Monday, September 24, 2012

The Etymology of God

I have always been fascinated by the Etymology of words. Where they come from, what Language originally spawned them, how the spellings and meaning have changed over time etc etc.

One word that always got me thinking was "God". Not just how the concept of 'God' came into being, i.e what made a man get up one day a think "I bet there's a higher consciousness behind all this' but also the word GOD itself.

Ostensibly it is not a name. Like the Concept itself, it just conveys an idea!

And across the world it is the same. The Japanese word for God is 'kami' (there are no capital letters in Japanese btw). Scholars have still not agreed on the etymology of 'kami'. They are all agreed that it is a VERY Old word. It has several different uses, it can mean Paper or Bite, Hair or Above.
Shinto priests, however, look to the word 'kagami' which means Mirror - miru. They point out that 'kagami' is the symbol of the Soul but the Soul of man contains ego "or ga." Kami is the soul of man (kagami) without the ego (ga).

Interestingly 'kami' is also the root of the word Thunder - 'kami-nari' where 'nari' means Sound. Literally 'the Sound of God' - Thor? :)

The Chinese for God was originally 'Shangdi' This comes from the ruling Shang dynasty, 17th-11th centuries BC, where the appellation of 'di' turns Shang, a Royal surname. into something meaning "High Sovereign/Emperor", "God Above"

The Mayan word Ahua means God or High-King. But this is a general word. In the Mayan culture each God had a different name and 'Job'!
Incidently the Mayan Supreme Deities, the First Mother, Ix Chel, and First Father, Hun Nal Ye, are nown as the Creator Couple whose offspring are all the other gods. She was born six years before the First Father, also known as Junab K’uj, the God of Maize, who is responsible creating the cosmos and mankind as we know him/her to be today.

Of course, the name/s of God in the Middle East are very similar. Hebrew elohim (God or/of gods), Arabic 'ilah (a or the God), and Biblical Aramaic 'Elaha (God) all share the Proto-Semetic word 'el as their root.

The Native American word for God is, in general, Gitche Manitou - literally 'Great Spirit' - and it is interesting to note that, although the Native American were quite diverse and spoke many languages, the word for God, Gitche Manitou, was approximated in every one of them.

And so, with many, many, omissions to be sure, we come to the English 'God'. Scholars have argued for many a year over the etymology of God because the exact history of the word 'God' is unknown. The word God is a, linguistically speaking, fairly new arrival into the European lexicon. Certainly, the word, God, itself, was never used in any of the ancient Judaeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.

According to the best efforts of linguists and researchers, the root of the present word God is the Sanskrit word 'hu' which means "to call upon, invoke, implore".

So God is just a word for something you "call upon, invoke or implore". There is no name.
Even the Judaic word YHWH or Yahweh is not a name. It simply means "I Am Which I Am" This was apparently said to an Old Testament character when he asked 'God' what his name was . . .

However, our use of 'God' is Germanic in ancestry, which itself goes right back to Indo-European tribes @ 4,500 BC in Central Asia. These were a group of people called Aryans. (Yes, the same ones Hitler claimed ancestry with.) They were Pastoral, Horse-breeding, Bronze Age People who spread into Europe and the Middle East. In fact, not only are they, in part, our Ancestors and the founders of some of our current European Tongues, but they are also the founders of the Race that eventually became the Farsi - Persians - Iranians. That is why the ancient Persian word for God is Khoda.

The Farsi Iranians are, in fact, our cousins. That's a turn-up for the books, eh? :)

Ciao for now x