The Wealth Of The Lord Of The Dead – A Brief Explication

Yesterday I was asked a question relating to Pluto / Pluton / Plutus , Hades , and Dis Pater. Specifically, whether these had much to do with the Indo-European Sky Father Deific. The short answer is: Yes, Very Yes. There’s a few other things I should probably say, particularly around the actual etymology (and, for that matter, the comparative mythology) of “Dis Pater” , but we shall leave that for another time. For now, here’s my initial answer to their question: 

i) the ‘Wealth’, ‘Rich’ characteristic is what you expect with the Indo-European Sky Father deific – particularly in the Lord of the Dead aspect.

There are a few reasons for this – including, of course, the rather grimly obvious “is rich in souls”, but more positively, the wealth of starlight [shades of Tolkien going on here, yeah] … and a rather intriguing demonstration for this is the Cloak worn by the AdiVratya [guess Who], that is the black-blue the colour of the night sky but has a whole swathe of glittery points of light [erroneously mistranslated as ‘coins’] woven into the lining of His Cloak.

The association also carries over into Daylight for reasons that should be, again, obvious – viz. the Gold of Sunlight; and the repeated pattern of references for the Sun or other celestial bodies to be wondrous gems, incredibly valuable or priceless artifices, etc.

Rich in Sons would, of course, be another way to read it .. and not a bad one, either. Especially considering just where those Sons are to be found [hint: one of Them is The Sun; although others you may find in the Realm of the Glorious/Ancestral Dead – aka Valhalla, the realm up towards Paramevyoman, etc.]

Although it is interesting to note that various of these angles of ‘Wealth’ are resultant from things in the ground that are valuable. And I do not merely mean gemstones here – nor silver; but gold .. the gold of grain and other plants and necessary fundaments for life that grow up from the Grounds thanks in part to the positive and productive influence of the Sky Father in the relevant aspect-functioning-facing [the ‘Horned God’ typology, the Serpentine Form of the Sky Father may be connected to this; and, of course, Parjanya is probably the best example .. the Storm Bull, indeed].

ii) But to bring it back to ‘Wealth’ .. it is interesting to note that a fairly consistent feature of various words around Lordship and Nobility , are also doublets in some regard for the possession of .. well .. just exactly that. The relationship between ‘Rex’ and ‘Rich’, so to speak, would be an emblematic – if idle – instance.

The better understanding is, however, connected with the underlying etymology of “Lord” – effectively ‘Loaf-Warden’ – that is to say, once again, organizing and marshalling the wealth for bestowal out to the people under him. A pretty much directly functionally cognate understanding to what we see with ‘Bhaga’ [both a Divine Title and also effectively ‘Lord’ in Sanskrit, closely resemblant to an Iranic term of shared origin, and also, not at all coincidentally, the Slavic ‘Bog’ that is still their major way to say “God” today]

So – the Sky Father may indeed be ‘Wealthy’ … but it is not an idle wealth. It is wealth that is shared , bestowed, and utilized to support His People.

There is something in that for the present day, I am sure … 

iii) Now, the question you may have , is probably twofold

Namely, why are we talking about the Sky Father deific for an Underworld Deity (i.e. a cosmological question around Sky and Afterlife or Underground) … and with especial emphasis upon the Classical pantheonic perception, … why  am I seemingly talking about, well, the Sky Father deific for an Underworld Deity (i.e. a question of narrative identity and dramatis personae).

iiia) Well, as applies the former … the shift to having an Underworld for the Realm of the Glorious/Ancestral Dead is actually a relatively ‘recent’ and undercomplete one in various Indo-European cosmological understandings. It’s a pretty consistent pattern, sure, but it is one that we can show began quite late in proceedings (again, relatively speaking).

In more archaic understanding, it’s not an ‘underworld’ – more of an ‘overworld’ , or perhaps best of all conceptualized as being a plane located high up the Axis Mundi’s towering tree/mountain/chariot-axle/etc. , at the end of the River of Souls that is the Milky Way and/or Eridanus through the Night’s Sky [which may, as it happens, partially explain how it wound up underground – as if you have the wheel of the heavens about a central axis that you happen to be living upon the side of … at night time, the place that is visible to you is in the sky : and during the day, it must be under your feet … ]

Interestingly, the way to get to the afterlife is either via flying or via sailing … but, then, I repeat myself because The Sky Is Sea – hence, in no small part, why we find the residual trace of the ‘Viking Funeral’ featuring a boat , Odysseus sailing to the Afterlife via the Oceanus [which, as we know, hangs in the sky as the river as liminal sphere of the world], and the mention for Yama’s Realm to be reached by a boat during a Vedic funeral rite preserved in the RigVeda.

‘Flying’ may be accomplished also via the funeral pyre. So I suppose we might fairly suggest that the Nordic approach is doing both. As with the Vedic, of course. Because #NAS.

In any case, as we can see – the notion that a Sky relevant set of associations are also an Underworld relevant set of associations is … pretty much directly what we should expect.

We can directly chart the course of this ‘descent’ via the development of the Vedic mythology and cosmology into its later Puranic era forms – which I get a certain amount of mileage out of because one of our words for the realms in question, Patala-Loka, effectively means “Antipodes” [Patala, from the same ‘Ped’ as ‘Podiatrist’ or the ‘Pede’ of ‘Centipede’, refers to Feet … and yes, ‘Land Under Foot’ is the effective translation. New Zealand being in the Antipodes, you can see where I am going with this.]

