I’m just going to jump right in. This particular post is both a reminder to me of making sure I understand these concepts before continuing, and an explanation for anyone who is reading the blog.
One of the basic concepts of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) religion and practice, according to Ceisiwr Serith, is the idea of *Xartus. *Xartus is the pattern of the world, the living structure and foundation on which the world is based. By “living,” I mean that *Xartus grows, changes, and evolves with the world. If the world changes, so too must *Xartus. All ritual in PIE religion is an attempt to return the participant to *Xartus. This is actually not unlike the practice or goal of Kemetic ritual, according to Kemetic Orthodoxy. In Indo-European practice, the work of Celtic, Persian, and Vedic ritual was very similar. In Vedic practice, especially, it was more important for a priest to perform a rite correctly than it was for that priest to believe in the world-view which was presented. While this is one of the reasons for ADF’s practice of orthopraxy as opposed to orthodoxy, that’s not the main point: the idea is that one’s practice of religion is an attempt to live in accord with *Xartus, “the living structure of the Cosmos, and thereby help maintain the Cosmos.” [Serith 34].
There are multiple ways of living in this accord, and each has a word in PIE reconstructed language associated with it. The first is *dhetis, or the laws of society. Now, anyone who knows me knows I don’t put much stock in society, but this still has relevance in the fact that I do follow the rules of the communities I participate in. That is also *dhetis. This concept is the active participation in the community, and keeping that community safe through mutual agreement of what is and is not acceptable. I have a feeling that *dhetis was much more rigid in PIE times than they are today, but since *Xartus is a living system capable of growth, change, and evolution, so too must be *dhetis.
The second aspect of maintaining *Xartus in PIE religion is *yewesa, or the rules of ritual. Unfortunately, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of reviving PIE religion, as nothing of their original rituals or practices remains, and we can safely assume that in some cases, aspects of ritual practice were actively changed due to schisms, disagreements, travel, or even forgetfulness. We know that there was a schism in pre-Vedic practice that led to the demonization of the Asuras in Vedism, and the Daevas in Persian thought. This is called Pandemonium in some circles, and is an aspect of PIE study that seems to garner a lot of attention. In any case, this means that the proper practices were not necessarily passed down in any of the branching of the religious or linguistics groups. We can assume certain practices based on the descendant ones, and we can – at this point – recreate the ideas of the rituals to a best-guess, but ultimately, we are still making educated guesses, not looking at what actually happened. This is even further complicated by the fact that, had PIE religion evolved to the present-day unhindered, we still have little idea of what it would look like. Since *Xartus is a living, growing, changing thing, so too must be *yewesa, but what would it look like? Would it look more like Hinduism? Would it look more like Persian Paganism, pre-Zoroaster? Would it look more like Celtic practice? We’re unsure, and thus each one who wishes to work with these Gods and live in accordance with *Xartus must make decisions that might alter the course of the religion. The results are one of three possibilities: we successfully bring ourselves closer to *Xartus, whether or not we have done what the PIEs would have done in their day; we fail to bring ourselves closer to *Xartus, and the ritual does not have any of the intended effects; or we fail to bring ourselves closer to *Xartus, and the ritual has negative consequences. For this reason, when it comes to practicing ritual, I will have three sources:
- Deep Ancestors, by Ceisiwr Serith.
- I will be asking the Gods directly for how they want me to do and change things.
- Trial and error: I will be paying attention to when things go wrong, and that is part of the reason I have returned to maintaining this blog.
Since I have always worked on a balance between UPG and Lore, this should work well enough for me.
The third aspect of *Xartus is called *swartus, which is a simple perception of *Xartus in regards to the individual. *Swartus could technically be seen as how the individual fits within the pattern established by *Xartus, much in a similar vein to Wyrd or destiny. According to Serith, however, *swartus is like unto “drifting down a stream…” while breaking it is “like turning and trying to swim against the stream, tiring and improper. But what if someone is drowning upstream from you? You must turn and swim to save them. The result may be that you become tired and are swept away… But you followed the Xartus. You did the right thing.” This excerpt makes the entire understanding of this aspect of *Xartus more difficult. If you are meant to save that individual, then wouldn’t that be part of your *swartus? Is it only not part of your *swartus if you fail? And if that’s the case, why would you try? I understand the concept of aiding the community at the expense of the individual, but wouldn’t that be a part of *swartus, even if you fail? For now, I will acknowledge that a person who aligns one’s actions with *Xartus is following one’s *swartus, and leave it at that.
Finally, there is *swedhos, which is simply the ethics of the individual, the rules by which one achieves *swartus. This fits very well with my understanding of the world, that one chooses one’s own virtues and how they will relate to the world, and that it is right for that person to do so.
The practice of *Xartus seems to me to be similar to the idea of the Essential Rightness of the Universe. It is an understanding that implies that the world is ultimately good, even with the pain and hardship that inevitably happens in life. However, the inclusion of small doses of Chaos in an ordered world also tells me that the PIEs were concerned about too much order, just as they recognized the destructive power of too much Chaos.
So, part of the practice of PIE, for me, is likely to include the focus on living in relation to the pattern of the world, something I try to do, anyway. *Xartus certainly includes the *ghosti principle, of living with respect to the Gods, your peers, and the environment. I see no problems there. I am concerned that certain aspects of my practice might fall under the very definition of going against *swartus, namely walking between worlds and gender-fluidity. But that will have to be explored in the future.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll have a few things to rant about in Ceisiwr’s vision of reconstructed PIE practices.
- Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, by Ceisiwr Serith.
ADF Publishing, Tuscon, AZ Lughnasadh 2009 p. 34