Here we see that tradition is related to precisely the giving, the transmission of practices and beliefs, from generation to generation. This transmission is associated mostly with teachings that are given through oral means and that are only subsequently codified in written form, if ever. The advantage of tradition, of the core of practices and beliefs that are transmitted, lies in the fact that these teachings can go beyond the limits of both time and physical space, and beyond the limits of the subjective experience of those possessing its knowledge.
In this way, a traditional society could be seen as a society in which this transmission is maintained and continued. To delimit our field of interest, we’ll specifically look at the transmission of teachings that concern the religious, mythological sphere and their related world view.
Tradition related to this sphere is transmitted through the repetition of myths in rituals, forming both traditional and mythological complexes. Such complexes of traditions, referring to teachings beyond the limits of both time and physical space, imply that the transmitted knowledge exists before whoever receives it and then will transmit it in turn.
At the same time, the process takes place in the present time. Knowledge is shared in an experience that has both a transmitter and a receiver, implying the act of giving and receiving.
A traditional overlook on the teachings under discussion will show how the fundamental importance of these precepts contains the fact that they are not purely cultural, but of a metaphysical origin. In this way these precepts and teachings are a synthesis of a metaphysical, divine, supernatural, influence on the organisation of human society and human social life.
The origin of this tradition is in fact considered avowedly non-human, handed down beyond the time and space of human generations, in the form of a complex of sacred knowledge received from above and codified by ancestors as sacred rules of behaviour that need to be transmitted time and again.
A traditional human society is a society in which values are recognized as coming from a higher non-human level. The sum of these values forms a symbolic matrix that doesn’t need or require a formal and fideistic adhesion in order to embody a specific worldview. The lack of a need for a conscious choice of “faith” against the background of traditional wisdom doesn’t come from a sub-conscious influence – this would imply that a person has a traditional worldview because the chaotic energies of his mind would drive him towards that – but rather from a super-conscious conception, a conception that goes beyond the limits of human intellect, which shows that someone is aligned with a traditional worldview because he recognizes the functions and the rightness of this knowledge, beyond a conscious awareness and a feral instinct.
Within a traditional society the knowledge is shared by all the people, yet in different ways depending on the people's internal nature (so called equation of the soul). In general, there would be experts in the fields of traditional wisdom relevant to their role in society (for instance, in a group of hunters the traditions and rituals related to the hunt will be more relevant, while in an agrarian society the agricultural cycle’s ritual will be prominent). A cross-social role expert of tradition in some societies has to be seen, among others, in the figure of a shaman or witch.
Tradition or traditions?
From a theoretical point of view, there are as many traditions as there are peoples who codified and handed them down. This statement is sensible and not contradictory as these traditions appear to be functional to peoples that are living them. They give meaning to their world, and so they are transmitted.
The question of the existence of a single primordial tradition from which the others would derive is important but it will not be treated here, as our interest is limited to specific traditions that emerged on the European continent at least from the Bronze Age and even the European Neolithic. This timeframe coincides with the theoretical age of the linguistic proto-groups, ancestors of the languages spoken in Europe today.
While the pure origin of the traditions, from a traditional point of view, is metaphysical, its codifications and concrete forms at a specific time are encoded into a specific language. In fact, as the transmission of teachings originally had a fundamentally oral nature, so the existence of a tradition needs a language as a means to be transmitted. The codification into a specific language creates a language of its own that is the mythological level. This mythological level interacts between cultures similarly to language contacts. This means that languages and mythologies are interconnected, each people with its own language having its own tradition.
Whether the process of codification of tradition within a concrete language is oral or written, it is unavoidable. Traditions are transmitted in time and space and in this process the human level interacts with the non-human level. The limitedness of the human interaction relies on the limitlessness of the tradition itself, and is therefore necessary to carry on true to the original form that it continues. As languages, so too can religions be traced back to ancestral proto-forms, evident in different fields of culture. As our understanding of our past increases, so too do we realise all the more how far back in time our traditions actually go, many European peoples tracing the origins of their traditions and languages back thousands of years to prehistoric times.
In this way we see a relationship between the emergence of the core of Native European peoples' traditions from millennia ago to the ancestors of current European languages. These proto-languages were spoken by different proto-peoples who probably were several more in number than what is attested in the first written sources. Their descendants compose what we collectively address as the ancestors of Native European people. The primordial tradition or traditions may go back to the Palaeolithic era and it is related to other, previous forms of proto-people and proto-languages, which we will not speculate here in detail, while not denying their role and existence.