Trifunctional hypothesis

The trifunctional hypothesis of prehistoric Proto-Indo-European society postulates a tripartite ideology ("idéologie tripartite") reflected in the existence of three classes or castes—priests, warriors, and commoners (farmers or tradesmen)—corresponding to the three functions of the sacral, the martial and the economic, respectively. The trifunctional thesis is primarily associated with the French mythographer Georges Dumézil,[1] who proposed it in 1929 in the book Flamen-Brahman,[2] and later in Mitra-Varuna.[3]

Three kings or three gods
This part of a 12th-century Swedish tapestry has been interpreted to show, from left to right, the one-eyed Odin, the hammer-wielding Thor and Freyr holding up wheat. Terje Leiren believes this grouping corresponds closely to the trifunctional division.

Three-way division

According to Dumézil (1898-1986), Proto-Indo-European society comprised three main groups corresponding to three distinct functions:[2][3]

  • Sovereignty, which fell into two distinct and complementary sub-parts:
  • one formal, juridical and priestly but worldly;
  • the other powerful, unpredictable, and also priestly but rooted in the supernatural world.

In the Proto-Indo-European mythology each social group had its own god or family of gods to represent it and the function of the god or gods matched the function of the group. Many such divisions occur in the history of Indo-European societies:

  • Southern Russia: Bernard Sergent associates the Indo-European language family with certain archaeological cultures in Southern Russia and reconstructs an Indo-European religion based upon the tripartite functions.[4]
  • Early Germanic society: The supposed division between the king, nobility and regular freemen in early Germanic society.[5]
  • Norse mythology: Odin (sovereignty), Týr (law and justice), the Vanir (fertility).[6][7][note 1] Odin has been interpreted as a death-god[9] and connected to cremations,[10] and has also been associated with ecstatic practices.[11][10]
  • Classic Greece: The three divisions of the ideal society as described by Socrates in Plato's The Republic. Bernard Sergent examined the trifunctional hypothesis in Greek epic, lyric and dramatic poetry.[12]
  • India: The three Hindu castes, the Brahmins or priests; the Kshatriya, the warriors and military; and the Vaishya, the agriculturalists, cattle rearers and traders. The Shudra, a fourth Indian caste, is a peasant or serf. A 2001 study found that the genetic affinity of Indians to Europeans is proportionate to caste rank, the upper castes being most similar to Europeans whereas lower castes are more like Asians. The researchers believe that the Indo-European speakers entered India from the Northwest, mixing with or displacing proto-Dravidian speakers, and may have established a caste system with themselves primarily in higher castes.[13]


Supporters of the hypothesis include scholars such as Émile Benveniste, Bernard Sergent and Iaroslav Lebedynsky, who concludes that "the basic idea seems proven in a convincing way".[14]

The hypothesis was embraced outside the field of Indo-European studies by some mythographers, anthropologists, and historians such as Mircea Eliade, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Marshall Sahlins, Rodney Needham, Jean-Pierre Vernant and Georges Duby.[15]

On the other hand, Allen[16] concludes that the tripartite division may be an artefact, a selection effect rather than an organizing principle used in the societies themselves. Benjamin W. Fortson reports[17] a sense that Dumézil blurred the lines between the three functions and the examples that he gave often had contradictory characteristics, causing detractors[18] to reject his categories as non-existent. John Brough surmises that societal divisions are common outside of Indo-European societies as well, and consequently the hypothesis has only limited utility in illuminating prehistoric Indo-European society.[19] Cristiano Grottanelli states that while Dumézilian trifunctionalism may be seen in modern and medieval contexts, its projection onto earlier cultures is mistaken.[20] Belier is strongly critical.[21]

The hypothesis has been criticised by historians Carlo Ginzburg, Arnaldo Momigliano[22] and Bruce Lincoln[23] as being based on Dumézil's sympathies with the political right. Guy Stroumsa sees these criticisms as unfounded.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Terje Leiren discerns another grouping of three Norse gods that may correspond to the trifunctional division: Odin as the patron of priests and magicians, Thor of warriors, and Freyr of fertility and farming.[8]


