It is a Friday – and therefore it is, of course, Devi’s Day.
I was sent this quote by an associate – and immediately felt compelled to go off and look it up in its original context [Symbols of Transformation : Two, in case you were wondering].
And upon viewing the passage (and a great many of the surrounding pages it’s from), I was once again all over frustrated with Jung.
Because with this maxim – he is right. He’s absolutely right! I did something of a double-take upon reading these words in the image and immediately started spooling the various Indo-European mythic instances which should overtly confirm him. [And we’ll be getting into some of those in just a moment]
It’s just that there’s also so much else going on in that chapter. Like, it is a maxim that is couched in amidst an … array of other stuff entirely removed from these most logical of supporting structures; and then elsewhere one’s eye happens across some rather … wide-of-the-mark seeming thoughts which occasionally become just outright bizarre [for example, I am not sure I have ever seen anybody attempt to assert that the dragon Fafnir is a ‘mother’ to Sigurd, even in Wagner’s rendition of Siegfried – although I am not very familiar with Wagner’s operas, so perhaps I am in error]
… and one wonders if Jung has somehow basically just ‘accidentally’ happened across being right for that one cherished moment many pages earlier in the text.
Except, of course, I keep finding treatments in a sentence here, a sentence there, that are very close to being similarly correct – and are just frustratingly, frustratingly a ‘dance of adjacent possible’ weaving delicately around the actual truths of the mat(t)er. I digress.
Ultimately, while I don’t think that Jung was of the same direct species as various sorts I can name today, who basically just take whatever they like from a grab-bag of mythologies in order to garb up Stuff They Wanted To Say/Believe Anyway … it is a useful reminder that he is not a theologian (as if any were needed), and is instead trying to weld an explanatory framework(ish) for the human mindscape, rather than inquiring into fundamental matters of (mythic) reality. And yes, yes these two things may be rather divergent from times to times. Perhaps partially explicating the exponential rise in ill-health as this seems to become increasingly more so with the passage of the age.
Yet I said that we would have Indo-European Conceptry – and so, Indo-European Conceptry We Shall Have.
The major mythic instance which sprang into my mind upon reading this was, of course, that situation of Herakles / Hercules being adopted by Hera / Juno. We have written upon this before and at greater length elsewhere – but suffice to say, it effectively coincides with Hercules’ Apotheosis proper.
Fitting, one might say – because His acts having lead to Him Becoming a God proper, also therefore correlated with His being adopted by, quite literally, the Mother of Divinity. In Diodorus Siculus we find the tale thusly:
“We should add to what has been said about Heracles, that after his apotheosis Zeus persuaded Hera to adopt him as her son and henceforth for all time to cherish him with a mother’s love, and this adoption, they say, took place in the following manner. Hera lay upon a bed, and drawing Heracles close to her body then let him fall through her garments to the ground, imitating in this way the actual birth; and this ceremony is observed to this day by the barbarians whenever they wish to adopt a son.”
[IV, 39, 2 – Oldfather translation]
Interestingly, there is a prominent motif amidst the Etruscans, wherein Hercle and Uni are depicted in a scene that is clearly reminiscent of the above – except rather less figurative, as the rendering is of a decidedly adult Hercules being nursed from the breast of Juno.
Diodorus Siculus does make reference to a somewhat cognate incident earlier on in his narrative, which we shall quote here:
“After Alcmenê had brought forth the babe, fearful of Hera’s jealousy she exposed it at a place which to this time is called after him the Field of Heracles. Now at this very time Athena, approaching the spot in the company of Hera and being amazed at the natural vigour of the child, persuaded Hera to offer it the breast. But when the boy tugged upon her breast with greater violence than would be expected at his age, Hera was unable to endure the pain and cast the babe from her, whereupon Athena took it to its mother and urged her to rear it.”
[IV, 9, 6, Oldfather translation]
There is clearly a dysjunction here – insofar as the Etruscan telling has an adult Hercle, and the breastmilk involved proximate to Hercules’ Apotheosis ; whilst Diodorus Siculus’ account places the nursing incident when Hercules was but an infant.
Now it has been suggested upon this merit that the Etruscan rendering is, therefore, some sort of curiously specific development – one which may have ‘misunderstood’, ‘misrepresented’, or otherwise morphed the myth. I do not agree.
I believe that it is, in essence, actually a rather accurate (if, still, symbolic – as all human renderings of Myth must, via nature, be) accounting.
How can we be sure? Because, as ever, we have the Vedic theology to provide us with the ‘unlocking’ understandings for the broader and underlying Indo-European theology. But more upon that in a moment. We have another Greek instance to countenance.
Or, rather, several Greek instances – entirely uncoincidentally linked to the same Divine Mother: Demeter.
You see, there is a rather persistent pattern at play here: Demeter taking the infant son of a figure who has done the right thing and earned Her favour – and nursing the child, who then becomes possessed of some great potency.
