[Author’s Note: It is said that some efforts take on a ‘mind of their own’. While this was initially intended as the third part to our MythoLinguistics of War series, with a focus more narrowly upon the strong saliency of Indo-European concepts of “Mind” and ‘Spirit’ with those of Warfare – as the writing progressed, it became clear that this was to become a somewhat broader, yet focused Deepa account that would be of strong Shaivite saliency. The Manyu of the thing had, we might say, made His presence felt; and we were swept up in His Furor. With further developments within this ambit in mind, which also saw Him accompanied by Devi’s Empowering Furor alongside, it made spear-point sense to allow events to take their natural course (for what can be more natural than following the Inspiration of the Gods, Their Guidance); and we thusly arrived heer, where we are now – with a MahaShivRatri devotional tribute piece which significantly builds upon last year’s strikingly successful GHOST DIVISION undertaking, and additionally incorporates perhaps surprising ‘bridging material’ drawn from the Greek mythopoetic canon. It is lengthy, it is wild, and large swathes of it were written in multi-thousand-words-a-night up-til-dawn grasp of what might perhaps be spoken of as ‘Furor’ ; thus making it, in some ways, a Shaped Like Itself article, and hopefully a truly Resounding contribution to both the theological realm, as well as the applied immanentization of same through the course of Tonight’s Devotions. ॐ नमः शिवाय ]
The Essential Characteristic – The Dominion Of ‘Men’
As I mentioned in the first article to this series, a core reason for my enthusiasm for this emergent field of MythoLinguistics, is because it enables us to explore fundamental truths about our Ancestors’ world-view that are difficult to reach via other means.
The previous two pieces have sought to explore War as the Universe, and the Role of Man within that War. This third portion takes the latter and thence arcens back around again to the first – by looking at the Proto-Indo-European particle “Men”, several of its prominent derivatives in later Indo-European languages, and how all of this irreducibly combines with the mythology and theology around these to tell us some pretty roaringly-resounding truths about ourselves, as well as (certain of) the Gods and the Universe At Large.
So what is this ‘Men’ root, and why am I looking at it in a series mused by the spirit of War. Well, while it does not literally mean “Men” in the modern, English sense – it is so intimately connected with who, with what we are, that I have virtually no hesitation in maintaining it and its consequent derivations as being, in effect, “Our Word”, “Our Story”, quite literally the Spirit of Us.
Its generally accepted field-of-meaning in Proto-Indo-European is that it concerns ‘Mental Activity’, with those two words I have used to conceptualize it both being quite important, albeit in different ways. For while it is accurate to translate it as “Mind” [and you can see the etymological relationship there, right from the get-go], it is also accurate to point out that it refers to what we do with our mind, as well.
Concepts such as ‘Thought’ (or ‘Memory’ – Muninn, entirely unsurprisingly, flies forth to us from this ancient source), and more especially, the actions of Thinking, the expressions of what is going on within the realms of our Mind, are what is meant by this. And, alongside this, a particular sphere of ‘metaphysical activity’, religious or spiritual belief and enactable forms of same. The Faith which can Move Mountains – that is what is meant by “Men”, at its higher forms of expression, particularly when we are utilizing it to drop mountains from space onto a demon-dragon as a form of orbital bombardment, just to be sure … via the utilization of a “Mantra” [same root], as Great Brihaspati did unto His Foe.
Now, I touched briefly upon the idea that PIE ‘Men’ has some conceptual linkage with modern ‘Men’ [as in the word – not necessarily the men as they actually are, some might cynically suggest]. This is not the only possible etymological lineage for “Man” in modern English (or, for that matter, “Man(n)u(s)”, our Progenitor), but I do not think that it is hard to see how it figuratively makes sense: that the ‘Mon’ which is ‘Man’ (PIE and modern English respectively) , is partially derived (or vice versa) from the notion that to be man entails being in possession of mental faculties – and therefore, flowing directly from that, that the act of labelling another being as “Man” means an explicit recognition of their being able to think and feel and believe as ‘I’ do, and thus being alike to us to the point of sharing in our taxonym. Thus, in some ways, is the “Mannerbund” [a ‘band’ of Men, but also a ‘bond’ of Men] formed – through the recognition by men of each other and our common faculties and purpose.
But this is somewhat secondary to our purposes, here – as it is enough to state that the Indo-European Man has a ‘Mind’ that is this ‘Men’ in the PIE sense [i.e. replete with ‘active’ element and expression-ism]; without having to worry about whether there is a direct linguistic relationship with the concept of PIE ‘Mon’ (the more direct linguistic root for modern “Man” per some reconstructions).
For “Man”, the individual, is but the houser, the vehicle for the panoply of terms, of concepts, with the stem of “Man” in Sanskrit – ‘Thought’, ‘Belief’, ‘Concept’ [मन् – ‘Man’]; ‘Zeal’, ‘Devotion’, ‘Attachment’, ‘Enthusiasm’, ‘Eagerness’, and I would go so far as to say ‘Duty’ [मना – ‘Mana’]; ‘Honour’, ‘Respect’, ‘Reputation’, ‘Regard’, ‘Image’, [and interestingly, ‘House’ or ‘Altar’ in some contexts] [मान – ‘Maana’]; which leads us to the Sanskrit term – and, as we shall soon see, Divine, Mytholinguistic Theonym – at the Heart of this piece. Indeed. it’s Spirit.
GHOST DIVISION Mk.II – SPIRIT WARRIOR
मन्यु – Manyu. What does this mean? On one level, it is the ‘Mind’ and ‘Spirit’ Itself. On another, it is the ‘active expression’ of that Mind, and the raging forth of that Spirit – you have heard the English idiom “High Spirit(s)”, well, this is the Sanskrit hypostasis of the concept. It can be translated as “Mood”, but the better representation – to my Mind – is as “Passion”, “Ardour” for those are the emotions to which ‘Manyu’ is most directly affixed. Anger, Wrath, Roaring Grief and Sorrow [and these are, some would suggest, the natural fruits of ‘Attachment’ – another one of those ‘Man-‘ Sanskrit terms we met earlier, “Mana(a)”, to be more specific]. But also, and this is quite important, the emotions and the active expressions of “Piety”, of “Zeal”, and “Resiliency” in the face of the foe or hellish circumstance. If “Manyu” means “Rage”, then it is “Righteous Fury” [and ‘Furor’, in the Latinate and especially as applied to Germanic experiences, is most relevant here!]; If it is “Impetuousness”, then it is also “Pride” (And if it is, figuratively ‘Imperiousness’, then it is also, as its natural close-correlate, ‘Grandeur’); If it is “Craze(d)”, then it is also “Courage”; If it is “Grief” [and this, in and of itself, is a curious linguistic cross-occurrence, given the phonetically similar German terms for ‘seizing’, in an assault, or being Seized, as with the ‘Furor’ concept briefly afore aforementioned], then it is Loss which Shall Be Avenged. Or, also eminently appropriately, it is “Sacrifice” – another meaning of “Manyu”, and also hugely relevant for both the ‘Religious’, and ‘Martial’ contexts and connotations of the Term. But then, as we have seen quite clearly in the preceding portions of this series, when I say “Religious” and “Martial”, especially in this context, I repeat myself. For just as ‘Manyu’ can adjectivally relate to Agni – as in Piety – it is also most clearly said in relation to Rudra – as in Destruction. Thus is the Duality of ‘Fire’ [‘Spirit’], Thus is the Duality of Man [‘Mind’], Thus is the Duality of the Dvandva – but as with many a ‘Dvandva’ compound, in truth, there is no ‘Duality’ at all heer … only a single element, that is expressed via two seemingly slightly contrasting Faces.
Interestingly, for our purposes, a strikingly close parallel construction to this is to be found in the other #NAS corpus – that of the Old Norse. Here, “Odr” [also, when utilized as a theonym, referring to the Husband of Freyja … which is a remarkably obvious pseudonym for, you know, Odin] is understood to mean pretty much the same thing as “Manyu” – only with a far greater emphasis upon the ‘Furor’ element, which is more implicit and implied due to the thelogical context in the Sanskrit term. However, in addition to its adjectival usage to connote a state of frenzy, of fervor, of ecstatic rage, (whirlwind) energized conduct, and more than a hint of what might at first strike [and then strike again, and again, and again until the target is felled] one as ‘insanity’; as well as the noun-essence employments to mean “mind”, and “soul”, and “spirit” as well as “mood”; we also have an expressive sense to the term – wherein it comes out (quite literally – of the mouth, most usually; and perhaps we should note the Sanskrit correlates of ‘light/seeing’ and speaking in several terms like Bhasa, from PIE ‘Bheh’, meaning to shine or to glow – certainly, perhaps, the way in which we perceive one who has become Divinely Inspired; ‘Arka’ (‘hymnal’/’lightning’/’flame’/’sage’/’singer’), as well, is relevant, amidst several other such terms) … as Poetry, verse, song, and “prayer” in a certain sense, as well.
Reflexively, it can also refer to the aforementioned (Divine) Inspiration which sparks and empowers such feats of composition – and as I have long maintained, the “Furor Poeticus”, as it is known, is not at all distinct from the “Furor Teutonicus”, the “Battle Rage” so characteristic of the Germanic people as to bear their name in the Latin exposition of their sort. It is just that the same thing is being expressed in different ways as befits the needs and nature of the expressor and the inspirer. With the possible exception for some rare sort capable of carrying out a rather more literal application of the term “battle-rap” than might otherwise be perhaps expected. Or, going back and looking at it the other way – the manner in which Brihaspati makes use of a verse He has come up with to defeat the demon-dragon Vala, in a manner compared in its impact to the Vajra of Indra (possibly partially because in several RigVedic Verses, it features the conjuring of a meteorite for orbital bombardment of the bunker-complex within-which the foe has laired). Or, come to think of it, and as we shall briefly address much later on, the array of citations for the warrior empowerment and supremacy of Goddess Vak [‘Speech’], and also in some hymnals, the exaltant martial proficiency of Saraswati (Goddess of Eloquence and Wisdom, Arts, Literature, and the Milky Way).
To be in possession [an intentional double-phrasing there] of a Mind, in other words, may also mean that one is capable of the feats of Speech – and/or the other forms of ‘artistic’ expression’ to demonstrate an intellect and an appreciation for beauty … such as the entrancing feats of a gifted spear-wielder, for instance.
Indeed, speaking briefly of both the ‘Furor Poeticus’ and the ‘Furor Teutonicus’, and their unifying characteristic(s) of the sense of being ‘seized’ by something and thence moving in an ecstatic high energy and trance-like, rapturous, raging state … it should come as absolutely no surprise to us to find the same Deity, Who Bears the relevant Name, to be responsible for both. And this also, as I have previously elucidated, helps to show why Odin, Shiva, Dionysus are patron(s) of the performing arts, the theater and the stage as well. Not just because “ShakesSpear” is almost a direct theonym, either. But because the notion of being an actor, especially in ancient dramateurgy meant ‘putting on a mask’ – speaking with a voice that was decidedly not one’s own, and an eloquence that was most definitely borrowed. This finds its expression going down different paths in the various cultural derivations – in the Hindu end of things, the ‘dance’ side has become much more prominent, and the notion is also of moving in-synch with the universe’s own unfolding, unfurling dance-like progression of steps …. as Shiva creates and maintains its rhythm at the center of It All, the bhooming bass of the Damaru (Drum) moving all others especially those who, to reference me some Nietzsche, may or may not be “Insane”, but can definitely Hear the Music. (Of the Spheres, or otherwise). In the Norse, more emphasis is placed upon the Verse side of things, and the Skaldic tradition contains some absolutely underrated (presumably due to their serious complexity and the otherwise-obscurity of our English’s direct and immediately adjacent forebear languages) poetic compositions and constructions as well (as does Sanskrit, of course, but then – we already well know about them!); and for the Athenians (as well as, to a certain extent, the English – in somewhat more gaudy and often profane(d) fashion, too, their cultural descendants, the Americans), the drama is held to be both amazing and at the heart of civic life. All three have all the elements, of course – including the battle-rage, as well, and quite some ‘enabling’ utilization of mind-altering substances, on a spectrum from alcohol to cannabis, and psychedelic mushrooms as well.
But the point here is that these elements – the ‘Furor’, the Enraged/Energized Spirit welling up deep from within one, and the conceptual aid of ‘Donning the Mask’ – are integral to our understanding of the operation of the Manyu.
Something we should be entirely unsurprised about; as “Odr” and “Odin” have coterminities of roots and of essence with the PIE terms “Weht” [‘Excitement’/’Rage’/’Inspiration’; which also stands at the root of Latin “Vates” (‘Seer’, ‘Poet’)] and “Hweh”/”Hwehti”/”Hwehnt” [‘Blow’/’Blowing’/’Wind’, respectively]; with some reconstructions actually going so far as to effectively combine the two; and suggesting a figurative meaning field along the lines of “‘Blow’, ‘Fan [as in, the fan the flames’], ‘Inspire'”.
Certainly, it is difficult to see a hard-and-fast separation of the terms in question – the Deity presiding over the activities of the former pretty invariably having a Wind (and Wandering) correlation, and often a direct responsibility for what we might easily call the “Breath of Life”. The relationship is quite clearly demonstrated in the Sanskrit “Vata” – which, in addition to being a Theonym for the Wind-Lord, and meaning Wind (as well as an upper atmospheric layer, a region of the high winds, and potentially also intermixing with the Akasha), and referring to the Vital Breath (also strongly associated with the Rudras, but then I repeat myself – ‘smoking breath’, ‘hot breath’ being a sign not only of life but of its active expression via rage, as well; and the last breath, which may veer-y likely bear this, being that of the Spirit exiting the body via exhalation), is also correlate with the other “Vata” [the same spelling/pronunciation in Sanskrit, as it happens – ‘वात’; a pattern shared with the verb ‘वाति’] which refers to attacking, injuring, seizing, and danger.
Perhaps we might say that for the Ancient Indo-European Man, “To Be Alive” meant also and quite irreducibly, “To Be Angry”. [I also have my own thoughts about the Old Norse ‘Eitr’ being similarly derived – both in terms of its necessity for life … as well as its poison in too great of an abundance, and, for that matter, its primary means of expression via the mouth especially of certain serpents; but we shall, perhaps, leave that as another story for another time]
Perhaps, with particular regard to the sort of Wind which is Powerful, Howling/Roaring, Oncoming, and Irresistible in its Raging and beauteous while potentially veer-y destructive force … we could take this above typology further; and call our Ideal Man, our Forebear, Our Ancestor for what He Truly Is – The Storm. [And not least because this, too, carries implicit within it in modern English, the sense of the assault (a French-sourced term itself connoting rapid military movement via the air) – to “Storm a Trench”, for instance; a sense also captured in the Germanic ‘Greif’ (which also, interestingly, was the name of Rommel’s personal transport, and may also mean a Griffin/Gryphon – a creature most prominently associated in ancient texts with another band of Wind-Raiders of ancient Indo-European archetypal significance .. the Scythians), that happens to stand at the core and root of Jung’s famous term from his ‘Wotan’ essay for a man becoming ‘seized’ by the eponymous Odr Deity .. the ‘Ergreifen’ concept, which should probably also be understood as the ability to ‘grip’ a people via one’s oratory, charisma, and other forms of supernatural God(s)-given Radiance]
The Roaring Wrath Of The World-Reigner
But now, having met “Manyu” the word, let us hail “Manyu” the God. And see whence the literal Apotheosis (or, if you prefer, ‘Hypostasis’) of all of the above is to be found, even ere out amongst our People.
