Something I have often taken a bit of pleasure in, is finding the ‘echoes’ of underlying archaic Indo-European symbolism amidst the wreckage of the modern world. In various cases, these are ‘traces’ that were probably not consciously intended as such by their contemporary authors – and yet which nevertheless have some fundamental, recurring resonancy back to our mythoreligious past nonetheless.
As you can probably tell via this wonderful image – today we shall take a brief look at the Red Bull symbolism of the Indo-European Sky Father, best known to us via the Vedas.
And before we get on to a certain energy drink … by which I mean Soma, of course … let us examine what is actually being implied by the symbolism in these Hymnals in order that we might get a sense of what we are extolling here.
The Bull is unquestionably an immensely mighty animal, with a loud bellow. It is also the male form of the bovine – the female, of course, being the Cow. A Bull is well-renowned for having a certain temper, and destructive faculty. These survive even in our modern idioms around the “Red Rag to the Bull”, and the “Bull in the China Shop”.
The Cow in the context of the Vedas is a frequent symbol and metaphor for the Earth, for the Wife of the Sky Father, for Vak Devi [the Goddess of Speech]; the Nourisher of All via Her Milk [and the Streams of Speech are likewise thought of as Milk, interestingly enough]. It would therefore make sense for the male counterpart to this Goddess to be a Bull. Especially given the noted temperament of the Bull and His formidable power. And, of course, the ‘Fertility’ connotation – which we find specifically referenced in an array of hymnals upon the subject, such as those to the Sky Father as Parjanya. With the Bellowing of the Bull finding expression as the Roaring of Thunder (the ‘Resonant Speech’) ; and the fierce exhalations through His Nostrils as the Winds, the clouds, likewise, from the ‘hot breath’ of His Anger and His Life, His Vitality [and in the archaic Indo-European conceptry, the ‘smoking breath’ of anger, and that of life, were, effectively, one]. Indeed, we might even speculate as to the Horns being symbolically resonant with the arcening Lightning; or the Thundering Hooves being exactly that; the potential utilization of the bull to draw a plough or other earthenworks creator finding resonancy with the Bull symbolism in relation to the Channel for the Waters in various Vedic hymnals upon the subject.
It should therefore come as no surprise that we find the Bull as the Emblem of the Sky Father – something which occurs also in the post-Vedic Hindu religion, wherein Lord Shiva is directly hailed as ‘He Who Has The Bull For His Ensign’ – Vrishabhadhvaja . And which may find a certain residual currency with the frequency with which Zeus and Poseidon are associated with Bulls also; as well as the recurrent Bull symbolism of Dionysus, and the Cow symbolism of Hera.
However, we should also note that it is not only the Sky Father that is hailed as a Bull. Indra, too, the Striker/Thunderer Son of the Sky Father is spoken of as a Bull ; as are the Asvins – Sons of the Sky Father, two; and, for that matter, the Maruts, Who possess similar ultimate paternity. So, evidently these are cases of ‘Like Father, Like Sons’; and mean that further contextual information is necessary afore directly ascribing a given ‘Bull’ mention to the Sky Father specifically.
So what are some of these contextual qualifiers? Well, generally speaking we are looking for two (overlapping) things – first, those situations wherein a Vedic deific expression we know to be the Sky Father is hailed as a Bull ; and second, those situations wherein the theological role and ritualine function involved in the line is coterminous with that of the Sky Father. Hence as we shall see, the “Red Bull” – and also a certain provision of … energy, perhaps we might even figuratively suggest “wings” via His Divine Grace.
The ‘Red’ element is quite key. For it stands for the Radiant Energy – that of Fire , and of the Sky-Disc that is the Sun. Hence the frequency with which it is Agni specifically hailed as the Red Bull – for what colour is Flame. And, flowing from this, partially why we find the mentions for the Red Bull in connexion with the pious conduct of proper rites. Because Agni is, by necessity, integral to these – as, of course, is Brihaspati / Brahmahaspati ; Agni representing the Fire at the heart of proceedings, Brihaspati standing for the officiating role via the enunciation of the Sacred Speech, the Songs of Prayer. This also helps to explain the mentions for Soma as the Bull – for this is produced in the ritualine sense via the precise application of the pious rites (that is to say, Agni & Brihaspati ) , in accordance with the Law (that is to say, Varuna) , and is brought forth to empower the imbiber (in just the same manner that Agni , Shiva as Shyena – the Raptor – flies the Soma ; or, in the Nordic expression of this same myth and rite, as Odin bears the Mead of Poetry in form of an Eagle; and, as we shall see, there is frequent co-occurrence of the Falcon or Eagle in relation to the Bull in these hymnals for just this reason – for the Sky Father is not bound only to a single animalistic form in association nor mythic conceptry).
