Something I have long advocated, is that the two forms of ‘Furor’ spoken about – “Furor Teutonicus” (‘Germanic Fury’ – Berserk Battle-Rage) and “Furor Poeticus” (The ‘Fury of the Poet’ – Artistic Inspiration of a certain all-consuming caliber) are, in essence, the same quality. Just differently expressed.
On the surface, this can sound curious. After all, the two forms of Fury sound inexorably different in their means for active expression. One is for ‘Barbarians’, the other is for ‘Brahmins’. Or so the stereotype would have you believe.
In truth, there is actually a significant underlying commonality to both the axe-wielding, manic-charging warrior in gaping-frenzy, and the sagacious seer in rapt flight of rhetorical fury. And not only because I have just described two well-known understandings of Rudra-Odin.
You see, in both cases, in the Indo-European view, the ‘madness’ in question – is a Gift from the Gods. The man who is subject to it is held to be rather more than, rather higher than, his fellows. He gains the supernatural ardour to do the otherwise impossible. He becomes a walking figure – a talking figure – that is in-touch with the Realm of Myth. In fact, is now something of an emissary – a partial avatar, in some ways – for the force of Legend among us, and shines with the radiance of this investment of a sacred spark of the Divine.
Yet how is it that we can state so confidently that it is indeed the ‘same energy’, from the same source? Surely this is over-stretching almost to breaking point my long-held enthusiasm for the tongue being a spear and words the heaviest of wounding blows when properly considered.
Well, my previous attempts at elucidating this typology have focused upon that aforementioned Indo-European deity – Rudra-Odin. And, more specifically, the impartment of the qualities of ‘Manyu’ and ‘Odr’ respectively. Both of which are well-attested names for ‘forms’ or ‘facings’ of the God in question amidst the Vedic and Eddic canons respectively.
We know that the God is both a Warrior and a Wordsmith. One Who presides over the securement and provision of the Empowering Elixir – the Soma-Kvasir – that stimulates both the mind and the body of the imbiber to otherwise unchartable heights of eloquence and execution.
We know that the God bestows this quality – of ‘Manyu’ , of ‘Odr’ – to the favoured follower, so that the Devotee may become more like that which they meditate upon.
So it seemed a relatively simple thing to make the incisive leap to presuming that it was not only upon the field of war – but also in the field of words – that the flight-of-the-mind and the provision of prowess should take favourable, empowering effect.
There were triangulatable supports for this, of course, and I spent a goodly portion of “MahaShivRatri And The Mytholinguistics Of War [Part 3] – The Mind, The Mania, The Manyu” examining exactly this phenomenon in quite some detail.
Yet sometimes, it seems, the obvious and direct passageway to the truth is standing there in plain sight – awaiting our eye to be opened via seeming almost happenstance to its existence within our longstanding immediate ken of vision.
Such was the case here, with the dual Furors that are, in fact, but One.
My favourite RigVedic Hymnal, as many should know by now, is unquestionably RV X 125 – the famed DeviSukta. A Hymnal in Devi Vak’s Own Voice … as relayed through the mouth of a Seer Whom She had provided with just such a feat of ‘Furor Poeticus’ to, some three and a half millennia or more ago.
I must have read it hundreds of times – most usually, to be sure, in various forms of translation. And yet I never tire of it. There is seemingly always something new to notice about it, and it gradually ‘reveals’ more of itself to me in light of my greater base of knowledge and understanding which I bring to it in light of our other work elsewhere. As it should be.
Not so long ago, I was taking another pass through it in the course of researching and writing an article. I think it was possibly upon Devi Vak’s role in empowering Indra to fight Vritra – and the correspondence with Athena’s role in assisting Herakles to the cognate victory over the Hydra (with some potentially intriguing thoughts about the ‘fire’ involved in the latter and how this might perhaps correspond to the ‘fervor’ we are presently speaking of … that I shall save for another time).
I took a look at Line Five – also a personal favourite – and there it was!