In the course of the GHOST DIVISION article, I referenced a certain work of English poetry when explicating the Shaivite warrior-emissary emanation of VeeraBhadra – “Who is the Happy Warrior? Who is He / That every man in arms should wish to be?”
It should perhaps come as no surprise that there are several potential answers to the above question, in an Indo-European context. For just as the Eskimo is often regarded as having fifty words for Snow … when what they actually have is several dozen words for different kinds of snow, sorted by its quality and nature (e.g. whether it’s safe to walk or sled over, etc. – and also, presumably, whether it’s “yellow”) … the Indo-European pantheons have many, many War Gods and Goddesses, but with many of these actually being somewhat specialized or otherwise differentiated presiders over a particular form of excellence-in-War.
But the absolute Lord of War, in the Vedic understanding, would have to be Manyu – one of the Forms of Rudra, and depicted as the specific emanation of the (Martial) Wrath of the Lord of Creation. A Being so Terrifying in His Warmaking Power, that even the rest of the Gods combined state Their Fear of Him.
As Well They Should – for in each instance of the Manyu’s Manifestation, the only thing which can stop the relentless rampage is Victory.
So with That In Mind, let us briefly read one of the Manyu Hymnals of the RigVeda:
RV X 84 ‘Manyu’ [Griffith Translation]:
“1. BORNE on with thee, O Manyu girt by Maruts, let our brave men, impetuous, bursting forward,
March on, like flames of fire in form, exulting, with pointed arrows, sharpening their weapons.
2 Flashing like fire, be thou, O conquering Manyu, invoked, O Victor, as our army’s leader.
Slay thou our foes, distribute their possessions: show forth thy vigour, scatter those who hate us.
3 O Manyu, overcome thou our assailant on! breaking, slaying, crushing down the foemen.
They have not hindered thine impetuous vigour: Mighty, Sole born! thou makest them thy subjects.
4 Alone or many thou art worshipped, Manyu: sharpen the spirit of each clan for battle.
With thee to aid, O thou of perfect splendour, we will uplift the glorious shout for conquest.
5 Unyielding bringing victory like Indra, O Manyu, be thou here our Sovran Ruler.
To thy dear name, O Victor, we sing praises: we know the spring from which thou art come hither.
6 Twin-born with power, destructive bolt of thunder, the highest conquering might is thine, Subduer!
Be friendly to its in thy spirit, Manyu, O Much-invoked, in shock of mighty battle.
7 For spoil let Varuṇa and Manyu give us the wealth of both sides gathered and collected;
And let our enemies with stricken spirits, o’erwhelmed with terror, slink away defeated.”
Now, this hymnal – one of two within the RigVeda with Manyu as the direct subject – is also repeated within the AtharvaVeda, and it is, I think, no coincidence that in that latter scriptural corpus, it occurs immediately after that Book’s (slightly altered in order of verses) reproduction of the famed DeviSukta, the Great Hymnal of Vak which is also originally of the Tenth Mandala of the RigVeda. There are several explanations for this, including the natural progression from the Roudran elements found within this latter Hymnal – wherein Vak equips and augments Rudra to slay the Enemy of the Faith; but also Her summoning forth of the God-Father from the Brow of the World [at this point in Vedic cosmology often considered also to be the Great Male God; so therefore, both Father-Emanation and Father-Of-Emanation are Shiva, impelled by Devi in both cases – the ‘circumstantial’ and the ‘cosmic’, respectively]; and from a more Devi-centric explicatory model, both Her “Rous[ing] and Order[ing] Battle for the Nation”, as well as the statement that She Herself has “become so Mighty in My Grandeur”. We shall consider that ‘side’ to the typology later on [with further analysis of the Storming Breath of the Tempest Wind with which She imbues, being the subject of a future article linking the ‘Breath of Life’, with the ‘Smoking Breath’, the ‘Breath of Anger’ – and thence, from Vayu-Vata to Woden].
But I have charged ahead somewhat. Let us return to something more foundational. First, the several accountings of the Emanation of the Manyu; and then the broader expressions of the same occurrence within the Hindu corpus – followed by a highly intriguing instance which I believe demonstrates the same typology enacted elsewhere in the Indo-European World, and which also handily brings us right back around full circle to where we began.
The text that is likely the earliest available to us – which should not be confused with this being the earliest expression of the occurrence – which gives some account of the emanation of the Manyu, is the Shatapatha Brahmana, a Vedic commentary that is conservatively dated to somewhere between two and a half and three thousand years old in its final form. However, while this may sound comparatively recent, it is important to note that the Hymnals and the Rites which it is expounding upon, include elements which were already well-codified perhaps as much as a thousand years before; and which doubtless all draw from the august mythoreligious practices and understandings of the Indo-Iranian, Andronovo, and thence even earlier Indo-European peoples stretching back far beyond any assayable antiquity.
The Shatapatha Brahmana exposition in question [9th Khanda, 1st Adhyaya] deals with the SataRudriya [‘Satisfaction of Rudra’, to translate a little figuratively] Ritual process found within the Yajurveda; with the particular element we are interested in being the explanation for why the SataRudriya is performed in the first place.
The particular verse in question speaks of Prajapati [‘Lord of Creation’] being in what could perhaps be described as a state of distress, certainly of high emotion [‘Manyu’, on both counts, as we shall see]. He is pervaded by Manyu [whether in terms of the Deity/Deific expression, or the state of Emotion being intentionally somewhat ambiguous, not least thanks to the way Sanskrit vocabulary works], and then weeps openly as an outward expression of His inner tempestuous state [although it is worth noting the potential for the thousands of tears thus described to be an intentional double-meaning with thousands of eyes – a frequent characteristic of Dyaus Pitar, and something which shall become quite relevant further on]. This handily supplies not only an explanation for the etymology of “Rudra” as a theonym [‘Roarer’, ‘Howler’], replete with Thunderstorm metaphoric association in the form of the Tears of the Lord of All – but also recalls the strong association of Lord Rudra with ‘tears’ which we can see in any Shaivite Temple today … the Rudraksha [‘Tear(s) of Rudra’, also translated as ‘Eye(s) of Rudra’] which we wear and string into Mala of prayer-beads, and recall also the Lord of the Howling Storm Wind’s Compassionate Mercy to His Devotees.
This ‘externalization’ process of what Prajapati is feeling, whether due to an immense Sorrow and fundamental desire to fix it (potentially by ending the cause … with the smile of an axe), or perhaps the more direct route-patha of immesurable Anger felt by the God capable of Believing-Into-Being … leads through these tears, and therefore through the Eyes, to the Emanation of the Manyu – Who is heer depicted as the most fearsome and the most formidable of the Rudra(s), indeed!
The rest of the Gods quail in terror at the Manyu’s appearance, and state Their fear openly – making especial reference to the prospect that His untrammeled Wrath [‘Manyu’, again] places even Them at risk of Destruction. Prajapati’s response to this is to enjoin the Gods to gather sustenance-provisions for a sacrificial rite to Appease the Manyu (of) Rudra, and thereby ward off great harm in so doing. The subsequent acts of carrying out the SataRudriya ritual observances by later generations of men, therefore, are an ‘Eternal Return’/’Mythic Recurrence’ principle in action – of doing the same as even the Mighty Gods had done prior during Mythic Time, so as to secure not only the avoidance of the baelful negative attentions of Rudra that are attained through one’s ingratitude … but also the beneficent and generously merciful bestowments of the Lord Rudra when He is Pleased, especially with His Chosen People(s).
So that gives us, I think, the baseline elements for a ‘typology’ for The Manyu; the better to facilitate our examination of these subsequent scriptural occurrences which I believe are also occurrences of the same Manifestation.
To phrase it succinctly, The Manyu appears when The Great God is in a state of high (and ‘negative’) emotion – either Anger, or Sorrow(-Leading-To-Anger); generally emanates out via the Eye(s); is depicted as being Terrifying, even to other Deities [and it is interesting to note that the other RigVedic Manyu hymnal [RV X 83] suggests The Manyu can slay and/or subjugate not only Dasyus, but also Aryas, as well, where necessary]; and also has an association with Piety – or, more specifically, the non-performance of the proper Pious Conduct, Virtues, and Rites.
It is tempting, especially in light of that last element, to think of The Manyu as being something like the ‘enforcer’ type so frequently associated with a certain other kind of God-Father – the one who is dispatched to facilitate the ponying-up of “Protection Money”, if you get my drift, lest disastrous calamity and unseemly “accidents” befall the ‘miser’.
Yet I don’t think that’s either fair nor accurate. Not just because, as we have covered earlier in this series, the pious contributions of devotees are a notable part of what helps to sustain the Divine War Effort on all of our collective behalf against the Demons (and therefore, the notion of contribution to this through sacrifice is not sensibly comparable to organized crime carrying out acts of egregious extortion – but rather, is best compared to a state in a situation of tense geopolitical circumstances if not outright war, needing taxation revenue in order to furnish its army and civil defence) ; but also because, if you look closely at one of the key RigVedic Verses (for that) which I’ve earlier cited [RV X 125 6] – what we in fact see is a direct attestation that Rudra the Wrathful is dispatched to protect the pious conduct from those who would disrupt it (and the lives and (life)threads of its enactors/officiators/participants) and do it and its people harm [the ‘it and its people’, in a sense, being exactly what is meant by ‘Arya’ – the proper customs, and those who adhere to them].
However, it is also important not to over-emphasize the ‘Negative Theology’ perspective and approach, lest we lead ourselves to some form of iniquitous “A Yagna A Day Keeps The Manyu Away” horrendous mythunderstanding. It is – once more – the strong desire of any genuinely pious Devotee not to Anger the God(s), this is true; but not simply because the Inevitability which flows from such anger is strenuously undesirable … but rather (and also, to be fair), out of a feeling of love, duty, and respect [‘Manyu’, ‘Manyu’, and ‘Manyu’, again, as it happens] for the God(s) that we seek to please Them. And further, as can capaciously be seen from both the Manyu Hymnal which I have fully quoted in translation [RV X 84] earlier in this piece, as well as many other ancient Shaivite/Roudran Hymns, there is often an anticipation, a yearning, for direct Divine Intervention or other forms of tangible assistance and empowerment resultant from our propitiation of these Mightiest amongst the Mighties [see, for instance, the metaphysics of offering and bestowment contained in the second line of the DeviSukta [RV X 125 2]]. I do not mean to reduce this latter sphere down to a ‘quid pro quo’ – for that would imply and entail a ‘separation’ between Deity and Devotees that is far more akin to the impersonal and impartial and un-im-passioned (indeed, the direct, antithetical opposite – and therefore, also, to ‘Manyu’ .. like ‘boredom’, stagnancy, and staleness also is) commercial exchange between corporate entities in the modern world than anything Mythic, Right, Righteous and True. But the Relationship is a Relationship, even as between parties about as unutterably unequal as any could possibly be (which does not stop parents in the prime of life from looking after an infant, nor a small child from feeling a valid and valued participant in the family life, the relationship, with his forebear-progenitors); and that is the proper expression, in many ways, of proper Indo-European Piety. Not ‘paying protection’ to a Family; but under Protection (and also extending Service, Protection to others and Upplanders, as well – ‘Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha’, indeed), as part of the Family. Even if the Patriarch/Matriarch of said Family [and that is what ‘Mankind’ may in some ways be regarded as – the Kindred of Man(n)u(s), our storied penultimate ancestor) is often quite far removed and best contacted via a favoured intermediary or through the sending of messages through prayer rituals and offerings.
“I Bend the Bow for Rudra that His Arrow May Strike and Slay the Hater of Devotion” – On Ugra Manyu And Perhaps Angra Mainyu
However, to but briefly speak of those who may, perhaps, have found themselves on the other end of the Wrathful Protector of Devotion’s militant attentions … it has long been readily apparent to linguists and mythographers that there has been some form of cross-cultural schism between the two key Indo-Iranian religious spheres which have survived relatively intact for us down to this day – those being the Zoroastrians on the one hand, and the Hindus on the other; with the latter, in my considered opinion representing the ‘continuation’ of much of what was represented in the pre-Zoroastrian Indo-Iranian mythoreligious orthodoxy …. and the Zoroastrians, by contrast, occurring as a deliberate subversive ‘reform’ effort which sought to break away, and seemingly downright invert key element of that aforementioned and afore-existing dominant sphere of belief.
Academics have gone back and forth over the years as to how salient this or that causative factor is likely to have been in all of this – with some attempting to explain the entire thing away as almost a (pseudo-linguistic) coincidence in a bid to downplay the potential for ‘Nationalistic’ readings of ancient history; however regardless of whether one falls into that camp, or whether one views the scriptural and linguistic evidence together as supporting the concept of an attempted religious usurpation/insurrection occurring … it cannot be ignored that this aforementioned ‘mytholinguistic’ suite of evidence recalls a trenchant animosity from the Zoroastrian-Persianate grouping against the Indo-Aryan religion and the language which resultingly, inextricably bears it. I have considered this in more expansive detail in several of my previous works [for instance, the relatively recent “Aesir-Vanir, Asura-Deva, but also A’Sura, Daeva”], and so shall not reiterate that material here, except to note that as briefly explored in my article on the Scythian burial at Pazyryk – that the Zoroastrians appear to have reserved some of their greatest dread and would-be vilification for Shiva-Rudra, and the accompanying #GangSteppe spear/bow armed wind-rider Harrying, Harrowing deific complex.
Suffice to say, that in addition to the relatively well-known “Deva – Daeva” correspondence-but-also-contratemps [wherein the term for “God” (Shining One) found right the way across the Indo-European World – in Nordic as ‘-Tyr’, in Latin as ‘Deus’, etc. … has somehow become one for ‘False God’, ‘Demon’, in the liturgical languages of the Zoroastrians], we also have the perhaps rather amusing further correspondence:
To quote myself on the subject:
“In Sanskrit, one of the words for ‘Army’ is ‘Sena’ – सेना. Now, the cognate terms for this in Avestan and Old Persian, are ‘Haena’ and 𐏃𐎡𐎴𐎠 [‘Haina’] respectively. [The ‘S’ => ‘H’ sound-shift between Indian and Iranian languages is well attested – c.f, for example, and not at all coincidentally, “Asura” => “Ahura”].
Why am I finding this amusing? Well, you see, in these Iranian languages … “Haena” means “hostile army”. So … we say “Army”. They hear “Hostile Army”.
Or, in other words … They Remember.
