The Saga of the Aryas

Heroic & Dark Fantasy and Science Fiction Character created by Kevin L. O'Brien

Brunhilde the Valkyrie, © by Claudia Olishka Melin Maksaev.

The Legend of the Snow Lady, © by Ciruelo Cabral

The Saga of the Aryasue in large part to Fascist racial theories, the term "Aryan" has fallen into disuse, except for the very narrowly construed context of the Indo-Aryan sub-branch of the Indo-Iranian language family. At one time it was used as a synonym for the various peoples who spoke the Indo-European language group, and this persists in popular usage even today. As well, the idea of a widespread group of people speaking the same language group gave rise to the theory that they constituted a separate race, distinct from the Semitic people who often shared their territory. The validity of an "Aryan race" is still supported by white racist groups and has found its way into popular literature, for example the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard.

According to Medb hErenn, however, the Indo-Europeans are all descended from one family, who are themselves of the Hyborian race. She sidesteps the issue of race, probably because of her own mixed heritage, and the fact that in Bronze Age Ireland the four main races did often interbreed. In such circumstances, family ties become far more important than racial bloodlines. Nonetheless, she makes it clear that these peoples are all related by blood. This is contradicted by modern genetic research, which states that instead they are descended from a dozen maternal clans and a half-dozen paternal clans. However, Medb also makes it clear that the saga is a legend and so not meant to describe actual historical events. Only time and further archaeological research will determine how accurate it really is.

The Saga of the Aryas

translated from an Leabhar Mhéibhe by Caoimhín Ó Briain


This story can be found in Volume II: The Bestiary, which is a collection of treatises on various races and beings in the form of sagas. It is divided into three "books": on plants, animals, men, and other natural creatures; on the various races of Faeries, the dead, and other supernatural creatures; and on gods and other deific creatures. This story describes the origin of the Sons of Aryas, the ancestors of the Caucasian cultures of India, the Middle East, and Europe. One such son was the ancestor of all the Celts, one of whose descendents, Mileadh, would lead the final invasion of Ireland.

But that is another story.

Caoimhín Briain
Garthyme University
Cairnsford, Colorado
January 16, 2008

In the days before the fall of the kingdoms of Hyboria [1], there lived a barbarian from the land of Navoreeshee [2] named Brenos [3]. He served as a mercenary for Atrayu, last king of Aquilonia, but when he saw that the decadence and sloth of the people had rotted their kingdom to its core, and it could no longer protect itself from its enemies, he fled to avoid sharing its fate. Yet every kingdom he came to was corrupted by the same disease, so he continued his flight, towards the east, into the Great Kingdom of Valaria. Yet the disease had reached there, corrupting even that ancient and once-mighty people. So Brenos pressed on, until he passed beyond the borders of the known world into the lands of the nomads, the great steppes which were the home of the wandering horse tribes. Eventually, he came to the Altai Mountains [4], and the basin of the Minusinsk River just to the northwest, and there he settled to live out his days.

Brenos was not alone in his migration. He had with him his company of outlander barbarians: Navoreesheens like himself, but also Cimmerians, Æsir, Vanir, Picts, and more. They had their weapons and armor, their horses and chariots, so Brenos was able to claim his new land and keep it. With him were also craft folk, and bards, and priests, plus farming folk, all that he would need to create a viable settlement. And he had women: bondmaids and healers and priestesses and peasant women, all for his men so that they could have sons to continue their family lines.

Now, among these women was a royal princess, taken as hostage to assure safe passage through her father's kingdom of Nemedia. Her name was Ari, and she claimed Brenos for her husband, and accompanied him even after he left her lands. At first Brenos had no interest in her or any other woman, but soon he came to appreciate her intelligence and wise counsel, her fearlessness and proficiency in battle, her sense of strategy, and her great beauty. It was she, as a priestess of the Great Mother Goddess, Aditidaksha [5], who led them to the Altai Mountains; it was she who, based on a vision from the Goddess, persuaded Brenos to settle in the Minusinsk River basin at the base of Mt. Belukha, which was sacred to the Goddess. As such, when they reached their destination, he finally took her for his wife. He claimed her in his barbarian way, catching her up one evening and carrying her off to his tent. Yet in the morning he called for a priest and commanded the whole group to witness their nuptials under the blessing of Aditidaksha.

