[Author’s Note: This piece resulted from a digression in my earlier work illustrating the strong parallel expression of Scythian Tabiti with Vedic Vak Saraswati / Aditi – and distancing the oft-encountered spurious speculationism around a potential connection with Hindu Tapati (Who is instead, Helen of Troy). I excised it from the original piece due to reasons of length – and also due to the rather speculative nature of the direction of my own inferences in that which follows. However, at the encouragement of a respected associate with good knowledge of the field – I chose to finish it as its own somewhat standalone contribution; and let the reader judge for themselves whether there is further probative value in this conjecturalism. Although while the prospective reasoning for the Scythian King Idanthyrsus invoking Tabiti alongside Papaios when facing down Darius is my own speculation – the springboard which this provides for discussing the broader and vitally integral role of the Indo-European Radiant Queen of the Heavens in a military as well as a metaphysical sense and context means that large swathes of what follows are upon much firmer ground.]
But to return to the Scythians – and one in particular, Idanthyrsus, of whom I often write – it is the ‘functional use’ of Tabiti within their speech that has often intrigued me. For you see, when Darius is imperiously (some would say ‘impotently’ or ‘petulently’) demanding King Idanthyrsus surrender and that he acknowledge Darius as his ‘rightful’ lord (indeed, the lord of “every nation” – the would-be world-conqueror) … Idanthyrsus powerfully replies that he acknowledges no lord, no ruler of him other than Papaios his paternal forebear (that is to say, Zeus) – and Tabiti, the “Scythian Queen”.
Now in some ways, it is quite remarkable that we should hear this. Not because of Idanthyrsus’ claim of patrilineal descent from the Sky Father (a pedigree similarly claimed by *another* man who caused the Persians under another Darius no end of grief – Alexander the Great .. which may lead one to ponder whether the Sky Father had some certain reason for wishing to do the Zoroastrians and their empire quite some harm … ). But rather because of this pointed invocation of Tabiti.
This is a martial context in which this exchange with Darius is occurring – Idanthyrsus has been accused of cowardice and has been demanded to meet the Persians for open battle. Serious honour is at stake, as is the freedom of hs people – and, potentially, the integrity of the Scythians’ ancestral tombs (which Idanthyrsus had just dared the Persians to attempt to interfere with).
The invocation of Tabiti would also serve to remind everyone of Her Patronage (this is, after all, exactly what is meant by having a Lord, a Ruler, a Queen) and protection; and if I am correct in my assertion that Tabiti is the same Goddess of the Indo-Europeans as Vak Saraswati – then this would become virtually mandatory in its resonancy for what is required of the King. After all, this is *exactly* why even the Gods Themselves pray to Her in the Hindu mythology – for strength and cunning and overwhelming force with which to crush the (oft-demonic) adversary, see the foe driven before them, and make sure that it *knows* not to come back via virtue of having been hurt incredibly badly and cut up into little tiny pieces. “I am under the sovereignty of this God (to Whom I am related), and this Goddess (to Whom (we) *all* Bow!)” is therefore no mere idle boast on the part of Idanthyrsus – it is a statement of both warning and of warding.
So why is it that I suggest this is ‘remarkable’? Partially, I admit, it is because it is another part to the constellation of mythic and historic instances which serve to demonstrate that the archaic Indo-European view held a rather different perspective upon female figures of note than many would care to admit. And such a thing is always worth remarking upon. But it is also because it accords very well with what we *should* expect for this Goddess in ritualine or pseudo-ritualine usage as the result of the aforementioned parallels with Vak Saraswati – and Aditi , although I repeat myself thrice.
There are one and a half other reasons why this incident and this interpretation are noteworthy – for as we shall soon see, they posit the Scythians as having a rather … interesting and elevated view of themselves, upon the basis of the chief instance of Dyaus and Aditi being invoked together in Vedic scripture. But more upon that later.