  1. ^ According to Jean Boissel, the first description of Indo-European trifunctionalism was by Gobineau, not by Dumézil. (Lincoln, 1999, p. 268, cited below).
  2. ^ a b Dumézil, G. (1929). Flamen-Brahman.
  3. ^ a b Dumézil, G. (1940). Mitra-Varuna, Presses universitaires de France.
  4. ^ Bernard Sergent, Les Indo-Européens - Histoire, langues, mythes, Payot, 1995 ISBN 2-228-88956-3
  5. ^ Dumézil, Georges. (1958). The Rígsþula and Indo-European Social Structure. Gods of the Ancient Northmen. Ed. Einar Haugen, trans. John Lindow (1973). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03507-0.
  6. ^ Turville-Petre 1964, p. 103.
  7. ^ Polomé 1970, p. 58—59.
  8. ^ Leiren, Terje I. (1999), From Pagan to Christian: The Story in the 12th-Century Tapestry of the Skog Church
  9. ^ Vries 1970b, p. 93.
  10. ^ a b Davidson 1990, p. 147.
  11. ^ Vries 1970b, p. 94—97.
  12. ^ In the monograph Les trois fonctions indo-européennes en Grèce ancienne Vol. 1, De Mycènes aux Tragique, Économica 1998 ISBN 2-7178-3587-3
  13. ^ Bamshad M, Kivisild T, Watkins WS, Dixon ME, Ricker CE, Rao BB, Naidu JM, Prasad BV, Reddy PG, Rasanayagam A, Papiha SS, Villems R, Redd AJ, Hammer MF, Nguyen SV, Carroll ML, Batzer MA, Jorde LB (June 2001). "Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations". Genome Research. 11 (6): 994–1004. doi:10.1101/gr.GR-1733RR. PMC 311057. PMID 11381027. Retrieved 2007-09-09.
  14. ^ Lebedynsky, I.. (2006). Les Indo-Européens, éditions Errance, Paris
  15. ^ Lincoln, B. (1999). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship, p. 260 n. 17. University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-48202-6.
  16. ^ Allen, N. J. Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.10.53
  17. ^ Benjamin W. Fortson. Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction p. 32
  18. ^ Gonda, J. (1974). Dumezil's Tripartite Ideology: Some Critical Observations. The Journal of Asian Studies, 34 (1), 139–149, (Nov 1974).
  19. ^ Lindow, J. (2002). Norse mythology: a guide to the Gods, heroes, rituals, and beliefs, p. 32. Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-515382-8.
  20. ^ Grottanelli, Cristiano. Dumézil and the Third Function. In Myth and Method.
  21. ^ Belier, W. W. (1991). Decayed Gods: Origin and Development of Georges Dumézil's Idéologie Tripartite, Leiden.
  22. ^ Wolin, Richard. The seduction of unreason: the intellectual romance with fascism, p. 344
  23. ^ Arvidsson, Stefan. Aryan idols: Indo-European mythology as ideology and science, p. 3
  24. ^ Stroumsa, Guy G. (1998). Georges Dumézil, ancient German myths, and modern demons. Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, 6, 125-136."Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2009-11-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)


  • Davidson, Hilda Ellis (1990), Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-013627-4
  • Polomé, Edgar Charles (1970), "The Indo-European Component in Germanic Religion", in Puhvel, Jaan, Myth and Law Among the Indo-Europeans: Studies in Indo-European Comparative Mythology, University of California, ISBN 9780520015876
  • Turville-Petre, Gabriel (1964), Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, OCLC 645398380
Archaic Triad

The Archaic Triad comprised the original three deities worshipped on the Capitoline Hill in Rome: Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus. This structure was no longer clearly detectable in later times, and only traces of it have been identified from various literary sources and other testimonies. Many scholars dispute the validity of this identification.


A churl (etymologically the same name as Charles / Carl and Old High German karal), in its earliest Old English (Anglo-Saxon) meaning, was simply "a man", and more particularly a "husband", but the word soon came to mean "a non-servile peasant", still spelled ċeorl(e), and denoting the lowest rank of freemen. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it later came to mean the opposite of the nobility and royalty, "a common person". Says Chadwick:

the distinction between thegn and ceorl is from the time of Aethelstan, the broad line of demarcation between the classes of society.

