As my research on Helleno-Uralic theory continues, I have pinpointed two essential areas of focus for the identification of the time, place, and genre of Helleno-Uralic contact: A material culture, and an immaterial culture. This post addresses the latter, in its current state of research.

I draw on the research of Ante Aikio in his paper Proto-Uralic (pp. 47-48) for the comparison of topical lexemes regarding Uralic immaterial culture; and also offer terms of my own, to contribute to the illustration of Helleno-Uralic spiritualism.

First, on the term “shaman”: In the Helleno-Uralic sense, I define a shaman as ‘a spiritual figure who, in an altered state of consciousness, communicates with the metaphysical realm, especially the deceased, in order to tell the future’. This definition is based on the semantics of proposed terms which are relevant to Hellenic and/or Uralic mystic rites.

Second, on the scope of Helleno-Uralic immaterial culture: Helleno-Uralic, as I see it, is a specific convergence and syncretism between Hellenic and Uralic peoples, who otherwise originated from mutually exclusive immaterial cultures. One will not find significant parallels in the foundational Hellenic and Uralic mythologems, which rather formed from the spacetimes of their respective histories prior to Helleno-Uralic contact. Helleno-Uralic religion is rather based on the aforementioned “shaman”, who in a frenzied state, communicated between the physical and imaginary realms. This imaginary ability would have been exalted above all other forms of spiritualism, much as “divine madness” was revered by the ancient Greeks.

The primary Greek god associated with Helleno-Uralic immaterial culture would have been Apollo (Phoibos); and Dionysus, Gaia, and Artemis may have been significant as well. In this post, I will discuss Apollo centrally, and Dionysus peripherally: In this sense, the Helleno-Uralic religion was probably related to (and synchronous with) Orphism, the Oracle of Delphi, and perhaps the Eleusinian Mysteries – although it’s unclear in what manner these practices corresponded to each other, and to Helleno-Uralic shamanism. The underlying theme, however, is a focus on the realm of the dead: And an altered state of consciousness in order to connect with it.

Likewise, Helleno-Uralic shamanism was not necessarily representative of all forms of Uralic shamanism. The Samoyedic peoples, for example, have a complex shamanistic culture consisting of roles and terms I do not (at least currently) reconstruct in the Helleno-Uralic contact period. Even in Sami shamanism, with which I draw the most parallels to Helleno-Uralic shamanism, there are various aspects I can not yet, and possibly will never be able to, reconstruct with confidence.

Regardless, I find it evident that, somewhere between the Uralic and Hellenic spiritualities, a syncretic immaterial culture was formed, which centered on worship of the sun, divine madness, and shamanic necromancy. That having been said, I will now discuss some of the terms on which I have based this claim. The first two are relevant to Aikio’s description of the Proto-Uralic immaterial culture (PU *nojta and *jada-), and the other seven are based on my own research. These are not all the proposed terms I correlate with the Helleno-Uralic immaterial culture, but represent a core selection.

(Note: These proposals are based on a phonologically synchronous orthography, which I devised to represent the values I reason should be attributed to the terms. I will discuss this in much greater detail in an upcoming post titled Phonology: But for now, it is to be understood that the Latin script I use is not identical to the transliterations of ancient Greek, although they represent the same phonemes. Also: The labels Proto-Uralic, Proto-Finno-Ugric, etc. [abbreviated at PU, PFU, etc.] are not indicative of the chronology of these stages of the proto-languages when in the context of Helleno-Uralic proposals: These terms are rather proposed to have been loaned between Hellenic and Uralic at a later date, c. 700 BC onward.)


shaman (PFU); seer (He.)
PFU *nojta < He. noītā́(s)* / νοητά(ς) ~ noītḗs / νοητής << ?

