“Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!””
– Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven
It is Saturday – The Day of Lord Shani (Saturn); depicted here mounted upon His Vahana, the Crow. Often regarded as something of a baelful figure – and certainly, one of paramount potency as one of the DharmaRajas, Rulers of Law and Justice, with Dread Gaze and Dire Effects for the Offending Of – in actuality, art not so. And provided one lives a proper, righteous, and *pious* life, then the auspiciousness and growth bestowed to the Devotee, even through His portenteous trials and hardships, further serve to demonstrate why Lord Shani is Shiva – both in terms of ‘luck’ or positive fortune, as well as in the more *literal* sense [Shani turns up within the Thousand Name Hymn of Shiva; Shani is possessed of the terrifying glare of destruction; Shani beheads Ganesha in some myths; and further intra-Indo-European cross-corpus comparison around Saturn, Cronus, etc. besides; in addition to proper consideration of the relevant iconography]
Now, when I equate Shaani with Saturn, I am not simply speaking ‘mythologically’ – but rather, *astrologically*, as the planet Saturn, one of the nine NavaGraha, is thought to represent Lord Shani within the night sky and among the auspices of one’s birth-chart. It is this which, in part, explicates some of the saliencies of Shani upon the individual ; but it also provides the explanation for the name – Shaani, you see, translates directly as “Slow”, or occasionally more figuratively as “Wanderer”; in reference to the planet’s lengthy 27-year course about the Sun in orbit [Saturn takes 29.5 years to complete one orbit, but spends approximately two and a half years, or thereabouts, traversing a single Astrological Sign in our reckoning – hence the difference between the numbers. This is the length of time it takes from its being in the house of one’s birth, say, through to re-entering that sign later on in the individual’s life]. And certainly, as the luminary role of ‘honour’ midst the well-storied ‘Twenty-Seven Club’ would appear to considerably attest, the twenty seventh year of our lives has ever tended to be a tumultuous or even outright deadly one.
Still, while I have earlier maintained that the ‘trials’ of Lord Shani are actually opportunities for the uncovering of hidden treasures within us, it is nevertheless often considered a rather good idea to attempt to appease the baelful gaze of ShaaniDev, so that it is averted – or, taking things several steps further, endeavouring to carry out appropriate Hanuman-related worship so as to directly ward off the Dark Deity in question.
Now, from a comparative mythography perspective, this is particularly interesting. As Hanuman and Shani are running off the Striker/Thunderer [Son] and Sky Father/Lord of the Anncestors(Dead) figures, respectively [for further, albeit brief discussion upon this, I would recommend my previous commentaries from mid-July, “THUNDERSTRUCK”, and “Sky-Earth-Thunder”], and more particularly, given that the way in which Hanuman establishes Shani’s healthy respect *by repeatedly bashing His Own Head with Shaani upon it with stones* … it is not hard to see how this may perhaps recall whatever lies at the root of the somewhat fraught familial relations which lie at the heart of Theogenesis in the Greco-Roman understanding – wherein, as you will recall, first Cronus is subdued by Zeus following the former’s being *fed* rocks, and second Zeus finds Himself with one *Almighty* Headache, leading directly to the birth of Athena, after He had attempted to imitate [the opposite, in this context, of ‘to ape’] His Own Father in these regards.
However, other tales take a somewhat different perspective upon the establishment of the concordial relations between HanumanJI and ShaaniDev; and the accounting of the Ramayana is particularly interesting in this light. Per this telling, Ravana in His arrogant majesty, had sought to imprison the Grahas Themselves as decorative ornaments to His Palace-kingdom of Lanka. He had also, prior to becoming a [relatively speaking – I stress the ‘relative’] more pious and humble figure following His encounter with Shiva afore Kailash, managed to get a Curse bestowed upon Him by NandiJi that His Kingdom would be undone by (a) monk(y/ies).
This is often taken by the more literal minded to refer to either Lord Ram’s employment of the army of the Vanaras to aid first in crossing the strait separating Lanka from the mainland of India and thence waging war against Sri Ravan and His Hosts, or simply to Hanuman, His Tail Aflame due to the attempted torture of Ravana’s minions [who apparently hadn’t worked out that when dealing with a seemingly invulnerable being, setting part of said being *on fire* is only going to lead to a *rather annoyed* being running around spreading fire everywhere He goes in fairly direct consequence] burning down the City of Lanka as Bajrangi made His escape across its rooftops.
