The Greco-Germanic Family Cycles: Introduction

The Gods Remain book cover

Stone mace – Corded Ware culture
illustration by Autumn Whitehurst


by Thomas Sefton

Significant proportions of both ancient Greek literature and ancient Scandinavian literature are in the same, very exactly defined, Family Cycle form. The Family Cycle form is identical both in Greece and in Northern Europe, and the most important elements of the specific stories can be found in both places. We find that this common literature is about Gods that is, Universal Principles— whereas much ancient literature is not.The literature in the Family Cycle form is not about people, it is about Universal Principles interacting with one another. There is a God— that is to say, a Principle— common to both places, permeating everything, and this God is the oldest God of which we have any knowledge.

These Family Cycles are very different from any other kind of story that we are familiar with, they have no climaxes and Good does not triumph. The principal characters of the cycles always make a choice, and they always choose the Deity that the Cycle is about, and they do so regardless of any consideration of Good or Evil. The stories recognize that any kind of Good and Evil that exists apart from humanity is inhuman and insane.

The stories come from the time of the Corded Ware and the Bell Beaker cultures. The Corded Ware culture arose from the Funnel Beaker culture, which never truly became Neolithic, never completely stopped being Mesolithic. The Corded Ware returned to much of the existential simplicity of the hunter–gatherers, while retaining a more modern technology. The cultural ideas of the Bell Beaker culture which followed the Corded Ware had more than one source and were far from homogeneous. The Bell Beaker ideas embraced the Western Megalithic cultures, which had never been completely Neolithic anyway, and they also assimilated much of the older Corded Ware culture of Central Europe. The Family Cycle form, and major elements of the stories in this form, came from the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker cultures, and apparently not from the contemporary Steppe Indo-European cultures of South–Eastern Europe. Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the Family Cycle form and some of the elements of that form came from the point when the Corded Ware people of Central Europe evolved into the Bell Beaker culture.

Connecting the Family Cycle stories to the Corded Ware and Bell Beaker cultures transforms these cultures from blank places on the map, to living people whom we can hear and understand and who constitute a distinct phase of European history. We can also see that these cultures from after the Neolithic but from before the Bronze Age, these cultures from this period are the source of our liberal and humanistic traditions.