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Apparently, that is the Paschal Greeting in Tolkien’s constructed Elvish language Quenya. It was fun tracking down the exact translation of this phrase. Apparently, it comes from Tolkien himself, who also translated several Christian prayers into Quenya, such as The Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary.

Naturally, this leads to some speculation as to what significance the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Eru Ilúvatar has for the Elves. There is precious little to go by either in The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillon. Human piety or apostasy is measured in these works by the human group’s faithfulness to the alliance with the Eldar, and by extension, to the Valar.  Yet there is a line drawn between the Elves, who are bound to this world and cannot transpass it, and Men, whose fate lies “beyond the circle of the world, and what it is, even Mandos cannot tell.”

Nevertheless, Tolkien constructed his mythology to be, at the least, compatible with the worship of the Blessed Trinity.  I view the Valar as Elementals, roughly corresponding to the των στοιχειων του κοσμου [“the elements of this world”], mentioned so coyly in St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (2:20).  Alas, the Elves never finish their apprenticeship.  The virtual immortality in this world which is so coveted by the fallen Numenoreans, turns out to be a perpetual submission to the Valar.    Men would eventually come, because of their participation in the Divine nature, to overshadow their titular overlords.  So, the First would be Last, and the Last, First.

The number and depth of human-Elvish relationships show that the Elves have at least a capacity to enter into the communio sanctorum, except that they would be participating from the streets of Tirion and Alqualondë, rejoicing in the good fortune of their younger brethren and awaiting their own eventual redemption.  I am certain that the learned among them, on this bright Feast of Feasts, would greet each other with the Paschal greeting:

Ortanne Laivino! Anwa ortanne Laivino! 

laivë noun “ointment” , hence Laivino, “the Anointed, the Christ”

orta vb. “rise”, also transitive “raise, lift up”, pa.t. ortanë (Nam, RGEO:67, ORO; misreading “ortani” in Letters:426). According to PE17:63-64, this pa.t. form ortanë is only transitive (*”raised”), whereas the intransitive pa.t. (*”rose”) is orontë

anwa adj. “real, actual, true” 

From an online Quenya dictionary


Marija Gimbutas (1921 – 1994) is a name all of you should know. Fleeing the Nazi occupation of her native Lithuania in 1944, she settled in Southern California, eventually becoming a full professor of anthropology at UCLA.

Dr. Gimbutas first attained prominence in the field of Indo-European studies by identifying a Neolithic culture of the Russian steppes, the Kurgan culture of appr. 4000 BC, as the speakers of Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral language of the majority of European and Indian languages spoken today. The Kurgans were a militaristic, patriarchal, and technologically obsessed society which, in various waves, dominated and submerged what she called “Old Europe”, a uniform (!?!?) Neolthic culture which was pacific, aesthetic, matriarchal, and meticulous about ecological relations to the natural world.

Dr. Gimbutas’ theory of Indo-European procedence is not entirely accepted by scholars in archeology or linguistics. It remains a “fruitful” hypothesis, meaning, I suppose, one that can still be  invoked to apply for grants and to lend legitimacy to articles published in scholarly journals. The jury is still out as to whether the Kurgans were indeed the linguistic great-grandfathers of Homer, the writers of the Vedas, Virgil, and the bards of the Cattle Raid on Cooley.

My Goddess can kick your Sky-God

Nevertheless, outside the more rigorous climes of official academe, her ideas took fruit in a series of novels written by one of her ex-students, Jean Auel, who had a good run of success with her “Earth’s Children” series, beginning with “The Clan of the Cave Bear”, which was made into a decent film starring Darryl Hannah.

The Earth’s Children series degenerated swiftly from the original book, which was quite good from both a literary and imaginative perspective, into a predictable set of romances between the protaganist Ayla and a series of broad-chested, long-haired, sensitive Neolithic swains who followed her across Old Europe in obedience to the Great Goddess, whom they worshipped and who Ayla symbolized.

I never finished the second book, although I have been meaning to. Whatever made the first book special is definitely lacking in the second. At any rate, Ms. Auel made Dr. Gimbutas’ speculations plausible to a host of moderns looking for a reason why their lives weren’t working so well.

Gimbutean fiction is quite a lively sub-genre these days, with plucky, Goddess-honoring heroines standing shoulder to shoulder with brave, shining-eyed, long-locked heroes against the awful Horse People and their ferocious, oppressive Sky-God (Guess Who?).

The mythology is quite potent, which is why its not going to go away because it doesn’t have any basis in verifiable history.  Christians, as usual, had their seismic triggers posted elsewhere and didn’t see Dr. Gimbutas coming up behind them.


I found something on the Calvin College website after Googling the phrase “theology of language”. I find it curious that with all the electrons sacrificing their quantum levels, smashing against the phosphors of computer screens in the service of the wars between “free grace” and “works-religion”, no one seems to expend much curiosity about why man is allowed to speak at all.

