It is always nice to be vindicated ! A little over a year ago, I published a piece [“Swear By The Sea, Swear By The Stars, Swear By The Sky”] which set out Parjanya as a Face of the Sky Father responsible for Rain and the nurturing of life upon this world of ours through this. The manner in which I had approached this was almost by accident. The article had intended to look at the generalized Aspect of the Sky Father in question across several Indo-European mythologies, and there Parjanya was – consistently fitting in to the features of the typology and finding expression in the same phrasing used elsewhere in the Vedas for the relevant deific complex. I considered it strong evidence.
Except not everybody agreed. And there was some insistent push-back which sought to posit Parjanya as an expression of the Indo-European Striker/Thunderer deific instead. Partially upon a linguistic basis, partially because the notion that multiple Gods might be hurling lightning and roaring thunder appeared to be a bit of an ungraspable concept … but mostly, it would appear, because it is the ‘established opinion’ in various corners of the internet – so who am I to quibble with Wikipedia.
As applies the former two points – I did what I usually do when I become sufficiently annoyed about something (we might say – ‘infuriated’, potentially of the ‘poeticus’ proclivity), and wrote an article which looked directly at these matters [‘De-Mist-Ifying Parjanya – Distancing Perkwunos’]. It pointed out that there was an entirely plausible etymology for Parjanya which did not come from the PIE ‘Per’ underpinning ‘Perun’, ‘Perkwunos’, ‘Perseus’, etc. But which would rather align quite directly with Parjanya’s Rainfall Role – PIE ‘(S)Pergh’, meaning ‘To Sprinkle, To Sow’ [Another possibility, hinged around the semi-coterminous PIE ‘Sperh’, via Sanskrit ‘Sphurj’, would instead make Parjanya ‘The Roarer’ once more directly … or, potentially, ‘The Exploder’, referring to the resounding roll of the Thunderclap; yet also having picked up the suddenness and the radiancy of the flash of lightning (‘Arriver’/’Appearer’, ‘Shines’/’Glitters’, ‘Cause to Shine’/’Illuminate’)]. I also took an in-depth look at the relevant mythology and theology that had come down to us from the Vedas – showing that once again, what we were being told was that Parjanya was a Masque of the Sky Father. I have since significantly broadened this work out in a succession of subsequent pieces upon the relevant areas.
I also – but briefly – attempted to see where this erroneous perception of Parjanya as the Striker/Thunderer had actually derived from; and as far as I can tell, much of it results from the misapplication of an attempted Romantic era (Balto-)Slavic reconstructionism in the 1870s. That is to say – it wasn’t really based on Vedic evidence, not least because substantive translations of the Vedas wouldn’t start becoming seriously available in earnest for some decades. I would also suspect that, coming as far back toward the genesis of comparative Indo-European religious analysis as it did, the position that author was attempting to stake out within the Slavic sphere itself with what he was doing would also be on shaky ground.
Yet that is the nature of our field, it would seem. Somebody promulgates a questionable position based around an incomplete understanding of a severely incompletely available textual corpus … and then this doesn’t go seriously questioned for decades – a century and a half, it would seem ! – after that. Even after we become availed of a far grander swathe of the relevant religious materials in question – and other developments that should, by rites, have furthered the fundamental questioning of just about everything.
Instead, it just becomes such an uncritically pervasive portion of the ‘mental furniture’ of the discipline that anybody who does raise eyebrow or serious issue with the notion is almost instantly rounded upon as some sort of latter-day heretic or hack. (And, to be fair and sure, some of those out there purporting to up-end the whole apple-cart on some things are either if not frequently both)
But ‘Theory’ is only as good as its last encounter with the facts. And in such situations where the theory and the facts do not align – assuming the facts are the right ones, it would be most peculiar indeed were the theory not re-evaluated within that most ancient and proper light.
So it is with Parjanya. Wherein to my good fortune, a section of the Shatapatha Brahmana that a Brahminical associate had sent to me upon an unrelated matter, happened to contain the direct evidence to support my theorizing – and also to show the fundamental failing of the ‘Parjanya Is Perkwunos’ ‘received wisdom’ position.
SB VI 1 3 sets out eight elemental-associated Forms or Aspects of the Sky Father – these being possessed of well-known Roudran theonyms, and designations for Their nature that are also familiar to us as Facings of the Sky Father. For example, the First of these is declared ‘Rudra’ – and stated to be ‘Agni’ (Fire); the Fourth of these is declared ‘Ugra’ – and stated to be ‘Vayu’ (Wind); the Seventh of these is declared ‘MahanDeva’ – and stated to be ‘Chandra’ (Moon) [interestingly, another Brahmana – the Sankhayana Brahmana – presents the same basic format and broad outline to the rite and ritual understanding in question, yet also changes the associations of several of these theonyms in subtle, yet important ways – for instance, Mahandeva in that schema represents Aditya, the Sun, rather than Chandra, the Moon;]. This – broadly speaking – also accords with the understanding of the Eight Vasus [‘Radiances’, ‘Lights’ (or ‘Highs’, running on a somewhat different PIE derivation) – the purport with regard to Dyaus Pitar, the Lord of the (Day)Light Sky, being shiningly apparent]; wherein we once again see the Sky Father deific ‘refracted’ out into eight ‘elemental’ keyed Aspects.
Why is this relevant? Because the Sixth of these Forms is ‘Bhava’ (another prominent Roudran theonym) – and herein, Bhava is directly stated to be Parjanya. And both are stated to be Agni. Agni, as we are well aware of by this point, also being Shiva (as is voluminously attested elsewhere in both the Vedic canon directly, and demonstrated in my own work built from same).
