It is curious how things align. During the course of my research, looking over the ancient scriptural materials of two cultures in order to demonstrate that Odin is Agni – I happened across a potent potential explication for an otherwise rather curious phenomenon encountered in the Greek mythos. And then one of my devotees asked me for an opinion on a theoretical development by the great modern Vedic Sage Manasataramgini concerning something from the Ramayana … and it became apparent that these were all the same manifestation of the same archaic Indo-European phenomenon. I had not sought these things out – they presented themselves to me. Such is the way of Wyrd.
But what am I speaking of? Well, we shall start with the most obscure element first – that of the Nordic tradition in this area – and work our way backwards to the most clear.
In the Volsung Saga, the king – Rerir – is without progeny. He and his wife have been unable to conceive. Until, that is, a prayer is given up to the Gods that the situation be rectified – and Odin, in return, sends an apple borne by a Corvid, back down to Rerir …where it is dropped into his lap.
The apple is consumed by King Rerir in the course of a visit to his wife. The Queen is thusly impregnated, with a most mysterious and potent seed – to the point that the pregnancy persists for a number of years until finally being culminated via the death of the mother through a caesarean.
Now, in Nordic symbolism, the Apple being representative of a certain force of life is not unknown. It is precisely why we find the ‘Apples of Idunn’, after all – and longievity, youthfulness, life force, these are all clearly heavily interconnected and entertwined terms. In a manner strongly reminiscent, perhaps, of how we in the Vedic sphere would think of both Soma and (Life-)Fire.
But you see, there are some other peculiarities to the tale. I shall, perhaps, at some future point address how the circumstances of Volsung’s birth may resonate with a particular RigVedic presentation of the Birth of Indra (or, for that matter, another featuring the Maruts) – but that is another set of stories for another time.
The peculiarity of which I speak, concerns the potent-ial etymology of Volsung’s name. Volsi – that is to say, a (semi-ritualized) horse penis. And as for why that particular detail is incredibly, saliently relevant … well, you shall have to read on to the end. We shall discuss it in light of the direct Vedic Hindu cognate concept later.
For now, it is enough to know that there was a Nordic belief in the phenomenon of a king requesting divine assistance in begetting a son … that was fulfilled via Odin sending (in this case, via a Crow or Raven – the emissary of the God, and we would say in Sanskrit potentially also a Pitr, a Shade of an Ancestor – something with interesting potential resonancies for the Nordic ‘patrilineal reincarnation’ concept) a symbolic seed-of-life apple, landing in Rerir’s lap … and presumably that resting-place was eminently symbolic, too, for other reasons related to the subsequent situation of his queen.
Now, to briefly consider a cognate from the Hindusphere – we find repeated references in the Vedas to this notion of Agni providing particularly powerful sons to the invoker.
RV X 80, for instance –
Jamison Brereton translation:
“1 Agni gives a prize-bringing team; Agni (gives) a hero, worthy of fame, outstanding through his work—
Agni roams widely through the two world-halves, anointing them completely—Agni (gives) a woman with a hero in her belly, Plenitude (herself).”
Or, in the Griffith:
“1 AGNI bestows the fleet prize-winning courser: Agni, the hero famed and firm in duty.
Agni pervades and decks the earth and heaven, and fills the fruitful dame who teems with heroes.”
Or the repeated closing lines of multiple Third Mandala hymnals:
“7 Agni, as holy food to thine invoker, give wealth in cattle, lasting, rich in marvels.
To us be born a son and spreading offspring. Agni, be this thy gracious will to us-ward.”
Or, from the Surya’s Bridal hymnal [RV X 85]:
“41 Soma to the Gandharva, and to Agni the Gandharva gave:
And Agni hath bestowed on me riches and sons and this my spouse.”
That line is of particular interest due to the strong concordance of Odin in His Role bestowing the Mead of Poetry, with Soma (the Deity) and Soma (the empowering elixir); which is as we should expect given the nexus of Soma as Agni , Agni as Shiva, and Shiva as Soma.
There are, of course, a literal litany of further examples – although for now, I shall restrict myself to citing but one. Drawn from the Shatapatha Brahmana ritual manual/commentary [14:1:4:15-16], it is a handy drawing together of several of the aforementioned elements in situ:
“‘Thou art our Father: be Thou our Father!’–for He who shines yonder is indeed the Father, and the Pravargya is that (Sun): it is Him he thus gratifies, and therefore he says, ‘Thou art our Father: be thou our Father!’–‘Reverence be unto Thee: injure me not!’–it is a blessing he thereby invokes.
