Sunday 21 June 2015


Fireflies light up the Midsummer night. This is just one of many amazing photos of fireflies taken by the Japanese photographer Yuki Karo. You can find them on his photo blog here

In the Balkans, fireflies come out around the time of the summer solstice. South Slavic words for firefly are "svitac", "svitnjak", "svijetnjak", "svitaljka", "cvitnjak", "kris", "krijes", "kres", "kresnica"...These are also the names used for fires and torches which are lit up on the shortest night of the year, as part of the Slavic summer solstice celebrations...

Happy Summer Solstice

Monday 15 June 2015

Donnybrook fair

I live in Donnybrook, across from Donnybrook church. This area is today considered to be one of the nicest parts of Dublin. But this was not always the case.

Until 1866, Donnybrook was the place where a notorious Donnybrook Fair was held every year in August.

This is a picture of Donnybrook Fair painted by Erskine Nicol in 1859.  

The official history of the fair says that it was established in the year 1204, when King John of England granted a licence to the corporation of Dublin to hold an eight-day fair in Donnybrook. In 1252 the duration was extended to fifteen days. Over the years the terms of holding the fair changed slightly, until in the 18th century it was held on 26 August on Donnybrook Green for a fortnight (14 days). But I believe that this was probably just an official recognition of the already existing Lughnasadh fair. Several other Lughnasadh fairs still survive in Ireland, like the Puck Fair which takes place in Killorglin on the 10th of August, County Kerry and the Ould Lammas Fair which takes place in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim on the last Monday and Tuesday in August. There is also the legendary Fair of Tailtiu (Oenach Tailten) which held  in the area of Teltown, and which was the principal fair of the Ui Neill confederation of dynasties and their vassal tribes. 

These fairs had been officially established as an occasion to trade cattle, but also as a chance for people to meet, eat, drink, have fun and broker marriages. Similar fairs are still held at the beginning of August (Lughnasadh) by the Serbs in the Balkans. I wrote about them in this article.

Donnybrook fair must have been the king of Lughnasadh fairs in Ireland. It was very popular and immensely crowded. According to the reports it attracted thousands of people and was chaotic and loud affair. The sounds of drums, bells, toy trumpets, fiddles, bagpipes and singing added to the pandemonium. In 1778 one writer writing for 
Freeman's Journal, complained on the 31 August of 1778 about the effects of the Donnybrook Fair: 

"How irksome it was to friends of the industry and well-being of Society to hear that upwards of 50,000 persons visited the fair on the previous Sunday, and returned to the city like intoxicated savages.

By the beginning of the 19th century the fair had become more a site of public entertainment, drinking and fighting than a fair of any description. Folklorist Estyn Evans provides in his book "Irish Folk Ways" an 1845 account of Dublin's "infamous Donnybrook Fair" which appeared in The Parliamentary Gazetteer

"During the week, beginning on the 26th August, is held the notorious Donnybrook Fair, professedly for the sale of horses and black cattle, but really for vulgar dissipation, and formerly for criminal outrage and the most revolting debauchery. It was for generations a perfect prodigy of moral horrors - a concentration of disgrace upon, not Ireland alone, but civilized Europe. It far surpassed all other fairs in the multitude and grossness of its disgusting incidents of vice; and, in general, it exhibited such continuous scenes of riot, bloodshed, debauchery, and brutality, as only the coarsest taste and the most hardened heart could witness without painful emotion.' This was by day; 'the orgies of the night may better be imagined than described." 

Fighting was one of the chief characteristics of Donnybrook Fair. Fights often broke out between two people, and soon the onlookers became involved. To this day, the phrase 'Donnybrook Fair' is used to describe scenes of chaos and confusion. The Oxford English Dictionary  defines a donnybrook as "a scene of uproar and disorder; a riotous or uproarious meeting; a heated argument."

This sketch is by a man called Samuel Lover and is featured in Weston St. John Joyce's book The Neighbourhood of Dublin. The sketch depicts a brawl at the infamous Donnybrook Fair. 


You can see in the drawing that a wide variety of weapons and ammunition are being used by the participants with the knobsticks being the most widely used one. You can read about knobsticks in this article.

The fair was certainly popular among the ordinary people, but from the early nineteenth century onwards, there was a concerted effort by both the Church and State to bring about its demise. Attempts to ban the fair were made in the early decades of the nineteenth century, but it was not until 1850 and the death of the license holder John Madden, that any real success was achieved. In 1855, John Madden's sister Ellen sold the rights to hold the fair for £3,000 to Father Nolan and his association, which had led the campaign against the fair. The fair was sill held until 1866, because Joseph Dillon, the nephew of John Madden and owner of the fair ground, refused to stop organising it, claiming that it was his right as the owner of the fair grounds to do what ever he wanted on it. However in 1866 the new Catholic Church in Donnybrook opened on the south bank of the River Dodder, overlooking the fair grounds. It was dedicated to the Sacred Heart in order to atone for the sins of Donnybrook Fair. It was dedicated by Dr. Paul Cullen, the Cardinal Archbishop. 

The church was officially opened on Sunday 26th August, the same day as the fair. This was the message to all that the god had officially arrived to Donnybrook and that he was watching you. So no more messin' or you'll be going straight to hell. Two years later, Donnybrook fair was closed for good...

Sunday 14 June 2015


On the way to town today I passed by the Greek embassy. I looked at the sign on the wall and saw that the Greek word for embassy was "πρεσβεία" pronounced "presvia". The Greek word for the consulate was "προξενείο" pronounced "proksenio". When I came home I looked these words up in the etymological dictionaries. Then I started looking into the history of diplomacy. What I discovered was very interesting and surprising. But it also opened huge number of questions about what we think we know about the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age Balkan history. 

The word πρεσβεία is an ancient Greek word. You can see all the occurrences of this word in classical texts here.

