Classical Mythology Explained
With The Use of Macedonian Vocabulary
A Series of Studies in European Mythology
Part 1 - Is There a Practical Meaning to Mythology?
by Odisej Belchevsky
The information contained in this article is not of mythical or imagined content but is very real, which the reader should find exciting and interesting.
In this article I will take the reader through a fresh new look at classical mythology and bring out alternative meanings of the identities of Demeter, Saturn, Pluto/Hades and Zemele.
An inquiring mind may ask the following questions:
How is it that for the last 200 years European scholars have been able to attribute mathematics, physics, astronomy, government, military strategies, natural principles and even the understanding of human behavior to the ancient people of southern Europe and the Mediterranean yet when it comes to interpreting mythological figures they could only manage to provide imaginary, unrealistic, impractical, hard to understand and confusing explanations?
Is it possible that modern scholars and scholars of the “Romantic Era” in particular, did not have a clear understanding of the true meaning of the names of deities in relation to the deities’ roles and functions in nature?
I will begin my interpretation by providing the reader with a foundation for understanding the process by which the ancient Europeans created what we today call Classical Mythology. I will then show how the ancient Europeans used practical methods for naming their deities and each name such as Demeter, Pluto, Hades, Zemele, etc., had a special meaning for them which, when interpreted properly, makes sense even today.
To conduct our interpretations properly we must seek the oldest name of each deity and have a good knowledge of the deity’s attributes and characteristics. It is also essential that we have a good knowledge of the old Macedonian languages, Koine and Slavonic.
It is particularly important to know the oldest name of the gods and goddesses because many deities have been borrowed by various cultures and over time their names have been changed.
Over the years I have studied many details of these deities both from linguistic and historical sources and, although many books have been written on this subject, none can provide a simple and logical explanation. Most often the average person searching for meaning is left with a confusing, complicated, long, stretched out and generally difficult explanation.
By applying my knowledge of the Macedonian language, some of its older dialects and Old Slavonic I have been able to find simpler and more practical meanings for the names of the deities which not only identify the deities with nature but also put them in harmony with their characteristics and attributes.
In this article I would like to offer a practical meaning for the four deities: Demeter, Pluto, Hades and Zemele.
After establishing the meaning of the names of these four we can use the same method to explain the meaning and role of almost all known classical deities. We must also keep in mind that some names and their meanings have evolved over the years.
If we were to study the ancient societies from about 1500 to 500 B.C. we would find that their world was a world of agriculture. Most people in this period made their living from farming, so it is reasonable to assume that their survival depended on their ability to successfully work the land. More specifically, farmers had to have extensive knowledge of soil and weather conditions. They had to know the seasons, when to plant and when to harvest. They also had to know the importance of rain and its unpredictability. In the old days, as it is today, after planting farmers had to literally “pray” for the rain to fall. In all practicality, if the rain did not fall when it was needed, crops would suffer and yield poorly. The quality of soil was also an important factor in farming. If the soil was infertile the crop yield would be poor. The ancient farmers had to know that.
When comparing today’s societies with those of 3000 years ago we find that ancient people did not have the technology or the means to transport food over great distances so a failed crop meant suffering and starvation. In ancient times all the necessary work was done manually by humans and animals (in some regions of the world farming is still done this way). Today we have technology to till the land, plant seeds and harvest crops. We have fertilizing to enrich the soil and water delivery systems to water it. We also have better methods (although sometimes questionable) of predicting the weather.
Now that we have established that the ancient societies of 3000 years ago heavily depended on farming the land for their survival, we need to establish a rationale for their gods. First we need to establish the origin of these deities.
It was Plato (500-600 BC) that said “most gods and their traditions we have received from the Barbarians.” A few hundred years later Herodotus confirms Plato’s statement.
If these Barbarians, who according to Homer, were “as numerous as the leaves in the forest” had the capacity to create these gods and pass them on to the ancient Europeans, is it not possible that their other characteristics have also descended and remain with us today?
It is important to note here that the original meaning of the word barbarian was “misunderstood”. Today we know that barbarian does not mean ignorant but rather a non-speaker of the languages of the ancient Greek city states.
Many authors, I believe, have tried to interpret the rationale behind the ancient deities but did not go deep enough. In my opinion, their scope was too narrow and they could not find a rational and logical explanation. One of those authors was Edith Hamilton, a great scholar and world-renowned classicist who wrote a book about Greek and Norse Mythology. In her book, published in 1940, she talks about mythological fairy tales and stories of the imagination, pure fiction with little meaning or practicality that would connect the deities to every day life. Others too have hinged on the imagination of the ancients as the source for the creation of mythology.