For a year Brenos and Ari lived in great happiness, but then Brenos was killed by nomads when they raided the settlement. They as yet had no sons between them, and Ari feared that without them one of his company would claim her and his title and rule in his stead. So she prayed to Aditidaksha, and the Great Goddess answered her prayers with a vision. The Goddess prophesied that she would have sons by Brenos and that they would conquer an empire that would eventually span the entire globe. This was to comfort Ari in her grief and despair. The vision also revealed what she should do to produce them.

Up until this time the company had buried its dead in sealed, underground cairns, but she instructed that the company build an open stone structure, a dolmen, and that they lay Brenos's body within it on a stone slab. She then covered the body with signs and sigils, laid powerful charms upon it, and even extracted from the Cúnna Mhorrigán [6] a pledge to leave the body unmolested and to guard it from harm.

Starting with that month, she visited the dolmen on the night of the dark of the moon, having first prepared herself with potions and a special diet. There, with the help of the Cúnna Mhorrigán, she called on Daksha to raise the body of Brenos. The Male Principle would inhabit the dead clay and instill it with the semblance of life. It would rise from its slab and stumble towards her. She would offer it a bowl of blood, from which it could slack its thirst. When it had drained the bowl it would acquire some semblance of its former nature and it would recognize her. She would then take it into the dolmen and lie with it until dawn, letting it fill her with its seed. Come the dawn, Daksha would depart from the body of Brenos and once more it would be only dead clay.

However, with the dawn she would be with child, and it would grow with a rapidity that terrorized the settlement. By the night of the full moon she would give birth, and then she could rest until the next night of the dark of the moon. The ordeal would severely weaken her, even unto death, yet she would heal and strengthen herself so that she could endure it again. Each month for a year she repeated the ritual, growing steadily weaker until it seemed that one more would be the end of her. But when the year was over she declared that she would cease, to the relief of all the company. She then instructed them to bury the body as per their usual ceremony, but they were so fearful of what she had done with it that they refused to touch the body, so they just left it for the Cúnna Mhorrigán to claim.

Thirteen times she had repeated the ritual, producing twelve sons and a daughter. They grew as rapidly as they had in their mother's womb, and by the end of the next year they were all fully grown. The company called them the Aryas [7], and lived in awe and fear of them.

The daughter, whom Ari named Arya, was if anything even more beautiful than her mother. To preserve peace within the settlement, Ari gave Arya to the strongest of Brenos's companions, thus proclaiming him to be Brenos's heir. He took her, despite her unnatural conception and birth, for the sake of power and unity, and because he had been smitten by her fair appearance. The sons resented this, but Ari counseled patience and they listened to her. And indeed, over the next few years the population of the settlement swelled, until there were several villages where there had first been one. During this time, the sons distinguished themselves in battle, until the taint of their conception and growth had been replaced by an admiration for their prowess. In time, they began attracting to themselves their own cadre of warriors, artisans, poets, and priests, as their reputation grew.

Finally, the day came when Ari lay dying. She called the Aryas to her and told them of her kingdom to the far west. She then told them of the prophecy of Aditidaksha, how they would conquer an empire greater than any that had come before or would come hence, an empire that would one day the span the whole of the world. She commanded the Aryas to fulfill that prophesy, and then she died. As with Brenos, the company was so fearful of her that they would not touch her, so the Aryas took her to the dolmen where Brenos still lay untouched after so many decades. They laid her beside him, and charged the Cúnna Mhorrigán to watch over her as diligently as they did her husband.

After the funerary, Arya's husband refused to leave, but Arya assured her brothers that she and her descendents would hold the center [8]. The brothers then took their leave of her and left the river basin. Because the Altai Mountains blocked their direct route to the west, they were obliged to travel first east then south around the mountains until they could turn west. One brother, however, named Tochar [9], decided to continue south [10]. His brothers did not approve of his decision, but they knew they could not stop him without using force, and they wanted no bloodshed between them, so they let him go. They then headed west, until they reached Lake Balkhash. They moved south of the lake, skirting the Tien Shan Mountains, until they reached the Amu Darya River. There they encamped for the winter, determined to press on when spring came again and the steppes were green with grass [11].

