Some may say that this is a hard to read book and it is a common characteristic when dealing with Indo-European issues, for basically it is comparative and theoretical. Although I can’t disagree on how tough this task was, I must say that it had his moments of charming enjoyment for me, especially when he explains the myth as ‘deadly serious to its originating environment’, what really touched my Anthropological vein.
His division is in three parts, each one dealing with a different problem is very interesting, since he covers a good amount of questions from different perspectives. The Theoretical part about myth, its construction as a concept and all the changes it passed throughout the centuries and the development of new ideas and sciences is very elucidative, but I missed a conclusion to join each part. It seems that every text is independent and they are lacking of an argument of cohesion.
In the second part of the book as he analyses societies and the myths, the correlation between the texts of each one is better, since he does, from time to time a comparative approach. The reading of this part is difficult for it is a mixture of mythology and linguistic of different cultures, but it is also interesting to see some similarities and connections, although, sometimes, especially on the Celts where they are treated as one single culture it seems a little too much. I would like to have a more skeptical and critical approach as a comparative, the Indo-European focus is excellent in practical levels as ADF does for comparative purposes and identity, but I feel a little uncomfortable with the tendency to see everything that is similar as prevenient of a single source. Sometimes they do not and human culture has some choices to make and exchanges between cultures very often happen, human cultures as well as animals can develop analogous choices with no type of original source evolved.
Said this I found some interesting points that made me thought. As he explains the battle of eighteen days of Epic India chapter and how it was like a gentleman’s war, I remembered the description of the First Battle of Magh Tuiredh and how the armies were ‘civilized’ and helped each other to construct weapons to make both armies similar and have a fair war. Unfortunately, Phuvel didn’t make this connection nor in the Epic India neither in the Celtic Myth chapters, but it is something interesting to observe, especially in terms of how war was perceived in these both cultures. Another thing that I missed is when Phuvel explains the sorcery of kavya, from Epic Iran, and the existence of an elixir that can healing mortal wounds, he does not make a parallel with the well crated by Diancecht and his three children at the Battle of Magh Tuiredh that was able to heal any mortal wound since the head was not taken from the body.
What seemed clear to me, as the Baltic and Slavic chapter arrives is that Lithuania is a good place to look at for clues to complete blanks, since it was Christianized much later, and for this has a living pagan folklore better preserved than the others. It was interesting to notice that the costume of maintain a perpetual fire to some deities also occurred at Lithuania and that grouping gods in three is a very common practice in many Indo-European cultures.
Finally, he does the comparative analysis using themes to discuss the similarities between the cultures, and at this point, the parallels between the cultures are more clearly and well explained in terms of cultural meaning. I found particularly interesting the differentiation of the horse sacrifice from the other ones, as he was a human sacrifice and the discussion that Phuvel does about the relation of this with the sovereign goddesses.
There are very interesting connections and similarities among these cultures, however, the structuralism of the methodology is visible as well as a Jungian perspective of archetypal organization and symbolism at these cultures. I wonder how linguistic and mythology comparatives would work with the interpretative methodology of Geertz, since every culture would have to provide its own meanings to its symbolical choices.