This meaning held through the 15th century, but by then the word had taken on negative overtones, meaning "a country person" and then "a low fellow". By the 19th century, a new and pejorative meaning arose, "one inclined to uncivil or loutish behaviour"—hence "churlish" (cf. the pejorative sense of the term boor, whose original meaning of "country person" or "farmer" is preserved in Dutch and Afrikaans boer and German Bauer, although the latter has its own pejorative connotations such as those prompting its use as the name for the chess piece known in English as a pawn. Also the word villain - derived from Anglo-French and Old French and originally meaning "farmhand" - had gone through a similar process to reach its present meaning).

The ċeorles of Anglo-Saxon times lived in a largely free society, and one in which their fealty was principally to their king. Their low status is shown by their werġild ("man-price"), which, over a large part of England, was fixed at 200 shillings (one-sixth that of a theġn). Agriculture was largely community-based and communal in open-field systems. This freedom was eventually eroded by the increase in power of feudal lords and the manorial system. Some scholars argue, however, that anterior to the encroachment of the manorial system the ċeorles owed various services and rents to local lords and powers.

In the North Germanic (Scandinavian) languages, the word Karl has the same root as churl and meant originally a "free man". As "housecarl", it came back to England. In German, Kerl is used to describe a somewhat rough and common man and is no longer in use as a synonym for a common soldier (die langen Kerls of Frederick the Great of Prussia). Rígsþula, a poem in the Poetic Edda, explains the social classes as originating from the three sons of Ríg: Thrall, Karl and Earl (Þræl, Karl and Jarl). This story has been interpreted in the context of the proposed trifunctional hypothesis of Proto-Indo-European society.

Cognates to the word ceorle are frequently found in place names, throughout the Anglophone world, in towns such as Carlton and Charlton, meaning "the farm of the churls". Names such as Carl and Charles are derived from cognates of churl or ċeorle.

While the word churl went down in the social scale, the first name derived from the same etymological source ("Karl" in German, "Charles" in French and English, "Carlos" in Spanish etc.) remained prestigious enough to be used frequently by many European royal families - owing originally to the fame of Charlemagne, to which was added that of later illustrious kings and emperors of the same name. Król, the Polish word for "king", is also derived from the same origin.

Estates of the realm

The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom (Christian Europe) from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.

The best known system is the French Ancien Régime (Old Regime), a three-estate system used until the French Revolution (1789–1799). Monarchy was for the king and the queen and this system was made up of clergy (the First Estate), nobles (the Second Estate), and peasants and bourgeoisie (the Third Estate). In some regions, notably Scandinavia and Russia, burghers (the urban merchant class) and rural commoners were split into separate estates, creating a four-estate system with rural commoners ranking the lowest as the Fourth Estate. Furthermore, the non-landowning poor could be left outside the estates, leaving them without political rights. In England, a two-estate system evolved that combined nobility and clergy into one lordly estate with "commons" as the second estate. This system produced the two houses of parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. In southern Germany, a three-estate system of nobility (princes and high clergy), ritters (knights), and burghers was used. In Scotland, the Three Estates were the Clergy (First Estate), Nobility (Second Estate), and Shire Commissioners, or "burghers" (Third Estate), representing the bourgeois, middle class, and lower class. The Estates made up a Scottish Parliament.

Today the terms three estates and estates of the realm may sometimes be re-interpreted to refer to the modern separation of powers in government into the legislature, administration, and the judiciary. Additionally the term fourth estate usually refers to forces outside the established power structure (evoking medieval three-estate systems), most commonly in reference to the independent press or media. Historically, in Northern and Eastern Europe, the Fourth Estate meant rural commoners.

Flamen Quirinalis

In ancient Roman religion, the Flamen Quirinalis was the flamen or high priest of the god Quirinus. He was one of the three flamines maiores, third in order of importance after the Flamen Dialis and the Flamen Martialis. Like the other two high priests, he was subject to numerous ritual taboos, such as not being allowed to touch metal, ride a horse, or spend the night outside Rome.

The theology of Quirinus is complex and difficult to interpret. From early times, he was identified with the deified Romulus, who originally seems to have shared some common theological and mythological elements with Quirinus.