And it is pretty much take-able upon faith that the Greek mythology would have undergone a similar series of shifts over the centuries.

iiib) as applies the second portion to the question I have asked myself upon your behalf … it is not hard to see how, likewise, what was more archaically a single deific presiding over multiple coterminous spheres [in this case, the Afterlife and the Sky – and it is importantly interesting to note that this, too, is something that we can directly find attested in various of the most archaic Indo-European texts available to us amongst the Hindus and the Hittites – including, most interestingly in light of my ongoing work and ever-present devotion, the Solar Goddess presiding in relation to both the Sun and the Afterlife …. which is quite likely why we find the Nordic ‘Folkvangr’ concept under Freyja somewhat similarly resonant ] under particular names and titles for each role [in the manner that, in a Westminster Cabinet, you may have the very same person being the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Welfare – although addressed as one or the other contingent upon what is being asked for at the time .. and with some .. curious circumstances that might result if you should so happen to ‘mix up’ the invocation … ] –

became misremembered over time as instead comprising a number of separate-but-related beings. Because, of course, the spheres in question had diverged in the popular – and even in some cases, the priestly – imagination. So, therefore, separate identities were assigned to what were actually the same figure. Although usually with various hints or direct and outright statements to provide the pathway back to correct interpretations of the matter.

So, for instance, we have Hades quite directly referred to as being Zeus of the Underworld , we have the ‘Chthonic Zeus’ mentioned in, if memory serves, Hesiod; we have the Dionysus deific directly identified with Hades in the Classical era [although this awareness was … not entirely universal and some Greeks appear to have thought this strange; subsequent investigation and exegesis of mythical accounts has, however, rather firmly supported its validity – and I am here meaning the work done by others, not just my own   ] ; and an array of other such things.

There was actually still quite a prominent awareness of Zeus as having ‘three facings’ in some Greek belief – Zeus (Sky), Hades (Underworld/Afterlife), and Poseidon (Sea) [note: One-pointed Thunderbolt; Two-pointed Bident; Three-pointed Trident, respectively – the World-Spear]; represented most prominently via the Three-Eyed Zeus understanding – where each ‘Eye’ correlates to a plane / sphere [in a manner intriguingly resonant with how ‘Loka’ works for us in Sanskrit – it is derived from PIE “Lewk’, meaning Light / Look , and it refers to a plane , a kingdom, a world, as well as elements related to the faculty of sight. ‘Dominion as far as the Eye can See’, indeed. And, of course, Mahadev as Trilochana …  ] [Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, yes the Greeks did have a concept of the Third Eye .. sort-of. I have looked at this in some detail in my last year’s MahaShivRatri tribute (a)arti-cle – although I keep meaning  to revisit this element in more specific depth and detail).

And when we run the proper comparative mythological/theological analysis it most strongly supports this proper archaic Indo-European understanding [see, for example, some of my work demonstrating the fundamental concordancy of Zeus in pursuit of Nemesis or with Leda, Poseidon and Demeter Erinyes, Surya Vivasvant with Saranyu/Chhaya. The myths all match up in important details – what is preserved most comprehensively in the Hindu tradition having somewhat ‘fragmented’ retellings in the various Greek accountings, but all pieceable back together into a single, relatively unitary narrative around the Sky Father and the Black Form of the Earth Mother Indo-European Deific]

So, in sum … there is no issue with me drawing these points of connexion between what, to many more modern observers, would surely seem to be two separate deities of separate spheres.

4 thoughts on “The Wealth Of The Lord Of The Dead – A Brief Explication

  1. Hi! This is a great article because I was discussing a similar idea with a friend of mine however we came to the conclusion that Dis Pater/Pluton/Hades/Yama/Imra was equivalent to Ingvi Frey in the Norse and that alfheim was equivalent to Pitr Loka (pious blessed ancestral dead). Would you then say that Freyr = Odin? Because if Zeus/Posidon/Hades Rudra/Varuna/Yama are one then wouldn’t it be Odin/Njord/Frey with Njord being Frey and his father?

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  2. Freyr is not Odin. Imra is also not Yama – I know that this is something that has been bandied about a few places , including in the academic sphere from time to time … but assuming that you are referring to the Nuristani figure, the correct cognate for Imra is in fact Varuna. [I can see that I am going to have to write something on this]

    Yama is also not Pluto/Hades etc. Yama , if we are speaking in comparative IE terms … is better understood as Remus [Iemus] – see my work in the Sons of the Sun series for more details on the concordancy.

    Phrased more succinctly: the Vedic materials are reasonably clear about this. In the realm in question, which is up proximate to the Sun [and there’s an unpublished Cosmology guide that I’ve had sitting on the bench for some months now that I really should put up about this] , there are both Father [Varuna] and Son [Yama]. Which, again, mirrors the more archaic Roman schema wherein Remus is to be found in Remuria [Lemuria – where the Lemurs / Manes come back from during the festival of similar name, analogous to our Pitru Paksha], a situation analogous to that of Pluto’s Underworld location … but which does not suddenly make Remus into Pluto.

    As applies Freyr – it is a complex situation because the direct parallels to other IE mythologies are difficult to conconclusively establish. My own theory that I am still in the process of actually doing much more than cursory research upon, is that Freyr may potentially be a Nordic reflex of Trita Aptya [that Aptya point being rather relevant for the overarching proof].

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  3. Pingback: On the etymology of Queyras, the Quariates and the Religious belief in Reincarnation of the Ancient Celts | Athanaricus

  4. Pingback: The Indo-European Sky Father and His Incarnations (Part I) | Athanaricus

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