Thereupon he uncovers the head of the (Sacrificer’s) wife, and makes her say whilst she is looking at the Mahâvîra, ‘Together with Tvashtri will we serve Thee: (bestow Thou sons and cattle upon me! bestow Thou offspring upon us! may I remain unscathed together with my husband!)’–the Pravargya (m.) is a male, and the wife is a female: a productive pair is thus produced.”
Again, we shall not be going into substantive depth nor detail about that phase of the rite in question – fascinating though it may be. Suffice to say, it may be succinctly parsed as a hailing invocation of the Sky Father in Solar Salience, with this Solar element also simultaneously conceived of as the central working-/-empowerment- space of the ritual underway, as well as – in I suppose, semi-literally ‘distillated’ form, the resultant liquid elixir thus produced [which is, interestingly, referred to as ‘Gharma’ – a term that can mean both ‘juice’ as well as ‘day[light]’, ‘sunshine’, and ‘summer’ as well as “warmth”; the last one particularly salient given the heat involved in both the preparation and the serving of the beverage].
Why does this matter ? Because in this particular royal ceremony … what we have just witnessed is a plea to the Sky Father (that is to say – (Agni) Odin) for the wife of the supplicant to be blessed with pregnancy. And we have also seen that a consumable is produced that is imbued with the divine essence to facilitate this occurrence. It may not be in an apple form, but I have little doubt that it is fundamentally the same principle at work. Albeit with the relevant vessel bearing the oblation – the container referred to as the MahaVira [‘Great Hero’ – and ‘Vira’ is directly cognate with Latin ‘Vir’, our modern ‘Virile’ … so has some obvious ‘manly’ imputations, we may suggest] – being what is meant by the apple’s outer exterior form, perhaps. [It is also of importance to note that Tvastra – the Celestial Artificer – is invoked here (another Sky Father facing); a figure of obvious relevancy given a) His close connexion with the Soma; b) His role in forging men – something perhaps recalled via the oft-speculated cognate relationship with the Nordic Tuisto; although more upon that some other time. The point is that we should be expecting Tvastra to be hailed here if we are looking at a rite that is supposed to facilitate the ‘forging’ and imbuement of a particular heroic man to be brought into this world of ours.]
But let us move on, and take a look – again, but briefly – at some of the other examples from across the Indo-European sphere that give me such confidence that we are dealing with a genuinely archaic and potent-ially pan-IE tradition.
Among the Greeks (and their immediate neighbours), there are several salient instances for us to draw upon. But probably the most intriguing, for our purposes, is that of Alexander the Great – who has often been spoken about as being a declared ‘Son of Zeus’. Some have suggested that this might have been a bit of wilful propaganda on the part of his mother, Olympias – or, more scandalously, a sort of way to cover up her having been pregnant to another (human) man prior to her marriage to Philip II of Macedon.
However, I take quite a different view. Now, leaving aside the rather curious detail that Philip II was quite prominently the One Eyed [c.f my previous demonstration of the One (Blazing) Eyed Sky Father mythology found throughout much of the Indo-European sphere – most prominently in the personage of Odin; and with the Eye in question most usually meaning the Sun], the salient detail from Classical accounts of the matter concerns Olympias’ dream prior to the consummation of her marriage to Philip (and in theory, the begetting of Alexander] that, as Plutarch puts it : “the bride dreamed that there was a peal of thunder and that a thunder-bolt fell upon her womb, and that thereby much fire was kindled, which broke into flames that travelled all about, and then was extinguished.” Plutarch further makes reference to a gigantic serpent “sharing the couch of his wife” as part of all of this, with the serpent in question being spoken of as a “god” (most likely Zeus); and that this phenomenon “dulled the ardour of Philip’s attentions to his wife, so that he no longer came often to sleep by her side, either because he feared that some spells and enchantments might be practised upon him by her, or because he shrank from her embraces in the conviction that she was the partner of a superior being.”
I would, perhaps, invite the reader to consult my earlier work upon the Indo-European Queen of Serpents deific and other such elements, wherein a serpentine form for the Sky Father was also (briefly) looked at. [An element that may be rendered additionally salient given Olympias’ name – pertaining to a Mountain, indeed *the* Mountain, the Axis Mundi of a sort in the Classical understanding : correlate, we may suggest, with certain other Mountain Mother understandings in other IE spheres over the ages; perhaps again as a ritually resonant and Eliadian Eternal Return / Mythic Recurrence infused nomen. Or perhaps – along with the One Eyed status of her husband – a rather weird-ly amazing coincidence.]
