I think by now that many would agree that if a little knowledge is a dangerous thing – then Wiki-knowledge can be the summation of many dangerous things put together. Due to its prominence as a source, questionable material placed thereupon has a way of spreading out and cropping up again all over the place. Something I have recently had cause to observe when it comes to a few people bringing up the Vedic figure of Tapati in connexion to the Scythian Tabiti – and going along with Wiki’s twin inferences upon the matter: that firstly, these two figures are linguistically connected (which is true), yet secondly that due largely to this linguistic connection … that these must therefore be the same Goddess, some sort of Proto-Indo-Iranian Fire Goddess.
This is not accurate, although I can certainly see how an inexperienced perspective may have come to this conclusion. Yet how do we know? How can I state this with such certainty? Well, to mis-reference a political campaign-call of yester-year: “It’s The Mythology, Stupid!”
You see, other than the fact that both of these Goddesses are, well, Goddesses (i.e. female) , and have an evident association with Heat and Light (and thence, presumably, the Flames) as expressed through Their Theonymics [both underpinned via PIE ‘Tep’, whence ‘Tepid’, but also Sanskrit ‘Tapas’] – there is precious little to actually link the two. One – Scythian Tabiti – is the Radiant Queen of the Heavens , a Great Goddess hailed by the Scythians as a regality on par with or even exceeding that of Father Zeus (Papaios) and one of only two figures to whom the Scythian King Idanthyrsus declares his willingness to bow to. The other – Hindu Tapati – meanwhile is a Queen, also .. but of a mortal kingdom, married to the Lunar dynasty king Samvarana.
And it is there we shall begin – with detailing Tapati, and how She actually aligns quite closely with a certain other radiantly beautiful figure from perhaps better-known Indo-European myth. Namely, Helen of Troy. Who similarly has a ‘radiant’ theonym – ‘Helen’ coming from the same ultimate root as ‘Selene’, and referring to a brightness, a torch, a shining, a blaze. Now, lest I be misinterpreted – ‘Selene’ (as discussed in my ongoing series ‘The Radiant Queen of the Heavens’) is not a term that intrinsically connotes the Moon; but rather, has come in Greek to specifically refer to the Moon Goddess despite both i) other terms in Ancient Greek to which this is related still maintaining a ‘fire’ association (e.g. ‘Selas’), and ii) the fact that the notion of a primary Moon Goddess is not really an Indo-European element outside of the Classical mythos [as detailed in my previous work ‘On ‘Moon’ And Moon God’, we usually tend to see male Moon deifics for the Indo-Europeans].
So seeing Helen of Troy hailed via a name that is that of a Fiery Light – is exactly in keeping with what we should expect, given that She was still worshipped as a Goddess with likely Solar features by the Spartans even into the later Classical age. With Menelaus likely having a Lunar characteristic – as attested via some attempted reconstructions of his name, as well as both the Lunar dynasty hailing of King Samvarana, whom we have just met … and also, as I’ve discussed in some of my previous work at greater length, the Lunar characterization of the figure Who marries the Sun’s Beautiful Daughter in the course of the famed Bridal of Surya hymnal of the RigVeda [RV X 85].
And that notion – of being the Sun’s Beautiful Daughter – is quite key to the identification. For both Helen and Tapati are hailed in exactly those terms. As the most beautiful women in Their respective Indo-European mythologies. As well as sharing, as we shall soon see, the same paternity. I’ve covered this in far more expansive detail in my previous works in the Radiant Queen of the Heavens series, but suffice to say that the Vivasvan Who is Tapati’s Father is the same God Who Is Zeus – the Indo-European Sky Father. We can tell this in no small part due to the siblings involved. Helen has rather prominent Brothers – the Dioscuri, Castor & Pollux. Tapati has the Asvins, the Horse-Twins. The Paternity of the Helping Horse-Hero Twins is a key identifying feature for the Sky Father – as shown via Odin’s role in bringing forth Hengist and Horsa, and Rudra’s holding of this title in various Vedic texts showing that He is Dyaus (Pitar).
