Concept of Sovereignty in the Indo-European World

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search


The author of the conservative Imperium Press uses the Odinic-Tyrrhic distinction, which is a version of the Mitra-Varuna distinction found in Dumezil's book listed below:

"The concept is not mine, although the name is. I took it from Georges Dumézil’s book Mitra-Varuna, which is one of the most important books in the last century. The book suffers from one “flaw” though—it is steeped in Indo-European (IE) theology and linguistics, making it inaccessible to most people who could benefit from it. Nevertheless, it should and will become a classic in the radical right. In this book, Dumézil identifies a duality in the concept of sovereignty that is found across the IE world. It is associated with a pair of gods whose names change across the various IE branches, but who take up similar structural functions within their respective pantheons. Dumézil uses the Vedic gods Varuna and Mitra—I use the corresponding Norse gods Odin and Tyr.

Here is the most condensed version possible: Odin represents the Great Man, and Tyr represents the Maintainer of Order. Moreover, you may notice that these are not opposites, but complements. Any sovereign necessarily discharges both functions—Odin and Tyr are co-sovereigns. Lastly, these are not equals; the one prevails over the other—Odin is the high god, Tyr subordinate to him.

An example will make this clear—we will take the mythical founding of Rome.

A quick summary:

- "The twins Romulus and Remus,1 the sons of Mars, were born into a royal family of Alba Longa, but their great uncle ordered that they be killed as infants. They were exposed but then found by a she-wolf who suckled them until a shepherd found them and raised them. Upon reaching manhood they killed their great uncle and set out to found a new city with their followers, but Romulus killed Remus,2 after which Romulus founded Rome and established the city’s political institutions. In order to procure women, the newly minted Romans abducted women from the Sabines, sparking a war that ended in a truce and the integration of the Sabines into Rome. Romulus ruled until his death, variously given as disappearing into a whirlwind, being murdered by the Roman senate, or being taken up to the heavens by Mars. The next king, Numa Pompilius, was chosen from among the Sabines. A wise and pious man, Numa only reluctantly accepted kingship, demanding that an augur consecrate his rule. He disbanded Romulus’ war band,3 and founded Rome’s religious institutions including the state cult."

The Odinic Romulus is a very different figure than the Tyrrhic Numa. Romulus is the founder who brings the sacred fire and has an element of wildness and barbarism about him.4 He is somewhat beyond the pale, being a fratricide, and being eventually killed by the senate who represents what is venerable and ancient. He is a dark, violent, revolutionary, uncanny figure. You are not meant to emulate him—a civilization of Romuluses could not work—you are meant to respect him, maybe even fear him a little. He is a wartime king.5 Numa, on the other hand, is your moral exemplar. He reluctantly accepts power in middle age, founds the religious institutions, and is concerned with justice. He is the model of gravitas, the successor, the peacetime king. Again, we must note that Romulus and Numa are not incompatible—the Romans considered both representative of divine rulership, both authoritative. Note also that Romulus, while not the moral exemplar, is “senior”, even if he represents youth,6 speed, frenzy—the child the father of the man. He has “firstness”, he is the founder, and his will necessarily prevails; Numa’s job is to carry out and interpret that will.

Let us look at another example closer to our time: legal realism vs. legal formalism.

Realism and formalism are two philosophical approaches to law, and have been with us as long as law itself. If we look at the American context,7 we can see a very distinct Odinic-Tyrrhic dynamic at play. Legal realism is the idea that the law is a living body that evolves—law is subject to the will of the judge, who must continually reinterpret it according to circumstances particular to time and place.8 Legal formalism—also known as “originalism”—is the idea that the law is something logical and self-evident, that legal interpretations are guided by formal principles.9 Without giving a blow-by-blow account, American legal history is the history of the realist as the creator of law and the formalist as maintainer. In one generation—say, that of Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall—the realist and the formalist battle for supremacy, with the realist prevailing and the formalist of the next generation affixing to his creation the stamp of traditional legitimacy. To his own generation, the realist looks frenzied and disordered, a lawgiver beyond the pale, awful to behold;10 but to the next generation he just is the tradition, and the function of the formalist is to sanctify, order, and interpret the creative power wielded by the realist."


More information

* Book: Mitra-Varuna (Georges Dumézil)



"It’s not often that a work of comparative mythology has concrete applications in the modern world, but such is the power of Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna.

In it, Dumézil uses comparative evidence to draw out a conception of sovereignty common to the Indo-European world and thus ancient. He begins by noticing the parallels between the Romans and Indians. The Romans had essentially two classes of public religious figure: a) the Luperci who presided over the Lupercalia, and b) the flamines who presided over the state cult—he then draws parallels between these and the Gandharva/brahmins in the East. The Lupercalia was an extremely archaic annual festival that involved unruly and bloody fertility rites of an esoteric nature which connected it to the traditional founders Romulus and Remus; the Luperci were youths who formed an initiatic war band, carrying out these bizarre rites and wearing animal disguises—the parallels with the Germanic wolf-cults are clear, as with the Indian Gandharva. The state cult, on the other hand, was the centre of the religious life of the city, which was carried out by a priestly couple, the rex-flamen. This was what most Romans would encounter in everyday life, and which provided a sense of stability, continuity, and social cohesion. The two are oppositional, though not antagonistic—the Luperci appear only one day a year, the flamines daily; the flamines represent divine order, the Luperci divine disorder; the flamines are radically familiar, the Luperci radically other. Above all, the Luperci represent speed and violence (celeritas), the flamines majesty and solemnity (gravitas). The Luperci are the type of the magician-king, the flamines that of the jurist-priest.

This dichotomy runs through notions of sovereignty throughout the various Indo-European branches. I have already drawn out some of the political implications of this framework in my article The Odinic vs. the Tyrrhic, so I will refer you there for those. This book, when read a little below the surface (and there is a lot below the surface), reveals itself to be the ultimate work of political theology, exhaustively describing our social reality from the Bronze Age to now. It is of course more than that—it is a set of theological categories which have political implications, not a set of political categories. I hope to draw out more of the theological implications of this framework in the future if I ever get time to write a book between all the other things IP demands."