Now, as it happens, a veer-y similar situation occurs in Finnish around Old Norse: “Herja” (‘raiding’) – which, in Finnish, means “thing to run away from really fast”. Well, “predator”, “demon”, “malefic spirit”, [interestingly, particularly of the throat], “villain”, you get the idea … –
Because they, too, remember “
How does this pertain to The Manyu? Well, on one level, it should already be more than readily apparent. What is The Manyu – the Mighty Arch-Militant God. The Slayer of Foes and the Smiter of the Hater of (proper, pious) Devotion. He presides over the Holy Army of the Vedic Arya; with a rank and a role that would more properly be termed ‘Emperor’ in the old sense – that is, “Imperator”. Or, perhaps if we were speaking Old Norse, Herjan. And I have chosen that translation quite deliberately, as it is also a well-attested Theonym of Lord Odin. Fitting, as The Manyu is Rudra (or, insofar as it is a distinction along a spectrum of being, the ‘Roaring, Passionate-Zeal Infused War-Spirit’ Emanation of Same); and Rudra is Odin – in form, in function, in manner, in method, and in meaning (with, it should be said, a few shades of cultural ‘translation’ heer and there).
So it should be unsurprising to find that the Zoroastrians also appear to have an understanding, an appreciation of The Manyu as one of those aforementioned ‘Names To Run Away From Really Fast’ – or [because] Veer-y Fast, as the case may be.
This being “Angra Mainyu” – the “Mainyu” term being directly cognate with Sanskrit “Manyu”; while “Angra” appears to share etymology with the Sanskrit “अस्र” [‘Asra’ – Tear]. The notion of a Crying (or, if you like, Roaring) (High) Spirit, described as the Chief of the Daevas, speculated in some academic sources to have some degree of linkage with Vayu-Vata, and with a pointed association in various texts with concepts of Darkness [or, as we would say in Sanskrit – ‘Kaal’] and Time [but, then, I repeat myself – at least in Sanskrit] especially as source of the being’s emanation. There are other potential etymologies for “Angra”, of course – in particular, the same roots as contemporaneous Sanskrit terms for the Throwing or Shooting of weapons, and the Slaying and Smiting thus carried out. Of further interest and import for our analysis, is the later attestations we have for Angra Mainyu as having presided over the creation of the Peacock. Which matters not so much because it has become a symbol of India – nor even because the Peacock, as seen in a certain Greek myth upon the subject, is the bearer of the ‘Thousand Eyes’ [a well-known characteristic of the Sky Father] … but because the Peacock is also the emblem, the ensign, and the Vahana [‘Vehicle’] of Lord Skanda. Who is Lord Skanda? Why, the Son of Shiva, the Lord of War, the Charger, the Shooter, [His Name has etymological and meaning-field connexions with both; and it can clearly be seen how His habitual modus operandi as a mounted warrior bearing spear, closely accords with each – especially together], the Commander of the Armies of the Heavenly Host, brought into being to strike down with great vengeance and furious Ugra upon a particular dire demonic threat to the DevaRajya and thusly upheld Order of the Cosmos [Rta]. Or, in other words and more succinctly – “This is the happy Warrior; this is He/ That every man in arms should wish to be”; and likely the latter, (post-)Puranic age emblematic expression for the vitally integral Hindu (human, as well as more-than) Armies of the Deva-Worshippers.
Now, it should be outright stated here that I am not suggesting somebody go out and suddenly start worshiping “Angra Mainyu”. I am also definitely not suggesting there is a precise and proven ‘identification’ that has been made here, which might support such aforementioned objectionable conduct. One should never enter into the worshiping of demons; and one should exercise great caution when approaching what goes on in the mythological corpuses of another culture, lest by irrepressible over-confidence, some over-stepping equation is made which portends dire consequence as a fairly direct result. And besides, there is utterly no need for such ‘transgressive’ behavior. For if I am correct in my hypothesized linkage above – that The Manyu, as the effective hypostasis of all that the Zoroastrian religious ‘reformers’ of the day would have hated and feared in the Indo-Iranian religious orthodox which they were attempting to rebel against and break away from, and therefore that they may have reasonably directly ‘demonized’ The Manyu as the Adversary against which they would spend their lives to contend – then there is no need to speak positively nor piously of “Angra Mainyu”. For we already have hymnals and offerings to The Manyu, The Manyu Who Is Rudra; Temples and grand rites unto Shiva, and to Odin. And if I am incorrect in what I have potentially suggested – then it is well to avoid positive regard for “Angra Mainyu” anyway, on point of general principle; and be thankful that we have such prominent and powerful patron-protector Deities against the demonic foe.
But let us return to the Manyu typology of which I was expounding earlier, and its application to several Hindu mythic occurrences in order to test it – and them – and see what it is that we may find.
The Myths Of The Manyu Considered
The first of these is reasonably straightforward, not least because we know from direct textual attestation that it is speaking of The Manyu. It is from the Gautami Mahatmya portion of the Brahma Purana, and in the course of characterizing a particular river-side holy-site [the eponymously named Manyutirtha], it briefly details the prosecution of a war between the Devas and Danavas (a race of demons), in which the Devas have found Themselves severely hard-pressed and retreating in disarray. On the advice of Lord Brahma, the Devas proceed to the relevant river-side site, and carry out acts of pious devotion in order to beseech and petition Lord Shiva – which interestingly, include not only dance and ShivLingPuja, but also a series of fairly direct resonancies with the Manyu Hymns of the RigVeda. That is to say, it is possible that veer-y similar rites to those which a human tribe of Vedic Aryans would utilize to entreat The Manyu to be with them in Time of War, were undertaken (or to be understood as being undertaken) by the Gods in the course of Their Own efforts to petition Same. This is something which I have often found quite charming about Hinduism – the way in which, while there are, in some vitally important ways, differences of ‘kind’ between us and The Gods (or for that matter other such intelligent races and beings) … there are also some fundamental similarities in the manifestations of proper life and pious conduct, which suggest that the distance between us and the Heavens is also one of ‘degree’, as well.
In terms of an Eliadian ‘Eternal Return’ / ‘mythic resonance’, ‘mythic recurrence’ typology – it is further interesting to note that the initial occurrence referenced in the Shatapatha Brahmana text, is itself being re-enacted/’recurred’/’re-immanentized’ again within a further mythic sphere by The Gods … and this is also, itself, engaged with by mortal devotees even today at the relevant and eponymously-named riverside-site. At least, in terms of going there to piously worship Lord Shiva (as) The Manyu … probably not so often for the explicit and express direct purpose of summoning the Great God of War for literal (mythic) Holy War against an assembled army of demons. Although, as I have often noted, and as forms the core and the crux of this series, these ongoing acts of proper, righteous conduct and enthusiastic, pious, zealous [‘Manyu’, again] support for The Gods are themselves active net contributors to ‘our Side’ in the ongoing War that runs like a fissure through the metaphysical topography of our existence.
But to engage in a ‘mythic return’ of our own, that is to say to return to the application of our typology to the text in front of us – we see these elements I have earlier elucidated once more to be occurring. For it is not only the case that The Manyu is manifested by Lord Shiva in response to the dire threat against His worshipers (both Gods, and ensuingy, us in the human realms also) as well as the implicit concept and immanency of Devotion, and following the direct petitioning of these beings unto Him for Deliverancey and Augmentation in the Fight – but we also see that, once more, The Manyu has been emanated via Lord Shiva’s Third Eye; that there is a ‘Revelation’ wherein the full-scale of the Divine Power is properly realized by the behelders and awe-struck hailed accordingly; and, perhaps more intriguingly, that part of the manner in which The Manyu has His Martial Impact, is actually through ‘entering into’ the assembled warriors of the DevaGana, the DevaSena, and increasing Their zeal, their morale, their competency, their ‘fighting spirit’ [‘Manyu’, again, on all fronts – in this context, the Manyu(s) of the Devas Themselves] [Perhaps this is somewhat figuratively what is meant by ‘Esprit de Corps’]. This resonates in significant ways with what we have elsewhere understood in both the religious and martial spheres [but, again, I repeat myself] of the Indo-Europeans – wherein a holy-man is ‘elevated’ [perhaps in German, we might say ‘ergreiffed’] by the investiture of the Divine, and ecstastic [literally – ex-stasis, ‘outside of time/being’, so ‘authentic’ in their expression of essence are they in those moments] combatants like the Wolf-Warriors, the Berserkers, become so through this raising and ‘frenzying up’ [‘furor’ – in this case, Teutonicus; although ‘Poeticus’, also, as applies the Holy-Man .. and both are tangible contributions to the ongoing, onrushing, roaring course of the Dharma-Yuddha] of their Spirit.
To quote directly from the text in translation:
“After saying thus Manyu revealed his form that had been produced from the third eye of Lord Śiva. It was that form which had been gathered together by means of brilliance. It was the same as was called Pauruṣa (manliness) in men, Ahaṃkāra (Ego) in all creatures, anger in all which is terrible and which causes annihilation.
On seeing that representative of Śaṅkara, who was resplendent on account of his own refulgence and who was holding aloft all types of weapons, Devas bowed to him. Daityas and Danujas became afraid. Devas joined their palms in reverence.
Having joined their palms in reverence they said to Manyu—“O lord, be our commander-in-chief. O Manyu, we shall enjoy kingdom won by you. Hence in every activity you are victorious. You are the person who will increase our victory.
You are Indra and Varuṇa. You alone are the guardians of quarters. Enter us, enter for the sake of our victory.”
Manyu spoke to them all—“There is nothing without me. I entered everyone. I am present in everyone,. No one knows me.
Manyu was the lord himself born from him in separate forms.
He shall be in the form of Rudra. Rudra became Manyu and Śiva. Everything, the mobile and immobile is pervaded by Manyu (Anger).
After obtaining him, Devas obtained victory in battle. Victory, anger and heroism all these originated from the splendour of the lord.
After fighting with Daityas and attaining victory on account of Manyu, Devas protected by Manyu went the way they had come.”
Stirring stuff; stirring up of the Spirit, in fact, just to read it – even in English translation. And while there is an in-depth exegesis that could and probably should be written upon the above (in particular, explicating what is meant by the line around Manyu as both Indra and Varuna – which may not necessarily be meant directly literally, but rather, as concepts somewhat analogous to what we might think of as the Dumezilian 2nd and First Functions, or perhaps ‘War Chief’ and Sovereign Chief, and certainly invoking the strong Demon-Slaying quality of Lord Indra (‘Vritrahan’ style – consider/compare the similar epithet for Saraswati in RV VI 61 7; which is either interpreted to mean Saraswati is Slayer of Vritra, or is equivalent in demon-slaying potency to Indra, Slayer of Vritra), and the All-Encompassing Imperial Grandeur and Might of Lord Varuna – with the latter being especially appropriate given Varuna as Rudra as Dyaus Pitar, as considered in my earlier article upon this subject, ‘Swear By The Sea, Swear By The Stars, Swear By The Sky’]; however we shall save that for another time.
But before we move on to our next comparative instance, I shall but briefly highlight several points from it which shall assist with the explication of these subsequent occurrences.
Fear Is The Mind Kala / A Friend Of The Mind (Who Is) Kala ;
The first of these is that what the Devas had actually asked for when approaching Lord Brahma for guidance and advice following Their defeat at the hands of the Danavas – was to be granted “freedom from Fear”. Hence Brahma directing Them to Mahadeva – Who is, after all, not only so strongly correlated with the notions of Holy Terror as to have an entire series of theonyms devoted directly to this concept [‘Bhairava’ is probably the most familiar to us], but Who also has such power over Fear as to be Chief amongst Those who can remove its salient potency and power over us. Hence the suite of Shaivite theonyms directly devoted to that concept – such as ‘Aghora’ (the opposite (‘a-‘) of terrifying [‘ghora’] – hence Shiva is both Ghora as He is Gaura , as well as being AGhora as He is Kaal [‘Gaura’ meaning ‘Fair’ or ‘White’ or ‘Pale’ ; ‘Kaal’, as we should all know by now, also meaning ‘Black’, as well as ‘Death’, and being quite a prominent Shaivite Theonym; the former is more usually associated with “Beauty”, but Night, and Kaali most definitely have Beauty all Her – And His – Own].
This is also directly relevant in a battlefield context; as, after all fear is a most potent destabilizer of armies; and panic is something that can cause or exacerbate more casualties than cannon-fire. A fact which, entirely uncoincidentally, was certainly well-known to the semi-mythic and certainly mythically resonant Harii mentioned by Tacitus in Germania. I considered this “tribe” [or, more properly, Gana] in the course of the GHOST DIVISION series written in devotion for MahaShivRatri 2019, but suffice to say that whether the Harii were the Ghost Warriors of the Germanic Afterworld and Lord of the Dead [Shiva, again, as Odin] Themselves, or ‘merely’ a particular Germanic practice or tribe of acting in conscious imitation of these … well, I’ll let Tacitus put it in his own (translated) words:
“As for the Harii, quite apart from their strength, which exceeds that of the other tribes I have just listed, they pander to their innate savagery by skill and timing: with black shields and painted bodies, they choose dark nights to fight, and by means of terror and shadow of a ghostly army they cause panic, since no enemy can bear a sight so unexpected and hellish; in every battle the eyes are the first to be conquered.”
Colonel Kurtz, it would appear, was on to something when he uttered the immortally insightful lines: “Horror! Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.”
But in any case, what we see bestowed in the course of this episode of the Brahma Purana, is the removal of Fear [Abhaya, you shall see, is one of the most prominent Mudra posings for Murtis for a reason – partially, no doubt, because the experience of being in the direct personal presence of a Deity should contain a certain measure of awe-inspiring abject terror as the ontological possibilities are parsed in the mind of the up-until-that-moment non-believer]; and thence the ‘activation’, the ‘enabling’, the ‘exciting’, the ’empowering’ and the ‘rising up’, the ‘exaltation’ [indeed, the ‘exhalation’ via the mighty roar] of the ‘Manyu’ of all the Deva’s War-Host thusly assembled.
Fear, as a certain work by Frank Herbert noted, is the “Mind-Killer”. “Mind”, in this sense somewhat correlate with “Manyu”; and reflecting the capacity for depressed morale and the paralyzing turmoil of terror to dampen one’s ardour, extinguish one’s anger, and otherwise suffocate one’s pious zeal.
Its removal – or, rather, its transcension …for it is a rare sort indeed who has no sense of fear, and probably a dead sort, too, as fear is actually there for a reason; it is just that it makes a useful servant in its proper place, but an absolutely torrid master of the psyche. Its transcension, is what enables the truly mighty deeds.
Its imposition, meanwhile, has the exact opposite impact; stultifying the mind, suppressing the will, and transfixing the limbs to make for an easy target, easy prey, easy death. Hence the mention in the course of the recounting of this particular combat, that the “Daityas and Danujas became afraid” upon the appearance of the Manyu and in prelude to their impending doom.
And in that sense, we may perhaps see that the Mani-festation of the Manyu was not solely that of a mighty warrior lord, a foremost combatant capable of carrying the day by Himself; but rather that He became the Inspirer, the Uplifter, the Empower of Those who Followed With Him. And therefore, motivated by His Holy, Heroic Example, They became more than They otherwise, to that point, were or had been. To quote more specifically from the text – “Victory, anger and heroism [-] All these originated from the splendour of the Lord”.