” यं कामये तं-तमुग्रं कर्णोमि तम्ब्रह्माणं तं रषिं तं सुमेधाम “
Or, to break it down both in Roman script and word-by-word via the padapatha:
” Yam kamaye tam-tam ugram krnomi tam brahmanam tam ṛsim tam su-medham “
Or, to phrase it in a language we can all understand a bit better –
“Whom I Choose, I make them Ugra – a Brahmin, a Rsi [Seer, Vedic Versesmith], Powerfully Wise/Cunning/Intelligent”
Why does this matter? Because of that word which I have deliberately left untranslated – Ugra.
Most translations will render it in this context as simply a term for ‘powerful’. Griffith goes for ‘exceedingly mighty’, Jamison Brereton render it ‘formidable’, Rao meanwhile goes for ‘exalted one’; and it is important to note that these are not inaccurate understandings – only that they are incomplete.
For whilst Ugra can simply mean ‘powerful’, ‘mighty’, and ‘terrific’ in the sense of ‘begetting terror’ due to same (hence ‘formidable’) – it is more commonly encountered as something a little more specific. ‘Savage’, ‘Violently Angry’, “Furious”.
And, exactly in line with this, as a prominent Roudran Theonym – that is to say, a Name of Vak’s Husband. Just as ‘Odr’ is the name for the Husband of Freyja.
So, as we can see – we have a term which we would more ordinarly, out of context, associate with Berserk Rage in the martial sense, as bestowed upon the Barbarian … being utilized to characterize exactly the state of the highest and most blessed of Vedic figures: the legates of liturgical language, the divinely inspired Poets and highest grades of Priest.
The reasoning for this is obvious, as I have said – it is the same energy, accompanied even by many of the same (meta)physical ‘tells’ of its investiture upon its bearer. They seem no longer themselves – but somehow more ; they terrify and they frighten via their incredible, superhuman potency.
They are not subject to ordinary, mortal qualms or concerns around vulnerability or their prospects for failure. They simply just do. And do extraordinary.
To quote from the Ynglinga Saga’s presentation of the Furor Teutonicus, as bestowed by Odin:
“His men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild bulls, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon themselves. These were called Berserker.” A power which, interestingly enough, due to its situation immediately after accounts of Odin’s utilization of strange magics to impact and impair His opponents – would seem to imply some potential similar degree of mystical engagement and empowerment from Odin in augmentation of His Warriors. Certainly, the immediately preceding sentence makes overt and direct reference to His presiding over the “Song-Smiths” as His Priests. The direct parallel of these two clades of ancient Germanic society – the ‘Song-Smith’ and the Superior Soldier – in the corresponding portions of the relevant verse of the Ynglinga Saga is unlikely to be accidental.
So, to return to the invocation of Ugra within the realms of the DeviSukta – what we have there is the corresponding situation to that of Odin’s impartment of Odr. Carried out, in this instance, by the Goddess Who is Odin-Rudra’s ‘Other Half’ [Ardhanarishvara, indeed]. And it is not merely in terms of the Power of the Pandit or the Renown of the Rsi where She makes this felt. The next lines make quite clear that it is also the superior martial potency which She can provide as well. Indeed, which is provided to Rudra, in some ways.
But where is the corresponding expression of this within the Nordic mythology? Certainly, we have Freyja married to Odr … but what evidence is there for Freyja empowering Odin with Odr?
Sadly, there is nothing direct. The closest I have thus far been able to find is the rather loose trajectory also contained within the Yinglinga Saga – wherein it is Freya Who teaches the power of Magic to the Aesir (the ‘Asaland People’), which combined with the (spear)pointed repeated references to Odin’s great facility with same, would seem to obliquely suggest that it is from His Wife that He gained such power and insight – of Seidr.
To quote Adi Shankara, the great Shaivite Sage –
“ Sivah Saktya yukto yadi bhavati saktah prabhavitum
na cedevam devo na khalu kusalah spanditumapi ”
It is only with Devi Shakti [‘Power’] that Shiva-Odin becomes able to be Sire of the World
Without Her, He cannot engage-in-motion.