I define the meaning of He. νοητής ‘seer’ through the analysis of its source verb noéō / νοέω ‘to observe, perceive, think, conceive’. GM defines νοητής as “αυτός που σκέπτεται, που συλλαμβάνει τα πάντα με τον νου, δηλ. ο Θεός.” = ‘he who thinks, who grasps everything with the mind, i.e. God’. Νοητής is ultimately from nóos / νόος ‘mind, sense, intellect’, of an unknown etymology. In his book Hermetica, Walter Scott defined νοητός θεός as a “soul without body… direct from God.” (Scott 1985, p. 116). The Helleno-Uralic term noītā́ is not connected to an attested historical role in ancient Greece (notwithstanding the νοητάρχης); and its Uralic reflexes are only found in the Finno-Samic and Ugric languages (cf. HFU séhō). However, I roughly equate noītā́ with He. pʰoiv͔ás / φοιβάς ‘priestess of Phoebus, inspired woman, prophetess’ (cf. HF pʰoiv͔ǣtḗr, discussed below), although noītā́ may have just as well been a role originally exclusive to Uralic, and subsequently retitled with a He. term from a people whose closest approximation to the Uralic shamanic tradition would have been roles relevant to Apollo.

In Helleno-Uralic is also the term noerā́ ~ *nógera* (Fi. nokkela ‘clever’ << He. νοερά ‘intellectual, spiritual, wise’; also an epithet of Apollo): This would make Fi. noita and nokkela derived from the same no- root (i.e. νόος). Although the He. etymology is unknown, I propose that U < H loaning occurred, due to the absence of a more basal root in Uralic. This also agrees with adjectival F -lV < H -rV.

*The phonology of HU noītā́s requires a brief discussion on the dialects of ancient Greek. It is difficult to derive PU *nojta from the Attic form noītḗs, because -ā́- is taken as the original He. value; and corresponds to PU and F *-a > PS *-ē, as seen throughout Helleno-Uralic proposals. However, derivation from Doric would also be problematic, in that the form *noātā́s might instead be expected (cf. Att. γοητής = Dor. γοατάς < γοάω; Att. βοητής = Dor. βοᾶτις [with fem. suffix] < βοάω). Re: noītā́s, the phonology does not seem as plainly bound: < νοέω (vs. -άω); and the adjectival νοατός listed as “hyper-Doric” for Att. νοητός, which describes a hypercorrection rather than a natural formation (although I do not assume this as universal: There may have very well been He. dialects where νοατάς was natural). I hope to eventually identify the He. dialect(s) specific to HU contact if enough attestations can be relied upon – but until then, I can only assert that the He. form, as loaned into “PU”, must have been noītā́(s): So noētā́s would be suitable, but not noātā́s. He. -οη- always corresponds to Uralic <oj>/<oi>. Ancient Greek consisted of myriad sub-dialects, which complicates identification. In addition, it may very well be that PU *nojta was adopted from the voc. He. νοητά, since Sa. -s (which is demonstrable in HU) is absent; and in light of kóptēs. Vocative is rare in HU, but might be suitable in the context of an honorary title (cf. Latin Kyrie < He. Κύριε, voc. of Κύριος) – although this may rather contradict Erzya čirjaz < He. κύριος. Assuming loaning from voc. case would remove the need for a dialectal quest (and explain -s absence in Sami), but I’m not prepared to make that assumption at this time. On top of that, it is worth consideration that noītā́ could be a nominalization of the fem. adj. νοητά (masc. νοητός).

**This is an example of phonological variation involving a recessive accent, epenthetic HF <g> (cf. νογώ) , and the ambiguity of number and gender re: U -a.

to perform necromancy (HU)
PU *jada- <?> He. iálō / ἰάλω ~ iállō / ἰάλλω

Regarding HU semantic reconstruction:
*jada- ‘to conjure, tell fortunes, shamanize; curse/quarrel?’ (Aikio, p. 48)
ἰάλλω ‘to send forth, assail, send oneself on, flee, fly’
LSJ:GM also offers ἰάλω = προπέμπτω ‘to send forth, conduct, escort, “esp. follow a corpse to the grave”, pursue’. GM does not list examples specific to ἰάλω: But the paralleled semantics ‘to send forth’ and ‘assail/pursue’ stand out between ἰάλλω and προπέμπτω. This might represent an intense metaphysical dialogue between the noītā́ and the spirit.

