It is WEDNESDAY – Wodan’s Day, Mercredi – Dies Mercurii – The Day of बुध, The Wise One!
And for this, we shall do something a little different. Earlier today, I was at hospital for some tests, and the (Indian) tech happened to notice my Aum pendant so we had struck up a conversation about religion. It turned out that she was also of ancestral Shaivite devotion; something which I noted was aptly appropriate for one working in a hospital, given the RigVedic attestations for Rudra that were salient in this area. This seemed a bit unfamiliar; and, to be sure, in conversations over the past few weeks with other Hindus in other contexts, it does seem to be a rather less well-remembered role for Rudra – that of a Healer of Men, the Defender against Disease, the distributor of Medicines.
वैद्यनाथ (Vaidyanatha) – the Lord of Physicians.
Especially during these current times of escalating international panic concerning a certain virus-strain of Chinese provenance, it would be appropriate to remind of this strong saliency of Shiva.
So, with that in mind, here is an inexhaustive series of quotes from the Hymns of the RigVeda wherein Shiva’s Role in this area is extolled; along with one further for the Sons of the Storm, the MarutaGana, because it is *excellent*. [For reasons of space, I have chosen to abridge some of the lengthier hymnals to focus more closely upon the more direct medicinal mantras therein (and have also chosen to omit various Vedic Hymnals and Verses in this subject-area that are not as immediately Shiva-Odin-Rudra relevant – such as RV 10 163, which is directly upon the casting out of malady; and much of RV 10 97, upon the Healing Powers of Herbs); however this should not be taken as denigrating via sin of omission any of the rest of the hymnaic bodies in question … and, as ever, caution is advised if attempting to implore utilizing any of these verses in the Original Sanskrit – this is, after all, Why We Have A Priest Caste.]
Now, a brief word upon the relevant Vedic theology – I am actually providing citations for Hymnals that are ostensiably dedicated to what might seem like several Gods. Rudra, Brihaspati [‘Father of the Songs of Prayer’], Vayu -Vata , Soma , Vastospati … but, you know, there is a salient principle visible especially in the Nordic expression of this Indo-European mythology:
To Quote the Word of God upon the subject (by which, in this instance, I mean Odin): “Einu nafni hétumk aldregi / síz ek með folkum fór” – “By one name I have never been known / since I went among the people”. I am also reminded of the instance toward the end of the Grimnismal [‘Sayings of the Masked One’] wherein Odin runs through several appropriately resounding names, before concluding that “and all, Methinks,/ Are names for none but Me!”
Oh, and one further point of explicatory trivia: technically speaking, the Caduceus [as depicted here] – the Serpent-Twined Staff of Hermes, and the Rod of Asclepius, are actually two different symbols. One has two serpents about it, the other but one. And it is the latter that is more properly associated with the medical fraternity (the former, perhaps somewhat ironically, with its Psychopompic linkages, might be more closely aligned to what transpires when the treatment is ultimately ineffective).
But I am not so sure that the separation is as iron-clad as the understandable pedants about such matters are often pleased to make out. For as we can see, Hermes is a further expression of the same underlying Indo-European Deific Complex as Odin, as Shiva (hence in no small part why Wednesday is named thus – due to the Interpretatio Romano schema equating Mercury and Woden; and this links to Budh-Var also via Soumya in Sanskrit – the former, also the name for the Graha [‘Planet’] Mercury in the Sanskrit reckoning, the latter amongst the august ranks of the Shaivite Theonyms and linking quite directly to the concept of the Soma].
Hence, it seems inarguable that the knowledge – often sacred, often secret, and often sanctifying with health when properly bestowed (but poisonous to the non-comprehending) – represented by the Rod of Asclepius, and the Rod of Hermes have a logical point of strong coterminity around healthcare, herbs, and other such modernly medicinal matters.
The conflation of these two historically different symbols as the apparent result of some U.S. officer of the military, is therefore perhaps less an instance of a footsoldier of the Modern Age making things up as he goes along … and more one of those otherwise curious instances of something ancient, and something not properly understood amongst many outside certain narrow realms of academia even then, becoming restored in mythic resonancy and saliency, and thereby reshaping our external reality in consequence to more closely match up thereto.
But I digress.
As ye shall soon see, I *do* indeed have a RigVedic Verse For That:
RigVeda VII 46 ‘Rudra’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. To Rudra bring these songs, whose bow is firm and strong, the self-dependent God with swiftly-flying shafts,
The Wise, the Conqueror whom none may overcome, armed with sharp-pointed weapons: may he hear our call.
2 He through his lordship thinks on beings of the earth, on heavenly beings through his high imperial sway.
Come willingly to our doors that gladly welcome thee, and heal all sickness, Rudra., in our families.
3 May thy bright arrow which, shot down by thee from heaven, flieth upon the earth, pass us uninjured by.
Thou, very gracious God, hast thousand medicines: inflict no evil on our sons or progeny.
4 Slay us not, nor abandon us, O Rudra let not thy noose, when thou art angry, seize us.
Give us trimmed grass and fame among the living. Preserve us evermore, ye Gods, with blessings.”