Yet the rather more ‘subtle’ interpretation is that it may perhaps refer to a third explanation – Lord Hanuman, in the course of His reconnaissance/escape of/from Lanka in search of Sita, happened across the imprisoned Lord Shaani, and loosed His bonds, freeing Him. The grateful Lord Shaani thanked Hanuman, Who is also, as it happens, often regarded as the One who loosens the fetters of the bonds of Karma upon the Devotee as well [said bonds of Karma also being very much within Lord Shaani’s direct purview in His role as the Bringer of Justice, Bestower of Consequence, and Lord of Lawful Outcome(s) – thence also, of course, and in common with His Half-Brother Lord Yama, Death] ; and then proceeded to turn His Destroyer Gaze upon the Imperial Capital of Ravan. [in either case, the utilization of Bajrangi – the ‘Adamantine’/’Thunderbolt’ – to carry out a pair of Curses bestowed by the Sky Father, Shiva, upon Ravana for the latter’s unjust and ultimately severely impious conduct, would have interesting resonances with the occasional identification of the ‘Sickle’ or ‘Scythe’ of Kronus/Saturn as in fact being an Adamantine ‘Harpe’ blade.]
This, in its own way, also illustrates another fundamental principle relating not only to ShaaniDev, but also to the Divine Concept of Justice and Law all up. “The Long Arc of the Universe”, it is said, “bends ultimately toward Justice”. Which, if you are of a certain sort of view, may perhaps be taken as indicating the ultimate death-sentence upon *everything* and *all* [or just about, anyway], that is the Pralaya, the #EKPYROSISWHENN that lies at the conclusion spasms of the Current Yuga.
But which I have often taken rather less ‘fatalistically’, as having the illustrative evocation of the *weapon* via which Justice is thought to be delivered in our reckoning – a *Bow*, an *Arch*, firing *Arrows* in *Arcing Shot*, when the Bow is bent so that the bow-string [identified quite directly with Dharma, with Rta Itself, as applies the Bow-String of Brihaspati – Another Form of Lord Shiva!] may roaringly, resoundingly twang in the manner of the plucked string of a musical instrument as it flies ultimately toward the richly deserving target. Truly, there is something intriguing in the fact that the most fearsome and formidable subjugators of Their foes, in our pantheon, tend to be equipped with Bows as Weapons of Mass Destruction – Rudra, Brhaspati, Durga, Bhadra Devi, Rama & Laxman, … Kamadeva … [although in that last case, His Arrow was responded to with another Destructive Gaze that was immediately, if not ultimately the superior force, so make of that what you will] .
In any case, the “Long Arc” here also refers to Time – which, as I noted in my previous commentaries upon Kaal, Kali, KaalBhairavJi, and ‘Time And I Against Any Other Two’, is oftn regarded amongst Indo-Europeans as being amidst the mightiest forces in the universe. The substantive length of Time which Saturn takes to make its orbit of our Sun (the longest of any of those caelestial bodies identified as doing such, in antiquity), helps to explain why this planet was associated also with the concepts not only of Time, but with Aging and Ancestry, as well.
To relate this back to our comparative mythographic and etymological discussion, there are two-and-a-half speculated lines of etymological derivation for the Ancient Greek figure of Kronus. One of which, hinges around the notion of ‘Cutting’, Proto-Indo-European: (S)Ker, which is occasionally connected to what may be another PIE root: “Ker” or “K(w)er”, that refers to ‘making’ or ‘doing’, and which supplies the underpinning for the subsequent Sanskrit : “Karma”. Whether or not one subscribes to the view that these terms are, in fact, the same – or, at the very least, closely related – it is not hard to see how they bear a somewhat more than figurative importance for both Shaani, as well as the other identifiable ‘faces’ of this Indo-European Deific Complex.