Etymologizing this proposal is difficult, due to the isolated affinity of He. ἰάλλω with Sanskrit iyarti / इयर्ति < PIE *h₃i-h₃ér-ti. On that note, an important phonological discussion must take place: The value of the unclear Proto-Uralic phoneme *-d- (Aikio, pp. 7-10). I will not completely discuss this topic until Phonology; but in Helleno-Uralic theory, PU *-d- = H *-l- (HU psīlē = PU *pide ; HFU tele- = PFU *täwde ~ *tälke, etc.). However, that is not to say that PU *-d- was /l/. Relative chronology is a problem here; and will have to be saved for later. For now, this is a tentative proposal.

pʰoív͔ǣ ~ pʰoĩv͔os; *paiwán
sun? (PU); Apollo/Phoibos (He.)
PU *päjwä <> He. pʰoív͔ǣ / φοίβη ~ pʰoĩv͔o / φοῖβος <? ; *paiwa(n) / *παῖϜα < Pre-Greek

This is perhaps the most unusual proposal in Helleno-Uralic theory, due to ambiguities throughout the Uralic and Hellenic proto-forms and reflexes. First, I present HU pʰoív͔ǣ as the primary form for two reasons:
1. The expected Finno-Samic suffixal variation of PF *-a/-ä, PS *-ē (>NSa. -i), which indicates a feminine He. noun ending in -ā>-ǣ>-ē>-ī. In these diachronica, F -ä and H -ǣ* are also synchronous with archaic Greece (to be discussed in the upcoming post “Phonology”; this correspondence dates the exchange of pʰoív͔ǣ to c. 700 BCE), which is suitable to the northeastward expansion of the Hellenic colonists to the northern shores of the Black Sea, and the historical rise of Apollonian worship. As a feminine noun, it suits the primarily female association with the Sami sun-deity Beaivi. Furthermore, in this context, the deer is relevant as sacrificed to Beaivi, and sacred to Artemis (φοίβη). The shift U Pai- < H Poi would have taken place, with Uralic front-vowel harmonization due to -ǣ.
2. The HF term pʰoiv͔ǣtḗr / φοιβητήρ ‘prophet’, which I propose as the source of Fi. Päivätär ‘Sun goddess’ (contradicting PF *tüt’är < PBS *duktḗ [I rather etymologize PF < He. tʰýgatēr / θύγατηρ], which I will, once again, discuss in Phonology, in order to remain topical).

However, there are other important considerations: That Apollo was male (although the sun’s gender is evidently somewhat flexible in Sami mythology); and that there was another term relevant to Apollo: Pai(w)án ‘song addressed to Apollo or Artemis, epithet of Apollo, physician-healer’. If Beekes’ ideation is correct, the meaning “who heals illnesses through magic (Apollon)” is also to be attributed, which is relevant to the role of the Sami noaidi as a healer; and would derive παιάν from paíō / παίω ‘to strike, smite’: Compare with *päjwä and *päjä reflexes in Khanty and Sami, semantically ‘thunder, lightning’, which I consider a preferable attribution to PFU *päjä vs. ‘fire’, given its wider geographic distribution. Perhaps the meanings ‘smite’ and ‘thunder, lightning’ could relate παίω with *päjä, although morphological affinity is unestablished. With the He. terms lacking certain etymologies, the direction of loaning is unclear for both HFU pʰoív͔ǣ and *paiwán.