The Thayer's Greek Lexicon says that the word "πρεσβεία" means "age, dignity, right of the first born, the business normally entrusted to elders, spec. the office of an ambassador, an embassy".

What is interesting is that this word has no known etymology.

I would like here to propose a potential etymology. 

If we look at all the meanings of this word we can see that they all have the same root meaning:

Age (old age) - Born before all others.
Dignity - the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Being honored and respected before all others.
Right of the first born - Having rights for being born before all others.
The business normally entrusted to elders - The business entrusted to the ones who were born before all others.
Ambassador - The representative of all of us in the enemy camp. The one who goes to the enemy before all others.

All the meanings of the word "πρεσβεία" pronounced "presvia",  are related to the concept of being "before all others".

In Archaic South Slavic dialects "before all others" is "pre svija" = "before all (others)" = first, oldest,  advanced, representative. Also the expression "pre sve (svi) ja" means "before all me (I am)" = I am before all others. These South Slavic expressions produce all possible meanings of the Ancient Greek word "πρεσβεία". This means that this word is most likely a borrowing from Slavic languages into Ancient Greek. Except that according to the official history and linguistics this is not possible. According to the official history and linguistics there is no way that Ancient Greeks could have been in contact with anyone speaking Slavic languages at the time when this word, or more precisely this expression, was recorded for the fist time, which is well before the 5th century BC. So how did the Greeks acquire this word and from whom? Who spoke Slavic languages in early Iron Age Balkans?

One other thing.

The article entitled "History of Diplomacy" from Encyclopedia Britannica says this about Ancient Greek diplomacy:

Greek diplomacy begins with the city-states, where diplomats were sent for specific negotiations and would return after their mission concluded. The earliest evidence of Greek diplomacy can be found in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Sparta, which was actively forming alliances in the mid-6th century BCE, and by 500 BCE it had created the Peloponnesian League.

Greek diplomacy took many forms, both historical and mythological. Heralds were the first diplomats sent on short-term visits to other city-states whose policies they sought to influence. They were protected by the Gods with an immunity that other envoys lacked and their protector was Hermes, son of Zeus and associated with all diplomacy. Interestingly, Hermes was also known as the protector of travelers and thieves due to his persuasiveness and eloquence but also for knavery, shiftiness, and dishonesty, imparting to diplomacy a reputation that its practitioners still try to live down.

So it was the elders that were sent as diplomatic representatives and their protector was Hermes, the messenger of Zeus. Do you remember the knobstick, the staff carried by the elders from my knobstick article

Now have a look at the staff carried by Hermes. It is represented in two ways.

Like this:

Or like this:

Does it remind you of the knobstick the symbol of the Elders?

It was the elders who were sent as ambassadors, messengers, the same elders who carried knobsticks as signs of their authority. It is then quite possible that these knobstick carrying elders were the inspiration for the anthropomorphic representation of Hermes, the divine ambassador, messenger of Zeus.

Questions questions questions....

The article entitled "History of Diplomacy" from Encyclopedia Britannica also says this about Ancient Greek diplomacy:

Commercial relations in ancient Greece were instead conducted on a continuous basis by an arrangement, or proxeni, where by the citizen of the city-state represented the economic interest of another city-state. A Proxenos, the citizen involved in the activity of proxeni, would use whatever influence he had in his own city to promote policies of friendship or alliance with the city he represented. Although proxeni initially represented one Greek city-state in another, Herodotus, in his famed work History, indicates that there were Greek consuls in Egypt in about 550 BCE. Commercial conventions, conferences, treaties, and alliances became common and in 4th century BCE, and for a period of 25 years there were eight Greco-Persian congresses, where even the smallest states had the right to be heard.

The Greek word "προξενη" pronounced proxeni means consul, but literally it means "among the foreigners", It comes from the Ancient Greek word "ξένος" meaning foreigner. 

The Greek word ξένος (pronounced ksénos) means: of parties giving or receiving hospitality: host and much more commonly guest, stranger, one who is hired: hired worker, mercenary, foreigner. The word is an Ancient Greek word first attested in the 5th century BC. The official etymology says that this word comes from ξένϝος, from Proto-Indo-European *gʰóstis (“guest, stranger”), whence also Proto-Germanic *gastiz, Proto-Slavic *gostь, Italic: *ɣostis. I agree the the Germanic, Slavic and Italic words come from the same root meaning guest which probably comes from the root *gʰes- (“to eat”) from which we have Sanskrit ghasati and Slavic jesti. But I believe that the Greek word ξένος comes from a completely different root. 

The article entitled "History of Diplomacy" from Encyclopedia Britannica also says that: 

"the earliest diplomatic negotiations occured during the time of the earliest tribal societies which had to negotiate marriage, trade and hunting rights." 

This is a very important piece of information. In patriarchal tribal societies marrying within the clan was strictly forbidden. Therefore the women had to be brought from outside of the tribe. These women were either stolen in so called "wolf raids" or marriage agreements were made between friendly tribes which allowed men from one tribe to take women from the other tribe and vice versa. In The Balkans this tradition still persists in rural areas. Where I come from in South of Serbia, the men from the villages from our side of the river always married women from the villages from the other side of the river, where people were "not of our tribe". People who were "not of our tribe" were not us and were therefore foreigners. And it was among the foreigners that men looked for women to become their wives. But it was not the young men who were sent to the foreigner's village to negotiate the marriage deals. It was the elders. They were sent to the foreign tribes to negotiate acquiring of women for their sons or grandsons, which is still the case in many parts of the world where the family, clan or tribe elders are still sent to negotiate these types of deals even today. Theses tribal elders probably carried with them their knobsticks, as symbols of their power. Is this why the knobstick is the stick carried by Hermes, the protector of messengers and diplomats?