For the moment, let us illustrate this earlier point concerning the role and function of Aditi as the Protector Goddess , Protective Mother.
Aditi As Protector , Lawful Ruler Of The Skies
RV IV 55:
“1. WHO of you, Vasus, saveth? who protecteth? O Heaven [Dyaus] and Earth and Aditi, preserve us,
7 May Goddess Aditi with Gods defend us, save us the saviour God with care unceasing.
AV VII 6:
“We call for help the Queen of Law and Order, great mother of
all those whose ways are righteous,
Far-spread, unwasting strong in her dominion, Aditi wisely lead-
ing, well protecting.
Earth, our strong guard, incomparable Heaven, Aditi wisely lead-
ing, well protecting.
Let us bring hither, in pursuit of riches, Aditi with our word,
the mighty mother,
Her in whose lap the spacious air is lying: may she afford us
RV VIII 18:
“4 With Gods come thou whose fostering care none checks, O Goddesss Aditi:
Come, dear to many, with the Lords who guard us well.
5 For well these Sons of Aditi know to keep enmities aloof,
Unrivalled, giving ample room, they save from woe.
6 Aditi guard our herd by day, Aditi, free from guile, by night,
Aditi, ever strengthening, save us from grief!
7 And in the day our hymn is this: May Aditi come nigh to help,
With loving-kindness bring us weal and chase our foes.”
RV X 63:
“10 Mightily-saving Earth, incomparable Heaven the good guide Aditi who gives secure defence”
RV VIII 47:
“8 Resting in you, O Gods, we are like men who fight in coats of mail.
Ye guard us from each great offence, ye guard us from each lighter fault.
9 May Aditi defend us, may Aditi guard and shelter us,
Mother of wealthy Mitra and of Aryaman and Varuṇa.
10 The shelter, Gods, that is secure, auspicious, free from malady,
A sure protection, triply strong, even that do ye extend to us.”
RV VIII 56:
“10 And thee too, O Great Aditi, thee also, Goddess, I address,
Thee very gracious to assist.
11 Save us in depth and shallow from the foe, thou Mother of Strong Sons
Let no one of our seed be harmed.”
RV X 66:
“3 May Indra with the Vasus keep our dwelling safe, and Aditi with Ādityas lend us sure defence.
May the God Rudra with the Rudras favour us, and Tvaṣṭar with the Dames further us to success.”
White YV 21:
“5 We call to succour us the mighty Mother of those whose
sway is just, the Queen of Order,
Strong-ruler, far-expanding, ne’er decaying, Aditi gracious
guide and good protectress.
6 Sinless may we ascend, for weal, this vessel rowed with
good oars, divine, that never leaketh,
Earth our strong guard, incomparable Heaven. Aditi gracious
guide and good protectress.”
AV VI 4
“May Tvashtar, Brāhmanaspati, Parjanya hear my holy prayer.
May Aditi with all her sons, the brothers, guard us, invincible, protecting power.
May Ansa, Bhaga, Varuna, and Mitra, Aryaman, Aditi, and Maruts guard us.
May we be freed from that oppressor’s hatred. May he keep off that foeman who is near us”
There are, of course, literal litanies of further examples – but I think that I have made my point. Aditi is frequently invoked – whether by Herself, or with Her Associated Gods, for Protection and Empowerment. Interestingly, a number of these instances, including some that I have not quoted above, make pointed reference to Aditi in relation to Regality : in one occurrence (AV III 8), She is called upon in order to *empower* a man with the facility *of* being a leader, a ruler, a king. And this should prove perhaps unsurprising given the manner in which ‘mythic resonance’, ‘eternal return’, and ‘mythic recurrence’ are called upon in the course of Indo-European holy rites: the principle of ‘As Above, So Below’, you would perhaps be more immediately familiar with it as. Just as Aditi is ‘center of the universe’ and in possession of truly mighty power, the literally lawful sovereign – so too is She called upon here to impart and to invest a similar saliency on a much smaller scale, to the mortal regent of his people; the dual empowerments of centrality and nourishment to his clan, as well as that of Holy (Divine) Law.
And thus, just as She Protects Her Gods (as we see quite eloquently described in various Devi mythology around ferocious acts of demon-slaying; as well as the relevant Vedic scriptural elements of which I so often write) , so She is called upon to protect Her Other Children, amidst the races and the realms of Man(u/s). Just as She seemingly marshalls the forces under Her [and there is more detail upon this contained in RV X 125 6], so too is the moral mortal ruler regarded as acting likewise with the forces, his men, his children [for he is their Sire] at his command.
And it is just exactly that point where things get really interesting – and somewhat hypothetical, upon my part. For there is a further point of mythic resonancy which must be explored; however before we do so, it is necessary to go back a stage and set out some additional parameters for Interpretatio Scythonem in this context.
Now, in various of the Vedic Hymnals that I have quoted above, it might at first appear that there are *three* figures invoked: Earth, Heaven, and Aditi. This both is and isn’t the case. It IS the case, insofar as that is literally what is upon the page – however it isn’t quite the case, in terms of the actual divinities being called to, referred to. Insofar as we have quite repeated annotations, mostly (but not exclusively) found within the Brahmana ritual explications and commentary layers of the Vedas – that Aditi *is* the Earth (and is also to be given the first oblation – just as Tabiti is). This fits, in fact, with the material we *also* have from both the Vedas as well as comparative Indo-European mythology and religion, wherein the Wife of the Sky Father is *simultaneously* *both* an Earth Mother and a Radiant, Heavenly Queen. ‘Aspects’ might be one way to look at this – and that is probably rather close to the mark: hence, what we are calling out to , at particular points in rites and rituals, is emphasizing the particular ‘facing’ of the Deity in question we are asking for help for: Their specific competency and the manner in which we are asking to have Their Power made manifest for us, upon our behalf.
The analogy I often use is a political one. Wherein the same politician *may* simultaneously be the Minister of Education and the Minister of Defence … but if we are seeking help with a matter in a school – unless things have seriously escalated in the classroom, we are probably going to be better served by writing to the person in question under his title of Minister of Education rather than Defence – even if things may eventually get to the same man via other channels, other means. Similarly, if we are in a situation, a scenario wherein multiple competencies and multiple portfolio areas are relevant – it can help to be quite clear and specific about *what sort* of assistance we are seeking. Otherwise we can hardly complain if something other than what we had envisaged nor intended actually results from the request.
So, when we are seeing these mentions made for the Earth and Heaven (often in Dvandva compound – and there are several), as well as Aditi – it is my belief that these are Two Gods being called to, rather than three. The Sky Father (Dyaus , Heaven) and His Caelestial Consort (Aditi , Vak ) – in just the same manner that we see Idanthyrsus invoke both Papaios (the Sky Father) and Tabiti. Invoke, I might add, in terms emphasizing the regal rulership of the “Scythian Queen”, as he puts it, in question – as we have seen with the Vedic hymnals for Aditi, exactly what we should expect, as this is precisely one of the prominent terms utilized when asking Her for Her Assistance, empowerment, and protection ‘gainst the foe.
All of which brings me to that previously heralded somewhat hypothetical point in my interpretation:
The Scythians As Storm-Borne Sons Of The Sky Father
RV X 77 – which is one of the key and quite interesting occasions where Dyaus and Aditi are mentioned side by side. Or, more specifically, are both cited side by side as the Mother and the Father of the Maruts . Something which we should *Entirely* be expecting – given that Rudra, of course, is the frequently attested Father of the Maruts .. and as we all know, Rudra *Is* Dyaus. The linkage of Aditi to the Maruts is, however, somewhat more surprising upon the surface – the more usual name affixed to the Mother of Maruts is Prisni; however as it turns out, this theonym in translation simultaneously refers to both Earth and Light or the Starlit Night Sky – exactly what we should expect for Aditi, the Radiant Queen of the Heavens.
To quote from the hymnal in question:
“2 The youths have wrought their ornaments for glory through many nights,—this noble band of Maruts.
Like stags the Sons of Dyaus have striven onward, the Sons of Aditi grown strong like pillars.
3 They who extend beyond the earth and heaven, by their own mass, as from the cloud spreads Sūrya;
Like mighty Heroes covetous of glory, like heavenly gallants who destroy the wicked.
4 When ye come nigh, as in the depth of waters, the earth is loosened, as it were, and shaken.
[…] Like self-bright falcons, punishers of wicked men, like hovering birds urged forward, scattering rain around.
[…] Knowing, O Vasus, boons that should be granted, even from afar drive back the men who hate us.”
Now, why is this interesting to us? Other than its setting out of a relationship between Dyaus and Aditi , and the rather important implications which this has for the underlying Indo-European theology of which They are emblematic … it is due to the declaratory designation of the Maruts as the Sons of Dyaus – the Sky Father , and also the Sons of Aditi.
What do we see Idanthyrsus so proudly declare in his defiant declamation to Darius? That he, and his lineage, are themselves also the Sons of Dyaus. It is not directly stated in Herodotus’ rendering that they are likewise the Sons of Tabiti – although given the natural confluence of ‘Queen’ with ‘Mother of the Nation’ (correlate, as counterpart, to how the King is the ‘Sire’ of the Nation), and what we have just multifacetedly demonstrated surrounding the relationship of Dyaus Pitar and Aditi … I do not think that it is an unreasonable inference to make surrounding Tabiti being invoked immediatey after Papaios , given Papaios’ designation in Idanthyrsus’ speech as his Ancestor. Perhaps the original formulation for Idanthyrsus’ remark had *both* overtly stated to be Ancestors. Perhaps it was felt unnecessary to make explicit mention of the Ancestry from the Great Goddess Herself (as mayhap even when the Divine is the fulcrum, patrilineal descent might still be the dominant descriptor). Perhaps we are supposed to read rather directly that Tabiti being the “Scythian Queen”, and Idanthyrsus a Scythian King – means that this Queen is, in fact, his Royal Ancestor likewise. I shall, perhaps, get around to considering some of these issues further in the ‘Sons of the Sun’ series continuation looking specifically at the ‘Scythian Sons’, in due course.
But the reason why I have chosen to mention all of this here – indeed the point and purpose to which I have been building up this piece – is for another , closely related line of speculation:
In previous works, I have noted the rather remarkable degree of concordance between the Scythians (and i mean that in the broad sense, Sakas, ‘Turanians’, and other post-Andronovo Indo-Iranic Steppe tribes in mind) and what we find mentioned of the Maruts, the Vratyas, the Wild Hunt, even. The reasoning for this, I have often presumed to be a sort of ‘racial memory’, a recollection of when the Ancestors of those more settled and sedentary peoples who had migrated further in both distance and lifestyle from the PIE Urheimat, had acted similarly – and therefore an association with the Retinue of the Sky Father and His Son(s) for the behaviors and the accouterments, the equipment we see in the much later (but then contemporaneous to these accounts) Scythians.
Some proof of this might be found in the curiously specific traits affixed to various of these Retinue-Of-Rudra Raiders – wherein They are ‘Shooters’/’Skewerers’ (literally the underlying etymology of ‘Scythian’) mounted upon various *antlered* creatures such as Deer (Stags) or Antelopes. Which is rather curious, given the reasonable prominency of horses seemingly right throughout the Indo-European sphere … up until you consider the archaeologically attested Scythian practice of having their decidedly equine steeds don ‘fake’ antlers or horns designed to imitate a stag or an antelope. It is something which would almost seem too far-fetched to be true – but for the fact that, as I say, we have literally got the hard-evidence to prove this. Best known, perhaps, are the fantastic and wide-flaring imitation of a stag’s antlers unearthed at Pazyryk ; however large and round pairs of horns vaguely reminiscent of those of an Ibex have also been found, amidst other designs.
The Scythians, in other words, did not just ride horses – but in the eyes of those they encountered, rode far more exotic creatures besides. Creatures which, as I earlier noted, happen to have the defining features of those various vahanas upon which we found the Servants and Sons of Shiva to be mounted in the Vedic conceptual syllabry. The Maruts Themselves most definitely included. Indeed, that last RigVedic Hymnal I had quoted from, RV X 77, directly refers to the Maruts, these Sons of the Sky Father, as being akin to Stags. Perhaps this is in reference to Their steeds – in the same manner that in more archaic English, to speak of ‘horse’ in a military context may in fact refer to a unit of horsemen. Perhaps the lightning of the Maruts’ coming and weapons, resembles the branching of the antlers of the Stag. Or perhaps this is the same iconographic root as that which informs the rather prominent association of the (Golden) Stag with the Scythians and their nobility – which some have sought to proffer as a potential symbol in relation to Tabiti Herself.
So – the notion of the Scythians as both looking and acting in manner resonant to the Indo-European mythological memory of the Retinue of the Sky Father, seems not merely plausible in correlation – but rather, plausible in an outright causative sense as well, too.
But did the Scythians *themselves* see themselves in this way ? Well, in a sense … yes. You have Idanthyrsus’ own remarks of being of Divine Descent (something, to be sure, not entirely unremarkable amidst the great kings of the ancient world); and there is also an excellent line found elsewhere in Herodotus’ Persian Wars wherein the Scythians have professed to liberate a group of Ionian Greeks that were subjects of Darius, and who were at that time holding a certain vital bridge which represented Darius’ exit-strategy out of Scythia. To quote directly :
“Now, Ionians, the numbered days are past and you do wrongly to remain still here. Nay — for it is fear which has ere now kept you from departing — now break the bridge with all speed and go your ways in freedom and happiness, thanking the Gods and the Scythians. As for him that was once your master, we will leave him in such plight that never again will he lead his army against any nation.”
I have often pondered, whether the implicit sense here is that the Scythians are suggesting that they are acting *on behalf of* The Gods as Their Instrument (something, again, not uncommensurate with the manner in which those various Shaivite Sons and Soldiers/Seers/Servants conduct Themselves) – or whether, in some sense, the Scythians were asserting, to a plausibly terrified Greek audience that they *were* in fact to be counted ‘midst The Gods. In the sense, as we have previously encountered, that the Maruts and suchlike are to be thought of, perhaps – ‘demigods’ might be closer to the mark; certainly divine beings, even in thundering-hooved operation down here upon this Earth.
As I say – this notion of the Scythians self-envisioning as whatever their linguistic and mythic equivalent of Maruts might have been … is hypothetical, and not really provable one way or the other on the basis of the available evidence. It would not surprise me, given what we know – and also what we know is viable upon the basis of the comparative Indo-European mythology and attendant culture: the Nepali Army, to take but one example, even to this day convenes itself as a Gana (‘Tribe’, ‘Company’) of Shiva in a somewhat familial sense. The Einherjar (admittedly, after death), comprised of the best of Scandinavian nobility were hailed as Odin’s Sons. So whether or not Idanthyrsus was consciously invoking something akin to RV X 77 when stating his divine descent and patronage from On High to Darius whilst standing at the head of a massed war-host of stag-antlered and curve-horned cavalrymen – and *directly* imputing that he (and they) were *those* Sons of the Sky Father somewhat specifically …
… that *certainly* appears to be the message which could be reasonably inferred. As was probably *meant* to be.
After all – if one means to oppose a would-be world-emperor … who better to send than the true Scions of the Sovereigns of the Skies !