In this sense, while I have often eschewed fully ‘euhemeric’ interpretations of Vedic Hymnals and other Indo-European mytho-poetic or scriptural elements, as basically being about as bad as Scriptural Literalism, and often a short-hand path toward Atheism to boot … there is nevertheless a quite valid concept for the RigVedic Manyu Hymnals as having a performative element designed to raise an army’s Spirit(s) before Battle; to focus and steel the mind(s) of its warriors via the skillful recitation of the Mantras [same etymological root again] thusly contained therein. And certainly, one of the benefits of a ritual action that we know the consequential results of, is that it primes our minds for the thing that is soon to be expected of us. Even were there not the absolute anticipation of Divine Intervention – whether ‘direct’ in the form of The Manyu appearing in the host’s midst, or ‘indirect’ in the form of the metaphysical empowerment and raising of the prowess and the potency of the Sena (indeed, perhaps turning in the Eliadian Eternal Return sense, the Army into The Manyu – which would certainly explain some of the language used in some extollings thereof) – the war-spirit of the army for whom these invocations were performed would benefit. The grouping of men would be turned into a Mannerbund, individuals forged into a single body for the singular purpose and driven by the single (Imperial – ‘Imperator’ in Latin being the command of an army) will – as Tennyson put it in Ulysses: “One equal temper of heroic hearts, / […] strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
The other point to be raised heer, is that what The Manyu is asked to do by the Devas is not simply to carve a bloody path(a) through the foe singlehanded [although given that this is a Hindu deific emanation, “singlehanded” is perhaps not quite the right terming to utilize]. Even though the Devas do entreat Lord Shiva – “May we be happy by resorting to the strength of His arms” – it is part of Their Prayer for One “Who will take up command of Our army in the battle.”
And what is the faculty, the element of personhood most associated with the Command of an Army? (Not only ‘Imperator’, but also an array of Odinic theonyms and titlery are directly associated with just such a concept – Herjan, for instance) Partially, this is true, it is a function of Inspiration – and it can be as simple, in some contexts, as killing your way forward and thusly through momentum motivating others to follow along in your wake.
But in the form of Strategy, Tactics, Techniques (and, as it happens, Logistics … which is in large measure what really conditions and constrains the aformentioned) – why, it is the Mind.
The Aegis of Athena – Insight and Incitement ; Wisdom And Fear
In the Western mindset, if we were to ask someone to name a deity of strategy and the mental arts of warfare – those who didn’t just stare back blankly at us would likely almost invariably reply with one name: “Athena”. Or, if they were of a more Latinate bent, “Minerva”.
Now, it might seem more than a little curious for me to be speaking about a Goddess in the context of this piece, yet I assure you that the linkage is not only of probative interest … but quite integral. And helps to demonstrate and thence dovetail (or, if you prefer, war-hawk) two threads for the further explication of the Hindu context later in this piece.
But first … why Athena, why Minerva? Why am I not talking in great, grandiloquent detail of some of the more immediately obvious comparatives for this role in the Greco-Roman Classical Mythology? Ares, perhaps; or Bacchus/Dionysus.
And the initial answer to that is, as with so many things in Indo-European mythoreligion … what’s in a name. “Minerva” – you can see right away the etymological derivation from that “Men” particle mentioned earlier [Plato also sought to connect “Athena” to “mind” in Cratylus]. And certainly, Minerva / Athena is well-renowned and well-regarded for Her presiding over the spheres of certain mental arts. If you ask what Minerva is, many would say that She is a Goddess of Wisdom. Indeed, in many standard basic-level approaches to comparative mythography, you find Her cited as the comparative-equivalent figure to Saraswati in the Vedic reckoning. Which had always seemed a bit odd to me, up until I actually went and looked into the relevant RigVedic Hymnals on Saraswati, and found that actually, yes, Saraswati, too, was a martial Goddess, and regarded as the potent equal to Lord Indra in terms of demon-slaying. For Athena / Minerva is also clearly a War Goddess – well-armed, spear-armed, in fact [and even depicted with the Thunderbolt, so Mighty and Heavenly is She]; and presiding over Her Polis in the manner I explored some pieces ago now in “BHARAT MATA AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN DEIFIC OF NATIONAL IDENTITY”.
So rightaway, we have two of the vitally important components of The Manyu. The notion of the “War-Mind”, we might potentially call these. Yet if the “Men” particle is so integral to this Goddess, then where is it to be found within the Ancient Greek? Simple. In an integral portion of what She Does for Her Chosen champions.
Consider this line from The Iliad:
“I have put your ancestors’ unflinching ménos into your breast,
such as the shield-brandishing horseman Tydeus used to have.”
That’s Athena speaking to Diomedes [a name which directly renders as ‘Divinely Inspired/Aided’] – and the field of meaning for ‘Menos’ is almost exactly that of the Vedic ‘Manyu’. “Mind”, “Anger”, “Spirit”, “Courage”, “Power”, “Purpose”, “Desire”, “Wish”, “Motive[-]”, “[-]Force”, “Ardor”, “Passion”, “Violence”. You get the idea. It may be somewhat figurative to term it “Frenzy” [not least because in the Athenian mind this might be something a bit more associated, martially at least, with Ares; and ‘Mania’ being the term related to ‘Menos’ which might perhaps capture the sense in both the Ancient Greek and the Modern English utterances thereof], but it is not hard to see how it is directly correlate with the investment of The Manyu, and in certain regard of The Odr [Certainly, Eliade made this exact connection – including framing the “Sacred Fury” of the Nordic Berserkir as “Wut, Menos, Furor”; ‘Wut’, of course, being closely etymologically and functionally related to “Woden”].
No wonder, then, that Diomedes the spearman is regarded as being so mighty and skillful that he – and he almost alone – is capable of contending martially with Gods … and living to tell the tale. [Partially, it is interesting to note, because the ‘Menos’ of Diomedes is a purpose-based and purpose-built one. It does not lead to him carrying out reckless and unquenchable blood-lust nor hubristic heights of demi-heretical God-fighting. Rather, he does what he is Ordered, empowered, to do – and wounds Aphrodite when She takes the field in protection of Aeneas; and although he then strikes against Apollo as well, in somewhat defiance of his Orders, he does not go as far in this as he could have, and desists swiftly when reminded of the limits placed upon him; his subsequent spearing of even mighty Ares is carried out only under, again, Athena’s express Orders to do so]
And speaking briefly to the ramifications of the Odr in relation to Athena – I have long argued, although shall not do so at any great length here, that Odysseus either is a recollection of, or perhaps a ‘descent’ [‘avatara’] of, the same Indo-European Deific as Odin and Rudra. The etymology is not unrelated – the two main possibilities advanced in ancient texts being a meaning of ‘who incites anger’ [‘odussomai’], and ‘who cries out/shouts [in lamentation]’ [‘oduromai’]; so whether in form or in function, the Howling of the Storm Wind Who Invests Us With The Manyu seems most appropriate to put forward as linkage. And that is before we consider the escalating pile-up of obvious further parallels – the wanderer, who goes in disguise (particularly as an old man or an anonymized figure – ‘Otis’ / ‘Nemo’], who engages in wordplay and cunning illusory subterfuge as he infiltrates, who is a bowman possessed of just such a weapon that no other could possibly string and utilize [interestingly, something directly equivalent to this occurs in the Ramayana], who has association with both a faithful hound and the Corvid, and indeed with the Wind(s), who may appear himself to be mad, who speaks with the dead and via descent to their realm, who is capable also of using words for diplomatic purpose as well as for incitement, and so on and so forth.
Odysseus, as is well known, is a favourite of Athena; and is assisted in various manners by Her throughout the course of the Iliad and Odyssey.
Matters are further componded when we consider what else Athena has customary association with. In more recent times, these have included a capacious emphasis upon the Arts, perhaps reflecting the manner in which these are both closely correlate with, and something of an active expression of, the concept of Wisdom. This had long been present in the Roman understanding of Minerva – wherein Poetry, in particular, was thought to be within Her dominion; although it is also present in the Ancient Greek understanding. Indeed, the extolling of Athena as Athena Itonia goes rather beyond poetry, and potentially even into the Underworld – with later Roman sources speaking of what was variously identified as a deific representation of Hades, or perhaps of a Chthonian Zeus [but, then, I repeat myself in our modern understanding of Zeus-Hades-Poseidon, don’t I] appearing alongside Her and with mystical associations thereto.
So, poetry and wisdom, inspiration and empowerment, fury and violence and intellect. It is not at all hard to see how whether it is Athena, potentially bestowing Menos – or Minerva, especially when named directly as such – that The Manyu is present in both linguistics and also in legendary leadings here.
Indeed, I would go much further, and point out that we have additional evidence to more strongly support a linkage with the Shaivite-Odinic deific complex from whence The Manyu is a rather specific emanation. These include Athena being hailed as Anemotis – She with the mastery of the Winds, Who can quell devastating storms when properly asked for assistance through prayer; as Ageleia and Ageleis, which have been derived in a variety of ways including the ‘Pillager/Plunderer’ or ‘Leader to Spoils [of War]’ [‘Ago Leia’ – ‘Leitis’, in the sense of a distributor of war-won treasures also occurring as an epithet of Athena], as well as Leader of Nations [‘Agein Laous’], ‘Untameable’ [‘Agelaiai’], and ‘Protector’ [a stance mirrored in ‘Alakomeneida’ – Powerful Protector]; Avenger [‘Axiopoinos’]; Victory, and the Divine Bestower Of, particularly through Auspicious and Fortunate interventions; Roarer (and of capacious eloquence all its own therein, as well as otherwise), Rider, Spear-Thrower, or Spear-Wielder, after a certain sense the Wearer of the Cloak or Wearer of the Skin [it is something I have regarded with some smiling, the fact that the figure eponymous with Civilization and Wisdom in the popular imagination – is clad in the flayed skin of a vanquished adversary as warding; perhaps this might have some figurative linkage with the way in which a bear-skin-shirted or wolf-head-wearing raging warrior’s panoply features the trophy of the fallen formidable creature in order to totemically draw upon its prowess when in combat] [the other potential and relevant sense of one who is ‘cloaked’ being provided by the Helmet of Hades, which bestows invisibility to Her when donned and needed].
The strong medical associations of Athena / Minerva also have resonancy with those found with Rudra, an array of the RigVedic Hymnals relating to which, I have earlier written briefly about in relation also to Hermes and Odin. And speaking of those Two – it cannot be at all coincidental to find Athena also called ‘Xenia’, the Stranger/Foreigner, and implicitly a wandering sort to have come amongst the people and be requiring the Sacred Hospitality [this name, we find also affixed to Zeus, this role and function may also be found in the Vratya materials of the AtharvaVeda and elsewhere – Shiva, of course, being The Vratya, Greatest of these skin-wearing, spear-shaking, wisdom-wielding, [like-the] wind-riding ‘outlaws’]. We even find Her granting the power to understand the Language of the Birds (itself a deepa-ly embedded Indo-European mythological concept; especially in concert with the ability to perceive the Future – granted to the same guy by Her in compensation for taking His eyesight …trading the mundane eye for in-sight you might say – now Who does that remind you of! Crow-talking and all!). There is further speculation which could be mounted in relation to ‘Agoraea’ [understood as protector of the Agora, and likely the people of/ therein; an epithet and function shared with Zeus, with Hermes, and with Artemis; and which would presumably derive either from the political (and social) integrality of the Agora to the Polis, or the commercial element (Odin, too, possesses something relating to more conventional commerce rather just than the exchange of spear-point for blood and bounteous plunder; Hermes is even more direct in such a linkage), or perhaps even, as may have been the case with Artemis [Who we may, perhaps, also be meeting later via Vedic comparative expression], a patron denizen and protectress of the Open Spaces]; but I suspect I have made at least part of my point.
Now there are two further elements which we must consider before we move on to the Genesis of Tritogeneia.
The first of these is the Eyes. It is said in certain proverbs that these are the proverbial ‘windows to the soul’ – and certainly, the notion that the Eyes are the ‘true-seeing’ manner in which to divine the true nature, is well ensconsed. After all, it is said in the Rigsthula that one of the identifying marks of the Jarl Caste, even from infancy, is to be found exactly there(in): ”ötul váru augu sem yrmlingi.” – “Flashing/Flaring, his eyes like a young dragon’s shon”. We also find the possession of a third eye, bestowing supernatural insight, as a characteristic of Shiva – and also, in a slightly less visually obvious sense, the highly proficient Shaivite Devotee. This Third Eye can bring about Destruction (such as when Shiva utilized it to burn KamaDeva – Love – to ashes) – and in a way, this is also ‘Deconstruction’, as it shows what is not true, what is not really there … by burning away the illusion – and therefore leaving only what things really are. In terms of these ‘Flaring Eyes’, these ‘Blazing Eyes’ and I do not (necessarily) mean the red-eyes of one who has partaken of cannabis nor the excessively wide-eyes of one fired-up on methamphetamine – we find this, too, in direct reference to Odin. Baleygr stands as the most prominent example; and the notion of the Eye That Sees True, far-sighted also from the Golden Throne is his, too.
But how does this pertain to Athena?
Well, for a start, some of Her more frequent theonymic citations in ancient Greek verse are incredibly similarly phrased – focusing upon Her Eyes, Blazing Eyes and otherwise remarkable opthalmic characteristics. This may also help to explain why She had attained such strong coterminity of association with the Owl – which, other than the Dragon (whose eyes are also renowned to be powerful, potent, and perspicacious beyond most mortal measure (hence the etymology of the word from Ancient Greek) – and often quite hypnotic, into the bargain as well … but more on that in a moment), would probably be one of the more prominent Eye creatures in the ancient Greek mythopoetic imagination and symbological lexicon.
Yet the essential characteristic is not Athena’s alone – it is also one which She bestows upon chosen empowered devotee favourites. Witness what happens when She grants the Menos to Diomedes (the ‘Divinely Guided’, or ‘Divinely Clever/Wise’). ‘Flame’ is depicted as coruscating from his Helm and from his Head (recall what I had mentioned around PIE ‘Bheh’ earlier, in reference to the ‘glow’ of one subject to the Divine Inspiration; and also the manner in which Shiva’s Third Eye is blazing and burns what it beheld when He is Wrathful; and also the Bale-Eye of Odin). And then, again, when She responds to the prayer of Diomedes, “good at the war-cry”. We shall quote:
“So spake he in prayer, and Pallas Athene heard him, and made his limbs light, his feet and his hands above; and she drew near to his side and spake to him winged words: “Be of good courage now, Diomedes, to fight against the Trojans, for in thy breast have I put the might of thy father, the dauntless might, such as the horseman Tydeus, wielder of the shield, was wont to have. And the mist moreover have I taken from thine eyes that afore was upon them, to the end that thou mayest well discern both god and man.”
So, as we can see, the investiture of the Menos by Athena to Diomedes has lead to his seeing the world far more as it actually is. The stream of fiery-vision, as Athena also may be said to possess, being now, too, the characteristic of Her Chosen Champion upon the field of war. Indeed, these attributes help Diomedes to do the otherwise unthinkable – to contend directly with not one, not two, but three other Gods in reasonable succession, managing to drive even Ares from the battlefield through a truly inspired spear-casting.