During this time, one of the brothers, by name Iranindu, offended his brother Illyr, and the two agreed to cross the Amu Darya to settle their differences in battle. Even as they began, however, nomads attacked from the north with such ferocity that they threatened to overwhelm the encampment. Illyr immediately returned north to help, but Iranindu, afraid that all was lost, fled south. There he settled, and had two sons, Iran and Indu. They fought over their inheritance and parted ways, one heading east, the other west. Iran reached the Caspian Sea and settled permanently, eventually founding a great nation, while Indu eventually reached a great river where he settled, and he too founded a great nation [12].

Meanwhile, the timely arrival of Illyr allowed his brothers to beat back the nomads. The brothers then pursued and captured them, and made them slaves. More nomad tribes were conquered, until the Aryas commanded a large territory from the Amu Darya north and from Lake Balkhash west to the Aral Sea. Yet the brothers were merciful and taught the nomads the arts of working metals, growing crops, herding cattle, making pots, and building houses. The Aryas also took nomad women as bondmaids and impregnated them. When the Aryas finally left, the bondmaids remained behind, and they produced sons and daughters who created a great nation in the central steppes [13].

The Aryas journeyed north and west around the Aral Sea until they reached the Volga River. Their priests then commanded them in the name of Aditidaksha to turn south to Mt. Elbruz, where they were to sacrifice to her as part of a great ritual. During the ritual, three brothers had visions, in which the Great Mother Goddess commanded them to remain around the mountain while their brothers continued west. However, soon the brothers fell to quarreling over who would be high king. One brother, the weakest, broke away and fled south, into a land of a great people [14]. The remaining two, Armen and Anato, fought a vicious war with one another, until Anato was defeated. To avoid destruction, he fled south across the Caucasus Mountains. There a vision from Aditidaksha led him west until he encountered a great sea. He followed its shore further west until he felt safe from his brother, at which point he settled. Both brothers in time founded great nations [15].

The remaining Aryas returned to the Volga River, then followed it north. There they encountered nomadic horsemen, who harried them and made their passage difficult. One brother, Slavo, volunteered to stand and engage them to give his brothers time to escape. He met the nomads and defeated them, but was killed in the process. His sons elected to remain in the land where he was buried, and as time went along they spread out to found many nations [16].

He was aided by another brother, Helle, but he survived, and he chased the nomads south and west, driving them into a great sea. Helle then followed the shore of this sea east and south, until he came into a mountainous land bounded on all sides by water. There he settled, and his sons founded great cities [17].

The remaining Aryas drove north along the Volga River until they reached the Dragon Sea [18]. They then traveled west along its shore. As they went they found the ruins of once great cities, and villages who remembered those cities and their people in songs and stories. The brothers knew that they had arrived in the land of their mother's birth, so they stopped and made plans for the conquest to come. They wintered beside the sea; when summer came, one brother, named Balti, remained to secure the area against invasion be eastern steppe nomads [19]. The remaining three [20] set out west and south. One brother, Germa, settled in the center of the land, while the second, Ital, traveled south down a long peninsula. The last brother, Celti, continued west until he reached a great ocean [21].

In time, Celti conquered a large kingdom that stretched from the western ocean to the inland eastern sea [22], from the Middle-earth Sea [23] to the northern ocean [24]. In the fullness of years he was widely loved as a courageous, wise, and just ruler, who brought peace to his lands and kept out invaders. When at last he lay dying, he gathered his sons around him and parceled his kingdom out to each. To one he gave the land known as Ivernia, to another the land known as Gaul, while to a third the land known as Bretan [25]. And then he died, content. A descendent of the chief of Bretan would in time cross the northern waters to conquer the island of Albia, while the sons of a descendent of the chief of Ivernia would conquer our own land of Erin [26]. This is the Song of the Sons of Mileadh.