Yet why I raise this most intriguing biographical detail for Alexander – is because it offers the illuminating insight that instead of Olympias attempting to ‘talk up’ either herself or her son via claiming a romantic affair with the God Zeus … she may very well have simply been presenting an entirely standard Indo-European accounting for how the divinely imparted son of a king is supposed to enter into the world in exactly the rites we have aforementionedly discussed via the Vedic sphere, and plausibly the Nordic occurrent instance of Volsung as well. A ‘Sending’ from the Heavens (in the form of an Apple / Soma (Gharma in the offering-pot) / this Thunderbolt) featuring prominent flames (the conduit to the Divine – hence the sacral use of fire by various of the Indo-Europeans for rites and offerings, whether Greek or Hindu).
Perhaps this is why we have the perplexity of Classical commentators upon whether Olympias enthusiastically endorsed the mythically infused account of Alexander’s genesis (and correspondingly entreated him to live up to his most illustrious parentage and the worthy destiny that came with that) … or whether she instead “repudiated the idea, and said: ‘Alexander must cease slandering me to Hera.’” [Plutarch again]. Because, of course, being the queen of an Indo-European kingdom, and in receipt of a not entirely exotic (if perhaps nevertheless obscure and infrequently talked about outside of certain priestly or regal spheres) ritual offering/production designed to ensure an appropriately divinely ‘infused’ and elevated young prince-son … is quite another matter to claiming one had successfully seduced the Chief of the Gods.
However, a rather more peculiar set of closely interrelated examples come down to us from the more ‘mythic’ end of the Greek sphere – pertaining to the Children of Leda. And I say this is peculiar because there are multiple and not entirely reconcilable details about these individuals and their parentage given in the various Classical stories that have come down to us of Them. I have attempted to sketch out what I suspect to be the truth of the matter , upon the basis of the comparative Hindu understandings , in several articles and shall not repeat the concordancy’s detailed explication here. Suffice to say that the more archaic and underlying Indo-European form of the myth should feature the Sky Father pursuing His Wife in an obscurated form (either a ‘shadowy’ guise, or that of a horse (or other such symbolically equivalent animal for the context – a swan or a deer, in particular, perhaps also a serpent); albeit with the potential for a ‘body-double’ situation to also be embroiled), and thus begetting the Horse-Twins (the Ashvins, Castor & Pollux, and whilst there is no direct attestation for this conception situation in the Nordic that I am aware of – Hengist & Horsa) as well as a certain incredibly beautiful Solar maiden (Helen of Troy , Tapati), inter various alia of other offspring from the circumstance.
Now where this becomes relevant for our purposes, is the ‘entry into the sidereal’ of what is ostensibly a mythic occurrence – via the affixion of it to a ‘historical’ occurrence and historical human figures by the Greeks; in the form of the Queen of Sparta, Leda, becoming a mother to these divine figures. Either because (in the main version that many are today familiar with) she had a liaison with Zeus (customarily said to have been in swan form for the occasion), or more interestingly because she is said to have picked up an egg deposited by the Goddess Nemesis containing the offspring of Her own connexion with Zeus. The former version of the tale is attenuated via a sort of ‘dual paternity’ where some of the male parentage of some or all of the children in question is ascribed to Leda’s (human) husband, the Spartan king Tyndareus – thus producing an unwieldy situation wherein of the Horse Twins, one is occasionally said to be (semi-)mortal rather than (semi-)divine and therefore unlike the other … although we can tell that this is a later Greek interpolation upon the tale due to the lack of any such reference for the older and more comprehensively attested Asvins (however, to be sure, of Hengist and Horsa – the latter is described as dying in the wars against the pre-Germanic kingdoms of Britain), as well as the significant degree of confusion in those Classical sources which do mention this notion as to just which of Castor or Pollux is supposed to be the human-fathered and therefore non-divine one … and whether this inequity of mortality actually meaningfully persists post-mortem in the first instance.
It would be tempting to approach the entire occurrence as merely another case of the ‘historicization’ of a myth – wherein an event understood to be mythic and applying to the kingdom of the divine directly in the Vedic and the archaic underpinning Indo-European rendition … had become ‘loka-lized’ in a sidereal world situation by the ancient Greek poets and popular perceptions of the matter. So instead of there being a mortal queen named Leda married to the king of Sparta once long ago who gave birth to divine offspring, the phenomenon of the Wife of the Sky Father bearing the Sons (and Daughter(s)) of the Sky Father is what is actually being spoken of. There is some support for that, as I have demonstrated, in terms not only of how closely the mythic context for the Greek narratives match up directly with the Vedic – but also with the fact that ‘Leda’ is remarkably close to Latona / Leto (Mother of Artemis and Apollo by Zeus; and again, with Saranyu/Chhaya being the cognate Mother Deific in the Vedic reckoning with reasonably correlate offspring to this particular divine pair), and both with the Lycian ‘Lada’ (meaning ‘Wife’).