Gentry (from Old French genterie, from gentil, "high-born, noble") are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry, the majority of the land-owning social class who were typically armigerous (having a coat of arms), but did not have titles of nobility. Gentry, in its widest connotation, refers to people of good social position connected to landed estates (see manorialism), upper levels of the clergy, and "gentle" families of long descent who never obtained the official right to bear a coat of arms. The historical term gentry by itself, so Peter Coss argues, is a construct that historians have applied loosely to rather different societies. Any particular model may not fit a specific society, yet a single definition nevertheless remains desirable. Linguistically, the word gentry arose to identify the social stratum created by the very small number, by the standards of Continental Europe, of the Peerage of England, and of the parts of Britain, where nobility and titles are inherited by a single person, rather than the family, as usual in Europe.

Before creation of the gentry, there were analogous traditional social elites. The adjective patrician ("of or like a person of high social rank") describes the governing elites in a medieval metropolis, such as those of the free cities of Italy (Venice and Genoa), and the free imperial cities of Germany and Switzerland, and the Hanseatic League, which were different from the gentry.

Georges Dumézil

Georges Dumézil (French: [ʒɔʁʒ dymezil]; 4 March 1898 – 11 October 1986, Paris) was a French comparative philologist best known for his analysis of sovereignty and power in Proto-Indo-European religion and society. He is considered one of the major contributors to mythography, in particular for his formulation of the trifunctional hypothesis of social class in ancient societies.

List of École normale supérieure people

Here follows a list of notable alumni and faculty of the École normale supérieure.

The term used in ENS slang for an alumnus is Archicube.


The Minbari are a fictional alien race featured in the television show Babylon 5. The Minbari characters of Delenn and Lennier figure prominently throughout the series; Neroon, Draal, and Dukhat are less prominent Minbari characters.

The fictional planet of Minbar is the homeworld of the Minbari race. The planet and race were named by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski after the Islamic pulpit known as a minbar.They use base-eleven mathematics but also place a great emphasis on the number three. They are arguably the most enigmatic of the "younger races" and generally prefer a more isolationist way of life. In fact, in the made-for-TV film In The Beginning the Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari warns the Humans against provoking them for that very reason (a warning they ignored, ultimately leading Earth to almost complete annihilation in the Earth–Minbari War). Although the Minbari are considerably younger than the ancient First Ones, they are among the oldest of the "younger races." The Minbari are more advanced in terms of technology than the humans. During the time-frame in which most Babylon 5 episodes are set, Earth warships and fighters (such as the Omega destroyers) are shown to be inferior in speed, maneuverability, and firepower to Minbari warcruisers and fighters.

Nart saga

The Nart sagas (Adyghe: Нартхымэ акъыбарыхэ; Nartxıme aqıbarıxe; Abkhaz: Нарҭаа ражәабжьқәа; Nartaa raƶuabƶkua; Karachay-Balkar: Нарт таурухла; Nart tawruxla; Ossetian: Нарты кадджытæ; Nartı kadjıtæ; Narty kaddžytæ; Chechen: Нарт Аьрштхой; Nart ärştxoý; Nart ärştxoj) are a series of tales originating from the North Caucasus. They form the basic mythology of the tribes in the area, including Abazin, Abkhaz, Circassian, Ossetian, Karachay-Balkar, and Chechen-Ingush folklore.


In Norse mythology, Njörðr is a god among the Vanir. Njörðr, father of the deities Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed sister, was in an ill-fated marriage with the goddess Skaði, lives in Nóatún and is associated with the sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility.

Njörðr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, in euhemerized form as a beloved mythological early king of Sweden in Heimskringla, also written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, as one of three gods invoked in the 14th century Hauksbók ring oath, and in numerous Scandinavian place names. Veneration of Njörðr survived into 18th or 19th century Norwegian folk practice, where the god is recorded as Njor and thanked for a bountiful catch of fish.

Njörðr has been the subject of an amount of scholarly discourse and theory, often connecting him with the figure of the much earlier attested Germanic goddess Nerthus, the hero Hadingus, and theorizing on his formerly more prominent place in Norse paganism due to the appearance of his name in numerous place names. Njörðr is sometimes modernly anglicized as Njord, Njoerd, or Njorth.