Partially, this is due to the ‘cutting weapon’ or device which we find Saturn/Kronos equipped with [‘Scythe’, interestingly enough, actually descends from a slightly different PIE root again, referring to the act of ‘sawing’- however attained its “C” , via a splicing in of “sci” style cutting words from Romance languages some centuries ago]; or the ‘Scarification’ which also descends from the same principle and particle, and which may underpin the ‘disfigurements’, often (although not at all exclusively) about the area of the leg, borne by these figures [in addition to the rather famous Classical examples … Lord Yama is also said in some sources to have a weak leg due to a curse, and Shaani is also upon occasion referred to as “Crooked”, especially in terms of “Gaze” (although that may also be thought of the other way around – as *inflicting* the sanction thusly implied in the ensuing wrack and ruin); interestingly, the Proto-Indo-Iranian covering this concept, Krdhus, and which gives us the later the Sanskrit ‘Krdhu’ – is quote close to the Sanskrit ‘Krodh’, meaning “Anger”, “Wrathful”, that is also one of ShaniDev’s names. “Kona” and “Ara”, two of Lord Shaani’s other Names, can also carry this ‘bent’ connotation; which may *also* figuratively refer to the notion of His Anger as expressed through His Attentions being that which one would otherwise want to *avoid* and to ‘bend’ or otherwise divert away from one, lest dire and disabling consequences theretofore ensue).
This second of these, the notion of ‘Scars’, also figuratively connects with this other “K(w)er” particle – as ‘Sanskara’ in Saskrit, refers to the process of ‘imprinting’ or ‘shaping’ through the actions and effects of our ‘actions’, that produce the effect often colloquially referred to in modern English as “Karma”. Or, perhaps less prosaically, to the Proto-Germanic “Skardaz” – meaning to be ‘banged up’, damaged, cut and wounded … which is how we may feel as a *result* of this Lord of Karma’s attentions upon us.
But to go back to the ‘Sword’ point, it is intriguing here to note not only the sword-saliency with these other comparative representatiosn of the Divine complex in question [the aforementioned Harpe of Kronus, the Sickle of Saturn, etc.], nor the array of descendant “(S)ker” words referring to swords, knives, daggers, and keen sharpness in later Indo-European languages. But also the more ‘figurative’ import of this feature – both as the potential ‘severer’ of the ties of previous actions pon us (in the manner of a Judge, properly satisfied [especially of repentance or restitution], bringing to an end one’s sentence) , and in a not entirely unrelated sense, as the cutter of the threads that are lives (reaping-tense), as Death – the final sanction and Judgement, after which, the *real* Karmatic-Dharmatic assessment, in the Underworld, can Begin.
Of perhaps further interest, especially as this pertains to Kronus/Chronus as Time, is the identification in the Devi Mahatmyam speaking of the emanation of Durga, wherein the Sword which She wields is given (back) to Her by Kaal – Time/Death. In some other tellings, Her Sword is bestowed by Yama (Death); Yama and Shaani both wielding Swords amidst Their general panoply of armament, for reasons above somewhat explicated.
But to go back to these other potential etymologies … while it has been suggested that the *direct* linkage of Cronus to “Crow” is perhaps a bit fanciful, I nevertheless believe that as applies the *general* Indo-European deific complex that we are here discussing, there are some solid reasons to support a figurative and conceptual derivation shared here.
The Corvids – Ravens and Crows – have a number of viablee etymologies for their names. Some of these descend from the ‘Cawing’ noise made by the creatures [the ‘language of the birds’ being the ability to understand that which is said, to reference me some Hegel, albeit about an Owl, although also connected to Pallas, to get back to the Poe-m with which we began, ‘at twilight’, after dark. Ratri, Shani, Kaal, Kali – these are ‘Dark Ones’, of fearful, fearsome visage, but deep wisdom and secrets for Those to whom They choose to impart Their Treasures. Found otherwise, and near exclusively, beyond “Nightly Shore”].
But this is not the only possible derivation. Greek “Corax” apparently perhaps comes to us from that same ‘(S)Ker’ PIE particle aforementioned, potentially referring to the sharpness of the bird’s beak, and the ripping of dead flesh which it, as a carrion bird, engages in upon the battlefield’s dead. [The latter of which may helps to explain the Black Bird’s strong associations with Odin, as well as with Death, more generally].