I believe that this association between foreign and getting a woman to marry her was strong enough to give us the Greek word for a foreigner "ξένος". 

I lived in Greece for a year. One thing that I noticed was that Greeks were unable to pronounce Slavic harsh consonants like "ž" which is the first sound in the Slavic word "žena" meaning both woman and wife. The word "žena" is an ancient word which comes from the Indoeuropean root gʷḗn

If we look at the words which are derived from this root we see that all the words are split into three groups: 

dj, ž,s group (all the words for woman, wife start with dj, ž or s sound) 

Slavic: *žena
Proto-Indo-Iranian: *ǰanH- (pronounced žan or djan)
Sanskrit: जनि (jani)
Avestan: (jə̄ni), (jaini), (jąni)
Baluchi: جن (jan)
Kurdish: jin / жьн / ژن
Middle Persian: NYŠE / zn' (zan)
Persian: زن (zan)
Ossetic: зӕнӕг (zænæg, “children, offspring”)
Pashto: جنۍ (jinëy)
Tocharian A: śäṃ
Tocharian B: śana

k,g group (all the words for woman, wife start with k or g sound) 

Old Armenian: կին (kin)
Armenian: կին (kin)
Old Prussian: genno (vocative singular)
Germanic: *kwenǭ, *kwēniz
Mycenaean Greek: (ku-na-ja)
Ancient Greek γυνή (gunḗ)
Phrygian: [script needed] (knaika)
Sanskrit: ग्ना (gnā)

b group (all the words for woman, wife start with b sound) 

Celtic: *benā
Old Irish: ben, bé
Irish: bean
Manx: ben
Welsh: ben
Cornish: ben
Beotian Greek: βανά (baná)

I believe that the above division shows clear linguistic dialectal split on genetic lines. The ž,s group of words comes from languages linked to R1a population.  The b group group of words comes from languages linked to R1b population. Where does the k,g group come from? Another subgroup of R1b or I2? I am not sure.

It is very interesting to note that Sanskrit contains both "g" word and "ž, dj" word for woman showing that Sanskrit is a composite language and that both so called "kentum" and "satem" dialects speaking tribes were present in Indus Valley during the formation of the Sanskrit language. It is also very interesting to note that Beotian dialect has "b" word for woman, just like Celtic languages. Is there a link between the Beotians and Celts? I believe so. Remember the article about the bo, vo words being the root for the words for cattle? I will talk about this soon. 

So back to Greeks and the word "ξένος" meaning foreigner. As I said Greeks are unable to pronounce Slavic harsh consonant "ž". So they pronounce the word "žena" like "zena" or "sena". In South Slavic languages the word to marry is "ženiti". This verb comes from Locative form of "žena" meaning woman. As the name implies, the basic meaning of the locative case is to show the location or position of an object represented by a noun or direction of movement towards the object. Locative of the word "žena" is "ženi" meaning towards, to the woman. This would mean that "ženiti" = "ženi + ti" literally means to "go to the woman + you", to "go to get the woman + you", "go to the woman's tribe to get the woman + you". 

The South Slavic words "ga, gu, go, gi" are used for pointing and mean him, her, it, them. If you wanted to say in South Slavic languages "you can marry him, her, them" you would say "ženi + ga, gu, gi" =  "marry + him, her, them" or "ga, gu, gi + ženi" = "him, her, them + marry". As I already said in patriarchal tribal societies it was a taboo to marry someone of your own kind. So the people you were allowed to marry "ga, gu, gi + ženi" the ones who were not "of our tribe", foreigners. If pronounced quickly this expression becomes "gženi". Greeks would pronounce this as "kseni" which is exactly the pronunciation for the adjective "ξένη" meaning foreign, not one of us, someone you can marry. 

So back to the Greek word "προξενη" pronounced proxeni meaning consul but literally meaning among the foreigners. In South Slavic languages the word pro means through, between, among and the word pri means with, next to, at. A man who moves to live with his wife's family or clan is in South Slavic languages said to be "pri ženi" meaning with the wife, with the wife's family, with the people who are not of our tribe, with the foreigners....

So how did this word enter Greek language? How did this happen when according to the official history and linguistics this is not possible, because there is no way that Ancient Greeks could have been in contact with anyone speaking Slavic languages at the time when this word, or more precisely this expression, was recorded for the fist time, which is well before the 5th century BC. So how did the Greeks acquire this word and from whom?
Who spoke Slavic languages in early Iron Age Balkans? 

But maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe I should ask if the Ancient Greeks were, as most people think, a genetically , culturally and linguistically homogeneous "nation". Or were they a bunch of genetically, culturally and linguistically disparate tribes living side by side. Of which some spoke a language which will later become known as Slavic. And were the "Ancient Greeks" just a product of hundreds of years of cooperation, intermarrying and conquest, a result of complex, often forced mixing. After all all the other European "nations" were created like this, why would the "Ancient Greeks" be any different?

So what do you think about all this?

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Fairy tree

This is the Fairy Tree from Marley Park in Dublin Ireland. The tree is located half way up the path which meanders through the woodland on the left hand said of the lake. It is an old dead tree, which was turned into a fairy castle by some, unknown genius. One day he installed a tiny little door at the bottom of the tree. Then slowly over time he added windows, turrets, balconies. The effect of this was that it looked as if the fairy castle was really slowly built by little fairies who lived in the tree. The tree became a pilgrimage place for little kids from the area. They bring their dodies (dummies, soothers) and leave them at the tree as the present for the fairies when they decide that they are too big to suck on them any more (to the delight of their parents). Children use the tree as a wishing tree and you’ll find little notes pinned to it. It’s really a very special place.

I love this fairy tree. Sometimes I think that it really could be fairies that built their home inside of it. I mean someone has to be adding the extra doors, windows and even a washing line to the tree. Fairies are as good an explanation as any.

