One of the most iconic identifying attributes of the Indo-European Sky Father deific is His Spear. Whether Gungnir of Odin, the Trishula of Mahadeva, or the javelin-like Thunderbolt of Zeus Pater/Jupiter (interestingly frequently depicted as three-pronged), as soon as we think of these deific expressions, the Weapon is never far from His Hand. Indeed, ‘ShulaPani’ – Bearing the Spear in His Hand, is literally a Shaivite theonym (‘Gungnis Váfaðr’, meanwhile, we could perhaps slightly figuratively translate as ‘Shakes-Spear’).
There are other forms which this Weapon may take, as well. Sometimes, it is a Staff, particularly in the hands of the Wanderer (as in, for example, the ‘Gand’ of ‘Gand-Alf’). On other occasions, we see it manifested as something more exotic – like Hades’ Bident, or Poseidon’s Trident, Dionysus’ Thyrsus, or even the Scythe of Kronos (when it is not being an Adamantium Harpe, perhaps). The (oft-W(o)oden) Sacrificial Post of the Indo-Europeans (an Irminsul, or Yupasthamba, for example), is also relevant here. Continuing with the ‘Spear’ associations, it may be represented as a Lance or a pennant-affixed pole borne by a rider. The Caduceus and/or Rod of Asclepius may form yet a further example (as the ‘Wind Wanderer’ deific is strongly coterminous with the Sky Father; and the Healing portfolio, likewise). Although perhaps the best-known further form for this device in the Hindusphere is one which is far less frequently thought of in its connection amidst the Western Indo-Europeans: the Bow and Arrows, as wielded by Shiva-Rudra.
Now, this may seem a bit of an over-extension of the concept – as, after all, a staff or a spear is a single length of wood; and while a spear can be thrown (and, in the case of Odin’s Spear, quite prominently is), the form and function of shooting a bow and its arrows seem somehow quite different to this. Except that this is a surprisingly misleading skein of mythinterpretation. Consider what a Bow actually is – it, too, is a single length of wood. Consider the manner and the mechanism in which it exerts force – through the propelling of a sharp, piercing length of wood through the air. And then consider one of the most resonant of the traditional names for Shiva-Rudra’s Bow – Pinaka. Derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘Pine’ (‘length of wood’, ‘staff’), it means a Bow, a Staff, a Spear – and especially, quite pointedly, those of Shiva. So, quite clearly, in the Vedic conceptual-syllabry there was not really much of an issue to be had with that same stave of ‘wood’ doing effective ‘double-duty’ as both Spear and Bow.
But what is this device, really? Why is it that the symbolism of a simple length of wood is so powerful and so resonant as to survive for thousands of years across seemingly almost the entire Indo-European-isphere? (Albeit, it should be noted, with various of the cosmological attributes that I am about to explicate, being found only directly attested in the Hindu understanding, and then extrapolated out by me therefrom to the non-Hindu examples of the Spear, in-line with the otherwise strong concordance of these non-Hindu divine weapons with the underlying typology in other areas; and in a manner which – to my mind, at least – most cohesively establishes their thematic unity)
Well, in order to answer that – we must go back to the Bow. More specifically, Brihaspati’s Bow. Brihaspati, as should be well-known by now for those who follow our work, we regard as another Aspect or Form of Shiva – another Face of the Sky Father. His Weapon is quite remarkable in that it is said that the bow-string for it is Rta Itself. That is to say, Cosmic Order, made manifest as a pillar or a beam which runs between the two points at either end of His Bow-stave. Why it is a shaft, is because – much like Shiva-as-Lingodbhava – it is, in effect, Brahman [‘The Absolute’] ‘intersecting’ with our reality. It is rather like, if you were to imagine yourself a two-dimensional being on a two-dimensional plane, encountering something three-dimensional which intersected with your world, you should only be able to perceive it as a line in front of you, its length fluctuating commensurate with whatever width the part of the three-dimensional object in question intersecting with your reality possessed. And now simply scale that analogy up to our three spatial dimensions … and consider that the Rta , the Bow-String of Brihaspati is an intersection from beyond dimensions … and you can see why it may make sense to represent it as a line; particularly when the Bow-stave itself can represent the curvature, the extent of the Universe.
Hence my oft-quoted expression that the Long Arc of the Universe does indeed bend toward Justice. For Justice is the Bow-String, and said Long-Arch – is the ‘Arch’ in ‘Archer … A Bow! Wielded by the Great God, Himself. The ‘Humkara’ twang of the bow-string being an in-universe reverberation (or, I suppose, ’emanation’) of Rta that is therefore the sonorous expression of Dharma Itself.
