They are known as “Man” and “Twin.” They are the first priest and first sacrifice. They represent the beginning and end of all things, starting with themselves, and yet they are as eternal as the Gods. They are Mannus and Yemos.
Yet, of the two, Yemos (or Yama) is more often spoken of. In Proto-Indo-European myth, it is his body which constitutes the Earth and the Sky and encompasses all physical forms. Now Gods, venerated among the Deiwos, these entities were the original two before all humankind. Life continued endlessly for them until Yemos, in his wisdom, had his brother Mannus kill him, and thus create death. Yemos now rules the land of the dead and acts as a psychopomp from the land of the living to his home.
Sacrifice is a difficult concept in the modern age. I have touched on this, before, in previous writings. Sacrifice is not often seen as necessary, and is considered something done only by heroes or fools. Death scares us, and such an act as I have described above would likely be considered murder, regardless of the context.
The sacrifice of Yemos is echoed in several myths, most notably the death of Ymir (Norse myth). The difference lies in the fact that Ymir was a Giant, and was killed by Odin, Vili, and Ve, sons of Bor, who were in opposition to Ymir’s progeny, the Frost Giants. This was no chosen sacrifice, but rather a war, with the Gods of Humanity, the Aesir, emerging victorious. How then do we come to view Yemos’ death any differently?
In the same culture, we find that a king’s worth was often tied to the prosperity of his people. In the terms of Excalibur (a movie loaded with Pagan references), “The king and the land are one.” If the clan, the tribe, was starving or diseased, the king was assumed to be at fault, and the king would be deposed and replaced. In mythic terms, this was considered a sacrifice, as surely as any sacrifice to the Gods. One finds similar sensibilities among the Celts, complete with the geasa, taboos against certain actions, the performance of which would signify the end of the king or warrior’s life. Teutonic Magic by Kveldulf Gundarsson speaks of a yearly sacrifice in which a “king” (representing Ingvi Freyr) would travel from town to town, copulating with a maiden in each town, then being sacrificed after making the rounds [Gundarsson, 148-51].
In the Yemos and Mannus myth, Yemos is the first to notice that the world is out of balance. Yemos is the first to suggest that something must change in order for *Xartus to be established. Yemos is the first to offer himself as the sacrifice by which the world’s foundation would be laid. It is Yemos’ courage and determination that make this sacrifice so profound; no death yet exists, and no one has yet died besides the Great Serpent, killed by Perkunos. Yemos was traveling into the unknown, braved by no other before him, and preparing a place for those who would come after.
As twins, Yemos and Mannus represent the first of many paired opposites in PIE myth. Yemos is dead while Mannus lives. Yemos is king and Mannus is priest. They are not diametrically opposed to one another, but they are indeed at opposite ends of the spectrum. Yemos is considered greater of the two by Serith (“first among equals,” he posits on page 57) because of the courage and sacrifice I mentioned earlier. I think it is a romanticized notion that those in the ancient world did not fear death, or looked upon death with a collective courage lacking in the present day, but at the same time, it would be naïve to dismiss the possibility. Death was one of the few certainties of the ancient world, and came long before the idea of taxes ever reared its ugly head. Therefore, Yemos was likely a hero in certain ways, while Mannus is the one who stayed behind and made the sacrifice meaningful.