*on He. /æ/: Samuels, B: Vocalic Shifts in Attic-Ionic Greek (pp. 91-98)

(h)iaró ~ íaro
noble (Fi.); holy, sacred, (under) divine (protection), glorious, super-human, supernatural, imperial (He.)
Fi. jalo < He. (h)iarós / ἱαρός ~ íaros / ἴαρος<< PIE *ish₁ros

Two points can be inferred from this proposal: That it was loaned from Doric or Northern He. (although this is not certain: F -al- < H -o/eL- is a topic to discuss in Phonology); and that it was used to describe a masculine or neuter noun (eg: It could refer to Phoibos or Apollo, but not Phoibe or Artemis). The Aeolic form íaros / ἴαρος is noted for its recessive accent and smooth breathing, although neither feature is necessarily required in HU proposals.

kópt– ~ kóptēs
shaman’s drum (Sa.); *’striker, beater, knocker, mourner’ (He.)
Sa. goavddis, gobdes, koptês <<? He. kóptēs / κόπτης < kóptō / κόπτω <1? PIE *kop- ‘strike, smite, hew’

I tentatively suggest a direct loaning into Sami from He. κόπτης, with a reconstructed meaning *’striker, beater, knocker, mourner’ (cf. σκώπτω ‘to scoff’ > σκώπτης ‘scoffer’, λάπτω ‘to slurp’ > λάπτης ‘slurper’) – compare English terms such as toaster and computer – but this runs into a problem: The active vs. passive connotation of HFU kóptēs. In light of HF ennustázdō, one speculative alternate proposal is a Sa. back-formation from He. kóptestʰai / κόπτεσθαι ‘to beat the breast, mourn for the dead’, which might bring into relevance an act directed to the deceased (cf. HU iálō; the death of Orpheus as mentioned in maínō) – however, this example would be otherwise morphologically unprecedented in the HS etymological paradigm. With confidence, I can only reconstruct the HS root kópt-, from which would ultimately be derived the name for the Sami shaman’s drum.

*kǐ̃keiǣ ~ kǐkeíā
frenzy / frenzied (HF)
Fi. kiihkeä << He. kǐkeíā / κυκεία

Fi. kiihkeä is likely from kiihko, which makes it easy to reconstruct H(F) *kǐ̃kos / *κῦκος, as the suffix in κυκεία is identical to the feminine singular form of the adjectival suffix -eĩos / -εῖος, whence nominal -os can be traced (compare oĩkos / οἶκος and oikeíā / οἰκείᾱ). Semantically, I reconstruct the meaning ‘frenzy’ from He. mĩksis / μῖξις ‘mixing (*of the κυκεών), intercourse’ and tarakʰḗ / ταραχή ‘disturbance, commotion’. This seems to me to be relevant to Aikio’s description of shamanistic “sexual and spiritual excitement” (Aikio, p. 48 re: PU *kixi-; although I do not infer an etymological connection between Fi. kiihk- and PU *kixi-). In this context, HF *kǐ̃keiǣ (with recessive accent) might be contextually related to the entheogenic drink kykeṓn / κυκεών , with which the root kǐk- is shared.

s͔éhō; séhos ~ séos
mixture (Fi.), inside (of a vessel [Man.]), disorder (Sa.); earthquake, commotion, shaking/stirring (He.)
PFU *seka < He. sé(h)ōs / σέως < seí(h)ō / σείω < PH *tséhō << PIE *tweys- ~ *tu̯ei(s)-
Fi. se(k)os <? He. sé(h)os ~ séos / σέος
Con.: In HF séhos, He. and Fi. -os may be a false equivalence. Fi. seos can not be directly < sé(h)ōs, because Fi. -a << He. -ō. Fi. seos (assuming earlier *sekos as seen with teos < *tekos) must either be directly < He. sé(h)os, or be a native Fi. -os suffix unconnected with He. -os.

The HU value (/ts/) can not be reconstructed in PFU, but is expected because of PH *ts-; and medial PFU *-k- < H -h-. UEW describes PFU *seka as semantically and existentially uncertain, due to only being found in FS and Mansi with divergent meanings. However, the attested reflexing of a FU term only in FS and Man. is not unprecedented: This is paralleled in PFU *nojta = HFU noītā́. In light of this – although it could be a mere coincidence – I consider at least the remote possibility that two or more HFU noītā́ shamans were part of Helleno-Uralic contact, perhaps one in a western and one in an eastern zone (i.e. Finno-Samic and Ugric). This hypothesis will require more research.