Thursday 4 June 2015


Where does the English word kiss come from? What is its root etymology? Apparently this is not clear...I would here like to present a potential solution for this puzzle...

A kiss is the touch or pressing of ones lips against another person or an object. It sometimes involves licking and penetration of the mouth with a tongue. Cultural connotations of kissing vary widely. Depending on the culture and context, a kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, romance, sexual attraction, sexual activity, sexual arousal, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, peace and good luck, among many others. In some situations a kiss is a ritual, formal or symbolic gesture indicating devotion, respect, or sacrament.

Apart from humans several other animal species engage in activities which are very similar to kissing or are actually kissing.

Several mammals engage in affectionate behaviour that’s remarkably similar to our kissing. Bonobos apes will tongue kiss for up to 10 minutes. But this is not surprising considering athe bonobos are the biggest sex addicts among the primates. And apparently the happiest and the least aggressive too. I wonder if sex and happyness are in any way linked :). Chimpanzees oftentimes demonstrate kiss-like behaviour after a fight as a way to “kiss and make up” so to speak. Studies have shown that this type of behaviour isn’t just confined to chimpanzees—many other primates “kiss” in their own way.

Non-primate animals engage in kiss-like behaviour as well. Meerkats, for example, will nuzzle and lick each other’s scent glands to mark one another as the alpha and the subordinate. This is especially important after a meerkat returns to their group because the alpha female kicking them out is quite often the reason they left in the first place.

Elephants have been observed sticking their trunks in each others’ mouths as a gesture of both consolation and comfort.

We also have billing of birds, the kissing of pigeons. I already wrote about the kissing of pigeons as the root for the name of this species in Serbian.

The earliest depiction of kissing is the Ain Sakhri lovers figurine. It is a sculpture that was found in one of the Ain Sakhri caves near Bethlehem. The sculpture is considered to date to around 9,000 BC and to be the oldest known representation of two people engaged in sexual intercourse. The pebble depicts a couple face to face. One person has wrapped their arms around the shoulders of their lover in an embrace. The knees of one of the figures bend up over the legs of the other. And they are probably kissing too.

The earliest written reference to kissing-like behaviour in humans comes from the Vedas, Sanskrit scriptures that informed Hinduism, Buddhism and the Jain religion, around 3,500 years ago. During the later Classical period, affectionate mouth-to-mouth kissing was first described in the Hindu epic, the “Mahabharata”.

Both lip and tongue kissing are mentioned in the poetry of Sumer, and kissing is described in the surviving Ancient Egyptian love poetry from the New Kingdom. There are reference to kissing in the Old Testament in Genesis. Evidence of affectionate kissing can be found in ancient Greek literature and art. In the works of the epic poet Homer as well as Greek dramatists, kissing could express a deep emotional bond of friendship as well as parents' love for their children. Moreover, affectionate kissing was also depicted in images painted on ancient Greek art. In Roman society, only on strictly defined occasions was a real kiss deemed appropriate in public. Just as it is today, the side-to-side "air kiss" was common as a form of greeting, but it was not considered significant. You might also kiss a hand, ring, or foot as a public sign of submission. It was your duty to bestow a final kiss when a friend or relative died to release the spirit of the deceased. Little kids were always huggable and kissable. But "real", that is, passionate, kisses were considered to be only done in private. Christians disproved of any open expression of sexuality, so kissing on the lips, or any other action that could have been interpreted as having a sexual connotation was discouraged. However at the same time the Early Christians practiced the so called the kiss of peace as a traditional Christian greeting. The "kiss of peace" as practiced in the Christian liturgy was not a customary not mouth to cheek kiss practiced as greeting in most of the Mediterranean, but mouth to mouth (note that men were separated from women during the liturgy) for, as the primary sources also show, this is how early Christians believed Christ and his followers exchanged their own kiss. 

Some anthropologists think that in the history of mankind, kissing seems to be a late substitute for the more primitive rubbing of noses, sniffing, and licking, which is also much more common sign of affection in the animal world. Kissing, as an expression of affection or love, is still unknown among many races, such as indigenous peoples of Australia, the Tahitians, and many tribes in Africa. Approximately ten percent of the world still do not kiss for a variety of reasons, including that they find it dirty or for superstitious reasons. Psychology professor Elaine Hatfield noted that "kissing was far from universal and even seen as improper by many societies". But maybe the kissing was more widespread but was outlawed by various religions and social laws. Look at India.

In India is the place where we find the earliest reference to kissing. It is the place where Kama Sutra comes from, the first book on love making comes from. It is the place where explicit sexual scenes containing all sorts of kissing adorn ancient Hindu temple walls. And yet today public kissing is frowned upon, and kissing in films is a very new Bollywood "invention". As a matter of fact, in India, public display of affection is a criminal offence under Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with a punishment of imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both. I wonder if this law was forced on India by the British, whose puritan protestant Christianity disproved of any "exaggerated" public show of affection. Or did something change in Indian attitude towards sex, love and kissing over past few thousands of years. That this could be the case is shown by the fact that in the other parts of Central, South, and East Asia with predominantly Buddhist or Hindu cultures, or in cultures heavily influenced by these two religions, even cheek kissing is largely uncommon and may be considered offensive. 

In Mongolia, Japan, as in China, although kissing took place in erotic situations, in public "the kiss was invisible," and the "touching of the lips never became the culturally encoded action. The extreme example of this aversion towards kissing in Asian societies is the fact that instead of kissing, Manchu mothers used to show affection for their children by performing fellatio on their male babies, placing its penis in their mouths and stimulating it, since it was not considered a sexual act, while the Manchu regarded public kissing with revulsion, which was considered sexual.