Yet how does a Bow-String relate to a Spear? Well, once again, the Weapons of Lord Shiva hold the key.
Consider the Trishula. What is it? Literally translated, it would be ‘Three-Point’ or ‘Three-Spear[head]’. ‘Trident’, is the Western equivalent (for that is most certainly the shape – although ‘Dent’, obviously, means ‘Teeth’). And customarily affixed to it, we find the Damaru – Shiva’s Drum. The Dhagad-Dhagad-Dhagad sound of which, being generated even to this day when the Damaru-upon-a-Spear is utilized by Shaivite worshippers, by rapidly turning the spear’s shaft back and forth so the small cord-attached beaters strike the surface of the drum-skin rapidly and in regular, rhythmic succession. The Damaru affixed to Shiva’s Trishula is rotated in such a way, to produce the sounds, the rhythm, which regulates the Universe’s dance entire.
So, what does this mean? Well, it positions the Trishula as being quite literally at the center of everything – of the great pattern that is our universe. It is, in other words, the Axis Mundi; and its wielder is the true ChakraVartin – ‘One Whose Wheel Is In Motion’, according to His Suzerain Design. The ‘Wheel’ here, of course, being the Worlds – and drawing from the well-attested Vedic cosmology wherein the Axis Mundi is a chariot-axle (also, occasionally even in the same breath, said to be akin to a Tree, with the spokes of the wheels being like the Tree’s branches … a World-Tree, you might say); and the Motion being the unfolding of His Plan, His Design, His Script [this is a rather direct rendering of the relevant Sanskrit concept, in which ‘All The World’s A Stage’ as a certain ‘Spear-Shaker’ put it, is taken rather directly as the model for the Great God and Goddess’s immanency in the Universe as both Actors/Scriptwriters and Starring Directors of the Cosmic Play], with the regular turning of said wheel and its speed, the fundamental progression on through the ongoing Cycles of Time.
So now, we are starting to see just why it is that the Spear (or Staff, or Bow[-String]) is such an enduring emblem of the Sky Father. It is precisely because the Sky Father is Ishvara – the God-Emperor, as we would say in Sanskrit. Who Rules the Universe Entire under His Mighty Samrajya [‘Imperium’, although more literally it is ‘Same-Rule’ – as in .. ‘Same-Rule Everywhere‘, although also ‘Even-Rule/Fair-Rule/Just-Rule’]. Who Holds The (Meta-)Physical Reification Of The Cosmic Law In His Mighty Hands. And Who can and will, entirely uncoincidentally, Strike Down With Great Vengeance And Fuuurious Ugra those who would poison and destroy the Dominion of the DevaRajya. ‘Vengeance’, here, also being meant to stand for its Proto-Indo-European etymological root – ‘Deyk’ – which means ‘To Point Out’, and other than being a fine pun for the Spear’s fundamental characteristic of employment, also comes to refer to ‘pointing out what is righteous/just’ [hence Ancient Greek: Dikaiosune – Righteousness/Justice, I suppose ‘That Which Is Pointed Out’; and, of course, Latin-derived terms like ‘Dictator’, ‘Vindicate’; as well as the English – ‘Teach’]. Exactly how the Law is made use of, even outside of a sacral-political, mytho-cosmological sense.
The ‘Shula’ in ‘Trishula’ is also interesting, on a brief aside, for another reason. As not only does the term ‘pointedly’ refer to a ‘sharpness’ which helps to inform its usage also as a designation for the punishment for a dire criminal via his impalement thereupon (the immanentization of Justice, once again), but can also refer to a particularly steep mountain. A mountain, of course, being the major mechanism via which Indo-European mythology treats the expression of the Axis Mundi concept – and which has considerable overlap, also, with each of the Tree and Goddess that are also thought of as this concept. This three-fold coterminity, we can demonstrate in both linguistic and mythological terms – as I did in the course of BHARAT MATA AND THE INDO-EUROPEAN DEIFIC OF NATIONAL IDENTITY.
This may also have some comparative saliency for the three ‘Ass’ terms in Old Norse – which, despite notionally diverged speculative etymologies, effectively converge in terms of their meaning-fields. One, the most prominent, being the ‘Ansuz’ and thence ‘Aesir’ related designation for a God (and, in terms of the ‘Oss’ of the Icelandic Younger Futhark Rune-Poem, referring to Odin quite specifically; the underlying Indo-European etymological sense for this ‘Ass’ effectively meaning ‘Sire’ – although it should be noted that in the Nordic mythology, Odin is not technically ‘the King’, due in part to the rather different mytho-political arrangements prevailing therein); the other meaning various sorts of wooden beams upon which something is dependent, such as the yard affixed to the mast of a ship from which the sail is hung, or the main beam of a house (including, in more recent times, the axle of a wheel) ; and the third, referring to a ridgeline. These terms have remained remarkably phonetically close (to the point of overt overlap) in the Nordic languages since.