A Calvin College professor, Nathan Bierma, has come up with five observations that he believes should serve as prolegomena for a theology of language:

1. God created us as linguistic beings, encoding symbolic meaning in our words and actions as “stewards of symbolic reality” (Quentin Schultze, Communicating For Life).

2. Christ’s incarnate nature is revealed to us in John 1 as logos, “the word.” Here, and in Genesis 1, the word is associated with divine nature and divine action.

3. Our sinful nature leads us to miscommunicate, both deliberately and unintentionally, perpetuating our pride, frustration, and helplessness.

4. We are transformed through Christ to speak the truth, to “echo God’s reality,” as Schultze says, rather than to use linguistic symbols as tools to serve self-serving ends.

5. Multilingual diversity is a prelude of heavenly community and its songs of praise and confession of Christ’s lordship in every tongue.

Thank you, Nathan. That is a good introduction, and it saves a lazy Mule from having to come up with something on my own. I would like to add some comments, of course.

In point number one, Bierma correctly points out that God has created us as linguistic beings. However, I would like to expand on this. A linguistic being means that you were created as someone who exists within a linguistic community. Evolutionary accounts of the emergence of language in human beings appear to me to ignore the fact that for a language-production-gene to have any possible survival value, there has to be a corresponding language-processing-gene in the receiver.

Language -> necessarily implies relationship, exchange, and tradition. A man can receive nothing, says the Forerunner, except what has been given him… All of us were born into different language communities, and we received our language from others.   Indeed, research seems to indicate that children raised apart from social contact never do learn language properly.  Any discussion of language that focuses only on the individual and his linguistic ability is not even going to be able to begin to explain language theologically.

In Mr. Bierma’s second point, Christ as the Word of the Father has a rich metaphorical tradition in the Eastern Orthodox church. Evidently, Christ is not a “word” in the sense of a His being a vibration in the air. He is not a spoken or a written Word. He is an incarnate Word. This is getting easier for me to understand the longer I am Orthodox, for the Orthodox use a lot of different means to express Christ – icons, vestments, liturgical movements, colors, smells (the incense used during Lent is more acrid than that used between Pentecost and Advent, for example).

Some Christians take issue with this. Jacques Ellul in his remarkable book, The Humiliation Of The Word, points out that God is primarily concerned with the Word qua language, and he criticizes the modern tendency to reduce everything to image. I don’t know but that the Orthodox are going to have to answer his objections eventually. Ellul’s arguments are a good deal more nuanced than the unsophisticated “You guys are breaking the Second Commandment” arguments that are usually thrown our way.


Marija Gimbutas (1921 – 1994) is a name all of you should know. Fleeing the Nazi occupation of her native Lithuania in 1944, she settled in Southern California, eventually becoming a full professor of anthropology at UCLA.

Dr. Gimbutas first attained prominence in the field of Indo-European studies by identifying a Neolithic culture of the Russian steppes, the Kurgan culture of appr. 4000 BC, as the speakers of Proto-Indo-European, the ancestral language of the majority of European and Indian languages spoken today. The Kurgans were a militaristic, patriarchal, and technologically obsessed society which, in various waves, dominated and submerged what she called “Old Europe”, a uniform (!?!?) Neolthic culture which was pacific, aesthetic, matriarchal, and meticulous about ecological relations to the natural world.

Dr. Gimbutas’ theory of Indo-European procedence is not entirely accepted by scholars in archeology or linguistics. It remains a “fruitful” hypothesis, meaning , I suppose, one that can be perennially invoked to apply for grants and to lend legitimacy to articles published in scholarly journals. The jury is still out as to whether the Kurgans were indeed the linguistic great-grandfathers of Homer, the writers of the Vedas, Virgil, and the bards of the Cattle Raid on Cooley.

Nevertheless, outside the more rigorous climes of official academe, her ideas took fruit in a series of novels written by one of her ex-students, Jean Auel, who had a good run of success with her “Earth’s Children” series, beginning with “The Clan of the Cave Bear”, which was made into a decent film starring Darryl Hannah.

The Earth’s Children series degenerated swiftly from the original book, which was quite good from both a literary and imaginative perspective, into a predictable set of romances between the protaganist Ayla and a series of broad-chested, long-haired, sensitive Neolithic swains who followed her across Old Europe in obedience to the Great Goddess, whom they worshipped and who Ayla symbolized.

I never finished the second book, although I have been meaning to. Whatever made the first book special is definitely lacking in the second. At any rate, Ms. Auel made Dr. Gimbutas’ speculations plausible to a host of moderns looking for a reason why their lives weren’t working so well.

Gimbutean fiction is quite a lively sub-genre these days, with plucky, Goddess-honoring heroines standing shoulder to shoulder with brave, shining-eyed, long-locked heroes against the awful Horse People and their ferocious, oppressive Sky-God.

The mythology is quite potent, which is why its not going to go away simply because it doesn’t have any basis in verifiable history. Christians, as usual, had their seismic triggers posted elsewhere and didn’t see Dr. Gimbutas coming up behind them.

CURRENTLY READING

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams