Something that I have often found intriguing about the Indo-European mythology – is the manner in which various peoples have preserved differing perspectives upon what are quite clearly the same events, same beings, same myths … yet which are recorded from different vantage points, and with corresponding questions about how they should ‘fit back together’.
It is rarely a case of simply saying “this tradition is the oldest or most comprehensive – therefore the others must be erroneous and can be safely dispensed with”. Indeed, quite often the diametric opposite is true – we *gain* in our ability to understand the bigger, broader, and older by bringing to bear what we have learned via our delvings through the newer and more fragmentary (or, if you prefer, ‘more succinct’ – the immense weight of the Hindu canon can occasionally obscure as much as it illuminates in comparison to more straightforward scriptural canons which have less to get lost in even and precisely as they have less material all up).
And, I must stress, it is via all of these sources considered *in combination* that the truth is most adequately revealed. A truth which thence can radiate back out and be applicable to *all* the Indo-European mythic traditions … not simply this one or that one from whence the initial observation was pendingly derived.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the three occurrences of what I believe to be the same myth, which we are about to encounter. One from the Greek corpus – and two from the Hindu. More specifically, Demeter Erinyes by way of Poseidon (with additional comparative elements to be found betwixt Nemesis and Zeus); and Saranyu and Chhaya in relation to Surya; Parvati and Kali in connexion to Lord Shiva, respectively.
Let’s start with the Greek.
Demeter Erinyes – The Greek Avenger Goddess of the Blackened Earth
There is a lesser-known theonym, aspect, and mythic occurrence for Demeter as Demeter Erinyes – the black-clad furious one who brings death and vengeance.
In the mythology, the main instance cited in relation to this features either Poseidon or Hades; in the case of the latter, Hades’ abduction of Persephone causing Demeter’s rather terrifying and deadly state (with, interestingly, a line in Diodorus Siculus wherein it is not only Plouton but *Zeus* Whom She is wrathful towards – which is entirely uncoincidental, for reasons we shall shortly explore).
But in the former, this is triggered in relation to Poseidon lustfully pursuing Demeter – a situation which does not appear to have met with the Goddess’s approval, for She attempts to evade Him via taking the form of a female horse, a mare. Which may not have been the wisest choice considering Poseidon’s strong association with stallions – in which form He eventually manages to catch up with Her.
(Interestingly, for our purposes, this has close correspondence with Zeus’ shape-changing pursuit of the Goddess Nemesis (another rather black, wrathful, and terrifying figure..), the eventual result of which is the divine progeny such as Helen , the famously beautiful figure we have identified as a solar deity vaguely remembered by the Greeks (and still worshipped as such in Sparta) and with apparent direct correspondence with a Vedic solar goddess that is a Daughter of Surya, Mothered by Chhaya – but more upon that, some other time; and we have briefly taken a look at this *specific* Issue in the Radiant Queen of the Heavens series)
Now, at some point subsequent to this ‘pursuit’ having its culmination, two things happen: one of which is that Demeter Erinyes goes to bathe in a particular notable river, in order to Purify Herself and shed the Erinyes form; and the other of which is that She gives birth to at least one and potentially two rather notable offspring – one of Whom is prominently Horse correlated Himself [that being the ‘greatest of horses’, Arion – also notably, and rather significantly, endowed with the power of speech].
The experienced reader shall already be able to perceive at least part of where I am going with this. But let us, for now, just briefly highlight a few particular elements, so as to make the elucidation of the resultant typology easier as we go through the two Hindu examples.
What we have seen here is an Earth Mother Goddess – that is to say Demeter – winding up strongly angry, literally furious, and thus taking on a Black Wrathful Form of incredible lethality (in this case, also via the unfurling of famine across the land) that is only lifted via the ending of the Furor and a ritual bathing and cleansing of the state – at which point we may fairly presume that She becomes, as the Greeks themselves put it, the ‘Bright Goddess’, the ‘Golden Haired’ … the Beautiful and Light.
We have also seen that this Goddess is linked to the Sky Father deific – not just once, but aptly enough, *thrice*. Both in the overt sense of Hades abducting Persephone (and it should be noted that Hades’ situation viz. Persephone is also likely the same mythic relationship between Sky Father and Earth Mother being retold, refracted, once more) leading to Demeter’s Anguish, or Poseidon pursuing Demeter … but also in the less direct sense briefly mentioned above wherein it is not only Hades but also Zeus ‘gainst Whom Demeter is said to be feeling Wrathful in relation to the actions of the former.
Between these two elements – the Furor state and the Father – are also elements of shape-changing, not only the aforementioned Black Aggressive Avenger Form for the Goddess : but also a particular mutual adoption of a Horse shape for the purposes of the Pursuit. Which also helps to inform the characteristics of at least one of the resultant offspring therefrom.
Now let’s see if we can find a Hindu myth which aligns with these elements …
… and, of course, we can!
[To be continued in Part II]