In the Philippines, cheek kissing or beso is a common greeting. The Philippine cheek kiss is a cheek-to-cheek kiss, not a lips-to-cheek kiss. The cheek kiss is usually made once (right cheek to right cheek), either between two women, or between a woman and a man. Among the upper classes, it is a common greeting among adults who are friends, while for the rest of the population, however, the gesture is generally reserved for relatives. Filipinos who are introduced to each other for the first time do not cheek kiss unless they are related.
In certain communities in Indonesia, notably the Manado or Minahasa people, kissing on the cheeks (twice) is normal among relatives, including males.

In Armenia both women and men show physical affection with friends of both the opposite and the same sex in public. The traditional greetings consists of shaking hands and kissing three times on alternate cheeks. In Azerbaijan men greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek. Women hug and kiss each other once on the left cheek. Azeri women do not generally shake hands among themselves. In Georgia both men and women may kiss one another on the cheek in public places while greeting each other. However kissing on the lips and intimate hugging in public are frowned upon. 

In Muslim societies world over, kissing on the lips in public is a taboo and is punishable by law. However cheek kissing in the Arab world is relatively common, between friends and relatives. Cheek kissing between males is very common. However, cheek kissing between a male and female is usually considered inappropriate, unless within the same family; e.g. brother and sister, or if they are a married couple but even that is banned in some Muslim countries. Some exceptions to this are Lebanon and Syria, Libya, Egypt (not any more with the ISIS in control) where cheek kissing is a common greeting between unrelated males and females in most communities, and the Lebanese custom has become the norm for non-Lebanese in Lebanese-dominated communities of the Arab diaspora. Normally in Lebanon, the typical number of kisses is three: one on the left cheek, then right, and then left between relatives.

Cheek kissing in Turkey is also widely accepted in greetings. Male to male cheek kissing is considered normal in almost every occasion, but very rarely for men who are introduced for the first time. Some men hit each other's head on the side instead of cheek kissing, possibly as an attempt to masculinize the action. Cheek kissing between women is also very common, but it is also very rare for women who are introduced for the first time. A man and a woman could cheek kiss each other for greeting without sexual connotations only if they are good friends or depending on the circle, the setting, and the location like in big cities.

I have no information about the attitude towards kissing in various African tribal group and among the nativ American tribal groups both in north and south America. All I could find are few scetchy comments saying that the kissing was not common. I would really appreciate any additional info on this.

Even in Europe the attitude towards kissing varies widely. Even though according to the popular culture in Europe kissing in public is "cool", if we want to see the real attitude towards kissing in Europe, we have to look at the attitude towards ritual cheek kissing. Cheek kissing is a ritual or social kissing gesture to indicate friendship, perform a greeting, to confer congratulations, to comfort someone, to show respect, or to indicate sexual or romantic interest. Cheek kissing is very common in Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean but totally uncommon in North Western Europe.

In Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia when female friends meet, they kiss on the cheek three times, starting with the left and then alternating. The same was common for close male friends, but this custom is now dying and men may pat each other on the back and hug but rarely kiss. In Czech republic and Slovakia greeting with a kiss on each cheek is common, but usually only among friends. Otherwise just a handshake is used. In Romania close friends may kiss and hug each other when they meet. When kissing, they kiss each other twice, once on each cheek starting with the left cheek. In Hungary close friends also kiss and hug each other when they meet, but the most common way is to kiss from your right to your left. 

In the Balkans, among the Serbs and Croats, cheek kissing is very commonplace, with your nationality being ascertainable by the number of kisses on each cheek. Typically, Croats will kiss once on each cheek, for two total kisses, whereas Serbs will kiss three times, typically starting at the right cheek. In Serbia and Montenegro, it is also not uncommon for men to kiss each other on the cheek three times as a form of greeting, usually for people they have not encountered in a while, while male-female and female-female kissing is also standard.

Bulgarians practice cheek kissing far less than Serbs and Croats. Cheek kissing is usually seen only between very close relatives or sometimes between close female friends.

In Albania, men shake hands when greeting one another. Depending on how close the men are with each other, a kiss on each cheek may be common as well. When a man meets a female relative, a kiss on each cheek, or two per cheek,  is common. With friends or colleagues, normally a light handshake will do. Women may shake hands or kiss each other on both cheeks.

In the Mediterranean Europe, cheek kissing is a standard greeting between friends or acquaintances. In general, men and women would kiss and women will kiss women. Men kissing men varies depending on the country and even on the family, in some countries (like Italy) men will kiss men; in others only men of the same family would consider kissing. It may also depend on the part of a country and the occasion.

Greece is an example of a country where cheek kissing highly depends on the region and the type of event. For example, in most parts of Crete, it is common between a man and a woman who are friends, but is very uncommon between men unless they are very close relatives. In Athens it is commonplace for men to kiss women and women to kiss other women in the cheek when meeting or departing. It is uncommon between strangers of any sex, and it may be considered offensive otherwise. It is standard for children and parents, children and grandparents etc., and in its "formal" form it will be two kisses, one on each cheek. It may be a standard formal form of greeting in special events such as weddings.

In Portugal and Spain, usually, men only kiss women (even with strangers, although in this case a handshake is more common). In Portuguese families men often kiss men, but the handshake is the most common salutation between them. However, men kissing may occur in Spain as well particularly when congratulating close friends or relatives. Cheek to cheek and the kiss in the air are also very popular. Hugging is common between men and men and women and women; when the other is from the opposite sex, a kiss may be added.In Italy (especially in the South or the Center) it is common for men to kiss men, especially relatives or friends.

In Western Europe, the further north west you go the less people kiss in public.

A popular French joke states that you may recognize the city you are in by counting the number of cheek kisses as it varies across the country. It is very common, in the southern parts of France, even between males, be them relatives or friends, whereas in the north, it is less usual for two unrelated males to perform 'la bise'.