I have translated somewhat loosely, and it is difficult to properly encapsulate the sense of some of the terms in their figurative connotation (e.g. the ‘motion’) – but you get the idea.
Fortunately for our comparative Indo-European analysis, there also exists a rather prominent instance from the canon of the Ancient Greeks with which to further addeuce our typology.
To quote the words attributed to the Goddess Athena in The Iliad, as spoken to Diomedes:
” ἐν γάρ τοι στήθεσσι μένος πατρώϊον ἧκα
ἄτρομον, οἷον ἔχεσκε σακέσπαλος ἱππότα Τυδεύς. ”
“I have put your ancestors’ unflinching ménos into your breast,
such as the shield-brandishing horseman Tydeus used to have.”
Now that word, “Menos”, is incredibly interesting to me – as while it is often translated as ‘Spirit’ [and it derives, indeed, from the same ultimate root as ‘Mind’, ‘Men’, ‘Manes’, etc. and even ‘Mantra’] – this does not quite do it fulsome justice in our modern ears’ interpretation of such a term.
The sense of ‘Spirit’ here is somewhere between a ‘spark’ of the divine (c.f, for instance, the Germanic notion of the Ergreiffen – or the way in which the Priest is said to Speak with the Voice of the Divine rather than just his own) , and an empowerment of the spirit which already exists within the man. In this case, entirely uncoincidentally, a hereditary one. We are, after all, patrilineally descended also from the relevant Great God. The ‘Fury’ is therefore potentially somewhat innate – just awaiting to be awakened via the proper keyed empowerment, the proper ‘unlocking’ by Her or Him.
Another way of thinking about it may be the ‘Martial Spirit’ or ‘In Good Spirits’, or even the ‘Esprit de Corps’ – that last one in particular having direct saliency in terms of the similarly sourced Vedic ‘Manyu’ [simultaneously the foremost of the Vedic War Gods – a Form of Rudra, a ‘Spirit’ in a conventional sense or a ‘Mood’, as well as representing the ‘spirit’ of an Army – and therefore finding parallel expression in Line 6 of the DeviSukta surrounding a shade of Devi Vak’s salient role with relation to the War-Host of The Gods]. The ‘Spirit’ of an army, or the ‘Good Spirits’ of personnel certainly being something intimately bound to the potency of the Word amongst them.
Yet to return to that Greek encounter once more, it is immensely intriguing to find that Devi Athena’s blessing is not merely one of martial vigour. But of the piercing gift of True Seeing also. Indeed, these two are, again, strongly connected. And arcen back once more to the Rsi – the Vedic Seer.
How? Well consider this: the Rsi is a Rsi in no small part because He perceives things as few others can. He, and he alone of his assembled tribe, is capable of seeing the Worlds as They more truly are. Perceiving the Divine above him without either being blinded totally by its searing radiance, or simply not happening to notice it at all in the first place.
So, the next line spoken by Athena to Diomedes –
“Moreover, I have withdrawn the veil from your eyes, that you know gods and men apart.”
- is intensely relevant. For if Diomedes were not in a combat situation wherein He is about to face down (and win no less!) against two Gods in quick succession, including the famed Lord of War Himself, Ares … the boon he has just been bestowed with should make him a most excellent religious seer indeed. For he is quite literally seeing. With ‘Eyes of Flame’, if the opening to Book Five of the Iliad (and the parallel manifestation of the phenomenon viz. Achilles elsewhere in the same work) is anything to go by. A situation that may veer-y likely parallel the Flashing-Eye of Lord Odin, and for somewhat similar (lethally luminous) reason.
A further point to be noted afore we move on is the semi-cognate linkage of Diomedes’ name – which effectively means ‘The Divinely/Supernally Guided/Wise/Cunning” – with the aforementioned ‘Su-Medha’ of the releant RigVedic Verse. Medha and Metis / Medes, you see – and ‘Su’ in this context not only as the intensifier, but signalling in concert with the rest of the line that it is the Divine power which is provisioning or substantively enhancing the faculty in question.