I am also something of a personal fan of another origin – the “Krewh” term in Proto-Indo-European, one of two words for “Blood” [the other being ‘Heshr’ – ‘Living Blood’/’Warm Blood’/’Blood-That’s-Still-Inside-You’], and which refers to “cold blood”, the blood coming out of a wound, especially one that has proven fatal, and is strongly associated also with “Death”, with “Cruelty”, with “Torture”, with “Dead Flesh” [that is to say, ‘carrion’ – hence another way in which we can refer to Corvids .. Kravyada, referring to their frequent choice of diet]; but also with ‘hardness’, ‘coldness’ [compare Greek-stem “Cryo-“, “Krios”, “Kruos”] … and thence also a certain ‘severity’ of disposition. [In case it be thought that I may be ‘inventing’ from ‘whole cloth’, it is perhaps worth pointing out the derivation of “Krow” in various Celtic languages]
All rather strongly correlate with how Shaani has customarily been regarded in Hindu mythoreligious and astrological thought.
Yet there is one further and more ‘conceptual’ linkage between the Corvid and the deific coomplex that I shall briefly consider, afore we move to this piece’s slow-coming [aptly enough] concluding sentences.
That of the Crow, the Raven, as Pitrs – Ancestors [the “Pitr” particle derives from the same root as “Pater”, and thence connotes not just “forefathers”, but also an august position of honour and respect, and even ‘leadership’ amongst them].
Now, a Pitr *can* refer to somebody still living, and “PitrJi” is an honorific term of respect for one’s own immediate [male] ancestor. But generally speaking, especially as we are talking about them in the context of their appearance back amongst us as Ravens, Crows [‘Yamadutas’ – Emissaries of Lord Yama, also]
, it rather more often means our *departed* forebears – and especially, the archaic primarch-primogenitors of our lines of ancestry, who reside in Pitr-Loka, and who may even make the surviving transition between one Cycle of the World and the Next. [A perhaps comparable #NAS element might be ound in the identification of some Ancestors as becoming Aelves, Alfs, and surviving Ragnarok in a part of Alfheim – although more work should be done to more *properly* flesh out, no pun intended, this potential and perhaps even pan-Indo-European linkage].
The association of Lord Shaani with the Corvid, therefore, not only relates also in the more predictable sense to “Death”, nor of the Croaking, Cawing sound of the Bird as potentially signifying that a Death (-sentence) is nigh impending .. but *also* with the notion that Justice is something correctly apprehended and applied by the Ancestors. Either in the more ‘contemporarily’ relevant sense that we are constantly to measure ourselves up in thought, word, blessing, aspiration, narrative(s), and deed, to the conduct of our Ancestors [the “peer-pressure of hundreds of generations of your more illustrious forebears”, to paraphrase a comrade’s enlightened view upon the matter] – and To Whom you may literally wind up having to explain yourself to, at some point in your metempsychotic future… ; or because their society was perceived to be a more ‘golden’ one, more nobly virtuous, and true.
In either case, it makes abundant sense that ShaaniDeva would appear astride one. And not least because He is also running of that same ‘Sky Father’ deific complex I aforementioned .. and is therefore, in a very real sense, the ‘Primus Inter Patres’ – the First Among the (Fore)Fathers!
The Classical figures of Pluto, of Hades, of Dis Pater, are of clear relevancy and saliency here. As, of course, is Odin [‘Grim and Ancient’, to quote the Poe-m, once more, with which we began].
But let us, appropriately enough although entirely unplannedly (by me, at any rate…), begin to provide som measure of conclusion in this, the 27th [and subsequent] paragraph[s].
It has been said that Lord Shaani is Stern, that He is Severe, that He can be, after a sense, “Cruel” and quick to “Anger”. All of these things are, of course, ultimately and unutterably true. Yet they somewhat severely miss the point. Shaani is also *Just*. And if a punishment, a woe, is visited upon one, this does not necessarily nor innately-intrinsically mean that it was an entirely undeserved, or at least, “uncalled” for one. Not in all cases, at any rate. The lessons may indeed be “cruel”, but that does not, in and of themselves, make them “unnecessary” as a direct correlate nor result. [They may also “continue, until the [comprehension] improves”, to quote a certain other wise axiom which I sourced from somewhere else…] Rather, “Stern Father” archetypal conduct perhaps regrettably foremost in mind, it is perhaps necessary to quote th words attributed to Genghis Khan:
“I am the punishment of God – If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
नमस्ते शनि मन्यव उतो त इषवे नमः।
नमस्ते अस्तु धन्वने बाहुभ्याम् उत ते नमः॥