However, what is additionally interesting to us is that the hailing for Agni , as the Altar-Fire and the Empowerment thereto [Agni, as is well-known, derives from the Proto-Indo-European term for ‘Living Fire’, ‘Animate Fire’ – whereas ‘Fire’ itself derives from the PIE for the inanimate ‘mundane’ kind of Flame] , is not confined exclusively to this sphere.
Rather, it is directly and intentionally doubled to refer to the Sun. Which makes multiple layers of good mythologic and theologic sense. For the Sun is also a Fire ; and, indeed, is the Source of all Energy, all Life. Just as we find the Sky Father being hailed as in the relevant hymnaic conceptry. You can also see this in the frequent Hindu invocation for the Powers of the Sun in the course of our rites and rituals (the Gayatri Mantra is a stellar example); and it is not hard to see how this, too, links back to the ‘bright drop’ of the Soma and the investiture of life-energy which goes along therewith. Particularly given the several Sanskrit terms that are effective doublets for ‘illumination’ via the Solar Rays and for Speech, Prayer, Sacred Song and Rite.
And while a direct association of the Sky Father with the Sun might seem a little curious, given that Surya is the Vedic Sun God … as we have repeatedly demonstrated elsewhere in the course of my work, both the Vedic and the broader Indo-European conceptry upon this point are rather more complex than that. For a start, there are recurrent direct identifications of the Sun as the Eye of the Sky Father. For a second, there is the very fact itself that Dyaus refers to the Radiant Heaven – made so by the Sun. For the third, there are actually multiple Vedic Sun Gods and Gods referred to as The Sun; including, for the fourth, the Sky Father – hence the paternity of various figures in the Vedic understanding, being Surya … where in the Greek these are the Sons and Daughter of Zeus.
And in any case, our inference is not really required – take, for example, RV VII 88 2 : “I take the face of Varuṇa for Agni’s. / So might he bring-Lord also of the darkness-the light in heaven that I may see its beauty!” Agni as the Sky Father Visage of the Day , Varuna as the Sky Father Visage of the Night.
So, where does this leave us, as applies the modern ‘echoes’ of this archaic conceptry?
Well, the most blatant, blaringly obvious one is, of course, the Red Bull energy drink, with its ingredient of Taurine; and, of course, its slogan of “Red Bull Gives You Wings” – which simultaneously ‘echoes’ the empowering function of Soma , and the atmospheric sphere associated with the Sky Father. A loose parallel, but it nevertheless always arrives within my mind whenever the Red Bull Vedic symbolism is mentioned.
However, the more intriguing occurrence is far less well-known. The Indian warship, the INS Trishul . Now, the Trishula is, of course, the ‘Three-Spear’ weapon of Mahadeva. And is an expression of the ‘World-Spear’ concept we so often find in the Hands of the Sky Father. So it is not hard to see how the name of the ship in Indian service is Sky Father relevant. Yet here is the curious thing – when the Trishul was undergoing sea trials with the Russians prior to its being handed over to the Indian Navy, and therefore bearing a Russian name and ensign … the emblem of the ship was a Red Bull, powerful clouds of steam billowing from His nostrils.
Now, I do not know that some Russian sailor nor ship designer was aware of what he was implicitly referencing. It’s not impossible – stranger occurrences have, from time to time, happened; and there has long been a deep and abiding respect for mythology amidst various naval circles when it comes to the heraldry and the nomenclature of warships. But I would ,as I say, be quite heavily surprised were this actually what was in the mind of the man who dubbed this vessel with the emblem of the Red Bull for the course of its sea-trials.
Sometimes, it seems, we pick up upon concepts, elements out there from our archaic past – without realizing that that is what we are doing. Myth, as I have often noted, has an internal logic and forcefulness – that which radiates out and resonates upon us as its drum-skin , almost regardless of whether we are conscious, active, willing participants with same or not. So, too, may it perhaps have been herein.
Anyway, with all of that conceptual explication propounded – perhaps we should take a look at some of the Vedic Hymnals in question. Not all of them, of course, I have had to narrow it down quite significantly given the sheer number of Bull mentions in relation to the Sky Father in the RigVeda alone. But these ought provide an eloquent span of emblematic examples:
RV VI 73:
“1. SERVED with oblations, first-born, mountain-render, Aṅgiras’ son, Bṛhaspati, the Holy, / With twice-firm path, dwelling in light, our Father, roars loudly, as a bull, to Earth and Heaven.
