The Proto Indo Europeans of the steppe near the Black Sea had no word for “ocean”. They had mori or mari, meaning “lake” or “sea,” but this most likely referred to the sparkling quality of its surface (cf PIE mer, “clear, sparkle”) and did not carry connotations of vast continent-wrapping waters. When the Indo Europeans started moving and trading around Eurasia, riding their horses and carts and spreading their culture wherever they went, they often found they needed a word for “ocean.” Usually they simply borrowed the word of whoever happened to be living nearby.
For example, the people living in Scandinavia adopted the Indo European language, probably because it was handy for trade; but since it had no word for “ocean”, they used one of their own: saiwaz. While the origin of saiwaz is obscure, spiritually it indicates both the glittering surface of the waters and their willfulness — their capriciousness and uncontrollability. The saiwaz has its own desires, and will do as it wills. In Old English, saiwaz became sæ, and in Middle English, sea. The modern word sea has lost the spiritual willfulness of saiwaz, and calls to only the surface, where the waters meet the airs.
Another word, probably related, used by these people at this time was saiwalo. This word, too, has no known lineage, and carries a lot of the same sounds of glittering surface and willfulness of spirit. It also has a liquid, open quality, of something both empty and full at the same time, like a pitcher filled with light.
No one is sure what this word actually meant — what the people used the word to refer to. But in Old English saiwalo became sawol, and was used to mean a person’s spirit or emotions, or their animating force. It was not a concept easy to pin down exactly; and its modern descendent, soul, is similarly difficult to quantify. Spiritually the word’s sounds still echo that bright surface, as well as the full emptiness of light; but it also carries tones of wholesomeness and grounding.
Thousands of years ago, there was a people, now lost, living by the northern seas; and they felt so strongly the tether between the sea and the soul that they used almost the same word for both. Today we still are not sure what a soul is, but we still feel the bond.
- I’ve continued to experiment with Terragen 2. Check out my photostream here.
- Thoughts on death, and a poignant ritual.
- “If it is not always dramatic or problem-free to belong to a place, still, it is what my heart requires.”
- “Pagan.” Is it a name, a label, a people, a way of life? Or is it just a… brand?
- Wampanoag reborn. “If we lose those languages, we lose little pieces of the beauty and richness of the world.”
- Compassion: the Final Secret of Magic.
- Only the dead have seen the end of war.
- The best tweeter I know. If only she’d do it more often…
- Why I’m getting married. Also, the wherefore of “why” itself.
- A year of less plastic.
- Divining and Forgetting: the uses of forgetfulness in divination.
- How reincarnation is like composting.
- Utility is when you have one telephone, luxury is two, opulence is three – and paradise is none. -Doug Larson
- The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. – St Augustine
- Life is the flash of a firefly in the night… It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot
- Now and then we had a hope that if we were good, God would permit us to be pirates -Twain
- Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace. – Tolstoy
- The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage. – Thucydides
- Health is the first muse, and sleep is the condition to produce it – Emerson
- Those who do not complain are never pitied. – Jane Austen
- To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein
- Fire and Water
- Storm and Throng
- Snake, Serpent, Drake, Dragon
- Musings on Wild and Goose
- Rain, Wind
- Words of the Day: Faith, Fire, Free
Subscribe Via Email
Sign up to receive Druid Journal posts directly in your inbox, and never miss an article. Philosophy, spirituality, insight, inspiration, meditation, connection, nature, and the ancient world.Click here to subscribe.