Information icon.svg

RationalWiki has reached 7,000 articles!

Hyperborea

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
A 1572 map by Ortelius showing "Oceanus Hyperboreus"
Fiction over fact
Pseudohistory
Icon ancient aliens.svg
How it didn't happen
The colorful pseudoscience
Racialism
Icon race.svg
Hating thy neighbour
Divide and conquer
Dog-whistlers

Hyperborea, Thule, and Ultima Thule are names of mythical utopian far-northern places from pre-modern geography or pseudo-geography. They have featured in a wide range of mythology and nonsense, from the ancient Greeks to recent esotericists and mystics, including Theosophists such as Helena Blavatsky. They have also been adopted by the far-right as part of esoteric Nazism, a philosophy which considers some northern land to be the secret place of origin for the Aryan race.

Although such a far-northern utopia never existed, these mythological realms have been equated to actual geographical areas including Sweden, Ireland, Romania, Celtic northern Europe in general, central Asia, or the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Some of the legends may represent actual historical encounters, but evidence is lost in the depths of time, and claims that far-northern people are the ancestors of Aryans, Teutonic people, Scandinavians, Celts, or Proto-Indo-Europeans are almost certainly false.

Ancient myth[edit]

The classical Greeks and Romans had fantastical tales of a far northern land, often with great riches and eternal light (possibly a misunderstanding of the midnight sun experienced in arctic summers). PytheasWikipedia's W.svg claimed to have visited Thule, "in which there was no longer any proper land nor sea nor air, but a sort of mixture of all three of the consistency of a jellyfish in which one can neither walk nor sail, holding everything together, so to speak."[1] Strabo,Wikipedia's W.svg Pliny the Elder, and TacitusWikipedia's W.svg also mentioned it. VirgilWikipedia's W.svg mentions a place called Ultima Thule, which appears to be a metaphor for an imaginary, unattainable place, rather than a real geographical location.

"Hyperborea" means literally the land beyond the north wind, and is mentioned in several Greek writers. HesiodWikipedia's W.svg described contact with Hyperboreans, but it has been hypothesised he may have meant the Scythians who dwelt north of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.[2] Hyperborea is mentioned by Herodotus and PindarWikipedia's W.svg as a perfect land. It has been hypothesised that Herodotus's account, which he claims is taken from an explorer called Aristeas, reflected memories of Greek trade with wealthy Celtic people in the north of Europe such as the Hallstatt culture.[3] Herodotus appears to have been skeptical about claims of a far northern people.[4] Possibly drawing on similar ideas, Hyperborea appears in various Greek myths, with Perseus and Heracles travelling there on their adventures and Phaeton crashing the chariot of the sun up north.[5]

Past claimants[edit]

In 17th century Sweden, nationalists and particularly Gothicists (who celebrated Geats/Goths[note 1] as the founders of Sweden) claimed that Sweden was the mythical paradise of Hyperborea. Olof Rudbeck,Wikipedia's W.svg a Swedish professor of medicine and passionate Swedish patriot, advanced such ideas, associating Sweden with Hyperborea, Atlantis, Ogygia (home of Calypso in Homer's Odyssey) and the original land of the Druids: he mapped Homer's account of sailing to Ogygia onto north European geography, and then assumed all the authors he considered were all talking about the same place.[6]

There was a tendency in Celtic revivalism and Irish nationalism to equate Celtic regions such as Ireland with Hyperborea; this is mocked by James Joyce in Ulysses.[7]

John G. Bennett, drawing on work by J. Rhys and B.G. Tilak, claimed the original speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language, whom he equated with the authors of the Hindu Rigveda and Zoroastrian Avesta, were Hyperborean.[8] Bennett argued that they originated on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. He bizarrely believed that they deliberately created Proto-Indo European as an entirely new language and would therefore have required a lot of long dark nights with nothing to do. Needless to say, this is not a mainstream view, and most linguists assume that PIE evolved gradually from earlier languages that we can have no knowledge of, and that the speakers of PIE were unremarkable in most ways.

A number of mystics such as Helena Blavatsky, René GuénonWikipedia's W.svg and Julius Evola have claimed that humanity originated in the perfect northern land of Hyperborea, but gradually moved south and devolved (these Hyperboreans were either our literal ancestors or the origins of our culture and civilisation). Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, equated the Hyperborean people with the Cyclops in the story of Ulysses: his single eye demonstrates mystical vision. The importance of Apollo in Greek myths of Hyperborea was for Blavatsky also a symbol of the relationship between the far northern people and the god of prophecy.[9] Blavatsky's Hyperboreans were yellow, reproduced by budding, and have no direct descendants.[10]

Robert Charroux connected the Hyperboreans with the ancient astronauts, who apparently came from a cold planet and hence loved the north.

Romanian pseudohistorians claim that Hyperborea was located in Dacia, and that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were actually Dacians.[11]

Evil Hyperboreans[edit]

Nazi occultists such as Heinrich Himmler believed the Aryan race came from some mythical northern province of Thule or Hyperborea. The fake Frisian text Oera Linda Book refers to ancient Nordic civilisations and was popular with Nazis.[12] The Thule Society, an occultist group in Munich, was connected with the early history of the Nazi party.

More recent far-rightists have also been interested in an imaginary northern origin. This allows them to proclaim their difference from other people with darker skins. Robert Charroux's writing is particularly influential in this. Miguel Serrano'sWikipedia's W.svg Esoteric Hitlerism was similar: he believed Hitler was a divine avatar come to earth to battle evil and the Aryan race were the descendants of Hyperboreans of extraterrestrial origin.[13]

The White Order of ThuleWikipedia's W.svg was a 1990s occult Nazi group founded by Peter Georgacarakos, Michael Lujan, and Joseph Kerrick, combining Theosophy with Greco-Roman myth and Christian Identity (a white supremacist ideology).[14]

Other sources[edit]

Ultima and Thule

Various works of fantastic fiction including Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories also feature a land called Hyperborea. In his case it seems to be somewhat inspired from the Theosophist claims.

There was a town in Greenland called Thule, but its inhabitants were relocated to build the US Air Force's Thule Air Base.[15]

The Kuiper Belt object "(486958) 2014 MU69",Wikipedia's W.svg in 2019 the farthest object in the Solar System to be visited by a spacecraft, was nicknamed Ultima Thule. When the craft's images returned to Earth, it was realized that the object was likely composed of two primary parts that joined together, and they were separately named Ultima and Thule.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. No, not those goths.

References[edit]

  1. See the Wikipedia article on Thule.
  2. Hyperboreans: Myth and History in Celtic-Hellenic Contacts, Timothy P. Bridgman
  3. Hyperboreans: Myth and History in Celtic-Hellenic Contacts, Timothy P. Bridgman
  4. Herodotus and Mythic Geography: The Case of the Hyperboreans, James Romm, Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-) Vol. 119 (1989), pp. 97-113
  5. Hyperborea, theoi.com
  6. Lost Cities of Atlantis, Ancient Europe & the Mediterranean, David Hatcher Childress, p 333
  7. Annotations to James Joyce's Ulysses/Telemachus/005, Wikibooks
  8. The Hyperborean origin of the Indo-European culture, J G Bennett, Systematics, Vol 1. Number 3, December 1963.
  9. The Secret Doctrine by H. P. Blavatsky — Vol. 2
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Root race.
  11. [1]
  12. See the Wikipedia article on Oera Linda Book.
  13. See the Wikipedia article on Miguel Serrano.
  14. Former Neo-Nazi Explains 'Esoteric Nazism', Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011
  15. See the Wikipedia article on Thule Air Base.