Each of these Eight Forms is one of the essential qualities or characteristics which renders existence within this universe of ours to be possible. These are therefore not only ‘elemental’ expressions in the sense that, say, Vayu is equated to the Air which exists in our atmosphere … but also the manner, the mode in which Vayu as the essential air, the Breath of Life Itself, acts to animate – hence, in part, the association with Ugra for Vayu: as the swift movement, indeed even the speaking (with RV X 125 5 , where ‘Ugra’ is utilized to refer to the investiture of the power of the Rsi, the Poet, the Prophet, very much in mind) of this characteristic would not be possible in the absence of that ‘Wind’ and ‘Air-Motion’ represented by ‘Vayu’.
‘Bhava’ is correlated with Parjanya in the Shatapatha Brahmana iteration of the rite, per the text due to the fact that all ‘beings’ (‘Bhava’) are nourished or nurtured by the quality of the Rainfall and are given rise via the investiture into the soil and sphere of the supernal essence of life from the Sky Father via this Form. [For more detail upon this specific understanding, please consult the portion of ‘The Queen Of Serpents – The Serpentine Figure Of The Indo-European Earth Mother’ looking at the Sky Father’s involvement in the relevant fertility metaphysics and associated rites; and, of course, ‘Swear By The Sea, Swear By The Stars, Swear By The Sky – On The Mytholinguistics Of Varuna Neptune Ouranos’] This is, needless to say, exactly the role and effective position that our modelling had predicted for Parjanya based on our comparative reconstructive theology.
So, to recap, what we have just witnessed is an enumerative emanation of Eight Forms of the Sky Father, each referred to as a Form of Rudra, and each stated to be a Form of Agni – with Parjanya quite directly cited amidst Them.
Parjanya as Rudra should not surprise us – as, after all, even leaving aside this above aforementioned direct attestation , there have also always been other supports available for the theory. No less a personage than Krishna Himself notes that the Terror-Instilling Voice of the Enraged Rudra upon the field of war is that of Parjanya, in the Anusasana Parvan of the Mahabharat. And the SataRudriya rite also found in the Shatapatha Brahmana, arguably the most important of its Roudran obeisances, not only hails the Rains as the Arrows of the Rudra(s) – but also forms the ritual template for these other Ashta-Murti (‘Eight Form’) understandings that we have encountered above and before.
In short, then, the straightforward proof that Parjanya is the Sky Father – that Parjanya is Rudra the Mighty (and yes, Rudra is indeed Dyaus Pitar – see for example, RV II 1 6 … or my earlier work ‘On The Still Active Dyaus Pitar Of The Indo-Europeans – The Sky Father Still Roars Supreme’, which considers an array of the Vedic textual attestations for this – another instance of our theoretical modelling being vindicated by primary source evidence that we only later came into contact with directly) – this proof has been around and clearly available if one knows where to look for some decades now. In the case of the Shatapatha Brahmana, since at least the 1890s for an English-speaking audience.
Which really does leave us pondering the rather obvious question – why that position, our position, is not more widely held. Why it is instead so conspicuous via its uneering absence from just about every corner of the internet or book upon the subject that we’ve yet seen. Instead being supplanted by the evidently untenable “Perkwunos” pre-vayu-cations.
Probably because it now appears that many of the people involved in ‘popularizing’ and highlighting what is commonly ‘agreed’ to be the Indo-European Mythology … do not appear to do all that much actual engagement with the real Indo-European Mythology; instead preferring to pick up and run with concepts first deployed by the earlier generations of theorists and scholars, who may have made some occasionally quite glaringly egregious errors in their work (like the claim that Dyaus Pitar is functionally ‘dead’ or ‘inactive’, for instance – the Deus Otiosus concept that we have also roundly rebuked and disproved in the aforementioned (A)Arti-cle). Errors, once introduced, get repeatedly reproduced until they become accepted as ‘fact’ – a curious kind of “fact” that is somehow to be regarded as unutterably more ‘true’ than what it is that these inductions are actually purporting to be representing to the unsuspecting reader.
Now it must be clarified, of course, that in many cases – it is not quite right to endeavour to pillory the previous generations of theorists for their failure to see things in the proper manner. Often, they were limited by the tools they had available to them at the time – certain works had not been translated (or perhaps weren’t even known about), other works had been most egregiously mistranslated and their import categorically distorted by the time they got to the academics in the adjacent fields who would so seek to make more proper use of them (a good example of this is Nietzsche’s extensive conceptry he’d built upon material he’d read in the Louis Jacolliot “translation” of the Manusmriti (Law of Manu) – a work which appears to be burdened with some rather hefty bouts of “imagination” on the part of its “translator”, a man who also memorably just made up “Sanskrit” words wholesale in his bid to ‘prove’ that Jesus Christ was Krishna [Never mind, of course, that ‘Gold’ and ‘Black’ aren’t easily the same term, either…]).
However, that definitely doesn’t describe all of them – and even today we have persons who almost assuredly do know better, are capable of more meaningful engagement with the actual evidence (even in its original languages), yet choose not to to instead pursue lurid flights of agenda- or preference- or academic-cred driven fallacious-flurries-of-feigned-philosophical-fancy.
And then these, too, become yet another layer of “accepted reality”, “received ‘truth'” which forms up like silt and insidiously clogs the arterial riverways of our lifes-driven navigation back to the Past and thence out to the (re-illuminated) Present (restored) and on into the now radiant, lifes-given Future.
There is only one thing to do with that, then – Parjanya!
Explode it, we might say. Sweep it away with these Arrows of Rudra that Hara-bring the Flood !
सत्यं तवेषा अमवन्तो धन्वञ चिद आ रुद्रियासः |
मिहं कर्ण्वन्त्य अवाताम ||