Now, to explain what’s going on here … This is one of those Vedic – Eddic strong concordancies.
Concerning the Mead of Poetry, and Soma: what Griffith translated in RV I 14 as ‘Meath’ (the actual word he’d rendered thus appears to be Sanskrit ‘Madhu’ – Sweet – being used as a noun. Which is a direct both functional and linguistic cognate for ‘Mead’ – from PIE *médʰu, meaning ‘Sweet’, ‘Honey’) … the ‘-th’ and ‘-d’ being two ways to represent the older Germanic ‘ð’.
In the Nordic mythology, we find that Odin brings the Mead of Poetry (Kvasir – ‘That Which Is Pressed’), coming in the form of an Eagle. He sources it from inside the Hnitbjorg [the ‘Clashing Rocks’] thanks to the engagement with a female figure [Gunnlod], and His Flight produces three Vessels of the Mead – plus a fourth Drop that had fallen to earth mid-route.
In the Hindu understanding, the Empowering Elixir (Soma – ‘That Which Is Pressed’) is delivered by Agni(-Rudra) in the form of Shyena – a Falcon or Hawk: a Raptor. This is sourced from inside the ‘Press-Stones’ [‘Adri’ or ‘Gravan’ – both of which can also mean ‘Mountain’; ‘Adri’ also occurs in slightly differing inflection as a verb meaning ‘To Crush’, ‘To Reveal’], obtained via Devi’s (Vak Saraswati) engagement, and produces three Vessels of the Elixir – plus a situation of spillage onto the earth per other mythology.
That is the mythological side of things – the story which we find repeated across various Vedic verses. Yet there is also a ritual understanding (something which I suspect very strongly that the Nordic Indo-European sphere also must once have had – at least, in certain form).
On one level, it is straightforward. Agni, as the Living Fire that is the Conduit to the Divine and Supernal is vitally necessary to hallow and empower (and thence obtain) the Empowering Elixir in question. Any Soma rite, therefore, can be thought of as ‘drawing from’ this mythology for its essential mechanism of action.
Yet we also find the mythology ‘operationalized’ in much more expansive depth via the Agnicayana ‘Fire Bird’ rite – wherein literally hundreds (some sources have 10,800) bricks are arranged in the shape of the aforementioned Raptor [although variations on the ritual have other forms possible].
An Altar is thus constructed, wherein Agni – and, pointedly, Rudra (i.e. Agni in Terrifying facing) – can be invoked to re-carry out, re-immanentize His Mythic Deed.
This is not merely placing a bunch of bricks in the rough shape of a bird of prey. Rather, each individual brick is a specifically shaped and blessed / empowered ritual instrument. Each one is intended to be correlated exactly both in size and in placement with specific macrocosmic elements out there in the universe. And this is carried out across multiple layerings, all of which are required to conform to these precise dimensions, these precise shapes, even despite being comprised of differently-shaped bricks.
Hence, you see, the imperative demands for advanced mathematical understandings in the fields of geometry and trigonometry.
A ‘resonancy’ is therefore constructed – not merely of Myth and Ritual Re-Enactment (Mythic Recurrence / Eternal Return) by having Agni in the form of a Raptor bestow the Empowering Elixir – but between the ritual space and the Cosmos Itself.
The intense intricacies entailed in this process and its finalized state – which can take up to a year to practice and prepare for for the entire team of seventeen Vedic Priests engaged for the purpose, followed by twelve days for the enaction of the Rite itself – is partially why it has such great power. Even over and above various other Soma-pressing rituals. Because the ‘Force of the Universe’ is ‘Anchored’ very comprehensively via these complex (meta-)physical structures and ritualized undertakings.
Of course, such incredible steps render it an incredibly rare and storied operation. Indeed, it was thought that the proper knowledge for how to actually (let alone ‘adequately’) perform the Rite had effectively died out at some point well before the modern era.
This turned out not to be the case, however, when in 1975 a rather remarkable performance of the Agnicayana in Fire-Bird format took place. As it turned out, certain of the highly conservative Nambudiri Brahmin clans of South India had kept the traditional knowledge alive.
One of an array of archaic Vedic rituals or liturgies which, in order to experience as anything other than words upon a page, one must venture deep into ostensibly “Dravidian” territory to seek out. I mention this as part of my ongoing demonstration that the so-called ‘Arya – Dravida’ [or ‘Aryan – Dravidian’] hard ‘divide’ we often hear of online in certain circles when discussing our religion is fundamentally misinformed.
There was, however, a certain difference in proceedings in 1975 from the more archaic performance – although not due to any deficiency on the part of the Nambudiris. Rather, a sustained public outcry about the notion of animal sacrifice being carried out in the course of the Rite’s enaction forced the Priests to substitute this element for something less ‘controversial’. [I am not given to understand that human sacrifice, as seemingly attested in at least one – rare – archaeological find associated with the rite, was brooched]
Instead of killing the goats which had been gathered for the purpose, the presiding Priests offered what we would term ‘Pistapasu’ – an effigy of the animal to be sacrificed made out of dough [‘Pasu’ as in ‘Animal’, ‘Pista’ here referring to the ground flour involved].
This proved controversial with some other Brahmin clans at the time; and curiously was labelled by some academic commentators as being an ‘innovation’ developed for the modern performance. Yet we find discussion for the potential of such an occurrence in the Manusmriti (where it is, to be sure, seemingly uncondoned for serious Vedic operations by at least one commentary); and, more intriguingly, the Shatapatha Brahmana’s explication of the (potentially greater) efficacy of substituted offerings made of rice-meal (and barley) … the latter being of particular interest as it comes to us from a direct and archaic Vedic ritual context (indeed, the very same text which contains the large array of instruction for the Agnicayana’s performance).
Yet let us return to the Meath in question:
As Griffith’s rendering of RV VIII 48 3 puts it, concerning the effects of the Brew:
“We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the Gods discovered.
Now what may foeman’s malice do to harm us? What, O Immortal, mortal man’s deception?”
Although I must clarify that “Not Even Once”, here, should be interpreted to mean Thrice. Daily. Not for the full Agnicayana Rite, obviously – but the Vedic Soma Pressing in more general terms, upon those points where it was to be observed.
तान्यज॑त्राँ ऋता॒वृधोऽग्ने॒ पत्नी॑वतस्कृधि ।
मध्व॑: सुजिह्व पायय ॥
tān yajatrān ṛtā-vṛdho [A]ghne patnī-vatas kṛdhi |
madhvaḥ sujihva pāyaya ||
These Renowned / Hallowed Exalters Of Cosmic Order, Agni / Sacred Flame, Unite [Them] With Their Wives |
Of [Immortalizing] Sweetness, Beautiful Flame-Tongue, [Them To] Kiss ! ||
Oh yes. Most definitely more than Once.