This should therefore suggest that a transposition – I do not quite say an euhemerization, although it is a large part of the way there, certainly – has occurred. Perhaps as the result of an endeavour to support a divine linkage in a more direct sense for the Spartan kings of the day. Perhaps for other reasons.
Yet two other not-necessarily-exclusive potential explanations suggest themselves. Either a) that this phenomenon was the result of a ‘mythic recurrence’ / Eliadian Eternal Return style understanding and approach (wherein the events and the marital relations of the key figures in the kingdom – the king and the queen and the legitimacy of succession via heirs – are understood to ‘resonate’ with the mythic template occurrent in the heavens and the canonical religious corpus of the legendarium), and the identity of the human queen assuming the divine female role has become effectively lost or conflated with that of the ‘masque’ she was wearing, whilst her husband (the human king) has not been obscurated in quite the same way … but has been placed into an uneasy co-starring role with the Sky Father Whom he was acting in imitation of. Hence, both Tyndareus and Zeus mentioned in sexual relation to the one woman (bearing the name of attested divine consort to the Sky Father) – rather than Tyndareus acting as Zeus in such a manner. There is some support for this in the Hindu marriage rite, wherein the Dulhan and Dulha (Bride and Groom) are similarly said to take on the roles of a particular (married) pair of Gods in a similarly intentionally resonant manner.
The b) option is that something relatively less dramatic has transpired – and that that ‘egg’ of Divine offspring picked up and then somehow borne by Leda, is the same sending as that we have previously encountered in Apple , Soma-in-clay-pot , and potentially Thunderbolt form earlier. I.e. the human king and queen have undertaken this hypothetical Indo-European rite for the begetting of mighty royal offspring – and this has somehow become bound up with the other and otherwise somewhat freestanding mythic occurrence of the Sky Father begetting the Horse Twins, Solar Princess, etc. [I say ‘somewhat freestanding’, because, of course, Vivasvan – the Wide-Shining One – is the Sky Father ‘facing’ in question in the Vedic narrative (of the mythic conception), and we have earlier seen just how integral the Solar element is to these proceedings in the Shatapatha Brahmana presentation of the relevant rite].
Although mention should also be made that in either case – the notion we would have as modern observers of a single paternity for a given progeny is not necessarily the correct one for these metaphysical investitures of essence. For that is precisely what is supposed to be going on in various of these occurrences – an investiture of essence … and one that, we may hazard, is not merely the ‘standard’ one of a Y-chromosome or other sidereal-genetic contribution of a human father. Instead, it is something more potent – and supernal rather than sidereal. Something ‘divine’, as befits a proper king.
Now an excellent example of this principle – or at least, one quite like it – ‘in motion’ is provided via the circumstances of Lord Hanuman (the ‘Monkey’ visaged God , also known as Bajrangi [as in ‘Vajra’] and other such terms – as befits the Indo-European Striker/Thunderer deific). Ostensibly a Vanara [a sort of bear or monkey featured humanoid] and the Son of Kesari and Anjana … He is also hailed as ‘VayuPutra’ – the Son of Vayu; and, likewise, has become regarded as an Avatar of Lord Shiva.
So what’s going on here? Why is it that we have a deific figure that appears to be in possession of two fathers, and also hailed as an ’embodiment’ of another? Well, it is quite simple. Hanuman does indeed have two ‘conventional’ parents of His race – as well as being invested with an essence, a sort of ‘divine fathering’ or ‘celestial pedigree’ from Lord Vayu [the Wind God]. Vayu, as is well known, is co-equivalent with Lord Shiva (and it is interesting to note that some key functions of Vayu in a Vedic context – such as the investiture of the Breath of Life – are held by Odin in the Eddic context … entirely uncoincidentally as, of course, this is what brings a man to life ! Renders him (or her) no longer ‘Orloglauss’), so clearly the phenomenon of Hanuman as an Avatar of MahaDev is explicable via this ‘investiture of the celestial essence’ by Vayu and evidently of Shiva. And thus, we have Hanuman as an Avatar thereof. A sort of ‘patrilineal incarnation’ we may say (as compared to the ‘patrilineal reincarnation’ that is much more familiar to us from the Nordic metaphysics & eschatology).
