Something we have written a fair bit upon this year has been the identification of Perseus as an expression of the Striker/Thunderer Indo-European deific. As it happens, the Harpe wielded by the hero is – entirely unsurprisingly – strikingly correlate with the Vajra of Indra, as well. How do we know?
Consider the following. The Harpe in question is stated in various sources to be adamantine – and adamantium, the unbreakable metal (indeed, ‘A-‘ (‘not’, ‘opposite to’, ‘un-‘) + ‘Damnao’ (‘Conquerable’, ‘Vanquishable’), is its root etymology – ‘unbreakable’, ‘unstoppable’, and other such understandings are not hard to addeuce therefrom) is quite cognate in understanding to how we think of and speak of the Vajra. There is good reason that it has come to mean ‘diamond’ in later Sanskrit utilization. The original and archaic sense likely pointedly encompassed meteoric iron – as this would have been one of the few sources of workable iron during the more archaic era, and something of fantastic hardness and potency relative to the other weapons of the period. In the Bronze Age, the ‘Star Metal’ was indeed ‘unbreakable’ and both rare and potent. And ‘Star Metal’ we can most assuredly call it – for apart from the attestation via chemical analysis of various weaponry coming from ultimately celestial mineric origination … we have quite direct RigVedic statements of a Vajra being conjured by Brihaspati in the form of a meteorite – utilized to carry out an orbital bombardment of the subterranean lair of a certain demon-dragon. But those matters have been spoken of elsewhere by us at length. And a mere co-occurrence of metal does not securely anchor this co-identification.
What is rather more useful in this regard is the actual mythic provenacy in the Greek and later Classical literary spheres that has come down to us for this weapon.
Now interestingly, there are not one but three sourcings for the adamantine blade – forged and thence bestowed by Hephaestus, provided by Hermes, and also belonging to Athena. So how to reconcile these diverse accounts?
Well, as it happens, they match up rather well with what we find in the Vedas. There, of course many are aware of Tvastr forging the weapon of Indra [interestingly, spoken of as Indra’s Father]; however fewer think of the attestations for Vak Saraswati carrying out just such a ritual operation to produce the Weapon of Indra. And how many would recall Brihaspati and Agni … and of course, Rudra in such regard.
These points are not as contradictory as one might first be forgiven for presuming. For it must be remembered that each Vedic perspective there, in the relevant Hymnals and ritual manuals and assorted commentary, is not there to provide us with an exhaustive history and sequential and comprehensive attesting of proceedings. Rather, each of these is there for a particular ritual purpose – and therefore emphasizes ‘facings’ of the narrative as are proper for the invocations being made at the time.
The Vajra, in truth, as we have detailed at great length elsewhere, is not simply a ‘Thunderbolt’. It is a sort of congealed, immanentized Force of Cosmic Order (Rta) It- (or rather Her-)Self. This is why there is such an essential role for Vak Saraswati in its empowerment and provision (resonant with what we find attested amongst the Greeks for Athena having the ability to ‘unlock’ the storehouse where the Hellenic ‘Thunderbolt’ is kept), for She is likewise, the in-universe expression of this supernal and a-priori principle (in Old Norse – ‘Orlog’, that is to say ‘Outside / Supernal Law’ is most eloquent), and mediates what is coming through from the Absolute at that Watery liminal sphere about this place of ours. This, too, is why we find these other deific facings – Tvastr, Agni, Brihaspati – mentioned … for the conjuring, the empowerment of such a weapon .. it is the role of a Priest. And see also my work from last year looking at the concept of the Priest and the Artificer, the ‘Song-Smith’ we might say, in the Slavic, Nordic, Hellenic, Vedic etc. spheres. The roles ‘diversified’ with time – so in the latter texts in the European side of things, we do not tend to make the obvious connection even despite the direct presence of an Altar and Altar-Fire, for instance. It is majorly the Vedic understanding where the true connexion of these is still to be upheld.
In any case – that is why the Vajra is ultimately unstoppable. Because it is a spark of the Absolute. Sent down from even beyond High Heaven to serve the Divine Cause !
And that is why it is so uniquely fatal to the demon, the chaotic, the anti-Cosmic Law … because these creatures are defined via their opposition to Cosmic Law – so with this weapon they meet their antithesis, their annihilation, their Doom.
Now, to speak further upon the Adamantine Harpe of Perseus – there are two salient points within the Greek mythology which almost immediately draw our attention.
The first is that weapon wielded by Herakles in the course of the Hydra-Slaying. That is to say – the Combat of the Striker/Thunderer against the Demon Dragon of the Water. It is a seriously powerful and resonant Indo-European mytheme, I hardly need to name the other expressions of it and various of the essential details to it. Previous works have explored this in greater, grander depth than we shall manage here – but it is worth noting that the ‘burning’ (i.e. application of Holy Fire), the ‘decapitation’, and often the assistance of a certain Goddess is mentioned. That Goddess being Athena / Minerva in various of the Classical accounts, Vak Saraswati (Who may also slay the Demon Herself in other renditions in the Vedas) for the Hindu remembrance; figures that are quite closely resonant, as should hardly come as surprise to find.
Now often we think that Herakles is chiefly associated with a Club, the bough of a tree – and this is not incorrect. Indeed, it is the very ‘essence’ of the ‘Per-‘ in Proto-Indo-European – ‘Strike’ – that we find encapsulated there. However, in at least one telling [Pseudo-Apollodorus], we also find flaming arrows utilized. I have detailed how this, too, is rather commensurate with a Vajra understanding in a recent piece [and should probably expand upon this to additionally observe that Herakles receiving His Bow and Arrow from Apollo – a certain famed Archer deific of quite close concordancy in various respects to a particular Vedic figure .. in fact, several Vedic figures, given as we have already demonstrated elsewhere, an intriguing coterminity of Apollo with Tvastr in terms of a myth of the Song-Smiths]. But the most archaic iconographic depictions which we have for Herakles (and Iolaos) ‘gainst the Hydra – have the chief weapon being the Harpe.
It is unsurprising that what would have been a powerful and advanced weapon (or, by the mid-1st millennium B.C., perhaps “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age” … by which I mean an archaic and therefore archaically powerful in iconic terms device from a more barbaric and Heroic age) for its time becomes how the Weapon of the Striker/Thunderer is depicted there – even if the specific formulation of the Harpe postdates the generalized congealment of the myth in question upon the Urheimat by millennia.
The second of these Hellenic mythic occurrences, pertaining to another employment of a Goddess-bestowed adamantium Harpe … we shall leave for another time, as there is quite some complexity to it, and in truth it pertains to another deific as the wielder.
Similarly, we shall leave – for the moment – unexpounded upon certain other most intriguing elements to Perseus’ narrative which likewise recall an evidently far more archaic (Proto-)Indo-European ritual and mythic understanding.
The core and key point here has already been established. Namely, that the Adamantium Harpe of Perseus resonates well with the Vajra of Indra. And therefore, conveys a similarly ancient essence to the tale.