20 Jan 2011

Charun Number Six

Charun Number Six is not a perfume nor a sci-fi novel. It's coming straight from pages 214 and 215 of Nancy De Grummond and Erika Simon's book Etruscan Myth, Sacred History and Legend (2006):
"Thus we have Charun Chunchules and Charun Huths [...] as well as, perhaps, Charun Lufe [...]; little is understood about their names, though Charun Huths may mean Charun Number Six (reinforcing the interpretation of the deity as a plurality), and it is also evident that the name Charun or Charu here has a generic quality, rather like the name Lasa."
This paragraph has irritated me for years. How can Etruscanists take four names that they're unable to translate word for word and, from this, casually assume that the god Charun "has a generic quality" or that it's "reinforcing the interpretation of the deity as a plurality"? If one can't translate these simple phrases, one cannot assume much from them until one can. It turns out that the title Charun Number Six is a complete fabrication and indeed may as well be a sci-fi or cologne. De Grummond and her circle fail to offer their readers any useful historical parallel for this concocted epithet.

When grammar is properly heeded, Charun Huths can't mean Charun Number Six. It literally means Charun of the Four since the trailing genitive marker -s means 'of' and huθ means '4', not '6'. Judging by Greek Charōn (Χάρων), Charun is an imported name for the Etruscan god of death and so The Four likely pertain to this role.

Likely, "the four" references the four winds or directions that had to be evoked in Etruscan funeral rites by the priest but it's also interesting to note that, according to Homer at least (Odyssey 10.513), there were four underworld rivers: Akhérōn, Stux, Puriphlegéthōn and Kōkutós. We know that the Etruscans were aware of at least one of them (TLE 334: Aχrum) but certainly some educated Etruscans must have read Homer's famed works too. Then again, the legend of the four rivers may simply be built on these four cardinal directions. To the Greeks, the winds were known as Nótos (south), Eurús (east), Zéphuros (west) and Boréas (north). The Romans referred to them collectively as the Venti 'The Winds'.


  1. Knowing next to nothing about Etruscan, I'm just curious how/why de Grummond would confuse "six" with "four" (for huθ). What is the Etruscan word for "six"?

  2. My entry above already points you to THIS LINK so if you're really curious about the source of the confusion, you might want to click on it.

    'Six' is properly śa.

  3. I appreciate your reflection about the equation 'huth' = 'four', 'quattuor', 'quattro', 'quatre' etc.