2004-11-28 04:54:03 UTC
A series of studies in European mythology
by Odisej Belchevsky
Part 1 - Is there a practical meaning to mythology?
The information contained in this article is not of mythical or imagined
content but is very real, which the reader should find exciting and
In this article I will take the reader through a fresh new look at
Classical Mythology and bring out the true meaning 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
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
By applying my knowledge of the Macedonian language, some of its older
dialects and old Slavonic I have been able to find simpler and 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
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
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
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
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
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 modern scholars tell us;
The 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.
Deity Name Associated with
Macedonian English Greek
Greek or Roman (attributes)
Semele TheTraco- Macedonian
Zemja ,Zemje Earth Homa
Saturn Agricultural God
Sadi Planting Fiton
Doi Nourishing, feeding Theripticos
Pluto Riches of agriculture
Plodo, Plod Fruitful Karpoforos
Hades Underworld/ snake
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
Zemja, Zemla the Earth
Zemjodelec crop farmer
Zemjak fellow countryman
Prizemje partly underground
Temeli ( Zemeli) foundations (the foundations are always dug into
Temni to darken
Temno dark (it darkens as one descends deep into
Zemjani inhabitants of the earth
Zemun, Zemunik place names originally built with earth/ soil
Also, the above have close family ties with the following
Zemle, Semle, Sem(l)e, Seme seed that is planted in the earth
Semeto se see the seed is planted in
By losing the letter ’m’ above, we obtain;
Zemele, Semele, Seele, sele inhabiting the earth “living on
Sele, na sele to inhabit, dwell
Selo 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 has two main attributes:
1. It is able to bear fruit àFruitfulness
2. Richness of the Soil à Plod à 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
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 his
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-
Dozdo 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.
The material in this article is the copyright property of Odyssey Belchevsky
You can contact the author Odie Belchevski at ***@yahoo.ca or
Risto Stefov at ***@hotmail.com