Diomedes’ experience, in other words, is putting into colourfully evocative ‘practical application’ exactly what we have heard spoken of in that Line of the DeviSukta. Particularly given that this Empowerment extends to both the competencies of the Seer – yet also to the ability to present as almost a force-of-nature when hewing through the foe.
A final point I shall make in favour of this linkage, concerns the etymology of Rsi itself – something that has defied easy tracing for some time. Some theories trace a connexion with other Indo-European terms for ‘Flow’ [PIE: ‘Hers’] – the suggestion being that the Seer’s words do, indeed, flow forth with the power and velocity of a river, or a wind. There is something to that. There is also, potentially anyway, something to the notion of terms for ‘Seeing’ having something to do with it.
Yet every so often, the more archaic ‘folk-etymologies’ do indeed turn out to have some capacious trove of value to them after all. And we are now coming back around full circle in some ways, to speculating upon whether an archaic Indo-European term for ‘rushing’ is more plausibly responsible.
This would align, funnily enough, with the etymology proposed by the Vedic linguistic sage, Yaksha, writing almost two and a half millennia ago. Although, of course, he did not know nor could he about the underlying Proto-Indo-European stratum for which his trajectory would ultimately incline, still much less the Germanic terms that serve to demonstrate he was on the right track after all.
In this particular case, Proto-Indo-European ‘Rehs’, with a meaning of ‘Rush’ – which, via Proto-Germanic ‘Reso’, gives us modern Germanic terms such as the Dutch ‘Razen’, or the modern German ‘Rasen’.
What do these terms mean? Well, in one sense they are terms rather like what we should expect from their cognate in English: “Race”. That is, to move veer-y swiftly. Yet both also retain the sense of “Rage”, With the Middle Dutch that the former is descended from – Râsen – being even more explicit in its incorporation of the concepts of a crazed frenzy, swift-talking, ‘raving’ and a high state of emotion along with its motion. It is not hard to propose that the motion and emotion, are meant in a metaphysical as well as a physical sense when we are thinking of these terms’ underlying Indo-European typology.
Especially because we do not really need to hypothesize as to this existing as a concept: The Old Norse ‘Odr’, of which we have capaciously spoken of earlier in this piece, hails to us from Proto-Indo-European ‘Weht’. What is ‘Weht’? A term referring to the state of ‘excitement’, of ‘frenzy’, of ‘rage’, of seeming almost to be ‘possessed’ [Ergreiffed]. And which also informs not only ‘Woden’ – ‘Odin’ – but also terms such as the Latin ‘Vates’ [again, a Seer], as well as one of the senses for Vedic ‘Vata’ [Here meant as in a ‘Charge’, an ‘Assailment’ rather than the Wind or Troposphere]
So, as we can quite pointedly see – Devi Vak, when She directly tells us that She is making the man whom She chooses a Seer, a Divinely Inspired Poet, via the investment of the Ugra-Potency of Furor … She is making the chosen figure more like Her Husband – The Great God Shiva-Odin-Rudra Who embodies (and also Himself bestows) this potency Himself.
Hidden withing the beatific-sounding concept of the Vedic Seer, in other words, has been this Furious Storm-Song Spear-Tongue Wielder, this whole time.
It is just that we are only just now able to more fully appreciate that. The manner in which all of these terms are, in fact, describing the same root concept. Not even especially differently expressed – except in terms of the words, the labeling, themselves. Which may have shifted somewhat, in line with the derivation of the associations of their applications, in the intervening millennia. And therefore obscurated to the ken of many the actual, archaic fundamental unity of the concept in question.
For when we look back to the Past utilizing our tools here in the Present – we can see that the Furor concept , whether ‘Teutonicus’ or ‘Poeticus’ , is the same Divine Energy.
And that it comes to us (also) from the same ultimate Divine Source.
The Great Goddess of the Indo-Europeans.
Jai Mata Di.