Gods who shine through the millennia: Old Norse Baldr, Celtic Belinos, Old Irish Balar, and PIE *bʰelH- ‘be white, shine’

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Abstract

The paper argues for a common origin for Old Norse (ON) Baldr (name of a Scandinavian god associated with LIGHT), Celtic Belinos (name of a Celtic god identified with Apollo) and its Slovenian reflex Belin (name of a saint associated with SIGHT), and Old Irish (OIr.) Balar (name of a mythical character with possible solar features). New formal analyses and semantic intepretations of the names are provided and supported by means of insight obtained from the comparative study of Indo-European poetic phraseology and mythological narratives. (1) ON Baldr is the reflex with d-epenthesis of Proto-Germanic *balra- and Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *bʰol(H)-r-ó- ‘provided with light, splendor’, a possessive derivative of *bʰól(H)-r-/bʰélH-n- ‘light’, a heteroclite of the PIE root *bʰelH- (Greek φαλός ‘white’, Old English bæl ‘fire, light’, Proto-Slavic *bělъ ‘white’). This analysis exactly matches Baldr’s association with light in Norse myth and finds support in parallels in Old English (the name of Baldr’s Anglo-saxon counterpart *Bæl-dæg ‘[he who has control over the] shining day’) and in Slavic (the reconstructed theonym *Bělъ bogъ ‘white god’, a kenning referring to the [SUN] or the [SKY]), which are further strengthened by the correspondence between the flower names ON Baldrs brá ‘Baldr’s brow’, Old English dæges eāge ‘day’s eye’ (Modern English daisy) and Vedic Sanskrit divyásya suparṇásya kanī́nikā ‘pupil of the Sun’, all reflexes of an inherited kenning [EYE – of LIGHT/DAY/SUN-god], a poetic phrase which referred to [FLOWERS]. (2) Proto-Celtic *Belīno- (whose scansion with long -i- in the suffix is required by Gaulish Βελεινο-) is a reflex of *bʰelH-ēn-ó- ‘provided with light’ (if possessive) or ‘pertaining to light’ (if pertinentive), a derivative of *bʰ(e)lH-ḗn ‘(in the) light’, a delocatival derivative of PIE *bʰól(H)-r-/bʰélH-n- ‘light’, closely matching Saint Belin’s association with sight in Slovenian folklore. (3) Old Irish Balar is the reflex of Proto-Celtic *Balaro- (also in Lusitanian and Gaulish), which originally meant ‘provided with light’ (if possessive) or simply ‘light, splendor’ (if functionless thematization), and must be traced back to the analogical strong stem *bʰelH-r- of a reflex of PIE *bʰól(H)-r-/bʰélH-n- (the expected Proto-Celtic outcome *bolar-/balan- may be attested by the variant of the name Bolar). (4) A possible further parallel may be Homeric Greek φαληριάω*, a denominative verb from *φαληριo- ‘shining, white’, if this must be traced back to a hysterokinetic and possibly delocatival derivative *φαλήρ (*bʰl̥H-ḗr from loc. sg. *bʰl̥H-ér- of *bʰól(H)-r-?). (5) Parallels in the narrative structure and the onomastics of the Norse myth of Baldr’s killing by Loki (*lug-on-) and of the Irish myth of Balar’s killing by Lug (*lug-u-) allow for the assumption of a direct connection between all these characters and call for a common etymology of all of their names.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospitevácāmsi miśrā krṇavāmahai. Proceedings of the international conference of the Society for Indo-European Studies and IWoBA XII, Ljubljana 4–7 June 2019, celebrating one hundred years of Indo-European comparative linguistics at the University of Ljubljana.
EditorL. Repanšek, H. Bichlmeier, V. Sadovski
Pagine189-208
Numero di pagine20
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020

Keywords

  • Linguistics, historical, comparative, Germanic, Indo-European, Old Norse, Icelandic, Sanskrit, Old English, Old Irish, Slovenian,Vedic, Greek, Etymology, Onomastics, Poetics, Mythology.

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