In the Netherlands and Belgium cheek kissing is a common greeting between relatives and friends (in the Netherlands slightly more so in the south). Generally speaking, women will kiss both women and men, while men will kiss women but refrain from kissing other men, instead preferring to shake hands with strangers. In the Netherlands and the Dutch part of Belgium usually three kisses are exchanged. The same number of kisses is found in Switzerland. In Francophone Belgium, the custom is usually one or three kisses, and is also common between men who are good friends.

Cheek kissing is not widely practiced in the United Kingdom. It is mostly used as a greeting and/or a farewell, but can also be offered as a congratulation or as a general declaration of friendship or love. Cheek kissing is acceptable between parents and children, family members (though not often two adult males), couples, two female friends or a male friend and a female friend. Cheek kissing is associated with the middle and upper classes, as they are more influenced by French culture. This behaviour was traditionally seen as a French practice. 

In Ireland we now have the same situation like in England. Cheek kissing as greeting is uncommon and up until few years ago was unheard of. But a 16th or 17th century French visitor to the city of Kilkenny described being warmly greeted and kissed on both cheeks by the ladies in all the houses he visited. A wave of Victorian puritanism accompanied the change from Gaelic speaking to English in Ireland in the 19th century. This could be the proof that it is the English cultural influence which changed the more tactile and intimate habits that the people previously had. 

The situation in other northern European countries is pretty much the same like in Britain. Cheek kissing is very uncommon except among very close friends and even then it is more a gentle hug rather than a kiss. 

So what does this show us about the actual attitude towards kissing among Europeans? It shows us that when it comes to kissing Europe is not a homogeneous cultural space. Kissing is all about letting people into your personal space, close to you. Personal space is the free space, with no other people, that people need around them to feel safe. Studies have shown that the personal space size varies from culture to culture and the further north west we go in Europe, the larger the required personal space becomes. In Europe this corresponds directly with the attitude towards kissing. Cultures with smaller personal spaces kiss more. 

Studies have shown that in humans kissing actually releases a chemical called dopamine. This is a powerful hormone that affects the same areas of the brain as cocaine does, and it can cause extremely powerful feelings of craving and desire. It also causes symptoms like lack of sleep, decreased appetite, and a higher level of energy.

Some scientists suspect that dopamine might also have something to do with why people cheat. As the novelty of kissing your partner wears off, your body actively produces less and less dopamine. Seeking to discover that hormonal rush again, some people end up wandering behind their partner’s back in search of it.

In contrast, kissing somebody you’ve been with for a long time releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates very strong feelings of peace and relaxation. Scientists emphasize the importance of couples continuing to kiss regularly, as doing so keeps the oxytocin flowing and the happiness levels high.

The cultures with smaller cultural spaces and more kissing are also more passionate and have stronger family ties. Kissing is a powerful social binding mechanism.

Ok now the question. Where does the English word kiss come from? What is its root etymology? Apparently no one knows.

The online etymological dictionary says that it somes from Old English cyssan "to kiss," from Proto-Germanic *kussjan (cognates: Old Saxon kussian, Old Norse kyssa, Old Frisian kessa, Middle Dutch cussen, Dutch, Old High German kussen, German küssen, Norwegian and Danish kysse, Swedish kyssa), from *kuss-, probably ultimately imitative of the sound.

According to Vaughn Bryant, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University who specializes in the history of the kiss, the origin of the word 'kiss' itself originated in ancient India, where “busa” or “bosa” were used to refer to kissing and from these early words, the Latin term for kiss ”basium” and the Old English words “ba” and “buss” are derived. The English word buss meaning a kiss was first recorded in 1560s is cognate with the Welsh and Gaelic bus "kiss, lip," French baiser "kiss" (12c., from Latin basiare), Spanish buz, German dialectal Buss, Croatian pusa. Vaughn Bryant says that the root of the English word “kiss” – stems from word “kus” (probably meaning kiss???) which was used in northern India. Can anyone give me more information about this word as I could not find any.

I would like to offer another potential etymology for the word "kiss".

Maybe the word for the action of kissing came from another word which was used for another similar action performed with our mouth and our tongue and which. When we kiss we pout our lips and touch the other person with our lips. We might even use our tongue to lick them while we are touching them with our mouths. What kind of actions do we perform that are similar to this? Well the most similar is tasting, slurping, sucking and feeding.

Most anthropologists suggest that kissing in humans evolved because it helps us sniff out, or taste out a quality mate. When our faces are close together, our pheromones “talk” – exchanging biological information about whether or not two people will make strong offspring. Even more information is exchanged when we actually kiss and exchange soliva. Women, for example, subconsciously prefer the scent of men whose genes for certain immune system proteins are different from their own. This kind of match could yield offspring with stronger immune systems, and better chances for survival. So kissing is strongly connected with smelling and tasting which are closely linked with feeding. We use the same procedure to find tasty food and to find "tasty" mates. As we say in English we all have different taste when it comes to potential mates...

Some anthropologists however suggest that kissing in humans evolved from the direct mouth-to-mouth regurgitation of food (kiss-feeding) from parent to offspring or male to female (courtship feeding) and has been observed in numerous mammals. The similarity in the methods between kiss-feeding and deep human kisses (e.g. tongue kiss, French kiss) are quite pronounced; in the former, the tongue is used to push food from the mouth of the mother to the child with the child receiving both the mother's food and tongue in sucking movements, and the latter is the same but forgoes the premasticated food. In fact, through observations across various species and cultures, it can be confirmed that the act of kissing and premastication has most likely evolved from the similar relationship-based feeding behaviours. But again it seems that kissing is directly linked with feeding.

So let's see if we can find root for the word kiss in words that are related to tasting, slurping, sucking and feeding.