RigVeda X 137 [technically an ‘All-Gods’ Hymn; however with quite pointed emphasis upon Wind [‘Vata’] and Waters] [Griffith Translation]:
“1. YE Gods, raise up once more the man whom ye have humbled and brought low.
O Gods, restore to life again the man who hath committed sin.
2 Two several winds are blowing here, from Sindhu, from a distant land.
May one breathe energy to thee, the other blow disease away.
3 Hither, O Wind, blow healing balm, blow all disease away, thou Wind;
For thou who hast all medicine comest as envoy of the Gods.
4 I am come nigh to thee with balms to give thee rest and keep thee safe.
I bring thee blessed strength, I drive thy weakening malady away.
5 Here let the Gods deliver him, the Maruts’ band deliver him:
All things that be deliver him that he be freed from his disease.
6 The Waters have their healing power, the Waters drive disease away.
The Waters have a balm for all: let them make medicine for thee.
7 The tongue that leads the voice precedes. Then with our ten-fold branching hands,
With these two chasers of disease we stroke thee with a gentle touch.”
RigVeda I 43 ‘Rudra’ [Griffith Translation]:
“4 To Rudra Lord of sacrifice, of hymns and balmy medicines,
We pray for joy and health and strength.
5 He shines in splendour like the Sun, refulgent as bright gold is he,
The good, the best among the Gods.
6 May he grant health into our steeds, wellbeing to our rams and ewes,
To men, to women, and to kine.
7 O Soma, set thou upon us the glory of a hundred men,
The great renown of mighty chiefs.
8 Let not malignities, nor those who trouble Soma, hinder us.
Indu, give us a share of strength.”
RigVeda I 114 ‘Rudra’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. To the strong Rudra bring we these our songs of praise, to him the Lord of Heroes with the braided hair,
That it be well with all our cattle and our men, that in this village all be healthy and well-fed.
2 Be gracious unto us, O Rudra, bring us joy: thee, Lord of Heroes, thee with reverence will we serve.
Whatever health and strength our father Manu won by sacrifice may we, under thy guidance, gain.
3 By worship of the Gods may we, O Bounteous One, O Rudra, gain thy grace, Ruler of valiant men.
Come to our families, bringing them bliss: may we, whose heroes are uninjured, bring thee sacred gifts,
4 Hither we call for aid the wise, the wanderer, impetuous Rudra, perfecter of sacrifice.
May he repel from us the anger of the Gods: verily we desire his favourable grace.
5 Him with the braided hair we call with reverence down, the wild-boar of the sky, the red, the dazzling shape.
May he, his hand filled full of sovran medicines, grant us protection, shelter, and a home secure.
6 To him the Maruts’ Father is this hymn addressed, to strengthen Rudra’s might, a song more sweet than sweet.
Grant us, Immortal One, the food which mortals eat: be gracious unto me, my seed, my progeny.
7 O Rudra, harm not either great or small of us, harm not the growing boy, harm not the full-grown man.
Slay not a sire among us, slay no mother here, and to our own dear bodies, Rudra, do not harm.
8 Harm us not, Rudra, in our seed and progeny, harm us not in the living, nor in cows or steeds,
Slay not our heroes in the fury of thy wrath. Bringing oblations evermore we call to thee.
9 Even as a herdsman I have brought thee hymns of praise: O Father of the Maruts, give us happiness,
Blessed is thy most favouring benevolence, so, verily, do we desire thy saving help.
10 Far be thy dart that killeth men or cattle: thy bliss be with us, O thou Lord of Heroes.
Be gracious unto us, O God, and bless us, and then vouchsafe us doubly-strong protection.
11 We, seeking help, have spoken and adored him: may Rudra, girt by Maruts, hear our calling.
This prayer of ours may Varuṇa grant, and Mitra, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven.”
RigVeda II 33 ‘Rudra’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. FATHER of Maruts, let thy bliss approach us: exclude us not from looking on the sunlight.
Gracious to our fleet courser be the Hero may we transplant us, Rudra, in our children.
2 With the most saving medicines which thou givest, Rudra, may I attain a hundred winters.
Far from us banish enmity and hatred, and to all quarters maladies and trouble.
3 Chief of all born art thou in glory, Rudra, armed with the thunder, mightiest of the mighty.
Transport us over trouble to well-being repel thou from us all assaults of mischief.
4 Let us not anger thee with worship, Rudra, ill praise, Strong God! or mingled invocation.
Do thou with strengthening balms incite our heroes: I hear thee famed as best of all physicians.
5 May I with praise-songs win that Rudra’s favour who is adored with gifts and invocations.
Ne’er may the tawny God, fair-checked, and gracious, swifthearing, yield us to this evil purpose.
6 The Strong, begirt by Maruts, hath refreshed me, with most invigorating food, imploring.
As he who finds a shade in fervent sunlight may I, uninjured, win the bliss of Rudra.
7 Where is that gracious hand of thine, O Rudra, the hand that giveth health and bringeth comfort,
Remover of the woe that Gods have sent us? O Strong One, look thou on me with compassion.