Although in terms of the parentage of Helen – it should be noted that whilst the most prominent iteration of Her Myth features a mortal woman named Leda, I have come to doubt whether this is the best understanding we have available to us. Apart from my own (well-founded) speculation around Leda linking to Leto, and to a relevant Lycian term for ‘Wife’ [therefore making the Mother of Helen and the Hero-Twins out to be Zeus’ .. Wife – perhaps rather shockingly for those more accustomed to the Greek presentation of the deity’s sexual enthusiasms landing squarely outside of wedlock] ; there is also the quite ancient understanding preserved in the Cypria (and referenced also repeatedly in later texts) – which has the Mother of Helen as none other than the Goddess Nemesis.
This is interesting for us, because the conception of Helen via this maternity hinges around a pursuit of the “dark faced” Goddess by Zeus with both assuming the forms of Swans or Geese for the chase (and the resultant egg being found or bequeathed to the mortal Leda to raise). Which appears to mirror the occurrence in Hindu myth wherein Surya engages in a determined pursuit of His Wife, Saranyu, with both in horse form – similarly resulting in the conception of the strongly horse-associated Asvins; and with the motherhood of Tapati via the ‘dark faced’ Chhaya also bound up in these proceedings (Who, in some later tellings of the myth becomes a mortal woman).
Matters become further intriguing when we consider the character of Tapati’s husband, Samvarana. Other than his having to spend more than a decade away from his kingdom in his pursuit of Her – we have the meaning of his name: a concealment, an enclosing (or ‘capture’ perhaps), a disguise, a (false) pretext. The name of Paris is in theory an Anatolian one calqued into Ancient Greek – yet I suspect that the overarching conduct of Paris towards fair Helen may nevertheless be resonant with what is being communicated via this Sanskrit name. The ‘enclosure’ element would certainly fit with a more generalized marriage concept wherein the groom is ‘leading away’ and ‘placing in his own house’ the bride; whilst in light of my own interpretation of the aforementioned Surya’s Bridal RigVedic Hymnal [RV X 85] wherein the Daughter of the Sun (confusingly also named Surya) marries the Moon, that this hymnal refers to a Solar Eclipse (indeed, plausibly the specific Solar Eclipse of 16th of April 1699 BC – see my work on the Nebra Sky Disc for further elucidation) – the notion of the groom ‘covering’ or ‘concealing’ the radiant beauty of his Bride would certainly be an eloquent manner to express the concept of the Moon covering over the Sun and Her life-giving Beauty in an eclipse. (Although if we are looking at etymologies – the further points of the same field of meaning for Tapas in Sanskrit , where the fiery illumination, the pleasant warmth and life-giving light, they become correlate with discomfort, an ordeal, and even the outright infliction of pain … well, it could certainly be suggested that Menelaus’ marriage to Helen brought about all of that and more.)
But those are other matters for other times. The point is – we can viably show that Hindu Tapati is very, very likely to be the same mythic figure as Greek Helen. The parentages align (not simply in terms of paternity – but also in intriguing ways in terms of the circumstances of conception), the associations (of quite literally radiant, solar beauty beyond compare) align, and other mythological elements including key siblings and prospectively some important details of romantic partner(s) likewise.
Which brings us on to Scythian Tabiti. The Radiant Queen of the Heavens, Herself.
Now I shall not go into the grand exhaustive depth of detail that has characterized our still-ongoing article series by that very name. For to do so would be largely unnecessary – as all that is required here is the brief elucidation as to the character of Tabiti in both Scythian and comparative Indo-European understanding, in order to demonstrate the lack of concordance with what we understand of Tapati – Helen. Readers interested in greater exploration of the concepts pertaining to both the Solar Goddesses (plural) of the Indo-Europeans as well this specific, highest Goddess in particular, would be advised to take a look at “The Radiant Queen of the Heavens – On Scythian Tabiti As Template For The Greater Indo-European Solar Goddess”.
