

HOME     TOP


  
MILITARY INITIATIONS: RITUAL TRANSFORMATION INTO A PREDATORY ANIMAL

The studies made by Lily Weiser, Otto Höfler, Stig Wikander, C. Widengren, H. Jeanmaire, and Georges Dumézil have markedly advanced our knowledge of the Indo-European military brotherhoods, and especially of their religious ideology and initiatory rituals. In the Germanic world these brotherhoods still existed at the end of the Volkerwandernng. Among the Iranians they are documented in the period of Zarathustra, but since a tart of the vocabulary typical of the Männerbflnde is also found in Vedic texts, there is no doubt that associations of young warriors already existed in the Indo-Iranian period. G. Dumnézil has demonstrated the survival of certain military initiations among the Celts and the Romans, and H. Jeanmaire has discovered vestiges of initiatory rituals among the Lacedaemonians. So it appears that the Indo-Europeans shared a common system of beliefs and rituals pertaining to young warriors.

Now the essential part of the military initiation consisted in ritually transforming the young warrior into some species of predatory wild animal. It was not solely a matter of courage, physical strength, or endurance, but "of a magico-religious experience that radically changed the young warriors mode of being. He had to transmute his humanity by an access of aggressive and terrifying fury that made him like a raging carnivore.'' Among the ancient Germans the predator-warriors were called berserkir, literally "warriors in the body-covering [serkrj] of a bear." They were also known as itqkedhnar, "wolf-skin men." The bronze plaque from Torslunda shows a warrior disguised as a wolf. From all this, two facts emerge: 

1. A young man became a redoubtable warrior by magically assimilating the behavior of a carnivore, especially a wolf;
2. He ritually donned the wolf-skin, either to share in the mode of being of a carnivore or to indicate that he had become a "wolf."
What is important for our investigation is the fact that the young warrior accomplished his transformation into a wolf by the ritual donning of a wolf-skin, an operation preceded or followed by a radical change in behavior. As long as he was wrapped in the animal's skin, he ceased to be a man, he was the carnivore itself: not only was he a ferocious and invincible warrior, possessed by the furor heroicus, he had cast off all humanity; in short, he no longer felt bound by the laws and customs of men. And in fact young warriors, not satisfied with claiming the right to commit rapine and terrorize the community during their ritual meetings, were able to behave like carnivores in eating, for example, human flesh. Beliefs in ritual or ecstatic lycanthropy are documented both among the members of North American and African secret societies and among the Germans, the Greeks, the Iranians, and the Indians. That there were actual instances of anthropophagic lycanthropy there is no reason whatever to doubt. The so-called leopard societies of Africa furnish the best example.  But such sporadic cases of "lycanthropy" cannot account for the dissemination and persistence of beliefs in "wolf-men." On the contrary, it is the existence of brotherhoods of young warriors, or of magicians, who, whether or not they wear wolf-skins, behave like carnivores, that explains the dissemination of beliefs in lycanthropy.

The Iranian texts several times mention "two-pawed wolves," that is, members of the Mönnerbünde. The Dënkart even states that "two-pawed wolves" are "more deadly than wolves with fbur paws." Other texts term them keresa, "brigands, prowlers," who move about at night. The texts dwell on the fact that these "wolves live on corpses; however, without excluding the possibility of actual cannibalism, this would seem to be more in the nature of a stereotype used by Zarathustran polemicists against the members of the Männerbünde, who, in practicing their ceremonies, terrorized the villages and whose way of life was so different from that of the Iranian peasants and herders. In any case, mention is also made of their ecstatic orgies, that is, of the intoxicating drink that helped them to change into wild beasts. Among the ancestors of the Achaemenides there was also a family named saka haumavarka. Bartholomae and Wikander interpret the name: "those who change themselves into wolves (varka) in the ecstasy brought on by soma (hauma)."  Now we know that down to the nineteenth century assemblies of young men included a banquet of food and drink stolen or obtained by force, especially alcoholic beverages.


HOME     TOP

  
THE CLUB AND THE STANDARD

The insignia peculiar to the Iranian Männerbünde (mairiya) were the "blood-stained club" and the standard (drafla)." As Wikander writes, the blood-stained club was used in the distinctive ritual of the Iranian Mönnerbiinde as the instrument for the ceremonial slaughter of an ox. The club became the symbol of the Iranian "carnivore-warriors." It is the typical weapon of the archaic warrior. As is the case with implements of great antiquity, the club retains its value as a cult instrument when its military use has been supplanted by more modern weapons. In addition, the club continued to be the typical weapon of peasants and herders. In this way it remained the weapon of the Romanian peasantry all through the Middle Ages and down to modern times, and is still the distinctive weapon in "young men's games," in which some memory of the initiatory brotherhoods always survives.
 

HOME     TOP
It will continue…