When reading this tale ("The Star Money," in European Fairy Tales Series, Vol IV), the main theme that I was struck with is that it is literally a lesson in Karma. Now, it might be instinctual to recoil at that word in an ancient European context as we consider it a foreign word native to Indian Hinduism. Of course, this is very true. However, an historical truth that many Westerners are oblivious to is that Europeans and Indian Hindus share a common linguistic and mytho-cultural heritage.
I am not asserting the two groups are closely related or that they are remotely identical. However, both cultures stem from a Proto-Indo-European source, which is the modern term for what had always previously been referred to as “Aryan” historically.
The Aryans were an ancient culture that is thought to have originated in the Eurasian Steppes (the area between Europe and Asia) before spreading outward in many directions.
Proto-Indo-European is used to describe the language family as well as the cultures that descended from this group of people.
The ancient word “Aryan” meant “noble ones,” as they had been great conquerors and formed the ruling classes in regions as widespread as Europe and India, to Turkey and Iran.
Iranian Persians were Aryans and Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion that developed in an Indo-Iranian (Aryan) cultural context.
The Yazidi are an indigenous group found among the Kurds who still practice their ancient spirituality, and the Kalash people are a similar group who live in the mountains of Afghanistan. Both groups have Aryan origins, both groups feature a cultural inheritance that stands apart from the Muslim majority in their regions. Both groups have been heavily persecuted by their neighbors.
For Europeans, indigenous animistic polytheism (paganism) is our own ancient native religious inheritance which faced similar campaigns of violence during the Conversion Era of Europe (especially in the Wendish, Northern, and Baltic Crusades).
So, therefore, while our own ancient religion did not have the ability to continue unabated in its full form, with temples, priests, and so forth, much of our ancient Indo-European beliefs were encoded and embedded within the folk tradition.
The process worked differently for our Kalash and Yazidi cousins. Those groups survived as small pockets of tribal remnants who kept their culture intact, though sadly, they are at risk of true ethnic genocide today.
But, it is in India where Aryan spirituality has been preserved in the most intact way within the Hindu tradition. While Hinduism appears very foreign to ethnic-Europeans, one will find ancient ties to our own native faith when one takes the time to study.
“Thomas the Rhymer” (in Vol III of this series) showed us that certain aspects of pre-Christian spiritual practice were still engaged in in post-conversion Europe.
Thomas' journey and interaction with the Queen of Elphame demonstrates not only the continuation of a goddess figure who lingered on in the folk tradition, but that there was still an intuitive understanding of shamanic practice living on amongst the peasantry.
And, reading “The Star Money,” strikes one as an overt lesson in Karma.
The Star Money: And a European View of Karma
Each volume explores some of the deeper cultural elements found within the tale followed by a re-telling of the story.
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My name is Carolyn Emerick, and I write on the history, myth, and folklore of Northwestern Europe.
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