In Slavic languages we have the whole cluster of words related to the actions of tasting, slurping, sucking and feeding which all have the root kus, which is the original Germanic root from which the word kiss developed.

ukus, okus - taste
kus - bit, mouthful, spoon
kusati - to eat, to eat with a spoon, to slurp, to bite, to chew, not pronounce words properly, like with your mouth full.
kusan - with good apetite
prikusak - breakfast
zakuska - food
kusiti, kušati, skusati, skušati, skusiti, skušiti - to taste, to try
iskušenje, kušnja - trial
iskušenīk - novice, initiate
skušnjava, kuša - devil
skušavac, skušitelj - tempter
pokus - experiment. Original experiments that people performed were all related to food. Is it edible or not. So lick it, bite it to see if its edible. The fact that the word for experiment in Slavic languages has the same root as the word for tasting shows great antiquity of this word cluster.
iskusiti - to experience
iskustvo - experience
zakusniti - give someone enough to drink. In the old times people slurped or sucked water from their hands, cups or various gourds, paunches or such containers. To be able to drink from such containers you need to pout your lips and slurp or even lap using your tongue.
kušac, kušlec - kiss (official etymology says that the Slavic word comes from the German word, but I think it is the other way round, because in Slavic languages the word is part of much wider more basic cluster which doesn't exist in Germanic languages and literally means a taste)
kuševat, kuševati, kušuvati, kušnuti - to kiss, literally to taste

Is it possible that this cluster is the root cluster from which the word *kuss-, the root of all Germanic kiss words came to Germanic languages? I believe so. We still say in English that we "eat the face off someone" when we kiss passionately.

Remember the word “kus” (probably meaning kiss???) which was used in northern India, and which was according to the Vaughn Bryant the root of the Germanic words meaning kiss? Who lived and still lives in North India? R1a people. If we look at Sanskrit we see that the words with the root kus are related to eating and to testing and examining, like in Slavic languages:

कुषति { कुष् }   kuSati - gnaw, nibble   
कुष्णाति { कुष् } kuSNAti extract, test, examine

We also have the related word

जुषते jusati - to enjoy. This word is pronounced like "djustati" but I believe that it comes from the same root "kus". I couldn't find this word in the Sankrit dictionary so I can't confirm whether it really exists or not.

This led me to the Indoeuropean root *ǵews- which means to taste, to try. The sounds K and G are interchangeable sounds, produced using the same base mouth and tongue position with a slight variation of pressure. Therefore kus and gus are just two dialectic variants, two pronunciations of the same word.

Celtic: *guso-
    Irish: togh from Old Irish do·goa from Proto Celtic to *guso (to + kuso = that + tasted, ete in South Slavic)
    Scottish Gaelic: tagh
    Gaulish: gussou (kuso, kusao = tasted, ate in South Slavic)
    Welsh: gwst (kuso, kusao + to = tasted, ate + that in South Slavic)

Italic: *gustus (kuso, kusao + to = tasted, ate + that in South Slavic)
Latin: gustus (kuso, kusao + to = tasted, ate + that in South Slavic)
    Aromanian: gustu
    Catalan: gust
    Dutch: goesting
    English: gusto
    French: goût, gout
    Friulian: gust
    Hungarian: gusztus
    Italian: gusto
    Occitan: gost
    Old French: goust
    Portuguese: gosto
    Polish: gust
    Romanian: gust
    Romansch: gust, gost
    Sardinian: gustu
    Sicilian: gustu
    Spanish: gusto
    Venetian: gusto

What is interesting is that today in English the word "gusto" means enjoyment. In Italian this word means taste (the sense), taste, flavour, gusto, enjoyment, relish, fancy, whim, (plural) preferences. This word derives from the Latin "gustus" which means to taste. This imples a pleasure which comes from tasting something (kuš, kus) finding something edible and eating it (kus). Funnilly this word made a full circle and came back to Balkan Slavic languages from Italian as "gušt" meaning pleasure. 

Germanic: *kustuz (kuso, kusao + to = tasted, ate + that in South Slavic)
    Old English: ċēosan; costian, costnian (kus + (to) + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
    English: choose; costen (kus + (to) + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
    Old High German: kiosan; kostōn (kus + (to) + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
    German: kiesen; kosten (kus  + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
    Gothic: kiusan (kus + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
    Frankish: *kausjan (kus + je = tasted, ate + that + is in South Slavic. Basically chosen (to be eaten))
   Old French: choisir; chois
   French: choisir; choix
   English: choice

We also have Ancient Greek: γεύω (geúō) which I believe comes from another Indoeuropean root *h₁ed- meaning to eat. (jeo in South Slavic, meaning ate. Basically chose it and ate it). I believe that Kurdish: çêj (chey) - taste also comes from this root. (jeo je in South Slavic meaning he did eat. Basically he did chose it and he did eat it).

Modern English word "choose" derives from the root gus and is an example of the sound change that transformed k into g and then into ch. The same sound change i believe happened in this Sanskrit word:

चूषति { चूष् }   cUSati - suck

This word is pronounced like "chushati" but I believe that it was originally kusati and that it comes from the same root as the other kus words, because it also describes kissing like action used in feeding. 

In the end I would like to talk about the two "root" kiss words: "bus" and "kus". These "root" words "kus" and "bus" are actually not the root words at all. They can both be built using other even more primitive Slavic base word. What this means is that these words were once sentences. The meaning of these two words can derived from the sum of the meanings of the words from the original sentences. These sentences were eventually shortened and fused into acronyms because they were used so much and so often that people didn't need to use the full sentence any more to deduce the meaning.

So what were these original sentences from which the words "kus" and "bus" were derived?

Let's start with the word "kus".

In Serbian the word "k", "ka" means towards. 