Additional Reading

The Afanasievo Culture
The Andronovo Culture
The Brythonic Language Sub-group
The Celtiberian Language Sub-group
The Gallic Language Sub-group
The Goidelic Language Sub-group
The Illyrian Language Group
The Indo-Aryan Culture
The Lepontic Language Sub-group
The Rig Veda
The Tocharian Language Group

[1] The proper names given in this saga come from various sources, some ancient, some more modern. Most of the Hyborian names probably came from a Hyborian written source Medb was familiar with.
[2] Medb preferentially uses the term Erin for Ireland (see note 26), but other names have been used by various other peoples. (The following derivations for these names comes from legend; for the accepted scholastic derivation of Erin and the modern names Éire and Ireland, please see note 26.) After the collapse of the Hyborian Age, one of the first inhabitants of the newly created island, the Partholónians, called it Críoch na bhFuineadhach (as it would appear in seventeenth century Irish), which means the "land in the extreme west" (the Partholónians, according to legend, came from Greece). Their successors, the Nemedians, called the island Inis na bhFiodhbhadh, which meant the "island of the woods". Medb's father's people, the Fir Bholg, called it Inis Ealga, which meant the "Noble Island", whereas her mother's people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, called it Inis Fáil, which meant the "Island of Vines". The Sons of Mileadh, otherwise known as the Milesians, called it Muicinis — the "Island of Pigs" — before they invaded, then Scotia after their initial landing. They later changed the name to Éiru, which was the name of the last Danann high queen, and it eventually became Éire. Other alternative names included Irin, based on Ir, the first Son of Mileadh to be buried in Irish soil, and from which Erin is derived, the poetic forms Banbha and Fódhla, the Greek Ogygia and Ivernia, and the Roman Hibernia. Ireland in turn is said to have derived from Irlanda, which is Old English for "the land of Ir".

Navoreeshee is what the Hibernians called Ireland (in modern Irish it would be written as Tír na bhForaoisí); "Navoreeshee" (which is a phonetic spelling) means forests in Cimmerian, because during the Hyborian Age Ireland was joined to the European continent and was covered in forests, hence "Land of the Forests". Oddly, this name is seldom found in Hyborian writings; two important exceptions are the Nemedian Chronicles and the Scrolls of Skelos. This is probably because the land that now encompasses Ireland was usually considered to be part of Pictdom, the wild land in the extreme west of Hyboria inhabited by the ancestors of the Picts. In reality, however, Pictdom was limited to northwestern Ireland; northeastern Ireland lay inside Cimmeria while southern Ireland lay within the Bossonian Marches. Even so, since the inhabitants of Navoreeshee were probably wild barbarians like the ancestral Picts, it is not surprising that Hyborian chroniclers would lump the two races together.
[3] Brenos is an early form of Brion, the Old Irish version of Brian.
[4] The sources of these names, and those associated with this region in central Asia, are more difficult to determine. These are either identical or very similar to the modern proper names, yet this saga was written in the first century C.E. and redacted in the seventh century. As such, this seems to argue that either the modern names are actually quite ancient, predating Medb herself, or she or her redactor, Cedbin Chromcruaigh, had access to period sources describing that region.
[5] This was the Great Mother Goddess of the Indo-Europeans. It was a composite deity, composed of a Female Principle ("Aditi") and a Male Principle ("Daksha"). Though the mythological nature of this deity is unknown, metaphysically, kabbalistically, and thaumaturgically it is indistinguishable from the Outré God Shub-Niggurath. From the text, it may appear that Aditidaksha was Ari's deity, but we must realize that the goddess was known, in one form or another, throughout the Hyborian world; as such, it could have been Brenos's deity as well.
[6] Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) for the "Hounds of Morrigán"; these are Ghouls.
[7] Aryas is the name of the legendary forefather of the Aryans, the group of people that mainstream anthropologists and historians now call the Indo-Europeans. The legends all portray him as a single man who had twelve sons, the so-called "Sons of Aryas." It would now seem, however, that the legends are garbled. Apparently, some later poet or scholar mistook the title "Aryas" for the name of Ari's husband, instead of understanding that it referred to her children.

There is precedence for this kind of title. An off-shoot of the Indo-Europeans, called the Indo-Aryans, settled in the Indus Valley region and formed the basis for the modern Hindu culture. Their literature, which would eventually become the foundation of the Rig Veda, spoke of seven gods who were the sons of the Female Principle Aditi; they were called the Adityas. As such, one can see that the children of Ari could easily have been called the Aryas. Unless this story has been distorted by Medb to satisfy some feminine conceit, it would indicate that it is Ari who is the true founder of the Aryans, and that their proper title should be the Sons of Ari.

