A brief Indo-European observation inspired by the SkandaMata Night of NavRatri –
Skanda, the War God Son of Shiva, has Six Heads. This is due to the rather unique manner of His Birth – wherein the embryonic Skanda is transplanted to six mothers via Agni, the Krittika Stars (we would know these in the West as the Pleiades). Skanda is therefore birthed by Six Mothers, and iconographically depicted with the corresponding number of heads.
Now, in a way this carries forward the tale of the warlike Son of Agni – Who is similarly born to a complex caelestial parentage,following His Father’s attempts to seduce the Seven Wives of the SaptaRishis , the Seven Seers of the Vedas … these wives also being identified with the Pleiades. Svaha attempts to take on the forms of each of the Seven Stars in a bid to seduce Agni – although interestingly is only successfully able to become Six out of the full Seven. In a further parallel, Svaha does not ultimately give birth to Kumara in various versions of the myth – the Pleiades having to step in for a combined effort to rear the mighty God.
But wait – why is there Six in the Puranic era myth, Seven in the older Vedic reference? Well, as it happens, there were originally Seven Pleiades shining in our sky – but at some point in either the early 1st or late 2nd millennium B.C., one of these stars dimmed sufficiently as to fade from easy view. We find this referenced in the Greek mythology , wherein a narrative is concocted to explicate this transition involving one Star ‘going out’ due to becoming mortal or going to the Underworld. [This may also help to explicate why Svaha is only able to take the form of six rather than the full seven of the SaptaRishis’ Wives during Her seduction of Lord Agni]
So, Seven and Six are exactly the coterminity we should expect for the same figure being talked about at different points in our history – different vantage-points upon the same Constellation and corresponding Mythic Figures.
And to briefly speak further about the Pleiades in Greek reckoning – it is utterly uncoincidental that we find these Star-Maidens romantically linked to Sky Father figures. Zeus and Poseidon being the two of particular prominency – although Orion, too, (lustily) pursues all Seven/Six, across the Night Sky even to this day.
So, as we can see, there is quite clearly an archaic underlying Indo-European belief in the Sky Father engaging with the Seven (later Six) Stars of the Pleiades in order to produce a mighty Son. [One of these, in particular, being Zeus and Maia – not necessarily to be confused with the Vedic Maya – producing Hermes]
All of which brings us to the Nordic figure of Heimdall. Wherein He, too, has Multiple Mothers – although in this case, Nine rather than Seven or Six. And yet, that is no obstacle. For not only is the paternity the same (Shiva is Odin , Agni is Shiva ; both Shiva and Odin are Dyaus Pitar – the Indo-European Sky Father, otherwise known variously as Zeus Pater, Poseidon, Orion, etc.) – but there are an array of iconographic and mythological coterminities also between Heimdall and Skanda that I have detailed in my work elsewhere.
There is also a remarkable ‘pattern’ of a 7 => 9 shift that frequently occurs within the transition between the Vedic and the Eddic mythologies. Seen, for example, in the Seven Worlds in later Vedic cosmology and the Nine Worlds in the Nordic. Which would appear to strongly suggest that the Seven Pleiades (later Six) acting as somewhat-surrogate Mothers for this magnificent Son of the Sky Father – should correlate with the Nine Mothers of Heimdall. This is particularly the case given the rather specific location given for these Nine Mothers – at the Edge of the World.
Exactly where we should expect, in other words, Stars to be found – not least due to the repeated Greek citations for the Pleiades in this location, diving beneath the rim of the Oceanus , the river, the waters, which encircle our world.
So – there you have it. The mythology around Devi Durga as Skandamata preserves and carries forward what is clearly an archaic Indo-European concept. Wherein the Sky Father has a Son borne by multiple, celestial Mothers.