1. Horse and 2. Dice in India

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Mon Mar 23 19:43:05 UTC 1998

Sn. Subrahmania wrote:

At 11:26 23.03.98 -0600, you wrote:
>At 04:42 PM 3/23/98 +0100, Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
>>The horse cult is also known from Celtic religion. Consequently, if the
>>horse cult developed in situ about the year 2000 BCE in the Northwest part
>>of the subcontinent, we must assume that the Celts migrated from that area
>>to WEstern Europe. That is of course what some Indic writers, such as
>>Talageri, suggest. But it is not a very probable idea.
>Please give reasons as to why it is not probable ?.
>Celtic images very closely resemble seals from the Indus-Sarasvati region.

First a few general remarks on the horse sacrifice (from Mallory, In Search
of the Indo-Europeans, p. 135ff):

"The major ritual enactment of a horse-centered myth is supported by
evidence from ancient India and Rome, and, more distantly, medieval Ireland.

The ashvamedha bears comparison with the major Roman horse sacrifice which
was known as the October Equus. Following a horse race on the ides of
October, the right-sided horse of the team was dispatched by a spear and
then dismembered, again in such a fashion as to indicate its "functional"
division into the three estates. ....

A detailed analysis of this and other material has led Jaan Puhvel to
propose a Proto-Indo-European myth and ritual which involved the mating of a
figure from the royal class with a horse from which ultimately sprung the
famous equine divine twins. He offers some additional linguistic support for
such a ritual in the very name of the Indic ceremony, the ashvamedha. This
derives from the Proto-Indo-European *ek'wo-meydho 'horse-drunk', attesting
a ritual which included both a horse and drunkenness. This is quite
comparable to the personal name Epomeduos which is found in ancient Gaul and
appears to derive from *ekwo-medu 'horse-mead'. .... Hence, both the Indic
and Celtic worlds still preserve the ancient Proto-Indo-European name of a
horse-centered ceremony involving intoxication.
   The horse ritual warrants one more comment since it illustrates all too
well how a comparison of myths may lead us along paths that appear to be
contradicted by archaeological evidence. Both the ashvamedha and the October
Equus clearly concern the sacrifice of a draught horse and in a striking
instance of parallelism, both require that the horse in question excels on
the right side of the chariot ... Clearly, this suggests that the horse is
selected from a paired chariot team. But archaeological evidence indicates
that the horse was not likely to have been employed in paired draught until
the invention of the spoked wheel and chariot, which is normally dated after
about 2500 BC and, consequently, some time after we would have assumed the
disintegration of the Proto-Indo-European community. Indeed, the entire
concept of horse-twins, totally points to paired draught, while the
archaeological evidence suggests that this should not be so at the
time-depth we normally assign to Proto-Indo-European."

So much for data. Vidyanath Rao wrote:

Lars Martin Fosse <lmfosse at ONLINE.NO> wrote:
> The horse cult is also known from Celtic religion. Consequently, if the
> horse cult developed in situ about the year 2000 BCE in the Northwest part
> of the subcontinent, we must assume that the Celts migrated from that area
> to WEstern Europe.

>But that assumes that the Celtic and Indic rites show similarities
>in details. I am not sure that that is warranted. What I have read
>suggestes that the Celtic rite was at coronation, involved a mare
>and the king who bathed in the broth. In the a"svamedha, it is a
>stallion, is not regular and not connected with coronation.

> From the data given above, it should be clear that the horse-sacrifice is
well attested both in the West and the East. However, as myths go, we cannot
always expect to find entirely clear parallels. The Roman case shows clear
parallels with the Indic. In the Celtic area, the connection with the
coronation may not have been original (or the connection may have been lost
in Rome, where there was no king). The main point is that there was a major
sacrifice involving horse sacrifice and drunkenness. There is Nordic
archaeological material which shows that horses were sacrificed in that area
too, usually in the way that certain parts of the horse were put down in the
moss (head, four legs, tail). Unfortunately, I have no more details on this.
The Old Norsemen, by the way, used to slaughter horses for Christmas (the
winter solstice) and eat, drink and be merry. The eating of horse meat was
prohibited by the Christian church because of its connection with the pagan

And now to the question raised by Mr. Subrahmania:

If the Celts had migrated from the area in question about 2000 BCE, it would
be different to explain the linguistic distance between Indo-Iranian and
Celtic. We would expect the "forefather" of Celtic to have left the
"forefather" of Indo-Iranian perhaps a 1000 years or more earlier. But as
pointed out by Mallory, there are elements of the argument that seem
difficult to reconcile. Possibly, the horse sacrifice as such is older than
the use of paired draught, but has been changed in accordance with the new
technological development. This is one of those questions where there is
ample ground for making hypotheses, but where hard evidence is difficult to
come by.

As for the supposed similarity of Indus seals and Celtic images, I would
have to have more data to venture an opinion.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at online.no
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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