I do have to admit that over time mythological stories most probably have been embellished by the storytellers and as a result have somewhat changed. But still we must not underestimate the ability of the ancient Europeans to apply reason and logic. We also have to maintain the notion that at the time of the “mythological creation,” which most likely was over a long period of time, all the gods were created by necessity and were an integral part of peoples’ lives. I have been carrying this notion for many years and as a result have searched for more rational and practical meanings in mythology.
Influenced by numerous literary sources connecting classical mythology to the ancient Greeks and Romans, most writers over the last hundred years or so have failed to widen their search and consider one of the largest linguistic groups, the Slavonic languages. Myself, I have discovered that the Slavonic languages offer an immense source of knowledge in many fields including mythology.
For example, consider the following excerpt;
... The daughter of Doimater (Demeter), Prosorpina – (Persephone) is “snatched” by Hades the god of the underworld and is taken underneath the earth for four months of the year. In the beginning, Demeter is furious as she frantically looks for her daughter. Her absence causes the earth to freeze and become barren of all fruits and gifts to the mortals. After some time Demeter accepts Persephone’s fate and allows her to become Hades’ bride and spend the winters beneath the surface of the earth…
In the spring, when Hades changes to Pluto (his brother), Persephone comes back to the surface bringing with her Pluto’s wealth of the agriculture and all Demeter’s gifts of nature back to the mortals …
Looking at the excerpt from a farmer’s point of view we find that the changing of the seasons is perpetual and universal. As daylight increases and the sun warms the earth, the earth comes back to life. The soil is plowed, seeded and bears the fruits that sustain life. This is an annual transformation that goes beyond the control of mere mortals (humans). As farmers, the ancient people paid careful attention to the seasons.
It is important at this point to note that the ancient creators of the gods modeled their deities after their own images and their relationships to one another. For example there were mother and father gods, children and sibling gods. These gods were part of their lives and daily existence.
It is also important to note that the various “myths” come to us from the well known “Homeric Hymns”.
For many thousands of years the ancient Europeans observed natural phenomena around them, phenomena such as the movement of the sun, lightning and thunder descending from the sky, the birth of new life, death, the falling of rain, the perpetual changing of day and night, the changing of the moon, the stars, the changing of the seasons, the enormous power of the uncontrollable seas, the phenomenon of fire, the fruitfulness of mother earth and many more.
People could not explain or control these powerful natural phenomena but accepted them as forces of nature. In their minds these powerful forces were responsible for the existence of all life on earth so naturally the early Europeans greatly respected, feared, honoured and accepted them as gods.
Today we are not much different. Even though our religions have greatly evolved, we still attribute things we don’t understand or wish for to our God. All religions basically teach us to be good, to love and respect one another, to be generous and to be honest and humble.
Unlike our ancestors, today we understand most of the natural phenomena like how clouds and rain are formed, what causes the changing of the seasons, etc. and no longer have the need to attribute them to the gods.
Also, in spite of what some modern scholars tell us, Ancient Europeans did not imagine or create their gods purely for fictional purposes but rather they modeled them after the powerful “natural phenomena” which they observed over long periods of time. The gods were created from the basic need to explain the natural forces that controlled their lives.
This becomes apparent when we use the Macedonian language to explain the role of the gods from the meaning of their names.
Most of the original names and characteristics of these deities clearly coincide with basic fundamental words found in the modern Macedonian and Slavonic languages. These words are part of language concepts that have created very large families of words with very deep etymological root connections pointing to a long and continual development. The Slavonic languages provide the most logical explanation and are unparalleled compared to other European and non-European languages. Evidence of this is very strong and is extremely hard to ignore.
The following table provides examples of the relationship between the meaning of the name of the deities and their role in nature:
Greek or Roman
|English ||Greek |
|Semele || Thraco- Macedonian
|Earth ||Homa |
|Agricultural God ||Sadi
|Planting ||Fiton |
| ||Doi Dos ||Nourishing
|Pluto ||Riches of agriculture
|Fruitful ||Karpoforos |
|Ghades ||Snake ||Ofis |
The names of these Deities are interconnected in a most amazing functional conception. In fact they exist together in harmony in the Macedonian language today just as they always existed in nature. They are inseparable. If we separate them their meaning will be lost.
Zemele - Zemle - Semelhs
Zemele is an ancient root word that exists only in the Slavonic languages.