Yet that is not the point that I had intended to make, which is much simpler. The PIE underpinning for Sanskrit ‘Shula’ is ‘Keh’ (Sharp(en) … which also gives us Ancient Greek ‘Konos’. Which is exceptionally relevant for our purposes, due to what this term means in addition to its rather obvious generalized sense of a ‘cone’ shape. A ‘Pine Cone’ (and, for that matter, the Pine Tree from which these descend – although it should be noted that modern English ‘Pine’ is, in theory, from another PIE root altogether, thus rendering its phonetic similarity to Proto-Indo-European ‘Pine’ a case of convergent re-evolution/re-emergence). Why am I gesticulating enthusiastically about pine-cones? Because the Thyrsus of Dionysus is a staff that is tipped with a pine-cone. This renders it simultaneously a Spear, yet also a device wherein the spear-head is comprised of a symbol of life and ensuing growth to soon begin. As I had briefly made mention of earlier, the Old Norse ‘Ass’ of ‘Aesir’ (cognate with archaic Vedic Sanskrit: ‘Asura’ … [which should not be confused with the later “A’Sura” – ‘non/anti-shining/light’]) carries forward an Indo-European concept for a powerful, mighty figure with a progenitive element. Hence my rendering of it as ‘Sire’ , to recall both the Kingly and Fatherly senses of the term. And hence also the latter’s direct relevancy when it comes to the pine-cone spear-head of Dionysus.
The ‘Thyrsus’ element also links to the Scythians, as can be attested by the repeated occurrence of it in regal names both mythic and (semi-)historical – most prominently, both kings named Idanthyrsus. Which is largely what we should expect, given the strong associations of Scythia with Dionysus in the Greek imagination; as well as the strongly plausible linkages of the Scythian culture and religious customs to the relevant Indo-European deific complex (i.e. Shiva-Odin-Rudra-Vayu-Vata), as I have discussed in several previous works. And which include, for our purposes here, the ‘Skw’ etymology of ‘Scythian’ – which means, effectively, ‘To Shoot’, ‘To Skewer’, ‘To Spear’. As the Great God on Horseback (or, for that matter, riding a Bull or an antlered vahana that is swift as the wind, or even in some cases, a chariot), is well-known to do. All of which helps to illustrate the rather close adherence of the Scythians to the archaic Indo-European mythocultural norms in a manner which can be fairly said to entail ‘Carrying On The Ways Of The Ancestors’, as a sort of yet-living ‘Wild Hunt’ or Ghost-Division … Figures of Myth acting in reified resonancy with the Great(er) Myth, the Greater Reality of our Ultimate Divine Origins.
But I have digressed, and rather wi(l)d(e)ly at that.
To bring it back to the Trishula Itself – the customary Hindu explication of its symbolism is that the three points to the spear symbolize various sets of three qualities or concepts that all together connote … well … pretty much everything (so, for instance, the Three Gunas, Three Worlds, Three Actions (‘Creation’, ‘Preservation’, ‘Destruction’), etc.). And therefore, that the Trishula represents the universe under the dominion of Its Wielder. As well as , implicitly, the power to end said Universe via His command and complete control of each of the major forces therein which allow it to keep existing, or to begin to be existing in the first place.
Our ‘Spear of the World-Axis’ concept is further strengthened by the Skanda Purana’s identification of Mt Meru, just such an Axis Mundi, as having three peaks, each of which is also keyed to one of the TriMurti and therefore Their respective energetic- and portfolio- associations.
