AN INDO-EUROPEAN GUIDE-BOOK OF THE DEAD – Part Three: The River Of Stars

To Return to the Skies Above Us, then, there are two important points to be raised … points upon a single shaft, much like Hades’ Bident.

The first of these is the nature of the Path to which Yama is said to have held the noble, sacred, and solemn duty of being the first being to properly traverse.

He did this, perhaps unsurprisingly, by *dying*.

But what is this Path, and where does it run? Well, funnily enough, I suspect rather strongly that it is to be found in a similar location to the “spacious pathway” for the Sun as laid down by King Varuna in RV I 24 8. That is to say, in The Sky.

It is a radiant roadway, and it is – appropriately enough – known by many names, even within any given single culture. But the two that resonate deepa-est here for our purposes are the Aryamna Panthah / Way of Irmin [and I am here effectively saying the same thing almost twice – ‘Irmin’ and ‘Aryan’ are quite closely cognate terms in some respects, even before we get into the Theonymic side of things], and the clade which effectively work out as the Celestial River, the River of Stars [This is generally where I would posit the Saraswati’s *true* situation, however that is .. another series of grimly determined arguments, for another time; a less ‘controversial’ linkage is that of the Ganges, specifically the Akashic Ganges whence She is flowing before reaching Earth and becoming terrestrial. It is not at coincidental that the Ganges is depicted as flowing to Shiva and His Mighty Whirling Hair, nor that the terrestrial Ganges is the road upon which so many Hindus make their final journey. A further instance of the pattern is to be found in one of the Hindu equivalents to the Rivers Styx and Oceanus – the Rasa, which finds terrestrial expression also amidst the highest mountains as a prospective source for the Indus … although also, and vitally importantly for our purposes, is referred to as the liminal waters which flow around the world [RV IX 41 6] and divide it from certain other cosmological regions].

I am speaking, of course, about that which is known to us even today via a resoundingly ancient name – the Milky Way.

[Also, while we are on the subject of the Milky Way – it is perhaps interesting to consider the Churning of the Sea of Milk in Hindu myth … which features not only the eventual production of a pathway to immortality, in the form of the Amrit elixir – but also the emergence of horrifying death, via the Halahala poison. It is only the heroic intervention of Lord Shiva, Who consumes this substance, and goes (corpse-)blue about the throat for His troubles (in some tellings reflecting the strangulation effect applied to His Neck so that the poison would not enter into Him any further … and while in these tellings it is often Lady Parvati’s Hands that administer the cutting off of the Divine Airway, I have often pondered whether a noose akin to that presumably used by Odin when hanging from the World-Tree, and that carried by Yama or Kali, might have been utilized).

In some ways, this might be regarded as not all that dissimilar from a ‘first death’, such as that undergone by Lord Yama, so that the pathway to the immortality of heroes lying beyond the bounds of mortal life might be secured. And it is that core mytheme of the Trajectory of Heroes, to which we shall return later on in this piece – as this not only links back most closely with the figure and the mytholinguistics of Aryaman, but also helpfully distinguishes between this noble Uppland afterlife, and the ignominy of the Pit at the decidedly other end of the cosmos and of the eschatological spectrum.]

Now, I mentioned at the outset of this section that there were two points to be raised in order to more fully understand the Pathway of the Pitrs; one of which – the identification with the arcing salient of the Milky Way within the Sky of Night – we have already but briefly parsed.

The other spear-tongue upon the Staff of Law with which we are confronted is somewhat more inscrutable; and, in truth, I have deliberately left most of what should otherwise go here for a future article. But suffice to say that it is, again, completely non-coincidental that we find dual mention of Yama *and* Varuna in the honour-position within YamaLoka as its King [RV X 14 7]. The ‘functional’ reasoning for this ought be plainly apparent. Varuna is strongly identified with Law [Rta], with being All-Seeing (whether Himself or through His numerous and well-concealed ‘spies’ [RV I 25]), and with the Judgement upon men flowing from what He knows and He perceives. This is not the only co-identification which we can and must feasibly make at this juncture – there is also well-established precedency for the linkage of Varuna and Rudra; of Yama with Kaal (Shiva); and of Varuna with Aryaman (to which I would add Odin as Irmin being therefore an etymological and functional cognate of this last august figure, as well as the strong coterminity of Odin with Rudra-Shiva; and the expression of *all* of Zeus-Hades-Poseidon, Odin, Shiva, Brihaspati, etc. as Dyaus Pitar – but again, another set of stories and more in-depth schema of working for another time).

So why am I making mention of Yama alongside Varuna in this context? Simple. This is yet further demonstration of how a mytho-geographic ‘confusion’ has taken place within the realms of just about every Indo-European cosmological corpus; with Varuna being something of the ‘key’ to unlocking the pathway back to the ‘archaic’ organization of the Cosmos and thus our place within it. 

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