8 To him the strong, great, tawny, fair-complexioned, I utter forth a mighty hymn of praises.
We serve the brilliant God with adorations, we glorify, the splendid name of Rudra.
9 With firm limbs, multiform, the strong, the tawny adorns himself with bright gold decorations:
The strength of Godhead ne’er departs from Rudra, him who is Sovran of this world, the mighty.
10 Worthy, thou carriest thy bow and arrows, worthy, thy manyhued and honoured necklace.
Worthy, thou cuttest here each fiend to pieces: a mightier than thou there is not, Rudra.
11 Praise him the chariot-borne, the young, the famous, fierce, slaying like a dread beast of the forest.
O Rudra, praised, be gracious to the singer. let thy hosts spare us and smite down another.
12 I bend to thee as thou approachest, Rudra, even as a boy before the sire who greets him.
I praise thee Bounteous Giver, Lord of heroes: give medicines to us as thou art lauded.
13 Of your pure medicines, O potent Maruts, those that are wholesomest and health-bestowing,
Those which our father Manu hath selected, I crave from. Rudra for our gain and welfare.
14 May Rudra’s missile turn aside and spare us, the great wrath of the impetuous One avoid us.
Turn, Bounteous God, thy strong bow from our princes, and be thou gracious to our seed and offspring.
15 O tawny Bull, thus showing forth thy nature, as neither to be wroth, O God, nor slay us.
Here, Rudra, listen to our invocation. Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly.”
RigVeda X 186 ‘Vayu’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. FILLING our hearts with health and joy, may Vāta breathe his balm on us
May he prolong our days of life.
2 Thou art our Father, Vāta, yea, thou art a Brother and a friend,
So give us strength that we may live.
3 The store of Amṛta laid away yonder, O Vāta, in thine home,—
Give us thereof that we may live.”
RigVeda I 18 Brihaspati [Griffith Translation]:
“2 The rich, the healer of disease, who giveth wealth, increaseth store,
The prompt,—may he be with us still.”
RigVeda VII 55 ‘Vastospati’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. VASTOSPATI, who killest all disease and wearest every form,
Be an auspicious Friend to us.”
RigVeda VIII 68 ‘Soma’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. THIS here is Soma, ne’er restrained, active, all-conquering bursting forth,
Ṛṣi and Sage by sapience,
2 All that is bare he covers o’er, all that is sick he medicines;
The blind man sees, the cripple walks.
3 Thou, Soma, givest wide defence against the hate of alien men,
Hatreds that waste and weaken us.
4 Thou by thine insight and thy skill, Impetuous One, from heaven and earth
Drivest the sinner’s enmity.
5 When to their task they come with zeal, may they obtain the Giver’s grace,
And satisfy his wish who thirsts.
6 So may he find what erst was lost, so may be speed the pious man,
And lengthen his remaining life.
7 Gracious, displaying tender love, unconquered, gentle in thy thoughts,
Be sweet, O Soma, to our heart.
8 O Soma, terrify us not; strike us not with alarm, O King:
Wound not our heart with dazzling flame.
9 When in my dwelling-place I see the wicked enemies of Gods,
King, chase their hatred far away, thou Bounteous One, dispel our foes.”
RigVeda X 97 ‘Power of Herbs’ [Griffith Translation]:
“15 Let fruitful Plants, and fruitless, those that blossom, and the blossomless,
Urged onward by Bṛhaspati, release us from our pain and grief;
16 Release me from the curse’s plague and woe that comes from Varuṇa;
Free me from Yama’s fetter, from sin and offence against the Gods.
17 What time, descending from the sky, the Plants flew earthward, thus they spake:
No evil shall befall the man whom while he liveth we pervade,
18 Of all the many Plants whose King is, Soma, Plants of hundred forms,
Thou art the Plant most excellent, prompt to the wish, sweet to the heart.
19 O all ye various Herbs whose King is Soma, that o’erspread the earth,
Urged onward by Bṛhaspati, combine your virtue in this Plant.
20 Unharmed be he who digs you up, unharmed the man for whom I dig:
And let no malady attack biped or quadruped of ours.
21 All Plants that hear this speech, and those that have departed far away,
Come all assembled and confer your healing power upon this Herb.
22 With Soma as their Sovran Lord the Plants hold colloquy and say:
O King, we save from death the man whose cure a Brahman undertakes.
23 Most excellent of all art thou, O Plant thy vassals are the trees.
Let him be subject to our power, the man who seeks to injure us.”
RigVeda 8 20 ‘Maruts’ [Griffith Translation]:
“23 O Maruts, rich in noble gifts, bring us a portion of the Maruts’ medicine,
Ye Coursers who are Friends to us.
24 Haters of those who serve you not, bliss-bringers, bring us bliss with those auspicious aids
Wherewith ye are victorious and guard Sindhu well, and succour Krvi in his need.
25 Maruts, who rest on fair trimmed grass, what balm soever Sindhu or Asikni hath,
Or mountains or the seas contain.
26 Ye carry on your bodies, ye who see it all: so bless us graciously therewith.
Cast, Maruts, to the ground our sick man’s malady: replace the dislocated limb.”
Loud May We Speak – With HEALERS In Assembly !