In Germanic mythology, Odin (; from Old Norse: Óðinn, IPA: [ˈoːðinː]) is a widely revered god. In Norse mythology, from which stems most surviving information about the god, Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym *wōđanaz.

Odin is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania through the tribal expansions of the Migration Period and the Viking Age. In the modern period, Odin continued to be acknowledged in the rural folklore of Germanic Europe. References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic peoples, and the day of the week Wednesday bears his name in many Germanic languages, including English.

In Old English texts, Odin holds a particular place as a euhemerized ancestral figure among royalty, and he is frequently referred to as a founding figure among various other Germanic peoples, including the Langobards. Forms of his name appear frequently throughout the Germanic record, though narratives regarding Odin are mainly found in Old Norse works recorded in Iceland, primarily around the 13th century. These texts make up the bulk of modern understanding of Norse mythology.

In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions and familiars—the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn, who bring him information from all over Midgard—and rides the flying, eight-legged steed Sleipnir across the sky and into the underworld. Odin is the son of Bestla and Borr and has two brothers, Vili and Vé. Odin is attested as having many sons, most famously the gods Thor (with Jörð) and Baldr (with Frigg), and is known by hundreds of names. In these texts, he frequently seeks greater knowledge, at times in disguise (most famously by obtaining the Mead of Poetry), makes wagers with his wife Frigg over the outcome of exploits, and takes part in both the creation of the world by way of slaying the primordial being Ymir and giving the gift of life to the first two humans Ask and Embla. Odin has a particular association with Yule, and mankind's knowledge of both the runes and poetry is also attributed to him, giving Odin aspects of the culture hero.

In Old Norse texts, female beings associated with the battlefield—the valkyries—are associated with the god and Odin oversees Valhalla, where he receives half of those who die in battle, the einherjar. The other half are chosen by the goddess Freyja for her afterlife location, Fólkvangr. Odin consults the disembodied, herb-embalmed head of the wise being Mímir for advice, and during the foretold events of Ragnarök, Odin is told to lead the einherjar into battle before being consumed by the monstrous wolf Fenrir. In later folklore, Odin appears as a leader of the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession of the dead through the winter sky. He is associated with charms and other forms of magic, particularly in Old English and Old Norse texts.

Odin is a frequent subject of study in Germanic studies, and numerous theories have been put forward regarding his development. Some of these focus on Odin's particular relation to other figures; for example, the fact that Freyja's husband Óðr appears to be something of an etymological doublet of the god, whereas Odin's wife Frigg is in many ways similar to Freyja, and that Odin has a particular relation to the figure of Loki. Other approaches focus on Odin's place in the historical record, a frequent question being whether the figure of Odin derives from Proto-Indo-European religion, or whether he developed later in Germanic society. In the modern period, Odin has inspired numerous works of poetry, music, and other forms of media. He is venerated in most forms of the new religious movement Heathenry, together with other gods venerated by the ancient Germanic peoples; some branches focus particularly on him.


Prav (Правь), Yav (Явь) and Nav (Навь) are the three dimensions or qualities of the cosmos as described in the Book of Veles of Slavic Native Faith (Rodnovery). The literal meanings of the words, are, respectively, "Right", "actuality" and "probability". They are also symbolised as a unity by the god Triglav (the "Three-Headed One"). Already Ebbo (c. 775 – 20 March 851, who was archbishop of Reims) documented that the Triglav was seen as embodying the connection and mediation between Heaven, Earth and the underworld / humanity; these three dimensions were also respectively associated to the colours white, green and black as documented by Karel Jaromír Erben.


A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.

Proto-Indo-European society

Proto-Indo-European society is the hypothesized culture of the ancient speakers of Proto-Indo-European, ancestors of all modern Indo–European ethnic groups who are speakers of Indo-European languages.

Theories about the culture are based primarily on linguistics and not ethnic, social, or cultural study, as the origin of Indo–European and their urheimat is still debated. There is no direct evidence of the nature of a "Proto-Indo-European society", as such. Any conclusions in this article or otherwise are only purely linguistic inferences, and not established facts.