To focus upon Tabiti directly, it is not questioned that Her Theonym is similarly derived to that of Tapati – and refers to some combination of Heat and Light. However, where the divergences begin in the exceedingly fragmentary information available to us from Herodotus – is in two key respects. First and foremost, the manner in which Tabiti is addressed – as the Queen (particularly by the Scythian king Idanthyrsus in the course of his scorning of Darius), foremost of Those who merit worship (and this is effectively what Herodotus states: citing ‘Hestia’ even ahead of ‘Zeus’ (Papaios) in the listing of Scythian deities and saying that She is “Whom they reverence beyond all the rest”; whilst Idanthyrsus pointedly declares that it is only to Papaios and to Tabiti that he shall ever bow); and second, as briefly touched upon just before, in terms of the Interpretatio Graeca which Herodotus advances for this most magnificent Goddess – hailing Her as Hestia. And it is that last element, I suspect, where a great deal of the ‘confusion’ has crept in.
Now we shall address the latter point first – that of Hestia relative to Tabiti. Suffice to say that I do not believe Herodotus to have been entirely mistaken in his points of co-identification here – only that whilst the Classical Hestia / Vesta is a legitimate point of comparison, what we see with this Hearth-Fire Goddess is only a part of what is actually meant by Tabiti. After all, whilst Hestia may be closely linked to the fire that is the heart (the hearth in fact) of both home and settlement or polis, and in receipt of the first portion of a sacrifice … this is not really the same thing as being the most revered deity, the Queen of the Gods. Although it is not difficult to see that there is indeed some degree of conceptual relationship here that goes beyond the medium of sacrifice (fire) and speaks towards the integral association with the dominion of a people. And therefore, perhaps, how the Hestia / Vesta of the Classical mythology may have ‘descended’ from what is found in the Scythian Indo-European mythology – given the manner in which the Scythians often appear to have more directly ‘carried forward’ the Proto-Indo-European belief and ethos ; as well as the reasonably strong concordance of the elements around Tabiti with those found in the oldest Indo-European scriptural canon available to us – the Vedas.
And it is here that She truly begins to shine!
The best and most immediate parallel for Scythian Tabiti is Vedic Vak – hailed as Goddess of Speech (for that is quite directly what ‘Vak’, cognate with ‘Vox’, ‘Voice’ would mean), yet with so much more bound up even in this concept, let alone Her scriptural and mythic appearances. In the famed DeviSukta [RV X 125], my favourite RigVedic Hymnal, we find Her hailed as the Queen , “foremost of Those Who merit worship”, linked to the vitally integral fires which sustain life and piety, an empowerer of both men and gods to mighty feats of martial conduct and sagacity; as well as, appropriately given some of the associations of the Scythians in the popular imagination – an active war-leader for Her people, and a truly mighty martial force in Her own rite (which I mean quite literally, as there are a number of these, also under the name of Saraswati, wherein Her demon-slaying, foe-obliterating exploits are regaled – including the specific sobriquet of Vritrahan : the Slayer of Vritra). It has been said that while there are numerous goddesses hailed in the Vedic canon … this particular Sukta is where we really do get a sense that this is a Goddess with a Capital G.
So, with all of that in mind, when we are casting about for an immediate ‘cognate’ expression to this Queen Goddess of the Scythians, of a certain radiant/fiery name, and of such prominency and regality to be hailed even ahead of the Sky Father (Papaios) … it is not hard to see just why the Vedic figure of Vak comes charging forth. And lest it be presumed that this Goddess is a later Vedic innovation … we have repeatedly demonstrated in the course of our research that this is quite the contrary. Vak’s mythology and the competencies attested in Her lines of Vedic scripture find direct parallels in the Greek mythology, the Nordic mythology, and plausibly others besides.
