As part of my ongoing drive to make our work more accessible [ Arya Akasha Arka ]… here’s a seriously summarized comparative of a pretty central Indo-European mytheme: the combat of the Striker/Thunderer Deific [e.g. Indra , Herakles] against the Demon Dragon of the Waters [e.g. Vritra, Hydra].
I’ve left out … quite a lot from this chart – including pretty much all the other occurrences of Striker/Thunderer vs Dragon combat from the the Indo-European mythic canons (e.g. Thor vs Jormungandr) – in order to focus in upon something quite specific, and often under-acknowledged.
Namely, the fact that in the two best attested presentations of the mytheme in question, we find that the task of slaying the adversary is not something accomplished by the Striker/Thunderer alone … but rather, in collaborative effort with a Companion [i.e. Trita Aptya (a ‘Warrior Priest’ we might say); Iolaos], and considerably availed & empowered by a certain Goddess [Vak Saraswati ; Athena].
To be sure, both the Vedic and Hellenic canons include recountings wherein it is ‘only’ the Striker/Thunderer Who deals death to the demon; however, these tend to be rather cursory in their scope – and the more elaborate (and, for that matter, often the more archaic) renderings tend to emphatically present this less ‘single-handed’ recollection.
The best guide to understanding the truth of the occurrence is preserved in the Vedic perspective. This is partially because it is simply the most comprehensive source-canon we have available to us (where it is quite regular to find that elements which comprise perhaps a few scattered lines in the Greek or Old Norse spheres instead have entire pages upon them within the Vedic); however it is also because we can demonstrate the Hellenic understanding to have ‘moved’ in various ways from the underlying Indo-European template (for example – Herakles is no longer, at this point, a God (pending His post-mortem apotheosis); and rather than the Vajra, Mjolnir etc. … is often depicted wielding far more mundane reflections of the Divine Armament – a tree-branch, for instance, or a boulder or a Harpe (Sword), flaming spears, etc. All of these do have clear correspondences with the way the Vajra is talked about in the Vedic texts – yet are evidently incredibly heavily euhemerized from these lofty origins)
Drawing from this, then, the Fire wielded by the Companion at the instruction / empowerment of the Goddess – is no mere ‘inanimate’ blaze, but is rather the Flame of Faith. It is weaponized in concert with the Ritual phrasings uttered by the Companion as Warrior Priest.
And hence – the adversary of the Divine Order is countered not simply via the brute-force solution of going clubbing … but by the tangible immanentization of that Divine Order – through prayer.
This concept of ‘weaponized prayer’ is directly attested in various of the Vedic presentations of the Armaments of Trita Aptya; and has obvious saliency for the invocation of the Flame we find in these encounters. Indo-European religious ritual, after all, frequently having an irreducible incorporation of the ‘active’, ‘living’ flame as conduit to the Gods.
Hence, in the Vedic schema – we do not merely find Indra hailed as Vritrahan [‘Slayer of Vritra’] … but also Trita, as well as Agni (for reasons that should be clear – ‘Agni’ means ‘Flame’, and represents also the active force of piety, the empowering potency of the Rite); and, of course, Vak Saraswati.
The Goddess of the Divine Speech [Vak – cognate with ‘Vox’, ‘Voice’ etc.] is therefore the Slayer of the Dragon, because without Her … there could be no development nor deployment of the tools with which the Dragon is defeated. Even in those accounts wherein it is Soma and Vajra which empower Indra to combat the Foe – it is only through Vak that the Soma and the Vajra are produced.
Similarly, without intending to steal Herakles’ Thunder … in the major Greek accounting of the combat – I do not think that the situation would have gone nearly as well for the Striking Son of Zeus even aided and availed by trusty Iolaus had Athena not illuminated the proper mechanism via which the Threat could be ended.
Hail Hydra Slayer , indeed !
Links to a number of the works of mine summarized into this piece –
Hail Hydra-Slayer: On The Mythic Combat Of Herakles And Athena – Indra And Vak Saraswati, Against The Demon-Dragon Of The Water
Foe-Slayer Claims Our Eulogy – Understanding RigVeda VIII 100: Indra, Vak
On The Indo-European Typology Of Iolaus – Third Dragonslayer
Part One – Indra And Iolaos : Hydras, Helpers, Heroes, Hercules
Part Two – The Priest ‘pon Penitent Pathway : Herakles Indra’s Roaring Rampage of Repentance
Part Three – Academics And Anaryas : The Wrongful Reconstruction Of The Myth
Part Four – Ritual Renditions and Mythic Memorializations : The Underlying Yet Obscured Ritualine Sense Of The Myth
Part Five – Trita Triumphant , The Restoration of the Rightful Status of Iolaus
Saraswati Puja – The Power of the Smiter of Foes