Truly, this is a man in whom the Manyu is most wisely invested!
But there is one final ‘eye’ element which we should look at when writing this comparative mythography of Athena in relation to Shiva. And that is a set of eyes, or at least a visage, which is most definitely in Goddess Athena’s possession … yet are not Hers. Those being the eyes and surrounding horrifying face of the Medusa.
Except leaving aside the in-legendarium occurence of the Medusa, wherein Athena curses a particular woman to bear the petrifying appearance, there is actually quite a lot more going on with the Medusa, the Gorgoneion, particularly in relation to Athena [yet also, upon occasion, Zeus] than many might otherwise realize.
Look at the words. Look at the terms. Look at the etymology – and the function. There are two ‘kernels’ here – ‘Medusa’ and ‘Gorgoneion’. The latter is applied to a terrifying face that is found upon a shield. I believe that the root of this term, ‘gorgos’, which means a ‘grim’ expression of terrifying and fierce saliency … is likely to be the same as the Sanskrit ‘Ghora’ [‘घोर’] – a well attested quality and theonymic of Rudra, which means The Terrible, The Terrifying. The Proto-Indo-European underpinning for which, Ghowros, other than sounding like a certain appropriately wide-eyed Klingon grimr, effectively means “To Be Angry[looking]”. So, in other words, the Gorgoneion is a ‘War-Face’ – and one which is borne by the warrior of terrifying potency storming into combat. Just as the Ghora ‘facing’ of Shiva-Rudra is known to us, and is particularly apt for the description of the various War Forms of this deific expression – And His Wife [but more upon Her more directly, in due course]. And just as the ‘vehemency’ and clear expression of the rage and martial potency of the Ghora Deva, is strongly in line with what is meant by “Manyu”. It is not hard to see how confronting such a panic-inducing visage would lead quite naturally to the enemy becoming petrified – not so much in the literally intended sense (at least, at first), as in the other sense which the term enjoys even in modern English: that of becoming frozen to the spot and utterly unable to act due to the nerves becoming overwhelmed through sheer terror. [There is also another potential etymological underpinning for ‘Gorgos’ – that of the same ultimate root as the Sanskrit Garjana … which would mean Roaring, Thunder(ing); as we shall see, these characteristics are also extremely well attested for Devi Athena; and are also, quite clearly, strongly correlate with Rudra; as well as being an obvious quality for Zeus, and an attested quality also for Odin; although in terms of whether the underlying meaning for ‘Gorgos’ should be ‘Angry[faced]’ or ‘Roaring/Thunder[ing]’, I can but say that if somebody comes toward you with Thunderous Expression, you know exactly what it is that this means – as is also the case when we behold the oncoming face of the Thunder Cloud in tense anticipation of Her Harsh Winds And Lightning … very very frightening!]
A similar pattern may potentially play out with the underlying root of “Medusa” – wherein the reconstructive etymology is suggested to lead back through ‘Medo’ – to protect, to rule; from Proto-Indo-European ‘Med’, which can also mean to counsel or advise. We have earlier met, as it happens, another likely derivative of this form in “Diomedes”, in multiple senses of the term, above – and even though in theory these are both from somewhat different PIE roots again, the Sanskrit ‘Medha’ [‘wisdom’, ‘mental faculty’, ‘knowledge’, ‘insight’, ‘guidance’] and Ancient Greek ‘Metis’ [‘cunning’, ‘counsel’, ‘plan’, ‘insight’, ‘mental capacity’], I would consider to be so closely linked in concept to each other, as well as to what is meant by the earlier “Menos” as to form a natural sphere and closely aligned spectrum, all of which act in natural concert with “Medo” of which we have just (re) met.
And that leads us on quite handily to Athena’s Parentage. Which is one portion Zeus, and the other – a figure by the name of Metis, a titaness who came to be regarded as an embodiment of the conceptry of ‘wise counsel’, (supernatural) cunning (as in, cunning in the area of the supernatural – hence why she is ascribed with providing Zeus with the concept and the means of execution to force Kronus to vomit forth His offspring; which may, in fact, form a doublet of the myth of the genesis of Athena, just as Cronus all-up does for Zeus), and deep thought. Which makes it rather peculiar that Zeus would be able to so easily do as He did to her, placing her in such a situation as to consume her and end her independent existence in a bid to avoid her giving birth to a more potent offspring than He … but, as they say, perhaps love really does make even the sharpest and most otherwise wise and perspicacious of us into fools. Hence, perhaps, why Shiva had Him [Kamadeva] shot on sight.
However, I suspect that there is actually something else going on here.
Now, in order to explain this, we must go back to the Vedas – always, we go back to the Vedas. Except, not quite; not so directly, in this instance – for it is within the Brahmana commentary-layer which appends the Vedas in both time and exegesis that we are looking. Specifically, the Shatapatha Brahmana accounting for the reasoning underpinning our performance of the SataRudriya [‘Satisfaction of Sri Rudra’; although more literally, the rite of the glorification and sacrifice to the ‘Hundred forms of Rudra’] Rite found in the Yajurveda. It is important to note that the Shatapatha Brahmana, while an important guide for the operation and underlying purpose of Vedic ritual, is nevertheless a text set down quite some centuries after the earlier layers of the Vedas Themselves upon which it is commenting. And that it is certainly possible for some elements to have ‘shifted’ in expression slightly – not least when we consider that all of what I am about to say has been filtered through the lenses of English-language translation – over that period. Nevertheless, the similarities with the Greek theological materials we shall consider immediately following are resounding.
Quoth the Shatapatha Brahmana:
“6. And as to why he performs the Satarudriya offering. When Pragâpati had become disjointed, the deities departed from him. Only one god did not leave him, to wit, Manyu (wrath): extended he remained within. He (Pragâpati) cried, and the tears of him that fell down settled on Manyu. He became the hundred-headed, thousand-eyed, hundred-quivered Rudra. And the other drops that fell down, spread over these worlds in countless numbers, by thousands; and inasmuch as they originated from crying (rud), they were called Rudras (roarers). That hundred-headed, thousand-eyed, hundred-quivered Rudra, with his bow strung, and his arrow fitted to the string, was inspiring fear, being in quest of food. The gods were afraid of him.
7 They spake unto Pragâpati ‘We are afraid of this one, lest he should hurt us!’ He spake, ‘Gather food for him, and appease him therewith!’ They gathered for him that food, the Satarudriya (offering), and thereby appeased him; and inasmuch as they thereby appeased (sam) the hundred-headed (satasîrsha) Rudra, it is called Satasîrsharudrasamanîya,–and satasîrsharudrasamanîya, doubtless, is what they mystically call Satarudriya, for the gods love the mystic. And in like manner does this (Sacrificer) now gather for him that food, the Satarudriya, and appease him thereby.”
Or, to provide a more succinct synopsis in light of our earlier aforementioned Manyu-myth typology – what we have here is the AllFather [a slightly figurative rendition for ‘Prajapati’], experiencing a powerful emotional state [‘Manyu’], and thence via the expression via the eyes we see The Manyu appear, or emanate – Who is described as Roaring, Well-Armed, Terrifying, even above other Gods, and to Whom one ought to be making offerings, oblations, sacrifice.
Now, our minds refreshed of that – let us consult the rather more recent Ancient Greek verses upon the subject:
Pindar, circa 464 BC in his 7th Olympian Ode spake thusly:
“Disturbances of the mind lead astray even a wise man. Tlepolemus went and sought the god’s oracle. To him the golden-haired god spoke, from his fragrant sanctuary, of a voyage by ship from the shore of Lerna straight to the pasture land with sea all around it, where once the great king of the gods showered the city with golden snow, when, by the skills of Hephaestus with the bronze-forged hatchet, Athena leapt from the top of her father’s head and cried aloud with a mighty shout. The Sky and mother Earth shuddered before her. Then even the god that brings light to mortals, son of Hyperion, enjoined his dear children to observe the obligation that was soon to be due: that they should be the first to build for the goddess an altar visible to all men, and by founding a sacred burnt-offering warm the spirit of the father and of the daughter who thunders with her spear. She who casts excellence and joys into men is the daughter of Forethought, Reverence.”
And lest Pindar be accused of ‘invention’ in this matter, here is the 28th Homeric Hymnal – also to Athena, and composed perhaps three centuries earlier:
“I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia.
Wise Zeus himself bare her from his awful head, arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed.
But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear: great Olympus began to reel horribly at the might of the bright-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athena had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders.
And wise Zeus was glad.
And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember you and another song as well.”
Or, to go back somewhat further, Hesiod in his Theogony:
“But Zeus himself gave birth from his own head to bright-eyed Tritogeneia, the awful, the strife-stirring, the host-leader, the unwearying, the queen, who delights in tumults and wars and battles. But Hera without union with Zeus — for she was very angry and quarrelled with her mate — bare famous Hephaestus, who is skilled in crafts more than all the sons of Heaven.
But Hera was very angry and quarrelled with her mate. And because of this strife she bare without union with Zeus who holds the aegis a glorious son, Hephaestus, who excelled all the sons of Heaven in crafts. But Zeus lay with the fair-cheeked daughter of Ocean and Tethys apart from Hera…deceiving Metis (Thought) although she was full wise. But he seized her with his hands and put her in his belly, for fear that she might bring forth something stronger than his thunderbolt: therefore did Zeus, who sits on high and dwells in the aether, swallow her down suddenly. But she straightway conceived Pallas Athene: and the father of men and gods gave her birth by way of his head on the banks of the river Trito. And she remained hidden beneath the inward parts of Zeus, even Metis, Athena’s mother, worker of righteousness, who was wiser than gods and mortal men. There the goddess (Athena) received that whereby she excelled in strength all the deathless ones who dwell in Olympus, she who made the host-scaring weapon of Athena. And with it (Zeus) gave her birth, arrayed in arms of war.”
Interestingly, the next section is relevant to Poseidon – roaring, earth-shaking Poseidon, and His Issue – Triton. The underlying similarity with Tritogeneia – the name used in the immediately preceding section to introduce Athena – has never been quite satisfactorily explained; although the lead theories include some linkage to a physical river by the name of Trito(n) in Boeotia near one of Her leading sanctuaries; or perhaps more likely that it is another ‘Trito’ that means “Head” in the relevant language – therefore rendering Athena Tritogeneia as Athena Whose Genesis Was From The Head. However, it has also been suggested that the epithet might stem from Her, in some sources such as Apollodorus, being raised by Triton – or, more interestingly, mention by Pausanias of Athena as actually being the child of Tritonis [in this case, a female water figure] and Poseidon … which would be odd, considering the well-known rivalry between Poseidon and Athena in some rather important areas – although rather less odd when we recall that Poseidon and Zeus are, in archaic origins, functionally almost the same deific, and certainly running off what is fundamentally the same (Proto)Indo-European Deific Complex: That of Dyaus Pitar, the Sky Father (and cognizant, of course, that the Sky is also Sea in that most ancient form of our underlying Cosmology).
But I have digressed again. And it is necessary to swiftly return to chartered course so that we may have due space to encompass also the next Facings of this Mighty God(dess)!
As applies those three Ancient Greek sources and how they compare to our Shatapatha Brahmana excerpt, the resonances should be immediately – indeed, with deference to Great Zeus, perhaps near-skull-poundingly apparent.
In each case, what we see is the same – this ‘Manyu’ figure emerges well-armed, terrifying, the frightener even of all the rest of the Gods and world; (S)He comes forth from the (fore)head of the Great God, with a mighty and resounding Roar, a war-cry most formidable; following the seizing of the mind of said Great God by this curious mental element – the Manyu, the Metis. And what happens then? Well, in the Pindar source it is clearest (other than in the Shatapatha Brahmana, of course), although you can also divine same in the Homeric Hymnal – the Roaring and Wrathful Athena is placated, via sacrificial offering or other means (perhaps including Her enjoying the terror and the tumult which She has produced out there in the world, in the latter), and becomes calmer, removing Her Armour – Her Spear, just as Rudra’s Arrows in the relevant Vedic Hymnal, turning auspicious and “casting excellent and joys” into the minds and hearts of men rather than devastation and death.
What this means, of course, is that the ‘Metis’ of which Zeus was previously so enamoured, and which provided such cunning insight and clever potency to Him … may be a concept much like the Manyu in the former part of that Shatapatha Brahmana excerpt, or the Odr we have previously met. A ‘mental element’, a ‘mood’, a ‘faculty’ (and, indeed, there is another occurrence of a non-personified ‘Metis’ in relation to Zeus as Ruler that is directly relevant here – the ‘Royal Metis’); which has been garbed in a personhood (perhaps unsurprising given a meaning-field of ‘spirit’ for the Sanskrit comparative) as a titaness and a sexual conquest, indeed a first queen, a wife, of Zeus; rather than the deliberately more ambiguous phrasing of the Shatapatha Brahmana, wherein the Manyu that is within Prajapati and which thence leads to the expression out via the Eye(s) of The Manyu seems to be the labeling of an emotional state and mental condition as the surface manifestation of something inexorably, ineffably Deepa. [In either case, there is likely something to be said for the concept of ‘working up a rage’ and having time to think up a solution – as this appears to be what produces the armaments of Athena, via the handiworks of the Metis, a phrasing we might perhaps coin as a hammering in the temples]
It is outright impossible, I feel, to look at all of this above evidence and not come to the inescapable conclusion that all four sources, and then some, are actually describing the same event – the same mythological point of incredible saliency and relevancy for the Ancient Indo-European (Wo)Man.
Which leads us to two rather obvious points of observation. First, that it appears, most curiously, that the Ancient Greeks effectively had concepts almost directly analogous to the Third Eye so prominent within Hinduism. This is somewhat obscured via the manner in which these have manifested in all of the above – and it is, to be sure, only in the later Sanskrit literature that it actually congeals into its easily recognizable form within Hinduism as well. But the notion of emanation out through the Eye(s), of destruction coming out through the Eye(s) [which, to be sure, is also what the expression of this Wrathful Deity out via the Eye(s) has as tangible impact), and also of Insight – seeing things as they actually are … well, Zeus’s Forehead, Athena’s Blazing Eyes, the Visage of the Gorgon/Medusa (as borne aloft by Athena, and in the former case, also Zeus in particular), the Head and Clear Vision of Diomedes as bestowed by Athena (and interestingly, a rather similar manifestation for Achilles courtesy of the same Goddess – perhaps there might be something for a future piece to be explored in Her touching the nape of his neck as this occurs, in terms of the ascent of the Kundalini serpent, the Shakti [force/power/empowerment] going up the spinal column, and in this particular case toward the area adjacent to the Vishuddhi Chakra .. but that is another speculation for another time).
And second, that there appears to have been one rather obvious difference between the Ancient Greek understanding of this myth, and the aforementioned specific Vedic one (there are, as we shall shortly see, others…). That being the gender of the emanation in question.
