The Indo-European Man – Sons of the Sun [Part III]: Zoroastrian Yima – The Death of Manu

Now, heading immediately to the west of Aryavarta, and quite likely some time later – we encounter the first ‘degenerated’ (or, perhaps more kindly, ‘differently-emphatic’) iteration of the above mythic typology. Amongst the Zoroastrians, they too have a ‘Vivanhat’, and a ‘Yima’. Although the arrangement of facts is, in a number of particulars quite different. For example, while there may be a “Yima” – there is no “Manu”. And while this ‘Yima’ does indeed come to preside over what is, effectively, a ‘deathless’ kindgom (as well as an ‘underworld’ … in the sense of an apocalypse-proof underground ‘ark’ bunker against a catastrophic winter) – he does so not by dying and charting the path to the undying afterlife, but instead by rulership in this world, of a prior and more (but still imperfectly) righteous age; where aging and death are, effectively foreign creatures. Which precipitates a Malthusian crisis (due to the absence of death leading to significant population growth relative to a finite, if expanding earth and its resources), thus leading to the necessity of a mass-extinction – hence the aforementioned apocalypse-proof underground ark.

Various Zoroastrian accountings differ in their explanation for the ‘deathless’, ‘ageless’ [not quite ‘timeless’] characteristic of Yima’s regime. Some suggest that it is a feat accomplished through wise and prudent rulership – which may have included securing the secret for same from the depths of the Underworld, wrestled with from the mouths of demons, consequentially kept at bay for a prolonged period thereafter; or, in some other tellings, via the effective banishment of ‘death’ to the Underworld, there to trouble mortal man for no longer, provided the banishment and ensuing seal thereupon held. Although the ‘seal is evidently an impermanent one – as not only does this ‘golden age’ eventually draw to a close, but even Yima himself is subsequently condemned to the hellish afterworld; with varying accounts ascribing the reasoning for this to his abandoning his proper duty having become corrupted by power and indolence, or the honeyed words of the Daevas, or even for being worshipped as a god himself.

Curiously, this effectively sets the Zoroastrian “Yima” as something of an ‘opposite’ to Hindu Yama, in multiple senses. With Vedic Yama, we have the Twin Who dies, and goes forth to the Afterlife as a positive and necessary act – there to rule in justice, harmony, and hailed in positive terms as both DharmaRaja and a God; while on the other hand, Manu is left to live, as the bringer of order to His descended race, successfully guiding Mankind through a great catastrophe and thence establishing the fundaments for the ensuing mortal civilization.

WIth Yima, however, it is a mirror – and that is why everything is the wrong way around. Including, ironically enough, the lack of a ‘pair’ and the ‘Image’ becoming the single figure in its space. Thus, we have Yima at first not dying, and instead ruling over mankind for a period; in particular, sealing off the pathway to the afterlife, rather than traversing it, and as a partial consequence of this – becoming associated with life and longevity (particularly through his performance of various ritualine elements) instead of death. Indeed, even when presiding over a separated area that would otherwise seem figuratively resonant with the concept of ‘Underworld’, Yima’s role is dedicated to the preservation of life and the avoidance of death, instead of the presiding over its inevitability and ordered (post-)mortem circumstances as a result.

It could be argued that the underlying Indo-European typology is eventually reasserted when Yima does die and find himself condemned to the hellish Underworld, notwithstanding the fact that this is manifestly out of chronological order. And in a way, this is quite likely quite correct – as various of the elements which may have gone into Yima’s damnation (consorting with Daevas, being hailed as a God, for instance) are, in their own way, echoes of Yama’s status amongst the Vedic pantheon. This is particularly the case when we consider that the hellish Underworld aforementioned is held to be a realm of the Daevas – in much the same manner, presumably, as RV X 135 7 asserts that Yama’s Realm is the Home of the Gods.

The situation of Yima’s relationship to the order promulgated by Ahura Mazda is more complex – as both Yima’s earlier disregarding of same, followed by his eventual embrace of it, can be held to echo the strong association of Vedic Yama with Order. What I mean to suggest by this, is that Yima when he is non-compliant with the ‘new order’ of the Zoroastrians … is, as we have already demonstrated, much closer to the Vedic figure upon which he is based. A God (or claimed to be such), associating with the Daevas, amidst their realm. Indeed, he is even brought out as the hypostasis of grave impiety and sin by Ahura Mazda in the course of the moral instruction of Zoroaster. Exactly what we would otherwise expect for an adversarial perspective upon one of the most Lawful of the Vedic Gods, as printed as propaganda by those who sought to overturn and replace the prior Indo-Iranian religious orthodoxy. A theme that continues when we consider Yima’s subsequent ‘redemption’ – wherein this Yima finally and more fully accepting the order of the Zoroastrian over-deity, is granted release from the alleged hellish realm of the Daevas, and transmission to a more beatific afterlife that he eventually assumes rulership of.

Or, to phrase it another way – the figure of Yima undergoes a ‘sanitization’ process similar to what we have asserted to have taken place to produce the Verethragna deific … wherein a previous Indo-Iranian deific figure (in the case of Verethragna, the otherwise explicitly demonized yet likely still popular/salient Indra/the Striker/Thunderer) that wasn’t obviated is instead ‘re-introduced’ to the Zoroastrian religion in a more amenable, controllable, and in some ways ‘inverted’ or curiously unsettlingly docile form. The major difference here, is that instead of simply being a later-stage full-scale ‘replacement’ insert … we are given the unseemly privilege of witnessing the attempted co-option and subversion taking place almost ‘in real time’ within the course of the myth itself; and with it being parcelled up with an unmistakable message: Support the Daevas [‘old order’/pre-Zoroastrian Indo-Iranian religious orthodoxy], find yourself Damned to Hell – Renounce the Daevas, Accept the ‘new order’ of Ahura Mazda & Zoroaster, and secure redemption.

Insidious stuff.

Although in some ways perhaps not as invidious as the near-complete obviation from the Zoroastrian mythology of the Indo-European figure of Manu … whose role and features, where they survive, are effectively to be found bundled up into the figure of Yima – or even overtaken by Zoroaster himself. This erasure did not only serve the usual purpose of helping to further distance the Zoroastrian Iranians from the common heritage and mythoreligious sphere of the Indo-Iranians which had prevailed beforehand – but was also a specifically targeted thing. One of the key roles of Manu in Vedic mythology is not simply to be the ‘first man’ – but to be a ‘first priest’; a figure who carries out proper and accordant acts of piety, and then engenders same in his descendents. It is not at all hard, then, to see why he had to go. And instead, be replaced by a figure who could be handily pointed towards as a morally imperfect precursor that was ‘dead’; while also clearing just enough of the mythic space for Zoroaster to step into the remaining breach as the promulgator and practitioner of the religious rites, and re-orderer of society once more. It is a process akin to purloining the mantle of myth from another, more authentic bearer – and then carving the cloak up into two so as to produce one that shall actually fit you, while having the larger remainder component utilized as a coffin-shroud and buried. And, in the process, bringing down religion to a level where it is the manipulable tool of mortal humans.

As an associate put it, in reference to Varg – “It’s the ultimate in self-serving euhemerization: make god so small others might mistake you for him.”

[Coming in Part IV: Romulus & Remus Reconstructed – The Sepulchral Legacy Of The Shadow-King]

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