I shall quote, here, from one of my own earlier works:
“The Second Homeric Hymn to Demeter presents the occasion as Demeter wandering ‘dark-cloaked’ in the disguised form of an old woman following the loss of Persephone, calling Herself ‘Doso’ (Δωσὼ – that is to say ‘I Shall Give’), teaching Her Rites and “Mysteries” to Triptolemos – there regarded as a chief of the land in question (other recountings have Triptolemos as a child, a son of the couple who take Her in; Ovid specifies a ‘feast’ of milk (with dissolved curd), apples, and honey); whilst a young infant, Demophon, is fed on Her divine breastmilk, anointed with Ambrosia, breathed upon by Her (in at least one telling – that of Ovid, who appears to conflate Demophon and Triptolemus in this regard – there are ‘spells’ spoken thrice as well, that are beyond the ability of a mortal to utter; part of a series of actions beginning with Divine Breath, then the milk, then stroking the infant thrice, then the ‘Spells’, and then the Fire), and begins to become closer to divinity himself in consequence.
Unfortunately, Demophon’s mother catches sight of the other part to Demeter’s child-care approach .. that of placing Demophon within a fire (interestingly referred to as the ‘Menos’ of Fire – ‘Menos’ being ‘(Active) Spirit’, ‘Passion/Desire’, ‘Power’, or ‘Violence’, etc.; therefore suggesting that this is ‘Alive Fire’ rather than mere mundane inflammation – in the manner of the PIE distinction between ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’ fire with the former being divinely connected and underpinning ‘Agni’ etc.), and in her shock at seeing this raises vocal objection – thus causing Demeter to drop the child, with perhaps predictable results.”
To quote from that aforementioned Homeric Hymnal directly via way of further explication as to ensuing events:
” When She had so spoken, She took the child in Her fragrant bosom with Her divine hands: and his mother was glad in her heart. So the Goddess nursed in the palace Demophoon, wise Celeus’ goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bare. And the child grew like some immortal being, not fed with food nor nourished at the breast: for by day rich-crowned Demeter would anoint him with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god and breathe sweetly upon him as She held him in Her bosom. But at night She would hide him like a brand in the heard of the fire, unknown to his dear parents. And it wrought great wonder in these that he grew beyond his age; for he was like the gods face to face. And She would have made him deathless and unageing, had not well-girded Metaneira in her heedlessness kept watch by night from her sweet-smelling chamber and spied.
Forthwith She [Demeter] said to well-girded Metaneira : ‘Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot, whether of good or evil, that comes upon you. For now in your heedlessness you have wrought folly past healing; for – be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx – I would have made your dear son deathless and unaging all his days and would have bestowed on him everlasting honour, but now he can in no way escape death and the fates. Yet shall unfailing honour always rest upon him, because he lay upon My knees and slept in My arms. But, as the years move round and when he is in his prime, the sons of the Eleusinians shall ever wage war and dread strife with one another continually.’ . . .
And the child, he grew up like an immortal being.”
[Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter, Evelyn-White translation]
A similar situation seems to eventuate as applies Triptolemos [Triptolemus if we are being Latin] – a figure that is, again, most instructive. Partially because Triptolemos does wind up becoming, in effect, a divinity – but also because the etymology to His Name appears to render as ‘Triple-Press’; which entirely uncoincidentally reminds one instantly of the Soma conceptry of the Vedas.
Why do we hold this immanently relevant? Because if one is going to become divine, be infused with divine energy, then Soma is how one would do it – Amrit, indeed (and note the directly cognate Ambrosia mentioned in the Greek text).
Where does one obtain such an Empowering Elixir?
Vak. Vak Saraswati. Vak Saraswati Aditi. Specifically, in the form of a Cow. Something which is repeatedly emphasized in various Vedic texts pertaining to the subject. (Where, to be sure, the Milk of that fabled Cow-Mother is also emblematic for an array of other relevant conceptry – Sacred Speech, for instance; but more upon this some other time)
So … given the situation which we have here – we can immediately sense how the underlying Indo-European typology should seem to manifest.
The Mother Goddess, Wife of the Sky Father, by treating a human as Her Child in this most direct of manners, can and does indeed impart some measure of Divinity, Divine Connexion unto them.
And, on a related note, given RV VIII features Indra [Who also undergoes singularly rapid growth] requiring the assistance and empowerment of Vak Devi in order to go and fight Vritra – which, elsewhere, should seem to entail the imbibing of a certain Empowering Elixir that is notably milk-based – well, it would appear that the situation of Hercules / Hercle as a grown man being thusly nourished by Juno / Uni is decidedly not such a ‘departure’ after all.
Now there are several other exemplars which we might seek to draw out here – most prominently, the situation of Dionysus with those Ash-Nymph Nursemaids that I am so frequently penning about; and, of course, Dionysus’ encounter with the Mother Goddess(es) later in His Cycle.
We might also definitely enquire of certain other elements found within the Hindusphere, as well (and even though it is a bit different in some ways, the accepting as Her Own by Parvati of Skanda is a fondly remembered tale).
Yet it is a little after 04:36 in the morning at time of writing, and I think that my point has already been made abundantly clear.
Adoption by a Divine Mother – a Matron (in the sense of a ‘Divine Patron’, but clearly of a certain sex and pointedly parental relationship) – is a most potent underpinning to that later notion that ‘behind every successful man, there is a good woman’.
Certainly, there must be a strong Shakti indeed!
Jai Mata Di !