On top of that, orthodox archaeology and anthropology claims that the Aryans were native to the Altaian region, but if this story is true, then it would seem that the Aryans are actually descended from what we would now call northern Europeans.
[8] The descendents of this unnamed man and Arya most likely formed the core of the Aryan culture, which spread throughout south-central Siberia between the Ob River and Lake Baikal. This culture is referred to as the Afanasievo, and they founded what would become the city of Krasnoyarsk on the Yenisei River.
[9] The names of the brothers seem to be based on the language groups they spawned. Though a number of cultural names have been proposed for the Indo-Europeans, they are still pretty much known by these language groups. Once again, the source for these names is problematical, since it would seem highly unlikely that these are real personal names.
[10] This brother seems to have been the forefather of the Tocharian language group based in what is now Chinese Turkistan. This culture would eventually be absorbed by the native Tibetans and it would play an important role in the spread of Buddhism to the rest of China.
[11] This narrative makes it sound like the Aryan migration was a forced march of a few years' duration, with brothers breaking away at various points to press on alone into strange new lands. In fact, the migration almost certainly took many generations, even centuries, and was characterized by slow growth as local populations grew beyond their means and families were forced to move on to find new land. Like all myths, this one is time compressed, yet it still preserves some element of a great passage of time: when the myth begins, the Hyborian culture is still active, if decaying, but when the myth ends — supposedly one or two generations after it started — the Hyborian culture is long gone. Yet we now know that the Hyborian Age took many centuries, perhaps even a few millennia, to collapse completely, so preserved within this myth is the passage of long time, even if the characters themselves do not experience it.

Of course, a possible mythological explanation for this is that the Aryas were gods, and therefore essentially immortal, but this is unlikely. The Celtic deities were like the Norse deities, capable of injury, sickness, growing old, and even dying; rather they preserved their health and strength, if not their youth, by magical means. Unlike the Norse deities, however, the Celtic deities often "retired" to let their sons and daughters rule in their place. As such, the Aryas may have been long-lived and may have had magical means to preserve their lives, but it is clear from this and other myths that they were not considered to be gods.
[12] Iranindu appears to be the forefather of the Indo-Iranian language group, whose two great branches are Persian and Sanskrit. Iran apparently founded the Iranian people, who would one day create the great Persian Empire, while Indu settled along the Indus River and founded the Indo-Aryan culture, which in turn led to the great Hindu culture of India.

