‘The word for “deities,” “Déiwōs” (sing. Déiwos) “the shining ones,” or “the celestial ones.” This leaves no doubt both as to how the Proto-Indo-Europeans had of them and where they believed they dwelt. There are also chthonic deities, those of the Underworld, but the celestial ones set the tone. The deities are also the *ghutom, “to whom libations are poured” (> “god”), telling us one way in which they are to be worshiped. They are *dotores weswām, “givers of goods,” telling us what they do in return for this worship.
The Déiwōs are *n-mrtōs, “undying.” They may have had a beginning (perhaps as long ago as the beginning of the universe itself), but they will have no end. This is because they drink a beverage called *Nekter, the ambrosia or nektar of the Greeks, the soma of India, the haoma of Iran. A version of it may be drunk by us in ritual, giving us power and long life, but even that won’t keep death from us forever. We are not gods.
We are not gods. This is one of the articles of the Indo-European faith. We are related to them, made from similar stuff, and even able to interbreed with them. But they are a different kind of being, as different from us as we are from the animals. We are ontologically different.
The gods are beings who are powerful, holy, and good. They are not archetypes, and in no way are mere projections of psychological reality. They certainly correspond to archetypes. This should be no surprise; one of the ways in which psychologists determined archetypes was by investigating myths.
More important, the gods we know are those who are relevant to us. This explains why so many of the are good to us, because we wouldn’t tend to encounter deities who weren’t. Even those deities who aren’t good can be dealt with in such a way that they are as good to us as possible, because they fit into the Xártus, which is the ultimate good. There may well be other gods, but the ones we worship are the ones suitable for us. This is just another way of saying that each corresponds to an archetype – corresponds to it, but not identical with it.
The gods are not simply personifications of natural laws, either; the laws and the gods co-exist. The gods are both the servants and the guardians of natural law. They enforce it, but are not the same as it. The gods uphold the Xártus. In part this is simply by being who they are, in part it is by performing their functions. In part it is in a deliberate sense, by opposing the forces that would destroy the Cosmos – the Outsiders.
The gods are individual beings, separate from us and from each other. As individuals, each has their own interests and preferences. This is necessary if they are to take part in the Xártus, which is a relationship between separate elements. Knowing and acting by the Xártus perfectly, they are much wiser and more powerful than us. This means that their interests and preferences will sometimes seem mysterious to us, or even be unknown. Our ancestors, through thousands of years of experience, by thousands of different people, came to understand them pretty well, and we therefore should rely pretty heavily on the records our ancestors left us.
The deities are not omnipotent. They are constrained by both their nature and by the Xártus. For instance, Dyḗus Ptḗr is a god of justice. It would be against his nature to act unjustly. The gods cannot act against their nature because it is their nature that defines their existence. This does not mean that Dyḗus Ptḗr will always act in a way that seems just to us. He has more concerns than each of us, and more wisdom to understand what is necessary. It also does not mean that he chooses between acting in accord with the Xártus and acting not in accord with it. The question simply doesn’t occur to him; he is a being whose actions correspond to the Xártus.
Because they are constrained by the Xártus, the deities are similar to natural forces. Each is part of the working of the universe, and each fulfills their part to perfection. That is what makes them gods.
Neither of these two constraints – their nature and the Xártus – are external to the gods. They are both what the gods are. There is thus nothing above the gods (except for other gods). There is something within them and behind them. Notice also that one of these constraints – the Xártus – is within and behind everything. Notice also that it might be said that the nature of a deity is the same as the Xártus for them. Another way of putting this is that each “rides” a branch of the Xártus, the one that corresponds to their nature, expressing it, affecting it, governing it.
Judging from the descendant traditions, the Proto-Indo-Europeans must have worshiped a large number of deities, and honored a number of lesser divine beings as well. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be reconstructed by both name and function. Others are clear in their functions, but lack names.
Most Indo-European deity names are transparent in meaning, originating as descriptions, as titles. Woden is “the ecstatic one,” Rudra is “the howler,” Hermes “the god of the cairn.” Certain of these titles became the main ones, promoted to the status of names, but the poets and priests still took delight in inventing titles. The Homeric Hymns praise the “Far-Shooter” (Apollo), the “Shooter of Stags” (Artemis), and the “Fulfiller” (Zeus).
For the deities who survive in function but not in name, I have therefore felt free to construct my own names, or rather titles by which they might be addressed. I will specify which names are my own creation. All others are reconstructions. It is possible that I have by luck or inspiration struck on an actual primary Proto-Indo-European title for a deity. It is even more possible that I have constructed a title which the Proto-Indo-Europeans would have recognized. What matters most, of course, is that the gods to whom they refer will recognize them. Given the Indo-European love for such titles, I feel sure the gods will know whom we are talking to.
Like their descendants the Romans, the Proto-Indo-Europeans had deities of abstractions. They believed that the existence of an idea assumed the existence of a deity to rule over it. This comes from the belief in the Xártus; the reality we perceive reflects the structure of the universe. If we perceive an idea, there must be a something in the structure of the universe that corresponds to it. That something is personal. That something is a deity. So rather than turning an abstraction into a deity, the Proto-Indo-Europeans were noticing the preexistence of a deity of that abstraction. This means that if you have something you want to pray for and there is no reconstructed Proto-Indo-European deity that seems appropriate, ask yourself what abstraction best expresses your desire. You can then use that as your deity name. (Translating it into Proto-Indo-European would be nice, but not necessary.)’