Now, it is tempting to advance various ‘surface-level’ speculations for this. To presume that what we are seeing is a situation wherein the Greek accounting has ‘diverged’ and produced a female Divine Warrior rather than a male one; for reasons that are almost incidental to the actual core and elemental substance of the myth. This is not to say that these are ‘accidents’, but rather to impute a certain ‘less than pure’ motivation thereto. Probably the most obvious one of these is the idea that the Greeks had backed themselves into a proverbial corner with their ‘doubling up’ of Ouranos and Kronos, Kronos and Zeus – and therefore knew that a Divine Son of Zeus was an impossibility within their mythic schema, because of course this would lead to yet another cycle of Uprising against the suppressive Father-Lord [‘Pati’, in Sanskrit; ‘Patriarch’, perhaps more directly in English, and combining both words]. Which we have a direct mention of when it comes to why Zeus is supposed to have consumed Metis in the first place (and it is, as noted earlier, one of those further ironies that the potion provided by the Metis is what leads to Kronos vomiting forth Zeus’ siblings; just as it is a further odd irony that some sources have Ouranos providing the advice to Zeus to consume Metis in the first place]. To avoid just such a situation [although one could, perhaps, argue that the rivalry between Poseidon and Athena in some certain aspects may perhaps recall this typology regardless].
Yet I don’t think that’s right; and for several interleavened reasons. One of which being that as the Metis is also regarded as female, it makes a certain logical sense that the divine figure directly descended and in a sense emanated from the Metis, Who Herself bestows Menos, Metis to the Warrior, the King, and the Sage and Poet … would also be female. It therefore makes, in a certain sense, what happens when one of these leaders of men gets a cunning idea and a flashing enlightenment, an act of Eliadian ‘eternal return’ and mythic recurrence/mythic resonancy for Zeus getting the thought to provide Kronos with the potion, or other such occurrences, perhaps. But better, because unlike Zeus, the bearer of the thought is not above the source of Inspiration – and therefore the individual human is unable to attempt to consume/suppress/singularly-possess nor even attempt to outright destroy this source. And woe betide the man who tries. Mortal skulls do not tend to be nearly so amenable to being hit repeatedly with an axe.
But the other, and vitally more important, is that we have directly comparable Vedic and later Hindu attestations for pretty much this concept – these concepts – in pointedly Female expression and essence. Indeed, given the nature of these … it shall rather rapidly become apparent that They could not be any way else.
‘A ROARING COMES ACROSS THE SKY’ – THE SHOUTING ARRIVAL OF THE SPEAR-TONGUE
There are many ways in which we could begin this section, picking up upon the thread that we have been tracing the trail of right the way from the beginning of the article within the realms of ‘Mind’.
We could have gone for the functional parallel with the Metis mentioned as the Mother of Mighty Athena – wherein, were you to ask a Hindu about a concept of the wife of a great God as an empowerer and insight-/potency-granter for Same, there would be an instant familiarity. Even in the notion of said wife forming part of the form of the great God in question – although as applies the most prominent instance of this, the Ardhanarishvara Shared Aspect of Shiva & Devi Parvati, it is a partnership in the truest sense of the term, and is on a decidedly equal footing. Indeed, “Ardhanarishvara” as a theonym directly means the God-Emperor Who Is Half Woman. Which, lest this be misinterpreted as some modern sources with Westoxifying agendas would perhaps quite like to do – is a married couple whose integrality of essence and purpose is so complete as to be an effective Unity. Quite a contrast, in many ways, to any of Zeus’s marriages as attested in the Greek legendarium that imminently spring to mind.
We could also have gone with the more direct application of our earlier-congealed Manyu mythic typology; and examined the many and various occurrences within the realms of the Shakta theological corpus of flaming-eyed most-formidable ultimate-warrior/destructor/avenger forms of the Goddess, emerging from the Third Eye or Face/Brows of the Devi, and proceeding to lay waste to entire armies of demons singlehandledly (something which also has close coterminity with the position and role of Athena as the prime champion of the Gods against the Giants in some previous ‘chaoskampf’ style conflict – hence where She acquired that marvelous mantle, the cloak of flayed skin which She wears as Her impervious Aegis), and channeling righteous rage and full-throated fury toward the proper protection and upholding of pious rites and their bearers.
But personally, I prefer to go for the throat. Which, in this context, is where the Vishuddhi Chakra is – the place where Purified Speech shouts forth, roaring, from the Akasha, and Shiva is also said to dwell. It is also where we find perhaps the most integral expression of all to be radiating from, via our mouths – the means and the mechanism via which all this capacious Insight, and Inspiring Verse, Potent Poetry, Glimmering Understanding, and Thunderously Wrathful War-Cry, is actually communicated.
I am speaking, of course, of Speech. That force which, in our reckoning, creates, maintains, empowers, upholds, and ultimately rules the Universe.
Now we have already briefly addressed some core Indo-European mytho-poetic conceptry around Speech, particularly in a sacral or otherwise Divinely oriented or ‘guided’ context. How the ‘voice’ we speak with in such realms is rarely one that is largely or even entirely our own. Perhaps, when we are reciting ancient ritual mantras, we are speaking in words which allow us to borrow some of the might and the majesty of those far more illustrious predecessors of ours who first set them down. Maybe, we even hear the not-so-subtle echo of them, and Gods Aswell (insofar as the two clades can meaningfully be distinguished at least some of the time), speaking, chanting alongside us – expressing Themselves out through our Mouths. And certainly, in the Eliadian ‘Eternal Return’ / Mythic Recurrence / Mythic Resonancy sense, the idea is veer-y much that we are no longer simply ourselves … but are rather speaking with the face, the mask, the grimr, the standing after a certain measure upon us that is that of the legendary figure rather than just ourselves down here, merely human, alone.
This is also the case with the Furor Poeticus concept – wherein the Divine Spark of Inspiration, even though it is not necessarily channelling something pre-existingly known to us for our ‘recitation’, is nevertheless passing on through us something from the Above, the Upplands, On High. Truthful-speaking, and trenchant insight which endures, because it resonates with something far greater than a simple human sentence of even the finest English could ever hope to achieve.
And, in its way, it is also the case with the impartment of the martial prowess upon others, or other forms of their consequent empowerment in many cases – the speech, the externalized expression, transmits the energy, the insight, the potency, the understanding, and the hearer, the bearer, is risen up in overt and implicit response to same. This is partially why the phenomenon of the war-cry [an element of intrinsic immanence to every expression of the deific complex under discussion above) is so relevant here – because it is something which goes out from somewhere within ourselves (whether that is truly where it has its actual seeded origination), via the mouth, and then returns into our brain via our own ears – and also enters into the minds of others on our side and joined in our cause who are similarly listening. It is an integral part, whether it is a stirring speech or a simple transmission of the wisdom which helps us to see better and differently, of making the Mannerbund, and thence rallying it to combined action as a single effective body (of men – thinking beings, spirits, ‘minds’, as we beheld much earlier toward the outset of this stream).
Frantz Fanon memorably observed that “To speak . . . means above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization”. He was right, of course – but we go further. Speaking is how we bring not only ourselves, but also others like us into our culture, our civilization; it is how much more than just mortal civilization is supported and propagated on down the ages, as well. Not for nothing do we find it so frequently the case within ancient Indo-European cultures that the demarcation between who is part of one’s community, versus who is not – is one of Speech. Whether in the Arya – Mleccha duality, wherein the former connoted also the ability to properly participate in and uphold the rites and community functions … whereas the latter wasn’t even so much concerned with knowledge of these, so much as the ‘jabbering’ of their speech rendering them inable and ineligible to do likewise. Or the Greek (and, curiously enough, later Sanskrit as well) terms akin to “Barbarian”, wherein the “Ba-Ba” sound of the ‘uncivilized’ folk to their north was held to be the distinguishing characteristic (inter alia) of a proud and proper man from a pseudo-animalistic savage. Even in recent times this has persisted – whether in the case of the markings of accent and dialect and the BBC Received Pronunciation being enough to elevate somebody of almost any appearance (to the extent that Susan Boyle’s singing-voice renders her an apparent angel) to that of a certain proximity to the cultural or even political ‘elite’. Or in the Planet of the Apes, wherein the roles are both reversed and not – a man standing up to speak aloud causing instant re-evaluation of his beyond-even-barbaric status from the point of view of the Apes.
Yet it can also go ‘the other way’ as well. And while one of the delightful simple and to the (spear-)point idioms in the Germanic culturo-linguistic spheres is the reference to the non-Germanic peoples as not even something as refine as “people who can’t speak like we do”, but rather the considerably more sharply direct “Walking [soon-to-be] Dead”/’Prey’/’Targets’ [‘Walhaz’] … what I actually seek to draw the reader’s attention to is a rather curious set of ethnonyms promulgated by the Baltic, Finnish, and other generally non-Germanic tribes to demarcate their terrifyingly warlike neighbours.
They are built around the particle “Vac”, and the curious thing about this is that given the strong archaic Indo-European linguistic affinity of the Baltic languages in particular, this would therefore seem to suggest that the way these groupings referred to the raiding Germanic/Nordic folk as being, in a sense, ‘those who Speak’. Although given the situational context, the actual meaning of these terms is much more plausibly reconstructive as something akin to “the War-Cry[ers]” – or, as I have occasionally preferred to render it, from their imagined perspective … “Speech To Run Away From Really Fast”. “[War-] Speakers” would also have a certain undeniable resonancy. Not least in terms of the manner in which it appears likely that the Nordic/Germanic men in question made an active weapon of Speech. Whether in the form of the aforementioned War-Cries and their likely psychological impact upon each of friend and prey; or in the form of spoken charms and prayers, some of which may have come down to us in the later-recorded Nordic scriptural materials – which may even, come to think of it, find some degree of resonancy as well in some of the War-Charms and War-Hymns of the Vedas, or find their echoes in those of other Indo-European scriptural and liturgical canons.
But To Speak of upholding, empowering – and striking down upon them with great vengeance and Furorius Ugra – is to speak of Vak.
And it is to Her Great Hymnal that we shall now turn – to declare loudly as we may speak with heroes in assembly.
RigVeda X 125 – The DeviSukta [Griffith Translation]
“1. I TRAVEL with the Rudras and the Vasus, with the Ādityas and All-Gods I wander.
I hold aloft both Varuṇa and Mitra, Indra and Agni, and the Pair of Aśvins.
2 I cherish and sustain high-swelling Soma, and Tvaṣṭar I support, Pūṣan, and Bhaga.
I load with wealth the zealous sacrificer who pours the juice and offers his oblation
3 I am the Queen, the gatherer-up of treasures, most thoughtful, first of those who merit worship.
Thus Gods have stablished me in many places with many homes to enter and abide in.
4 Through me alone all eat the food that feeds them,—each man who sees, brewhes, hears the word outspoken
They know it not, but yet they dwell beside me. Hear, one and all, the truth as I declare it.
5 1, verily, myself announce and utter the word that Gods and men alike shall welcome.
I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him a sage, a Ṛṣi, and a Brahman.
6 I bend the bow for Rudra that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion.
I rouse and order battle for the people, and I have penetrated Earth and Heaven.
7 On the world’s summit I bring forth the Father: my home is in the waters, in the ocean.
Thence I extend o’er all existing creatures, and touch even yonder heaven with my forehead.
8 I breathe a strong breath like the wind and tempest, the while I hold together all existence.
Beyond this wide earth and beyond the heavens I have become so mighty in my grandeur.”
To explain but briefly what is going on within this Hymnal – the Goddess Vak [Speech, especially Divine Speech] is directly relating Her theological role and function to the hearer. Indeed, that is meant rather literally – the traditional authorship ascribed to this hymnal is the Devi Herself. To me, this is the core of so much of what we believe, and it is at the understandable heart of the Shakta theological canon. For those reasons, it is also reproduced in various subsequent forms and references interspersed throughout the notable works thereof. These include its occurrence, as mentioned much earlier in this piece, immediately prior to the Manyu Hymns in the Atharva Veda. A placement which I had stated I did not at all believe to be coincidental.
This is because, as an integral part of the range of empowerments and essences thusly ascribed by and to Her, we have those which immediately presage the role and function of The Manyu within the Hindu pantheon. As well as other intriguing elements, chiefly from a cosmological and metaphysical perspective, which further align with what we have earlier discussed.
As you shall recall, The Manyu is an emanation or form of Rudra, an incredibly fearsome and formidable War God, often invoked in the protection of hallowed piety – the sites, enactors, and even the concepts themselves, of our religion; and which may also act as the empowerer, the inspirer, and frequently the overarching commander of the war-hosts of the Vedic People(s) and Pantheon, in service of the Divine Sovereign and DevaRajya.
As you shall also recall, the concept of The Manyu links most strongly with the Nordic notion of the Odr [a key element under the aegis of Odin], which manifests itself both as the Furor Teutonicus battle-ferocity – but also as the Furor Poeticus form of Divine Inspiration in the skald’s art, the poet’s proficiency, perhaps even the theologian’s conjuring of more subtle weapons in the ongoing Dharma-Yuddha War.
And as we have seen, in the figure of Athena (and, to be sure, Odin), the Deity Who is the most fearsome and often loudly roaring warrior, is just as capable of working through humans and others who have been Divinely Empowered or Inspired or Guided in either, especially both ways. The Brahmin’s carrying out of the proper rites and offerings is no less essential, after all, to a truly existential conflict than the Kshatriya’s martial exercises. And the truly gifted – such as Lord Brihaspati – are able to wield both, effectively as one.
Now, examine these lines from the Griffith translation:
“I make the man I love exceeding mighty, make him a sage, a Ṛṣi, and a Brahman.
I bend the bow for Rudra that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion.
I rouse and order battle for the people, and I have penetrated Earth and Heaven.”
Or, in the Rao translation:
“Whomsoever I choose, I render him an exalted one, make him a ṛṣi, make him Brahman or make him highly intelligent.
I bend the bow (to fasten the bow string at its ends) for Rudra, to slay the tormenting, Brahman-hating enemy.
I wage war against (hostile) men (to protect the praying ones); I have pervaded the Heaven and Earth.”
Here we have all of these competencies directly stated. The empowering of a man to produce an Inspired speaker of the holy words, a diviner of the sacred verses, and a perceiver of what is actually there [hence to be able to do so, inter alia]. The empowering, also, of a terrific war-deity as protector against the “hater of devotion” [and it is interesting that Brihaspati, as I mentioned earlier, as both Sage/Poet and Bow-equipped Defender of the Faith, with His Bow-string being Rta, Cosmic Order, Herself – is Rudra, and therefore the hypostasis of both Vak-supported competencies in One; it is also interesting to note that the ‘Humkara’ – a vocalized expression of piety for us, is translatable, as well, as the twanging of a bow-string]. As applies the line pertaining to ‘Making War for the People’, there is some deliberate ambiguity in the translation – it is possible to render it in the less direct ‘inspiration and command’ sense, as Griffith has here; and it is also possible to portray a rather more actively engaged Champion Who is carrying out much of the fighting Herself. The truth is that the answer is almost certainly intended to be ‘both’, particularly at once, and especially in the company of Her Husband, referred to in the immediately previous line. The Couple That Slays Together, Stays Together – even if there might be an interregnum in the middle, somewhat, as we shall see a little later in this piece.