These names are almost certainly not original. The region we now call Iran and which was originally Persia was called Iranistan during the Hyborian Age. Likewise, the Indian subcontinent was known as Industan. It is therefore more likely that these names were applied to these legendary persons long after the modern peoples of those regions had established themselves. The same is probably true of the names of the other brothers, and the places they visited, as well.
[13] This apparently would be the Andronovo culture, which spread throughout what would become modern Kazakhstan.
[14] This nameless brother appears to have entered the land of Sumer in the Tigris-Euphrates River valley. We do know that an Indo-European migration into that area occurred around 2500 B.C.E. It is perhaps significant that we do not know his name, because the Aryans who settled there did not create a new language group, being unable to displace the local language. However, we do know that they did influence the Sumerian culture, though usually in subtle ways.
[15] Armen is apparently the founder of the Armenian language group, while Anato appears to be the founder of the Anatolian language group. The "great sea" referred to is probably the Black Sea. At this point in the saga, certain proper names now become vague or euphemistic. Why this is so is unclear, but it suggests this saga may be cobbled together from several different sources.
[16] This brother is apparently the forefather of the Slavonic language group.
[17] This brother apparently is the forefather of the Hellenic or Greek language group. Once again, the "great sea" is probably the Black Sea, while the "mountainous land" is probably the Peleponesian peninsula. The "great cities" are probably the city-states of the Achaean Greeks.
[18] "The Dragon Sea" is almost certainly the Baltic; even today, its outline is unmistakably draconian, though admittedly one would need a map or a satellite photograph to see it.
[19] This brother appears to be the forefather of the Baltic language group.
[20] At this point there should be four brothers left: Ital, Germa, Celti, and Illyr. However, Illyr seems to have disappeared. What happened to him the myth does not reveal, but he probably was the forefather of the Illyrian language group, which was concentrated in the Balkans in and around modern day Yugoslavia, and which went extinct sometime in the sixth century C.E. Illyr's fate may have been lost while the myth was still part of oral tradition. Alternatively, it may have been inadvertently left out during a key transcription period in the history of the book. It is well known that progressively later editions of an Leabhar Mhéibhe contain less material than the previous editions, so this is not unreasonable.
[21] Germa, Ital, and Celti appear to have been the forefathers of the Germanic, Italic, and Celtic language groups, respectively. The "great ocean" in the west is almost certainly the Atlantic Ocean.
[22] Most likely the Black Sea, since we know that the Celts spread as far as the mouth of the Danube River.
[23] The Mediterranean Sea.
[24] The "northern ocean" is almost certainly the North Sea. Much of this area should have been under the control of Celti's brothers, Germa, Balti, and Slavo, yet there is no mention in this or any other myth of wars between the brothers. However, this is probably a preservation of the fact that the Celts occupied much of Europe and a good portion of Asia Minor, but tended to share roughly half of it with other peoples who spoke non-Celtic languages. Despite the belligerent tone of the myth, perhaps Celti's sons and grandsons peacefully settled in areas nominally under the control of their uncles. Unfortunately, we may never know.
[25] Again, these names are also certainly not original. However, they preserve the fact that the Celtic language group itself gave rise to five sub-groups. The three sons mentioned are almost certainly the forefathers of Celtiberian in Spain (Ivernia or Iberia, later the Iberian Peninsula), Gallic in France (Gaul), and Brythonic in Brittany (Bretan). A fourth sub-group, Lepontic, is not mentioned in the myth, but Lepontic was restricted to Northern Italy and went extinct around 400 B.C.E., so it may not have played an important enough role to merit mention.

The fifth sub-group, Goidelic (often referred to as Q-Celtic), is not mentioned because it consists of the Gaelic languages of Irish (Gaeilge), Scots, and Manx, and these did not arise until after the time of the Milesians. Though Brythonic (often referred to as P-Celtic) started out as one tongue, it too in time split into the Gaelic languages of Breton in Brittany, Cornish in England, and Welsh in Wales.
[26] Albia, or Albion, was the ancient name for England, while Erin was the name the ancient Irish gave to Ireland, as seen in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. While the legendary derivation of modern Éire and Ireland is given in note 1, the accepted scholastic derivation is given here. The modern word Ireland is generally believed to be derived from the Scandinavian form of "Eire-land". The derivation of Éire or Éiru, however, is more difficult to trace. Some scholars believe that it comes from Ivernia, while others believe it was derived from the Indo-European word Piera.

The legendary derivation of Éire is itself an interesting mythic tradition that perhaps can tell us something of ancient Irish society. In the final days of the hegemony of the Tuatha Dé Danann, they were ruled by three kings, named Éthur Mac Cermait, called Mac Cuill, Téthur Mac Cermait, called Mac Cecht, and Céthur Mac Cermait, called Mac Gréine. The names of their wives were, respectively, Banbha, Fódhla, and Éiru. When the Milesians landed on the island, the three queens came to them and promised their aid in defeating the Danann, in return for naming the land after them. As such, each of these names have, at one time or another, been used as the name for Ireland. Not only that, but whereas Éiru (or Éire) is the native name for Ireland, Banbha (or Banba) and Fódhla (or Fola) were the poetic names for Ireland, with Banbha indicating the heroic aspect of Ireland and Fódhla indicating the intellectual aspect of Ireland. Hence, you will often see in Medieval Irish literature references to "the heroes of Banbha" and "the scholars and poets of Fódhla." Incidentally, the dative form of Éire — Eirinn — has also been used as a poetic name for Ireland in the form of Erin, and it is still being so used today.

On top of that, the Danann were revered in the ancient bardic tradition as the masters of science and the arts. The wives of the kings, however, were not Danann, but came from the subjugated native people. As a result, this tradition has been interpreted as the domination of the land by a new spirit of high culture and reason. Medb, however, treats the invasions accounts as history, and in "The Saga of the Invasions" she reports that the Danann kings took their wives both to cement good relations with the natives and to unite their high culture with the local agrarian, land-based culture.

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