In this context, my speculation for the semantics of HFU (t)sé(h)o(s) is ‘a mixture or shaking/stirring inside a vessel’. My inclination is to broach the nature of a drink such as the aforementioned κυκεών (cf. HF kǐ̃k-). I do not reconstruct the meaning ‘earthquake’, due to the Uralic geographical range* of HU contact not being seismically active; and the absence of such a meaning in U reflexes (Sa. ‘disorder’ is also a contextually limited meaning).

*I will discuss the theoretical locations of Helleno-Uralic contact in another post.

maínō ~ maíno-
to praise (PS); to rave (He.)
Fi. mainoa << PS *mājnōtēk < He. maínō / μαίνω ~ maíno- / μαίνομαι <1 PIE *men- ‘to be excited’

I assume Fi. << PS as it’s been stated in the Wiktionary article for Fi. mainos, although no source is provided. I reject the relation of Fi. mainoa with mainita < PG *mainijaną < PIE *mey-: The phonological similarity of Fi. main-oa and main-ita is rather a coincidence, as the He. semantic and contextual similarities (cf. Maenad < μαινάς) denote the relevance of Dionysianesque worship in the HU immaterial culture. The act of attaining a state of divine “ecstatic frenzy” through intoxication and music is very similar to the shamanic template: Compare the artwork of this ancient Greek mixing bowl, depicting a Maenad beating a hand drum in the company of Dionysus and a satyr (I also tentatively compare Nganasan satərə / сатәрә ‘arctic’ fox <?> He. sáturos / σάτυρος ‘a satyr‘ < Pre-Greek). This mixing bowl also depicts the death of Orpheus: A central theme in Orphism; and relevant to death in HU shamanism.

ennustázdō ~ *ennustáō
to predict the future (Fi.); “para someterse a la oniromancia” = to undergo oneiromancy (He.)
Fi. ennustaa < He. ennustázdō / ἐννυστάζω

This proposal, if tenable, would invalidate the Fi. etymology “ennus + -taa” (thus rejecting “ennus < [probably] ensi- + -us”; although ensi is in fact in a HF proposal, which I’ll discuss in a more relevant post), instead etymologizing ennus as a back-formation from ennustaa < He. ἐννυστάζω. The semantic value of ennustázdō is thus ‘to divine the future through the interpretation of dreams’. This is central to the role of the Pythia (cf. egkoimisi) of the Oracle of Delphi, and perhaps relevant to HF nukʰeúō (Fi. nukkua ‘to sleep’ < He. νυχεύω ‘to pass the night’).


I would like to conclude this post in reiteration that I do not equate Uralic shamanism with Helleno-Uralic shamanism. In Aikio’s description of the Proto-Uralic immaterial culture – for which he describes evidence as “very limited” – I do not have proposals to compare with Proto-Uralic *wajŋi, *lewli(w), *eśi / iśi / ićći (I may have a comparison for this term, but not one I’m yet confident to reconstruct), or *kixi-. Furthermore, PU *pi̬ŋka evidences the well-established contact between Uralic and Indo-Iranian peoples: So when Hellenic would have entered the horizon of the Uralic immaterial culture(s), shamanism was already present for millennia. The same can not be said of ancient Greek religion, where any practices comparable to (although not necessarily equivalent with) shamanism are generally limited to specific locations (eg: Delphi) and figures (eg: Orpheus, the Maenads, and the Pythia).

Helleno-Uralic contact and religion were esoteric. The terms that I propose were exchanged are topical to isolated material and immaterial cultures, which were intentionally syncretized; and lexically influential on the Hellenic and Uralic languages due to their status vs. population size. I could go on about this subject: The role of the Pythia in the establishment of Greek colonies on the northern Black Sea, the adoption of Apollo as the patron deity of those colonies; the parallels between archaic Greek religion and the northern Eurasian locale (such as the Ceryneian Hind) – but in the spirit of the noītā́, I’d rather end with some music. Kǐ̃dos pollʲón.

2 thoughts on “Noītā́: Reviving the Finngreek Shaman

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