As applies a distinguishment from Vedic Tapati or Greek Helen , the forcefulness of the disparity should almost speak for itself (aptly enough). But we can go one better in terms of demonstrating that a direct equivalency of Vak and Tapati – and thus the underlying Indo-European typology of the two figures in question – is not plausible. It is simple. Who is the Father of Tapati ? The same God that is the Father of the Asvins, Her Brothers. Who is that God? Dyaus Pitar – Rudra. Who is Vak’s Husband? The veer-y same. Similarly, within the realms of the Greek mythology – it is Zeus (Pater) Who is the Father of the Dioscuri (the Hero-Twins, Castor & Pollux) and also of Helen. Which is relevant not only due to the generational ‘mis-alignment’ occurrent there , from the perspective of those who would attempt to equate Tabiti and Tapati … but also due to the further relevant Vedic conceptry wherein Vak exists a-priori to the Sky Father and brings Him into being (something which appears to have some comparative expression amidst the Greeks in a number of forms, as detailed briefly in one of my recent Dionysus articles – and which we’re about to briefly meet again in the form of Gaia & Ouranos). A feature shared with another Vedic expression of the same Goddess, the pointedly more overtly Solar Aditi – Whom I mention in no small part due to the rather intriguing fact that this Aditi is both a Solar Goddess and an Earth Goddess at the same time. A fact which becomes relevant in light of the otherwise slightly curious enumeration of Scythian deities found in Herodotus – wherein immediately following Papaios there is mention of an “Api” as His Consort, phrased in Greek terms as ‘Gaia’.
Now this should, upon first glance introduce a complication and a contradiction for our endeavours of Indo-European mythic reconstruction for the Scythian pantheon – as the Sky Father is paired to the Earth Mother (Who is, by rights, His Queen). Except, as noted above (in multiple senses of the term), such a simplistic reading of Indo-European deities as only embodying one single element or concept is not in accordance with the complex and comprehensive world-view of our ancestors. Whose theology did not balk at recognizing the life-giving attributes of both Sunlight and Earth as being Maternal. I personally suspect, therefore, that what has occurred here is Herodotus has mentioned the same Goddess twice – the second time as referencing something we would in Sanskrit refer to as a Dvandva pair : in much the manner of the Vedic formulation for Dyaus AND Prithvi being invoked together as a linguistic compound, by far the most prominent way in which Dyaus is mentioned by name. Prithvi, lest there be any doubt, is also Vak – and both are found within the chronologically later Parvati, Wife of Rudra (Shiva) (Rudra, as noted earlier, being directly stated to be Dyaus in the course of the Vedas).
Some further strength is leant to this interpretation given its likely Indo-Iranian underpinnings cognate with Sanskrit “Apa” (‘Water’; seen also in an array of theonyms especially of a patronymic flavour such as Apam Napat, Trita Aptya, etc. – in both cases connoting an origin in The Waters that are the liminal sphere about the edge of the Universe, akin to the Greek concept of the Oceanus, or the highest sky being also a kind of sea) … which in this context is precisely where we find Vak Devi declaring Her Home/Origin (the precise Sanskrit term utilized is, of course, ‘Yoni’) in the DeviSukta , and which would also recall the still dimly recalled cosmology familiar to the Ancient Greeks wherein Oceanus and Tethys (i.e. The Waters) were the source of all [I say ‘still dimly recalled’, because despite its attestations in Homer, this does not appear to have been the dominant view in later Greek writing, where the Oceanus and Tethys are instead transposed to being children rather than forebears of Gaia and Ouranos; presumably in no small part because the Waters had become significantly more ‘personified’ and in-universe salient than somewhat abstractly liminal to universe; although the account of Hera as the foster-child of Tethys may nevertheless preserve this notion of the Sky Father’s Wife as hailing directly from The Waters – albeit in a ‘compromise’ position wherein a foster relationship is stated rather than a direct origin from the ‘Yoni’ of).
But that is a somewhat peripheral matter to be explored in greater depth at some other time.
