Pitru Paksha – the Fortnight of the Ancestors – is nearly at a close ; and immediately after it comes NavRatri – the Nine Nights of the Mother Goddess.
The former, is when the veils between the worlds are thinner, and one’s ancestors (Pitrs – etymologically cognate with ‘Fathers’) are able to come and visit, to receive both remembrance and offerings of nourishment from their living kin.
Now as it happens, there is actually a lesser-known underlying unity to the two observances – if you know how to look.
We so often think that in Indo-European mythology, the Lord of the Dead is a male deific – and that is not untrue.
Odin, Hades, Pluto, Dis Pater, and other such terms besides – these are facings of the Sky Father, something of an ultimate ancestor in multiple senses of the term, presiding over the Glorious/Ancestral Dead in an afterworld reachable via the sky or sea (or, more especially, both – as in PIE cosmology … the sky is also a kind of sea, and may be sailed upon accordingly). And which is, when properly considered, not really an ‘underworld’ in the dark and gloomy sense – but rather, a Solar or Lunar realm high up, replete with Stars (one of the potential identifications for the ‘Wealth’ of the Lord of the Dead), and which winds up ‘under’ the world we inhabit via the diurnal procession of Night Sky into Day’s Dawning.
There is also, of course, His Son – known as Yama in the Hindusphere, Remus (Iemus) in the Roman – Who rules over the ‘City’ or ‘World’ of the Dead; a parallel to the World of the Living, as is His Right, as the First to Die – Who went forth to find and to found such a place so that when we go from this place, we have somewhere to go to. It is an eschatological counterpart to the foundation of the race of Man and attendant kingdom of the living by Manu / Mannus / Romulus, etc.
It should therefore come as little surprise that in the Vedic cosmology, we find both Father and Son in that particular place. But that is all as we should expect – and this piece is a brief look at something perhaps a little more unexpected.
You see, there is also another. And this is an incredibly ancient, archaic Indo-European understanding which has likewise been preserved across the thousands of kilometers and thousands of years since the dispersal from the Proto-Indo-European Urheimat.
That is to say, the Goddess Who Reigns over the Ancestors – and often in a manner that is quite clearly directly comparable to Her more immediately thought of Husband.
To quote from one of my earlier works:
“We know that the notion of the Afterlife/Underworld ruled over, at least in part, by a Goddess is of archaic Proto-Indo-European origins. We have the direct Vedic attestation for Aditi (the ‘Queen of Law’, the Law-Giver and Bearer – recall the Law relevant theonymics for Persephone earlier) reigning over such a Realm, and likewise the Germanics preserved this understanding in the form of Freyja’s dominion over Folkvangr (a counterpart realm to the more-well-known-today Valhalla, indeed drawing from the very same sort of intake ‘populace’); the Classical mythoi having not only Persephone (and, in Latin terms, the aforementioned “Juno of the Underworld”), but also Hekate in a sepulchral association – and further evidence that the Anatolian Greek perception of Hekate owes something to the Hittites with their own Indo-European Solar Goddess conceptry (they also knew of the Underworld Sun; a ‘Solar Afterlife’ being, likewise, an archaic (P)IE conceptive understanding). Unsurprisingly, “Queen” tends to come up rather frequently as the apt entitlement of these Goddess expressions – although to my mind, “Empress” is the better, especially as applies Aditi. Deyk-tator may have some semi-apt conceptual saliency as well, given that this is the Goddess of Speech, and Supreme Law(‘s Expressor) – ‘She Who Points Out’, and Commands.”
To this we can add other elements. One of which concerns the figure known from later Germanic folk-tradition as Hulda, Holle, Holda, Perchta, and other such namings. Whom I mention here in large measure due to the traditions around this female folkloric figure as leading the Wild Hunt. As we have demonstrated, the Wild Hunt tradition is very much an understanding of the Indo-European Ancestors riding out alongside Their Ruler – most prominently, the Sky Father (i.e. Odin, Rudra Shiva), although evidently also the Mother Goddess likewise. This would fit with the fact that Odin’s Einherjar are drawn from the population of Valhalla, which has as its direct correlate, Freyja’s realm of Folkvangr aforementioned which likewise receives the other half of the Glorious Dead.
It should likewise come as no surprise to find that Hekate (interestingly, occasionally identified as a consort of the psychopompic Hermes) is similarly regarded as presiding over both Ghosts .. but also the assemblage of these, in potential terrifying phantomic parodos.
And, of course, – and to speak quite directly to something salient for Pitru Paksha – when, in the course of the Homeric epics and subsequent Classical mythic writing, a hero is to seek to commune with his ancestors, Whom does he propitiate? Whom does he invoke?
Persephone, Hekate (or Hecate), and other such facings to Her. (And we likewise find Demeter having a rather prominent role with favourable metempsychosis and afterlife, after all, as well).
Now there is, of course, quite the quotient which is not adequately covered in this brief exposition. Some of it, I intend to return to in the perhaps not-too-distant future. Much of it, you can find written upon in various of my previous works.
But for now? It is enough. Besides, with NavRatri immediately in the future, there shall most definitely be scope for greater Goddess-oriented commentary very soon.
Hail to the Pitrs;
And Jai Mata Di !