Echo of the Past documents my journey in rediscovering my roots after my last computer was destroyed and I lost the 10,000 names on my family tree.

I'm an ethnic mutt. My background is varied and the world is small; it's likely that my research will help somebody, somewhere, so please feel free to use me as a source if need be.

Feedback is more than welcome, and I read any and all comments I get. I'm also up for trading links. If you're interested, email me at: PrettySiren@gmail.com with "link request" as the subject line. (Genealogy and history sites/blogs only please.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

When Ancestors Become Mythical: Separating Myth from Reality

When you read the title of this post (if you did), you might not have realized I was being serious: but I was.

Many people who've traced their genealogy back to ancient times run into this problem. Particularly if you're of royal European descent. Usually, it happens in Norse traditions: a legendary (or partially legendary) king is descended from a god. Some sources actually allege that Dan I of Denmark was, in reality, the source of the Odin/Woden/Votan legends.

While I think the chronology is a little off there, in terms of realism (and also negates the fact that Odin comes from an ancient Indo-Europeaon source, predating Dan I), it's the perfect example of ancestry diverging into the realm of mythology.

Another example is the ancient Irish kings. Most Irish people (like myself) can legitimately trace our lineage back to these ancient men. However, when you do further research, the ancestors of the Irish kings come from Egypt, descending from a woman called Princess Scota, who was the daughter of the Pharaoh. Scota being the progenitor of the Irish nation, is, however, far more believable than saying we are actually descended from gods like Odin or Zeus since it could be argued the Scota was actually a real, historical person.

One of the strangest things I've noticed in genealogy is the purposeful desire of genealogists to trace their genealogy back to mythical people and gods. I noticed an example of this when I was doing research last night.

It's commonly accepted that many of the Biblical patriarchs were real people; in fact, religion aside, I believe there's enough archaeological evidence to prove they were. And, naturally, there are people who trace their descent to the Biblical patriarchs. Whether they really can with validity or whether the connections are based upon ancient fabrications or legends isn't the issue. The issue that I found last night was these people's need and desire to take that a step further -- a strange step further.

I came across many articles likening the ancient Biblical patriarchs to ancient gods or legendary figures in other cultures and religons. To my best understanding, it's because whoever wrote these articles believes in the church-accepted timeline of the planet Earth. And that's fine -- that's their belief. But, however, to say that the legend of Saturn/Kronos comes from the Biblical Jacob is stretching it; after all, archeological and linquisitic evidence proves that the legends of Kronos predate Jacob's time.

Furthermore, similar articles liken Jacob's son, Judah, to Zeus and claim that the etymology for Judah and Zeus is one and the same. However, this isn't true. Judah comes from the Hebrew word "Yehudah" which means "praised"; Zeus, on the other hand, comes from the Proto-Indo-European "Dieus" which was, naturally, the Proto-Indo-European god of the sky. Dieus gave rise to Zeus, Jupiter/Iupiter (from the epithet dyeu-patar, meaning "father Dieus/Zeus"), and the Vedic Dyaus Pita. All of these are sky gods and in no way related to Judah. Also, the root Dieus predates the name Yehudah by thousands of years.

I know that it's human nature to connect reality to our own beliefs, but when do we take it too far?

So, my questions are:

1. Do you add people to your family tree knowing that they are only legendary or mythical?


2. Do you think it discredits genealogy to add mythical people to genealogical databases?

Please, discuss. I would love to hear other people's views on this!

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