There is one final Hindu figure Who I believe is quite vital to our perceptive comprehension of Scythian Tabiti , and that is a later Puranic era Hindu Goddess – one of the Nine NavaDurga Aspects of Devi Durga Parvati. She is called Kushmanda , a name which is strikingly close in terms of concept to that encoded in Tabiti – wherein, just as Tabiti effectively refers to Heat and Light : so the middle particle of Kushmanda (‘Ushma’) means ‘energy’ expressed via heat and glow, with an additionally relevant sense of the solar dominated warm seasons of Summer and Spring. Although interestingly, whilst ‘Tapas’ in Sanskrit came to also possess connotations of restraint and physical as well as emotive control (hence its occasional translation as ‘penance’ or ‘meditation’ when undertaken as an activity in the mythology), Ushma went in the opposite direction – retaining the senses of heightened emotional ardour, passion, and particularly the ‘wrath’ or ‘anger’ which so often in Indo-European mytholinguistics is correlate with the ‘hot breath’ and steaming (itself another sense of ‘Ushma’).
As applies the full Theonym of Ma as Kushmanda , I have often preferred to translate this somewhat figuratively – as the Power of the Sun ; as this is both what the name is implicitly communicating (the investiture of energy (‘Ushma’) from the Source (‘Ku’) to the Anda (Egg – in this case, the rather prominent Egg that we see each day at breakfast, “Sunny Side Up”, so to speak – that is to say, The Sun)) – and also what is illustrated via Her relevant mythology. Wherein, in the course of the latter, She is held to Empower the Sun and therefore bestow life out to the universe at large. This has important additional resonancy within the Hindu metaphysics and ritual, due to the role of the Sun as the bestower of illumination , enlightenment – in the rather less literal sense as well; and further, given the frequent identification of the Indo-European Sky Father with the Sun, shows how the Goddess as empowerer of the Sky Father in the DeviSukta has additional saliency. I should also link this notion of the Goddess at the heart of the hearth of creation back to Herodotus’ attempted co-identification of Scythian Tabiti with Greek Hestia – as while the size of the Home and the Fire in question is almost incomparably more vast (the distinction being between a human-relevant scale of a familial or settlement fire altar for a household or a town … versus the Star at the heart of our Solar System, and on upwards from there … ) , we can nevertheless see some degree of overlap. Albeit with the caveat that whilst Hestia may be Mistress of the Household … Tabiti (Kushmanda , Vak Saraswati , Aditi) is evidently Queen over All Creation. A much larger ‘house’ indeed!
We can therefore safely surmise, I feel, that Scythian Tabiti had a likely Solar character rather than ‘just’ a fiery one; although with the standard caveat around the Lightning, Fire, and the Sun, being somewhat overlapping and conditionally coterminous within the Indo-European world view. Having said that, despite the strong potential for a certain degree of co-expression via what is preserved by the Greeks as Hestia – it nevertheless seems almost patently self-evident that there is also much divergence between the two understandings. Just as there is also quite significant divergence between Scythian Tabiti and Vedic Tapati – as we should be entirely unsurprised to expect, given that these are fundamentally two different Indo-European deities that have been ‘carried forward’ from archaic, Proto-Indo-European times.
It is rather peculiar that so many are apparently so eager to rush to conflation of Tabiti with Tapati, however – and upon the thinnest margins of mis-aligned evidence. It is almost akin to the situation we find in folk-etymology within the realms of linguistics – where simply because a word might sound somewhat alike to another word in this or some other language … it is presumed that they are of similar meaning and ultimate origins. Except in this case, while the shared ultimate etymology of Tabiti and Tapati is not seriously in dispute in linguistic terms – the actual meaning of these Theonyms … the Goddesses to which each term refers, are quite clearly fundamentally distinct. Something which evidently only becomes truly, properly apparent when a comparative Indo-European perspective showing these fundamentally consistent features (of Beautiful Princess with Beautiful Princess – and Radiant Queen with Radiant Queen) is engaged. And, might I add, not one wherein the effective typology to which all is being ‘re-aligned’ is merely the Greek / Classical mythology with which most people are directly familiar. But, as I say, the actual and underlying, a-priori Indo-European shared and original/archaic schema – which, of course, the Greeks, just as with the Norse, the Scythians, the Hindus, and many others besides … are all descendants through the skeins of both time and space.
Anything else? Why, ‘twould be to confuse a Princess for a Queen.