There is more, so much more, that should be extolled in exegesis about this Hymnal and its accompanying theological and mythopoetic saliency – hence why it has formed such a cornerstone for many of my previous works, where I’ve done much exactly that. It is not reproduced here.
But before we move on to several further (and briefer) RigVedic verses of direct relevancy for this illustrative exposition, there is one rather curious point which does demand additional examination from the DeviSukta. That concerns the mention of ‘bringing forth the (All)Father” upon the World’s Summit; which is rendered in the Rao translation of th same line : “I bring forth the paternal (heaven – abode of the manes) upon the crown (brows) of (this Supreme Being)”. Now, it would be tempting to insistently read, in the manner that Rao has implied, this as a statement of mythic geography and cosmology – with a functional element in the form of what the Realm of the Forefathers actually does: provide a seed and derivation-chain for the rest of sapient life. However while that is not necessarily an inaccurate understanding, it should be read both in the context of other translations which emphasize that it is the AllFather Himself being thusly emanated at the highest point of the then-Universe; and also the veer-y next part of Rao’s translation of the verse, wherein the (meta)physical location is, itself (or, perhaps, ‘Himself’) held to be at the forehead of the Cosmic Man, the AllFather.
You know – exactly where it appears that The Metis took up residence within Zeus [i.e. where a Third Eye allows Wisdom or Insight or Inspiration to Get In to the skull); and exactly where we also see the emanation out again of the tangible results, the expressed outpourings thereof (such as The Manyu, or Athena). Which, in this relatively positive case, is either the Great God in particular – and this would square rather well with the concept of Rudra emanating into the universe via the Third Eye of Prajapati ; or it is a generalized concept of the ancestral source of all life – either concept, and especially both (this may help to explain why Yama’s Realm is up there, where the Ancestors go back to, in archaic Vedic cosmology), being strongly underpinned also by the ensuing verse around the Wind which Vak breathes forth as empowering ‘breath of life’ for the worlds and their denizens. Perhaps there is even a place for the RigVedic Hymnal’s notation that Vak has exceeded the Heaven and the Earth in Her Grandeur, in the Greek accountings of Ouranos and Earth telling Zeus to consume the Metis – an inversion of what is meant in the original Sanskrit , to suggest that maybe Heaven and Earth aren’t too happy about that, and hence demand some form of obviating of the Glory of She. But that is simple speculation upon my part as to why the Greek iteration appears to have some of the same details, yet get them almost precisely around the wrong way. Albeit with what is intended in this mighty Hymnal never truly being entirely suppressed – as can be seen by Hesiod’s treatment elsewhere in his work on the figure of Hekate, especially in relation to Zeus … and most resoundingly, for our purposes, the manner in which Athena Herself does not suffer to be ‘forgotten about’ within the well-protected and akashic confines of Zeus’ Skull.
The last point I shall make before we move on, is that within the first lines of this remarkable RigVedic Hymnal, we do not simply see the idle notion of Vak Devi merely happening to walk alongside an arbitrary grouping of male Gods. Rather, the senses in which She engages with these deities – Who include within Their number, the powerful Sky Gods, Warriors and Wise Ones – is actually more in the sense of an onrushing Advance. A Vanguard, a Leading Edge. A premier position amidst the RudraGana and the Vasu Aspects of Dyaus Pitar, the Solar Lords, and others besides. When She states that She “holds aloft” or “supports” the “foe-destroying Tvaśtṛ, Pūśan and Bhaga” (as the Rao translation emphatically puts it), I suspect that in part what we might be witnessing is a subtle shade of that much-earlier enunciated Jung concept – the Ergreiffen ‘Seizing’/’Holding’ of Them; as we should expect the deific concept underlying to do. Indeed, it is interesting to observe that in the next line, this degree of ‘control’ goes even further – to the point that, given Her role not only in Inspiring the composition of the prayerful rites’ verses, but also in Guiding Their sacred enactment, and ultimately delivering Their fruitful outcome – that She Makes The Rains Run On Time. As well as, in the next line again, providing the essential elements and investiture of the animus which makes a creature a man – and which makes a man alive; in a manner not at all dissimilar to the male deific [Vayu is a strong exemplar] responsible for this role in other portions of the general Indo-European mythoreligious canons. Perhaps She works alongside Him – Perhaps She is the Anima of the Animus. Quite likely, it is – as is often the case with Sanskrit and with Hindu theology – Both.
However, it should not be presumed that I am making over-much from a single Hymnal. The elements which I have chosen to focus upon in RV X 125 are present throughout the Vedic canon, and radiate forwards through time and onward via space in the subsequent Puranic corpus as well.
For example, when it comes to the role of Vak (potentially alongside Brihaspati) in guiding the evolution and attainment of ‘proper speech’ by Man, RV X 107 strongly accords with the typology for the Odr, the Menos and Metis that we have earlier identified. Vak is described as being found within the Rsis – the Divinely Inspired Seers of the hallowed verses. And further, rather than being some form of abstract quality, we see a direct and strongly engaging personal form to the impartment of Vak’s Gift: to quote the Griffith translation – “One man hath ne’er seen Vāk, and yet he seeth: one man hath hearing but hath never heard her. / But to another hath she shown her beauty as a fond well-dressed woman to her husband.” Which simultaneously makes the point that the deepa sensorial capacity required for such comprehension and crafting is not the common and ordinary faculty of sight nor that of hearing, but rather is one which – in the manner of the line from RV X 125 pertaining to Devi making the man She chooses [the word used in the Griffith translation is ‘loves’; and the Sanskrit term in the original is, indeed, Kama-based, although it is a matter of some interpretation what level of its spectrum of meaning, and whether it is ‘wishes’, ‘likes’, ‘chooses’, or ‘loves’ that is the best fit within the context of that line, as well as more generally; certainly the more ardent formulation makes abundant sense in regard to Her Male Divine Counterpart, Shiva in various Forms and Aspects; and oddly enough, would also accord with both the Metis’ marital relationship with Zeus, as well as Freyja’s teaching of Odin certain magical secrets unlocked via speech].
A further and rather more specific manyufestation of the principle, with regard to the Furor Somaticus of Indra rather than Furor Poeticus of the Rsi, can be found in RV VIII 89, dually dedicated to both Indra and Vak. It begins in no uncertain terms establishing the precedency (cosmologically as well as in terms of power in-universe) of Vak ahead of th other Deities, and has Vak state directly to Indra: “When, Indra, thou securest me my portion, with me thou shalt perform heroic actions.” And speaking of the concepts of Furor Poeticus and securing justly due portions, it is also interesting to note the imperative emphasis placed upon the role of the Rsi-Skald in chronicling and repeating in epic format the Saga of the Soma-Lord: “All these thy deeds must be declared at Soma-feasts”. We can also interpret the vital role of the Inspired Mind to the Divine Combat(ant), when looking at the “Speed of Thought” with which an augmenter of Indra is seen moving [in this case, the Falcon (in some translations, Eagle) Shyena] to bring His Lord the Stimulant; as well as the tantalizing thought that the next line’s situation of the Weapon of Indra is to be found deep within the Waters as rendering it a treasure housed within the depths of the Akasha and conjurable to this plane only via the proper faculty of the mind. This in fact accords rather well with two other instances of RigVedic attestation – first, Brihaspati’s utilization of the Power of Prayer [Speech, Vak once again – and most certainly aligned with the Odr-Metis concept as we have previously understood it] in the manner of the Vajra to smite just such a Demon-Dragon as Indra is about to go into battle against; and second, the almost directly equivalent lines in the DeviSukta around these deepa cosmic waters existing above and beyond the otherwise attainable realms being where Vak Herself has Her Home [which implicitly renders, as the great 13th century Vijayanagara Empire theologian, Sayana, has long maintained – not only Vak an in-universe expression of the Brahman, the Rta which is outside and above our universe, but also the Vajra potentially at least somewhat likewise – in this instance, at least; wherein Vak is quite clearly also meant to be the mightiest weapon of the Gods; and, indeed, one that is beyond Their ‘control’ nor full comprehension – as we can see with the reference to Her possession of forms of Speech, perhaps not unlike the Rune-rows that Odin doesn’t give to Man, which even The Gods do not understand the utterance of and which may be interpreted as having the power to (un)make Worlds. Which is exactly what we should expect of the Goddess Who carries out precisely that from the beyond-space before time and space ever existed].
And, lest I again be accused of over-reading what might otherwise seem to some onlookers a potentially isolated incident of Indra requiring the assistance, the empowerment, the comradeship of Devi in order to carry out His defining act as Vritrahan … perish the thought! RV VI 61 – a Saraswati Hymnal – comes to our aid in this measure, as well!
Now, it is again the case that much more can and should be extolled about this particular hymnal – as well as the person of Saraswati within the eldest Vedic texts more generally; but we are well beyond the bounds of space already, so I shall attempt to keep it brief and summarize more than I’d otherwise find desirable. It should come as no surprise to find that a Saraswati hymnal has Her hailed for Her provision of mental alacrity – after all, that is what Saraswati, even today, is beseeched for and associated with; and this is partially why Her Name is one of deepa meaning, as ‘Sanctified Speech’ – which again links back to the function of the Rsi, the Seer, the Divinely Guided Religious Poet. But what one might not, perhaps, be initially expecting is the close series of manners in which this Hymnal conforms to our Odr-Metis typology, as well as in glimmerings and in gleamings, that of the Manyu. The former is straightforward enough, as applies the provision of the Poetic gift; yet it is matched with citations for Her bestowal of martial proficiency (and, of course, the post-battle Skaldic recounting thereof) to the chosen men; which also finds expression in Her sending to a particular king of a potent warrior son (which may perhaps be a sort of echo of the manifestation of the Manyu – a male ruler ’emanating’ via his seed the desired-for divinely empowered protector-combatant … albeit taking rather more time to reach full maturity and lethality, one presumes). And, most strikingly (rather literally), with direct acclamation for Her unparalleled power in a martial role. These include Saraswati honoured for having “casteth down […] those who scorned the Gods, the brood of every Bṛsaya skilled in magic arts”; as well as the resounding line – “uta syā naḥ sarasvatī ghorā hiraṇyavartaniḥ | vṛtraghnī vaṣṭi suṣṭutim ||”. Griffith’s rendering of this line is thus: “Yea, this divine Sarasvatī, terrible with her golden path, Foe-slayer, claims our eulogy”; however while this is technically not incorrect, it leaves unvoiced a vitally important matter of direct relevancy to what we parsed in RV VIII 89 as applies Indra and Vak against Vritra. And that is the hailing of Saraswati as “Vrtraghni” in RV VI 61 right there – “Slayer of Vritra”. Because it either is intended to mean just and literally exactly that … that Saraswati slayed Vritra, whether Herself or acting alongside Indra or even as the latter’s Ultimate Weapon; or it is intended to mean somewhat more figuratively that Saraswati’s martial power and lethality is on a par with the rather more famous (for this deed, anyway) Indra and that She is just as capable of such an incredibly mighty undertaking as demonstrated through apparently quite capacious previous activities in this area. You place that together with the next line – “swift-moving with a rapid rush, Comes onward with tempestuous roar”, along with Her repeatedly stated role as the Guardian for Her People and Majesty even amidst the rest of the Pantheon’s Mighty and I would say that it’s pretty clear just how close RigVedic Saraswati actually is, in truth, to the Athena so much more familiar to many of us from Classical myth and scripture. It certainly places Their shared characteristic of a Riverine origin – a ‘Stream of Consciousness’, perhaps – in an excellent and star-pathed Light.
But to return, however briefly, to RV VIII 89, the eleventh line reads “The Deities generated Vāk the Goddess, and animals of every figure speak her.” I mention this not just because it is a tangible demonstration for how the insights of the Odr-Metis complex are expressed and then carried even further through breath and voice by other bearers after the lightning-bolt has seared its way into the mind of one particularly high mind at their inception … but also because this may directly presage another element for the Hindu female expression in particular of the Manyu typology. For in situations wherein the emanation does not take place via the Third Eye, Face or Brow, one of the other well-renowned modes via which Devi in Her Warrior, Avenger, Destroyer, and eventually Annihilator Forms is brought into being, is via the Mouth or Mouths of other earlier-appearing (in the contexts of the episodes in question, rather than in the broader cosmology nor mythology) divinity. This makes a figurative sense on multiple levels. As earlier explicated, in Sanskrit the concepts of Seeing and Speaking have always been strongly linguistically aligned, and both also with the signifers (both sighted/seen and sonorous) of the Divine Inspiration. The notion of the Divine Warrior-Champion congealing via the energetic force expressed via the Mouths of the Divinity in need further recalls each of the utilization of Prayer and Verse in conjuring the Manyu, the Roaring of the Manyu-type (and, in this case, the combined Roaring of all assembled, as one, becoming so mighty and resounding that it echoes into being The Roarer!); as well as, in a veer-y real sense, the concept that a sufficiently potent Inspired Speech can actually, itself, reshape the world. For that is what has happened here – the Insight and Empowerment placed into the assembled Divinity, in a manner not dissimilar to the internal manifestation of the Manyu in Prajapati in the Shatapatha Brahmana commentary-apend-text has surged forth and charged outward; and in so doing, revealed exactly the re-combination of Furor Poeticus and Furor Teutonicus which I had much earlier stated to be the case. And perhaps also demonstrating a certain military form of ‘Vox Populi Est Vox Dei’ – insofar as the Voice(s) of the assembled Divine Folk and others, come together to Empower Their Champion, the One Who Shall Lead Them Upon The Field Of War. ‘Inspiration’, it seems does not only come from Above – but can also flow in laterally; a Visage-based occurrence of this being the appearance of the Katyayani NavaDurga Warrior Form of Devi, Who arrives from the Flaming Eyes of many of The Gods simultaneously, and in some accounts in response to a severe threat which even Bhairava [the Third-Eye projected literally ‘Terrifying’ executioner-emanation of Shiva and Himself a the Manyu expression] had been unable to handle alone.
One Equal Temper Of Heroic Hearts – The Twin-Forked Lightning of Time and Fate
And that, I think, is pretty much the crux of this piece – the place where all the threads and skeins finally come together, in perhaps a manner not entirely unlike that of the Fire(y)-Speech which summoned Her forth.
For in this occurrence, we have it all. We have Piety as The Weapon; we have The Mind as The Weapon; we have Language – Speech – as The Weapon. We have the Divine Champion, we have Victory, we have a valiant and noble war-effort waged against a demonic foe. We also have, as I have said (judging by the length and passion of this piece, the fervor and zeal with which it has been prepared, it is also ‘Shaped Like Itself’ in this regard) the expression of the Furor Poeticus in manner directly correlate, and in fact actually functionally identical with the Furor of the Gods’ Chosen Executor! The Same Deities Inspire It; The Same Deities Enact It; The Same Deities Triumph Through It; just as we can find expressed elsewhere also within the realms Indo-European mythoreligious canons. Devi (Durga/Parvati/Kali) And Mahadeva with Their Manyu, Athena And Zeus with Their Menos and Metis, Odin as the bestower and embodier of the Odr, as well.