It may also be possible to ‘triangulate’ an additional support for this in the ‘Western’ Indo-European mythologies if we consider the confluence of the Nordic World-Tree Yggdrasil as an Ash, and the well-renowned usage of the Ash tree for spear-crafting. This turns up in Old English, wherein ‘Aesc’ (‘Ash [Tree]’) is a kenning for ‘Spear’, as well as being the name for the Anglo-Saxon iteration of the Anzus rune. It is also seriously prominent in Greek custom and mythology (for example, the famed Spear of Peleus, as produced by Chiron, Hephaestus, and Athena, and wielded to such great effect by Peleus’ Son, Achilles), to the point that they appear to have had a specific adjective relating to the Ash-usage in question – Eummelies [‘Good-Ash’], in reference to the prominent man’s spar. Entirely uncoincidentally (to my mind, anyway), we also find Poseidon appearing in relation to this as well – being romantically linked to the nymph Melia (‘Ash Tree’). Which echoes the pattern we have identified elsewhere of the Sky Father deific (and yes, yes Poseidon is one – see my previous works such as SWEAR BY THE SEA, SWEAR BY THE STARS, SWEAR BY THE SKY – On The Mytholinguistics Of Varuna Neptune Ouranos, for instance; and remember that for the Proto-Indo-Europeans, the Sky was also a kind of Sea) having a female partner that is closely aligned with the element which comprises the World-Spear. So, Shiva’s Parvati (Mountain) in relation to the World-Mountain as Trishula; Brihaspati’s Vak (‘Sacred Speech’ – and regarded as an in-universe expression of Rta, Herself; also specifically identified in RV X 125 as being the force which makes Rudra’s Bow work – the ‘bending’ which turns it from a stave into an arch, presumably by acting as the bowstring and thusly producing the sacred ‘Humkara’ sound (which can also mean a bowstring’s twang) when fired) in relation to the Bow and Rta-Bow-String; the both ‘Mountain’ AND ‘Tree’ symbolism of Odin’s Partner; and so on and so forth.
The direct mention of Yggdrasil providing the wood which forms Gungnir, I have regrettably not been able to track down much further than Wagner (who, despite his undeniable enthusiasm and potent-ial inspiration, is not exactly a primary nor authoritative / authentic source) … but off the basis of the above evidence, it would seem to be a fairly reasonable and plausible continuance of the typology.
So, to bring it all back to the central shaft … what does all of this mean. Why is it that the Sky Father is so irreducibly associated with a Spear, a Weapon? Well, leaving aside the fact that this does not always appear as a weapon (c.f the earlier points of commentary around the Sacrificial Post, for example), the triple saliency is quite clear. First and foremost, the Spear is a Power. In its way, this is expressed as the Power of Existence (Rulership) and Its Cessation (Death), and therefore is the Emblem of the Sky Father’s Regal Authority and Command over the Cosmos. It is the Universe and Its Model – hence, it is the Sky Father’s Potency, as it is the Universe in His Hands, working to His Purpose. And yet, it is also something more than than that – which also underpins and undergirds the DevaRayja Itself. Namely, Cosmic Law, Made Manifest (hence also the Damaru via which the Law’s Regulation of the Cosmos is symbolized most directly – The Universe Dances To The Beat Of Its Drum). A most mighty thing for a Ruler to have at His Side, and hence why none can stand against the weapon in question when it is wielded – and none can truly escape it when it is thrown, fired, or shot.
It appears as a Weapon, in no small part because that is what in a certain ultimate sense, we tend to acknowledge as being Authority. Although as I have repeatedly noted, in other texts or other verses of the various Indo-European religions it also appears as other vitally important elements which convey a similar saliency in their own respective realms – the Sacrificial Post around which the religion is formed and practiced, the Axis Mundi around which the Universe rotates and is fundamentally organized, the Goddess around which so much of all of the above is subtly orientated (and this also has some interesting implications for the Ash Tree as an origin-point for Man, as well in certain IE mythologies). If the Sky Father ‘Holds The Whole World In His Hands’, as the song goes, it only makes sense for its prime apparition to be as a weapon – for, as we have repeatedly demonstrated, the Indo-European conception of the cosmos is that its fundamental essence and expression is through War (see ‘ On The Mytholinguistics Of War [Part 1] ‘; in particular, the portions on the subsequent derivations of ‘Orlog’-like terms in Germanic, and the meaning of ‘BhutAtman’ in Sanskrit).
The World-Spear is, in short, the Greatest of Weapons – the Greatest of Spears – for the Greatest of Worlds. Namely, the one watched over by the wise and piercing gaze of the Sky Father in both defence of the immanency of Cosmic Order (Rta – Orlog – Dikaiosune) therein, as well as wielding said Order’s Immanency as the most keen-ing weapon possible.
Whether it is encountered as the Spear, the Bident, the Trident, the Bow-And-Arrow, the Staff of the Wanderer, the World-Mountain, the World-Tree, the Sacral Pillar, or some other and yet more exotic form besides … the World-Spear forms both the Greatest Weapon and the Greatest Refuge for Our Values.
It is therefore only, enduringly apt that the Spear forms the emblematic ensign for the Sky Father in so many forms across so many descendant Indo-European mytho-cultures.
And it is also therefore only appropriate that we seek to illuminate this shared heritage – upon a Wednesday (Woden’s Day) in Shravan Maas (Shiva’s Month).
Jai ShulaPani, Hail GeirTyr
Victory to the Spear-God
We Are All But The Weapon In HIS Mighty Hands !