[Author’s Note: This continues our excerpts series from #MahaShivRatri And The Mytholinguistics Of War – The Mind, The Mania, The Manyu. In this extract, we take a look at what’s probably one of the least surprising potential Zoroastrian literal-demonizations of a Vedic Deity – the War God charged with the protection of piety against ‘the hater of devotion’, Who just so happens to have a remarkably similar name and other associations to the demon the Zoroastrians regarded with greatest fear.]
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.