In Germanic mythology, Seaxnēat (pronounced [sæɑksnæːɑt]) or Saxnōt is the national god of the Saxons.

The Old English form Seaxnēat is recorded in the genealogies of the kings of Essex. The Old Saxon form Saxnōt is attested in the Old Saxon Baptismal Vow along with the gods Uuoden (Woden) and Thunaer (Thor).

The genealogy of the kings of Essex originally placed Seaxnēat at its apex. It was subsequently modified to make Seaxnēat son of Woden, with the first king of Essex seven generations later:

Woden, Seaxnēat, Gesecg, Andsecg, Swaeppa, Sigefugel, Bedca, Offa, Æscwine (r. c. 527-587)The name is usually derived from "seax", the eponymous knife which was characteristic of the tribe, and "neat", cognate with German "not", need or help, meaning "help(er) of the Saxons". 19th century etymology using methodology available at the time derived the name from "seax" and (ge)-not, (ge)-nēat as "companion" (cognate with German Genosse "comrade"), resulting in a translation of "sword-companion" (gladii consors, ensifer). This interpretation of the name is due to Jacob Grimm, who identified Saxnot with the god Tiw (Zio). Grimm's view is more recently endorsed by Chaney (1970), but Simek (2007:276) prefers an identification with Fro, following Gabriel Turville-Petre (and invoking Georges Dumézil's trifunctional hypothesis).

The word sax is the Swedish word for scissor. In Danish and Norwegian the spelling is saks and in Icelandic the word is skæri, that also has the meaning "to cut" in all the Scandinavian languages.

Tabu Homosexualität

Tabu Homosexualität: Die Geschichte eines Vorurteils (German: The Taboo of Homosexuality: The History of a Prejudice) is a standard work of Germanophone research into homophobia, written by German sociologist, ethnologist, and sexologist Gisela Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg, and first published in 1978.

Threefold death

The threefold death, which is suffered by kings, heroes, and gods, is a putatively Proto-Indo-European theme, reconstructed from medieval accounts of Celtic and Germanic mythology and archaeologically attested from ancient bodies such as Lindow Man.

Some proponents of the trifunctional hypothesis distinguish two types of threefold deaths in Indo-European myth and ritual. In the first type of threefold death, one person dies simultaneously in three ways. He dies by hanging (or strangulation or falling from a tree), by drowning (or poison), and by wounding. These three deaths are foretold, and are often punishment for an offense against the three functions of Indo-European society. The second form of the threefold death is split into three distinct parts; these distinct deaths are sacrifices to three distinct gods of the three functions.

Triple deity

A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is three deities that are worshipped as one. Such deities are common throughout world mythology; the number three has a long history of mythical associations. Carl Jung considered the arrangement of deities into triplets an archetype in the history of religion.


In Norse mythology, the Vanir (; singular Vanr) are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom, and the ability to see the future. The Vanir are one of two groups of gods (the other being the Æsir) and are the namesake of the location Vanaheimr (Old Norse "Home of the Vanir"). After the Æsir–Vanir War, the Vanir became a subgroup of the Æsir. Subsequently, members of the Vanir are sometimes also referred to as members of the Æsir.

The Vanir are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in the poetry of skalds. The Vanir are only attested in these Old Norse sources. Vanir is sometimes anglicized to Wanes (singular Wane).

All sources describe the deities Njörðr, Freyr and Freyja as members of the Vanir. A euhemerized prose account in Heimskringla adds that Njörðr's sister—whose name is not provided—and Kvasir were Vanir. In addition, Heimskringla reports a tale involving king Sveigðir's visit to Vanaheimr, where he meets a woman by the name of Vana and the two produce a child named Vanlandi (whose name means "Man from the Land of the Vanir").

While not attested as Vanir, the gods Heimdallr and Ullr have been theorized as potential members of the group. In the Prose Edda, a name listed for boars is "Van-child". Scholars have theorized that the Vanir may be connected to small pieces of gold foil found in Scandinavia at some building sites from the Migration Period to the Viking Age and occasionally in graves. They have speculated whether the Vanir originally represented pre-Indo-European deities or Indo-European fertility gods, and have theorized a form of the gods as venerated by the pagan Anglo-Saxons.

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