In Serbian the word "us" is the root for words usta = mouth, usna, usma = lip, osmeh, osmej, usmej = smile. Actually the English word "smile", which means "to laugh, to be glad", has no positive root etymology. The official etymology says that it comes from an imaginary Indoeuropean root "(s)meyh₂" which has these descendants:

Latvian: smieties - to lough
Lithuanian: smeju - to lough
Old Norse: smila - to smile (from which smile comes from)
Sanskrit: स्मयते (smayate) - to smile, laugh
Slavic: smej, smeh - smile, laugh

Balto Slavic languages are the only ones which have the full base etymology for this word cluster. Slavic word "mio", "mil" means glad, pleased. The sign that someone is pleased is that he smiles. Smiling person is pleased, he is with gladness, with pleasure. smil = s + mil = with + pleased. The Slavic word "milost" means grace, mercy, favor, lovelyness. This is expressed shrough smile. The expression "smilovati se" means to have mercy, to be with mercy which is again expressed through a smile....

 From this we have s + mio  + je = with + pleasure + is = smij = laugh, smile and s + mil + je = with + pleasure + is = smile. This suggests that the old Norse word "smila" and subsequently the English word "smile" are borrowing from Balto Slavic languages.

Back to the root word "us" - mouth. The meaning of the root word us is derived from us = u + s(e) = in, into + self = mouth. Mouth is the entrance into self. This is where drink and food and air enter the body. 

So the word kus, the root word from which the word kiss was derived gets its meaning from: kus = k(a) + u + s(e) = towards + in, into + (my) self = bring towards mouth, into the mouth = taste, eat

Now let's have a look at the word "bus".

In Serbian the word g, ga is the word used for pointing towards something, so it has a similar meaning as k, ka....

Serbian word guša means throat, the entry channel into the body which lies behind usna, usma (lip) and usta (mouth). This is where things that go into the mouth eventually disappear. 

guša - g + uš + a = direction, towards + mouth = throat. Both g and š are hardened versions of k and s. The fact that we have both kusiti and kušiti meaning to experience, to taste, means that s and š are basically interchangeable, which is also the case in many other South Slavic words.

When things get stuck inside your guša (throat) you start to guši (choke). 

There are several sounds made that can be made with closed lips. 

M - the root of the word mama
B - the root of the word baba, baby
P - the root of the word pouting

The online etymological dictionary has this to say about the origin of the word "pout" which means: One's facial expression when pouting. First recorded in the early 14c., of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Scandinavian (compare Swedish dialectal puta "to be puffed out"), or Frisian (compare East Frisian püt "bag, swelling," Low German puddig "swollen"); related via notion of "inflation" to Old English ælepute "fish with inflated parts," and Middle Dutch puyt, Flemish puut "frog," from hypothetical PIE imitative root *beu- suggesting "swelling"

This is pouting. It is sticking your lips out like this:

The word is actually a direct cognate with Slavic word puć, pronounced putj which means to pout. This word is onomatopoeic and comes from the sound produced by pouting and sucking or kissing "pu" and the word "to" meaning it. put = pu + to = stick out + that + pout. Everyone pouts as a baby while they are sucking on their mother's breasts and the sound they are making while sucking is pu pu pu (air being sucked in). This is the same sound made while kissing (air being sucked in) and the same sound made by blowing (air being pushed out) and the same sound made by spitting (air being pushed out). 

The word "puć" is just one of the many Slavic words related to pouting: 

pusa - kiss
pusica - a bad tempered woman, which easily blows her top, which huffs and puffs
púšnja - anger
puhati - blow. The same position of the lips is used. The word comes from pu (pout) and ha (breathe out). Interestingly another recorded version of puh meaning blow is pusati. This is the same root pus found in the word pusa (kiss). This shows that both words puh and pus are built on the same older root pu meaning to pout. Another version of this word is puktati, which shows that k and h are interchangeable. This word is related to English puff which comes from the Old English pyffan "to blow with the mouth" and which comes from pu + fff, basically a sound of blowing with pouted lips. 

puhavica, puhalca, puhavac, puhara - puffball mushroom

This mushroom is full of spores and when if pressed when ripe will puff, puh out a cloud of spores. The spores will be blown out through a pre-formed hole (ostiole) which looks very much like a pouted mouth. 

puhtati - boil, gush out.
puškajica - fish air bladder
puhălica, puhaljka, pušaljka - pipe used to blow air into the furnace
puvati, pušati, pušiti - fart but also talk a lot and show off, to inflate, blow up your chest, but also to let the steam out which is related to spew
pljuv - spit
puhojak - pimple, boil, pustule (no picture needed to illustrate why)
puhoc - owl, cognate with Polish "puchacz" and Rusian "pugač". 

So what is the base etymology of the word bus from which the other word for kissing came from? 

It actually comes from pus = p + us = pout + mouth = for sucking, slurping, kissing. Why is it not possible that the root word is bus? Because when you are sucking the air in, like while sucking, slurping or kissing, you can't make the sound b, you can only make the sound p if your lips are pouted out. So if the word is onomatopoeic, then it had to be pus. The bus is the later development.  

So to conclude:

I believe that the word "kiss" comes from the ancient word cluster related to eating, tasting, choosing, sucking, enjoying, kissing which probably comes from the language of the R1a tribes of Evroasia. I believe that this is an ancient word cluster, as it describes the original development of the actions of choosing, experimenting and testing through the action of tasting, checking the things to see if they are edible or not. This word cluster seems to have been preserved the best in Slavic languages, and the words from the Slavic word cluster can be used to build both "root" words "kus" and "bus" and all the word derived from these "root" words found in other Indoeuropean languages related to kissing, choosing, testing, enjoying. This could indicate that all these words were borrowing from Slavic languages, or proto Slavic R1a tribal language.

I would like to finish this post with one of my favorite kissing images, Klimt's kiss:

and the link to one of my favorite songs about kissing: Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer. Enjoy. 

Please let me know what you think. I certainly had fun writing this.