Goths and Religious Practices

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Fri Mar 2 07:05:12 UTC 2001

In a message dated 2/24/2001 4:35:59 AM, hwhatting at writes:
<< So might it be possible that Gmc. */au/ had already become /o:/ in
Ulfila's time, and that Latin _Gothi_ represents *_Gauta- _? >>

I gave some examples earlier of how we might be able to see some "Goth"-type
words in Greek, that might match the meanings sometimes conjectured for the
origin of the Goth name.  The rich variations in Greek can suggest a number
of fairly plausible connections with the early Goths as we understand them.
But Greek is not the only source to look to.

For example, the idea that perhaps "Goth" might refer to a religious practice
(e.g., Baptist) doesn't only jive with a Greek word like <choe:> (n.,
libation) but also with such examples as Sanskrit, <juho:ti>, pour
sacrificial libations, which has been given as cognate with Gothic <giotan>.
I have not looked into Celtic or IIr, and perhaps there are possibility there.

What is interesting however in Greek is that it does supply the -o- / -u-
combination itself across all the variations ranging from <choe:> to passive
forms of the verb <cheo:> that include <chuto> (amphi de hoi thanatos chuto-
The Iliad 13.544).

There is not much to tell us that the Goths were libation-pourers.  But the
pour concept is so broad in Greek that it can be connected with other
practices that also can be fairly associated with the Goths.

For example, <chutos>, poured, also refers to an early practice associated
with "Gothic" remains, the piling on of dirt or large stone in burials.  In
Homer, <chute gaia> is a mound of earth, "especially a sepulchral mound."
Substantively, <chutos> may often mean a mound, bank or dyke.  The inhumation
burial mound (versus cremation) distinguishes apparent early Gothic sites
from other Germanic and certain other cultures in the area. (Cf. Lewis &
Short citing <gounte:> (Lydian word) and <goutarion> as "tomb".)

In any case, this is an important other meaning for the pour word in either
language that may have been overlooked. ("thanonti chutên epi gaian echeuan",
the Odyssey, 3.258.)

Strikingly, the burning of sacrifices yields words that share the /au/ of
*Gaut-.  E.g., Gr,  <kautos>or <kaustos> burnt-offering for the dead ("so
kauton", Hsch.); whole burnt-offering, to be burnt as a sacrifice;
<hiero-kaute├┤>, sacrifice as a burnt-offering.  Could the "Goth" name have
referred to the retained practice of sacrificing animals, somewhat abandoned
by Greeks and others in the area before 200AD.  Cf., Gothic, <sa:uths>,
sacrifice, burnt-offering - perhaps borrowed from satemizing co-religious in
the Ukraine.

Also, something that distinguishes burials that are thought to be Gothic from
others near the Danube is the large amount of metalworks, especially the
fibulae.  Dobhanov mentions "plenty of iron" as distinguishing "Gothic"
burials.  (Large numbers of "Gothic" graves have been found, settlements are
relatively rare.)

There are several variations of the "pour" words in Greek that refer to
metal-working, including such forms as <chutos>, cast, melted, fused, welded;
and <kausis>, smelting.  But that is for another post.

Steve Long

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