The following are Macedonian etymological words associated with the root word Zemele:
|Zemja, Zemla ||the Earth |
|Zemjodelie ||agriculture |
|Zemjodelec ||crop farmer |
|Zemjak ||fellow countryman |
| || |
|Zemski ||earthly |
|Zemjotres ||earthquake |
|Prizemje ||partly underground |
|Temeli (Zemeli) ||foundations (the foundations are always dug into the Earth) |
| || |
|Temni ||to darken |
|Temno ||dark (it darkens as one descends deep into earth) |
|Temnica ||darkness |
|Podzemle ||underground |
|Nadzemle ||aboveground |
|Zemjani ||inhabitants of the earth |
|Zemun, Zemunik ||place names originally built with earth/ soil around them |
Also, the above have close family ties with the following pre-Into-European words:
|Zemle, Semle, Sem(l)e, Seme ||seed that is planted in the earth |
|Semeto se see ||the seed is planted in the earth |
By losing the letter ’m’ above, we obtain;
|Zemele, Semele, Seele, sele ||inhabiting the earth “living on the Earth” |
|Sele, na sele ||to inhabit, dwell |
|Selo, sela, nasele ||village (pre Slav– house, habitat) |
and so on.
The word Zemele also has a number of “sister words” such as Zmija and zmej a snake or snake like monster, cold-blooded creatures that live below ground or in the underworld.
Now let’s review the characteristics and basic concepts associated with the earth.
The Earth has two main attributes:
1. It is able to bear fruit => Fruitfulness
2. Richness of the Soil => Plod => Pluto
Only a fruitful earth will bear “agricultural riches” associated with the god Pluto.
The word Pluto is closely related to the Macedonian word Plod or Plodo. In older versions of the Slavonic languages the letters and sounds of o and u were interchangeable. This is significant because if we replace the current letter ‘o’ with ‘u‘, we obtain Pludo. By the way, it is important to mention here that Pluto’s original name, or more precisely, one of Pluto’s older names is “Ploto”.
The word Plodo is part of a very large family of words many of which are functionally related in a language concept.
The earth contains all the ingredients and ability to nourish life which is planted into it. This is reflected and expressed in the words “Plodna Zemja” or “fruitful earth” .This only happens when the earth’s two attributes “fruitfulness and richness of soil” come together.
We know that everything that is alive bears fruit. Females (woman, Zhena) must be “fruitful” as well as be impregnated with a seed at the proper time or lunar cycle, in order to bear offspring and perpetuate life.
The seeds of every plant, when planted at the proper time (the spring), will be nourished by the falling rain or Dos / Dosdoi, as we call it in Macedonian. Coincidentally, the original name of Demeter was Doi (Doi) and Dos (Dos)
Also from the Homeric poems we know that Doine (Doine - qoine) means “feeding, nourishing”.
Again according to Homer, when the goddess Demeter came to earth to search for her daughter she used the name Doi.
There is also one important fact that I would like to mention at this point. According to one Macedonian tradition, which by the way is still practiced to this day in remote parts of Macedonia, there is a chant attributed to Doi that goes something like this;
|“Doi - dole - Doidule
Dozhdo da zavrne
Da na doi zemlata”
These are actual words chanted to the rain goddess asking her to make it rain (Dos and Dozd) so that the earth can be nourished and the crops will grow and bear fruit.
It is important at this point to mention that Persephone, Demeter’s daughter was also known by an older name as “Preseffeta” which in Macedonian means “to bloom”. As we know all living plants bloom in the spring when Persephone is released by Hades and returns to the surface.
And now let’s look at Hades, the god of the underworld and his relationship to the natural world.
Ghades - Hades
We all know that during the winter months in the world where the climate is moderate the earth freezes and loses its ability to bear fruit. In other words, Doimater or Demeter “cuts off the fruitfulness, richness and gift of the soil” as Pluto (Plodo), the richness of the soil escapes into the underworld and becomes his brother Hades (Ghades).
Hades renews himself as he again snatches Demeter’s daughter who symbolizes spring and summer, the warm seasons, and takes her below the earth for another cycle. Hades’ renewal brings the end of the warm season and the beginning of the cold one. For the farmers of old, Hades was the “bad attribute” of the earth or the time when the soil lost its Plod or ability to bear fruit. Hades is also associated with decomposition, darkness and fear of the unknown.
Again, Ghades is a unique Slavonic word that does not exist in any other European language. In most Slavonic cultures, the word Ghades is associated with the snake but in Macedonian it could also mean something bad, unpleasant, terrible, undesirable, or slimy.
To be continued...
Macedonian Language Researcher
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