Secrets of an Ancient Pagan

I love the permutations of the unfolding story of Ötzi “the iceman,” the Neolithic man whose freeze-dried body was found in the Alps on the Austrian-Italian border in 1991.

At first some people speculated that he had frozen to death in a blizzard or while on a shamanic quest—or even that he was a sacrificial victim. Others thought that he was a luckless hunter. But he had arrows and no bow, so how could he have been hunting? He did have a staff that some archaeologists thought he had been shaping with his copper ax into a new bow. (The apparent bowstring was coiled up in his pouch.)

One Austrian archaeologist, having considered factors such as pollen in his clothes and the sources of his clothing, staff/bow, etc., thought that Ötzi was on the run from a settlement down on what is now the Italian side, possibly as the loser in a village feud. Now it is pretty well accepted that he died violently, probably at the spot where he was found.

More DNA evidence is being studied.

Ötzi the ice mummy may have met his death in the Alps some 5300 years ago, but his descendants live on – on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia. The finding comes from an analysis of Ötzi’s DNA, which also reveals he had brown eyes and hair, and was lactose intolerant.

He lived 5,300 years ago, and his life — or at least his corpse — still is being invoked in various ways. I was surprised to learn that he is mentioned in books on diet (do they know about the arterial deposits?) and in a novel that deals with speculated European migration to prehistoric North America. (New archaeological evidence makes a strong circumstantial case for it.)

In fact, Amazon.com shows him appearing in forty different books. That is pretty good for someone from five millennia back who was not a famous ruler or religious figure.

And “Pagan”? I am assuming so, given that whatever religious tradition he followed or was aware of was most likely of a polytheistic-animistic sort. He is already invoked in at least one neo-shamanic book.

Also, he was a carrier of Lyme disease.

 

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