The reason that I mention this, is because in the cases of Tyndareus, Philip II, etc. – it is likely that the more ‘authentic’ way to view the matter would not be that these men had been robbed of sons and successors via divine philandering. But rather, that while they HAD carried out the essential biological role involved in the physical-genetic begetting of progeny … in a metaphysical sense, an additional ‘infusion’ of divinity had also occurred. Which is also, funnily enough, not generally from a source ‘foreign’ to the regal line. After all, many an Indo-European dynasty claims ultimate descent from the relevant God – in the case of the Volsungs, Volsung’s father Rerir is himself a Grandson of Odin. So perhaps, if kingship is held to be an expression of an inner, innate divine essence … then these rites are, in effect, intended to be a sort of ‘top up’ for that already held by the king and passed down via his line. Something drawn down from On High to ensure that the king’s successor was every bit the (godly) man that his father had been, and perhaps then some. We certainly have some support for the notion of divine investitures of essence as part of coronation rites, as delivered via , for example, RV X 124 in which essences keyed to Agni, Varuna, and Soma, are drawn down from the Sky Father to be imparted into the human king upon his assumption of the regal role in his society.
Whatever the truth of the matter, I feel confident in asserting that we have demonstrated that the notion of a divine assistance/empartment for suitably regal progeny is a broad and evidently ancient Indo-European concept.
Which brings us back full circle to somewhere proximate to where we had started from – and the work of the great modern Vedic sage Manasataramgini that I had spoken of earlier.
Writing some two years ago, he had identified a curious mention for the performance of an Asvamedha [‘Horse-Sacrifice’] rite in the Ramayana – wherein rather than being undertaken for the more familiar usage of ‘coronation’ and the confirmance of the plenipotentiary power of the king in question as a paramount sovereign upon this earth … the king in question, Dasharatha, is having the rite performed as he is lacking a suitable heir (and, with three wives, evidently having concluded that it is his own fertility/virility that is the problem).
Now, even in the ‘conventional’ purposed Asvamedha rite – there is a mention given for the phallic member of the horse involved, in relation to the king’s chief wife (i.e. the queen) [and, as Manasataramgini himself notes – this finds cognate expression in the Roman ‘October Horse’ sacral rite]. So when the purpose instead becomes for the begetting of a son and heir – that other stabilizer for the dynasty and its kingdom , in addition to the (or rather, as a tangible expression and overt immanentization of) the divine mandate … it would seem only logical that the portion of the horse that would be utilized in equine procreation has an additionally salient role herein. Potentially – especially given the invocation of Sage Dadhyanc / Dadhichi that accompanies this – as a ‘safe vector’ for a divine matter; a ‘mask’ of sorts to be donned when in the ritual, mythic sphere for an otherwise mortal participant when divinity is flowing through them [see my work on the horse-head of Dadhich, bestowed by the Asvins, when They are teaching the sage the secret of the Soma rites]. And almost definitely with a putative linkage to the Horse symbolism for Sovereignty that we explored in a recent article upon same which looked more directly at the horse-sacrifice (often with a solar-fertility aspecting) in the context of Poseidon, Thagimasidas, and Varuna. It would almost certainly also have some coterminity with the equine form of said Sky Father deity – as we had seen earlier viz. the circumstances of the conception of the Asvins and other associated Vedic figures that is so strongly cognate to the origination of Castor and Pollux and Helen and Clytemnestra. Indeed, one could almost presume that this might be how both Tyndareus and Zeus were supposed to be involved in the begetting of those siblings – the God Zeus being represented not so much in the full horse form that we see with Poseidon in pursuit of Demeter or Vivasvan after Saranyu/Chhaya, but simply via the most … important component of the equine form for the purposes ritually required.
Now why does all of that matter? Well, cast your mind back to the start of this piece – wherein a childless Germanic king is entreating the Gods to bless him with a Son … a son that, curiously enough, appears to bear as the core and integral particle to his name, “Horse Penis”.
Once again – those ultra-conservative Norsemen have managed to preserve via veiled allusion an incredibly ancient and archaic Indo-European practice. Their major rendering of the rite contains all the essential elements – just notably ‘pared back’ in comparison to the full-scale explication of the Vedic sphere … or the perhaps over-stylized and abstracted-unto-legend (rather than referenced as of rite) Greek vague recollection of these elements in far more disparate form strewn across an array of literary works.
Although all things considered, having spent a certain portion of this morning engaging with those aforementioned more complete and explicit Vedic presentations of the rites in question – I can perhaps understand why a far more succinct and stylized iteration was produced for the Volsung Saga itself. Certainly, the whole thing has reinforced once more just how … foreign certain of the integral elements to the world-views of our ancestors may appear to feel from time to time. And yet still somehow eminently understandable – with the right ken of perspective, and the right symbolic ciphers to one’s implicit point of view.
The Past, as I have often been known to say, is a foreign country – they do things differently there.
Quite some Kings they seem to have back there / over then, too.