What more needs to be said.
Well, as it happens, three things. The first of which is that the implicit element in that aforementioned co-occurrence of The Manyu of Devi and The Manyu of Mahadeva – is just exactly that. Co-occurrence. Co-operation. Comradeship. This is, unquestionably, amidst the mightiest of weapons, and as I have earlier illustrated, a perhaps surprisingly integral element of Who and What the Manyu Is – as applies the effective hypostasis also of the Mannerbund. The group of Men [thinking beings], bound together in common purpose and fraternal sodality, so perfect in their Unity as to be effectively a single corps. Great minds may think alike – but Dutiful Minds collaborate. And the power of confederation in these regards is not merely one of addition of one element to the other – it is of the multiplication, occasionally quite downright exponentially so, of the Power of both. Hence, working together, Bhairava and Katyayani – or other such occurrences of similar blessed Unity – accomplish what either alone, or perhaps even some standing adjacent but not alongside one another, shoulder to shoulder in terms of spirit [‘Manyu’, again!], could not but aspirationally hope to do.
The second, and this builds also from the first – is that Understanding is The Weapon. There is, too, a Sanskrit “Man-” related series of terms built in regard to this; but suffice to say that by Understanding, by Learning, you are in effect engaged in a far greater spanning sphere of co-operation than you might otherwise realize. And one which stretches not only out all around us geographically, spatially – but backward and forward over again in terms of Time, as well as upward (and then some) beyond this human flat-plane/field of vision of ours.
Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light put it thus – “An army, great in space, may offer opposition in a brief span of time. One man, brief in space, must spread his opposition across a period of many years if he is to have a chance of succeeding.”
We know that, we inherently grasp that. And that is why we are as an army – of the mind but also of the sword (and as applies the tongue, I then do repeat myself) – ever expanding in terms of the territory of its numbers and temporal membership; and thence also broadening and deepening its ability to fight back and overcome on down the many long ages that have been and come to pass, and art yet unfurling ahead of us in train.
That is, after all, why we do what we do, here at Arya Akasha and at #NAS.
But I mentioned a third thing; and this is a final evidential example I shall draw upon – which nicely serves also to act as a bit of ‘Mythic Recurrence’ as well. For this piece has also been prepared as our 2020 devotional tribute for MahaShivRatri – the Great Night of Lord Shiva – the anniversary of the occasion of His reunification with His ‘other half’, Devi Parvati, Devi Durga, Devi Kali. It is therefore a fitting way to end things, the Vayu Purana excerpt from which I am about to quote.
Although but briefly and by way of mythohistorical context, I should probably explain what it is that has occurred in the Puranic narrative up until this point. The event around which this instance occurs is the Horse-Sacrifice of Daksha – at which a great outrage against not only Lord Shiva, but also Devi is committed. The precise details vary somewhat between sources, with two main (and non-exclusive) mythemes present. One, which forms the core cassus belli in the Vayu Purana accounting, is that Shiva is denied His Share in the sacrificial rite in question, with an added theological point (as voiced by the wise Sage Dadhichi – although his warning, Greek-self-fulfilling prophecy-like, went unheeded and thence came true!) around hailing another deity, another of the Trimurti as Supreme instead. The other, which is perhaps much more enduring in the popular imagination due to its sense of tragedy and heart-cleaving loss, features Sati [the previous-to-Parvati incarnation/form of Shiva’s Wife], Who is Daksha’s Daughter, going to the rite of Daksha anyway despite the deliberate snub of Her Husband, and enduring such calumnious insults directed against Her Beloved as well as Herself that she feels compelled to Herself jump into the sacrificial pyre [some commentators observe that this is in part because of Her being caught between two great claims to Her allegiance and honour – Her Father, and Her Husband; and ‘taking a third option’ when these could not otherwise be reconciled]
Now, I have my own thoughts about the theological underpinnings of what’s going on here (suffice to say, Daksha is attempting to set himself up as Emperor of the Universe … and manages to infuriate the real Ishvara, Who is otherwise not necessarily so troubled by the pretensions of the false “Prajapati” [another claimed title of Daksha], up until the upstart offends or otherwise harms His Wife – at which point the ancient Vedic equivalent to the Berserk Button may perhaps somewhat aptly be said to have been hit – oddly enough, exactly what Daksha’s forebear, Brahma does to significantly annoy Shiva immediately before Bhairava is sent to cut Brahma back down to size, in another occurrence of The Manyu mythic typology); but suffice to say, whichever iteration of the story one goes with for the ‘causation’, at this point they reconverge.
Shiva-Rudra, particularly in those tellings wherein He has just lost His Wife (in which case, the ‘sorrow’ rendering for the state of Manyu inside Prajapati in the Shatapatha Brahmana explication, replete with crying considerable tears of furious lament, is definitely an apt understanding!), is rather heavily emotionally incited by this – ‘seized’, we might even perhaps say – and thence externalizes that highly charged psyche-state in the form of a Divine Avenger: VeeraBhadra.
At this point, I think I shall let Lord Vayu take over – not that He, of course, hasn’t been already:
“Then the mighty and incomprehensible deity, being pleased, said to his bride, thus agitated; and speaking; ‘Slender-waisted queen of the gods, thou knowest not the purport of what thou sayest; but I know it, oh thou with large eyes, for the holy declare all things by meditation. By thy perplexity this day are all the gods, with Mahendra and all the three worlds, utterly confounded. In my sacrifice, those who worship me, repeat my praises, and chant the Rathantara song of the Sáma veda; my priests worship me in the sacrifice of true wisdom, where no officiating Brahman is needed; and in this they offer me my portion.’ Deví spake; ‘The lord is the root of all, and assuredly, in every assemblage of the female world, praises or hides himself at will.’ Mahádeva spake; ‘Queen of the gods, I praise not myself: approach, and behold whom I shall create for the purpose of claiming my share of the rite.’
“Having thus spoken to his beloved spouse, the mighty Maheśwara created from his mouth a being like the fire of fate; a divine being, with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet; wielding a thousand clubs, a thousand shafts; holding the shell, the discus, the mace, and bearing a blazing bow and battle-axe; fierce and terrific, shining with dreadful splendour, and decorated with the crescent moon; clothed in a tiger’s skin, dripping with blood; having a capacious stomach, and a vast mouth, armed with formidable tusks: his ears were erect, his lips were pendulous, his tongue was lightning; his hand brandished the thunderbolt; flames streamed from his hair; a necklace of pearls wound round his neck; a garland of flame descended on his breast: radiant with lustre, he looked like the final fire that consumes the world. Four tremendous tusks projected from a mouth which extended from ear to ear: he was of vast bulk, vast strength, a mighty male and lord, the destroyer of the universe, and like a large fig-tree in circumference; shining like a hundred moons at once; fierce as the fire of love; having four heads, sharp white teeth, and of mighty fierceness, vigour, activity, and courage; glowing with the blaze of a thousand fiery suns at the end of the world; like a thousand undimmed moons: in bulk like Himádri, Kailása, or Meru, or Mandara, with all its gleaming herbs; bright as the sun of destruction at the end of ages; of irresistible prowess, and beautiful aspect; irascible, with lowering eyes, and a countenance burning like fire; clothed in the hide of the elephant and lion, and girt round with snakes; wearing a turban on his head, a moon on his brow; sometimes savage, sometimes mild; having a chaplet of many flowers on his head, anointed with various unguents, and adorned with different ornaments and many sorts of jewels; wearing a garland of heavenly Karnikára flowers, and rolling his eyes with rage. Sometimes he danced; sometimes he laughed aloud; sometimes he stood wrapt in meditation; sometimes he trampled upon the earth; sometimes he sang; sometimes he wept repeatedly: and he was endowed with the faculties of wisdom, dispassion, power, penance, truth, endurance, fortitude, dominion, and self-knowledge.
“This being, then, knelt down upon the ground, and raising his hands respectfully to his head, said to Mahádeva, ‘Sovereign of the gods, command what it is that I must do for thee.’ To which Maheśwara replied, Spoil the sacrifice of Daksha.’ Then the mighty Vírabhadra, having heard the pleasure of his lord, bowed down his head to the feet of Prajápati; and starting like a lion loosed from bonds, despoiled the sacrifice of Daksha, knowing that the had been created by the displeasure of Deví. She too in her wrath, as the fearful goddess Rudrakálí, accompanied him, with all her train, to witness his deeds. Vírabhadra the fierce, abiding in the region of ghosts, is the minister of the anger of Deví. And he then created, from the pores of his skin, powerful demigods, the mighty attendants upon Rudra, of equal valour and strength, who started by hundreds and thousands into existence. Then a loud and confused clamour filled all the expanse of ether, and inspired the denizens of heaven with dread. The mountains tottered, and earth shook; the winds roared, and the depths of the sea were disturbed; the fires lost their radiance, and the sun grew pale; the planets of the firmament shone not, neither did the stars give light; the Rishis ceased their hymns, and gods and demons were mute; and thick darkness eclipsed the chariots of the skies.
“Then from the gloom emerged fearful and numerous forms, shouting the cry of battle; who instantly broke or overturned the sacrificial columns, trampled upon the altars, and danced amidst the oblations. Running wildly hither and thither, with the speed of wind, they tossed about the implements and vessels of sacrifice, which looked like stars precipitated from the heavens. The piles of food and beverage for the gods, which had been heaped up like mountains; the rivers of milk; the banks of curds and butter; the sands of honey and butter-milk and sugar; the mounds of condiments and spices of every flavour; the undulating knolls of flesh and other viands; the celestial liquors, pastes, and confections, which had been prepared; these the spirits of wrath devoured or defiled or scattered abroad. Then falling upon the host of the gods, these vast and resistless Rudras beat or terrified them, mocked and insulted the nymphs and goddesses, and quickly put an end to the rite, although defended by all the gods; being the ministers of Rudra’s wrath, and similar to himself. Some then made a hideous clamour, whilst others fearfully shouted, when Yajna was decapitated. For the divine Yajna, the lord of sacrifice, then began to fly up to heaven, in the shape of a deer; and Vírabhadra, of immeasurable spirit, apprehending his power, cut off his vast head, after he had mounted into the sky. Daksha the patriarch, his sacrifice being destroyed, overcome with terror, and utterly broken in spirit, fell then upon the ground, where his head was spurned by the feet of the cruel Vírabhadra. The thirty scores of sacred divinities were all presently bound, with a band of fire, by their lion-like foe; and they all then addressed him, crying, ‘Oh Rudra, have mercy upon thy servants: oh lord, dismiss thine anger.’ Thus spake Brahmá and the other gods, and the patriarch Daksha; and raising their hands, they said, ‘Declare, mighty being, who thou art.’
Vírabhadra said, ‘I am not a god, nor an Áditya; nor am I come hither for enjoyment, nor curious to behold the chiefs of the divinities: know that I am come to destroy the sacrifice of Daksha, and that I am called Vírabhadra, the issue of the wrath of Rudra. Bhadrakálí also, who has sprung from the anger of Deví, is sent here by the god of gods to destroy this rite. Take refuge, king of kings, with him who is the lord of Umá; for better is the anger of Rudra than the blessings of other gods.’
It is truly beautiful verse, even in translation [Horace Hayman Wilson being the renderer, here; and utilizing that high-minded almost King James-esque slightly ornate, archaic English one often found in the first half of the 1800s, when he was writing; and which is so appropriate yet laterly under-utilized when rendering hallowed materials for the Anglosphere-native mind]. Hence why I went much further than I had previously intended and chose to quote those entire spans of passages rather than just two partial paragraphs for emphatic value.
There is a more proper and fuller-length exegesis I can and probably should write up about both this incident, as well as the continuing underlying similarities with the Manyu verses which have been passed down to us within the Vedic corpus; including the rather intriguing possibility that Daksha’s subsequent penitent conduct and appeasing of Shiva-via-Veerabhadra in response to all of this (thus leading to Shiva’s decision to take mercy upon Daksha and regard him with bestowment of a boon … which Daksha promptly uses to have the sacrifice that has been disrupted re-set – this time, in properly pious dedication to Shiva) also has Vedic precedency in the lines from RV X 83:
“I have departed, still without a portion, wise God! according to thy will, the Mighty. / I, feeble man, was wroth thee, O Manyu I am myself; come thou to give me vigour.
/ Come hither. I am all thine own; advancing turn thou to me, Victorious, All-supporter! […] / The best of meath I offer to support thee: may we be first to drink thereof in quiet.”
What we can state for certain, however, is that the attestations in the Shatapatha Brahmana explication of the SataRudriya rite pertaining to The Manyu are most definitely borne out by the Puranic account of the appearance of VeeraBhadra at the Horse-Sacrifice of Daksha. A Mighty Rudra, congealed from the expressed and expressive Wrath of The AllFather, the God-Emperor, appearing at the head of an insurmountable army of the alike and the like-minded, and ready to utilize great violence such that even the entire rest of the Pantheon are both rightfully and righteously affeared of Him – is sent to ‘stablish proper piety, by securing the sustaining apportionment of the great sacrificial rite; sanctioning in the process, those who are the foes of the appropriate devotional conduct.
Yet while it is indeed a grand and beautifully extolled account of The Manyu’s awe-inspiring aggressive action made manifest, that is not quite why I have chosen to end with it.
Rather, as I have earlier stated, it is for another reason. A mythically resonant and recurrent reason. That being that VeeraBhadra is not the only Manyu Who took to the field on such a day; and nor was He only the expression of the Wrath of Shiva. He was joined by Another; and also in any case was hailed as being ‘the Minister of the Anger of Devi’ as well.
Whether as BhadraKali or RudraKali (and for various reasons, I prefer the latter theonym for this encounter), She Also Was There; just as Devi was with Mahadeva on Kailash at the inception of the whole episode, conversing with Him and outraged (also) on and as His Be-Half.
We observe MahaShivRatri, in no small part, because it commemorates the Re-Unification of Shiva and Devi following the latter’s Death at the Daksha-rite aforementioned.
I chose to end with the Vayu Purana’s accounting of VeeraBhadra and BhadraKali’s all-subjugating deployment there, because it is both the proper resolution to the outrageous egregities of Daksha – as well as, in the veer-y same occurrence, the indescribable glory of Their Unity. It is a miniature mythic-recurrence my placing of it heer, as it is, in effect, a re-unification all its own, and in direct homa-ge to the august date. We have considered Them many times in the coursing span of this piece somewhat separately; but to be a true MahaShivRatri tribute, it was only rite that They be properly considered Together. The Be-All and the End-All of both this piece, and ultimately of All Things.
To adapt slightly from an original:
“Take refuge, king of kings, with They Who Are Ardhanarishvara; for better is the Manyu-Furor-Shakti of Rudra And Rudrani than the blessings of other Gods.”
ईशानादस्य भुवनस्य , जगताम् पतये , रुद्र;
श्री महाराज्ञी , श्रीमत् सिंहासनेश्वरी , भुवनेश्वरी, देवी दुर्गा
ॐ नमः शिवाय
ॐ नमः शिवाय
ॐ नमः शिवाय