2 Bṛhaspati, who made for such a people wide room and verge when Gods were invocated, / Slaying his enemies, breaks down their castles, quelling his foes and conquering those who hate him.
3 Bṛhaspati in war hath won rich treasures, hath won, this God, the great stalls filled with cattle. / Striving to win waters and light, resistless, Bṛhaspati with lightning smites the foeman.”
RV II 33:
“15 O tawny Bull, thus showing forth thy nature, as neither to be wroth, O God, nor slay us. / Here, Rudra, listen to our invocation. Loud may we speak, with heroes, in assembly.”
RV X 8:
“1. AGNI advances with his lofty banner: the Bull is bellowing to the earth and heavens. / He hath attained the sky’s supremest limits. the Steer hath waxen in the lap of waters.”
RV 1 194
“10 When to thy chariot thou hadst yoked two red steeds and two ruddy steeds, wind-sped, thy roar was like a bull’s. / Thou with smoke-bannered flame attackest forest trees. Let us not in thy friendship, Agni, suffer harm.”
RV 1 140:
“10 O Agni, shine resplendent with our wealthy chiefs, like a loud-snorting bull, accustomed to the house. / Thou casting off thine infant wrappings blazest forth as though thou hadst put on a coat of mail for war.”
RV III 07:
“5 They know the red Bull’s blessing, and are joyful under the flaming-coloured Lord’s dominion: / They who give shine from heaven with fair effulgence, whose lofty song like Iḷā must be honoured.”
RV III 15:
“3 Bull, who beholdest men, through many mornings, among the dark ones shine forth red, O Agni. / Lead us, good Lord, and bear us over trouble: Help us who long, Most Youthful God, to riches.
4 Shine forth, a Bull invincible, O Agni, winning by conquest all the forts and treasures, / Thou Jātavedas who art skilled in guiding, the chief high saving sacrifice’s Leader.
5 Lighting Gods hither, Agni, wisest Singer, bring thou to us many and flawless shelters. / Bring vigour, like a car that gathers booty: bring us, O Agni, beauteous Earth and Heaven.
6 Swell, O thou Bull and give those powers an impulse, e’en Earth and Heaven who yield their milk in plenty, / Shining, O God, with Gods in clear effulgence. Let not a mortal’s evil will obstruct us.”
RV VI 48
“6 He who hath filled both worlds fult with his brilliant shine, who hastens with his smoke to heaven; / He made himself apparent through the gloom by night, the Red Bull in the darksome nights, the Red Bull in the darksome nights.”
RV VII 88:
“1. PRESENT to Varuṇa thine hymn, Vasiṣṭha, bright, most delightful to the Bounteous Giver, / Who bringeth on to us the Bull, the lofty, the Holy, laden with a thousand treasures.
2 And now, as I am come before his presence, I take the face of Varuṇa for Agni’s. / So might he bring-Lord also of the darkness-the light in heaven that I may see its beauty!”
RV 7 5:
“2 Sought in the heavens, on earth is Agni stablished, leader of rivers, Bull of standing waters.”
RV I 79:
“2 Thy well-winged flashes strengthen in their manner, when the black Bull hath bellowed round about us. / With drops that bless and seem to smile he cometh: the waters fall, the clouds utter their thunder.”
RV VII 55
“7 The Bull who hath a thousand horns, who rises up from out the sea”
RV X 63:
“3 I will rejoice in these Ādityas for my weal, for whom the Mother pours forth water rich in balm, / And Dyaus the Infinite, firm as a rock, sweet milk,—Gods active, strong through lauds, whose might the Bull upholds.”
RV III 61
“7 On Law’s firm base the speeder of the Mornings, the Bull, hath entered mighty earth and heaven. / Great is the power of Varuṇa and Mitra, which, bright, hath spread in every place its splendour.”
RV IX 71:
“9 Like a bull roaming round the herds he bellows: he hath assumed the brilliancy of Sūrya. / Down to the earth hath looked the heavenly Falcon: Soma with wisdom views all living creatures.”
RV IX 82
“1. EVEN as a King hath Soma, red and tawny Bull, been pressed: the Wondrous One hath bellowed to the kine. / While purified he passes through the filtering fleece to seat him hawk-like on the place that drops with oil.”
There. See? We even eventually got to the ‘energy drink’ after all !