We begin to speak upon a theme most close to us – that of the Wolf Form, the Wolf Associations and Associates of Rudra … but also of the Indo-European Sky Father deific complex more generally.
Now I state that it is a mytheme close to this author. I mean this quite directly – it is a large measure of that which we are called. ‘Rolinson’, you see – has a ‘Wolf’ within it. a ‘Famous’ Wolf, in fact, one who is ‘Hailed’ – although the particle in question, for the ‘Fame’ or ‘Renown’, Proto-Germanic *hrōþiz … it is also a term for the *vocalization* of such. From PIE *kreH- (‘To Cry’, ‘To Shout’ .. ‘To Howl’ …?) – which gives us some intriguing terms in Sanskrit for that most priestly of conducts: the ‘Song of Prayer’.
And so, with that matter of my evidently illustrious patrimony declared – we may turn to our main focus. Namely, that most Famous of Wolves … the Sky Father.
Now at once, when one mentions the Wolf in connexion with the God – one’s mind turns instantly to the figure of Odin. That is as it should be. Freki and Geri are well-known. The Ulfhednar have a deservedly intimidating reputation. And we have long suspected that the “Temple-wolf” (Hofgylðir) that a certain insufficiently pious king is sacrificed to in the Ynglinga Saga is none other than Odin – in the form of a devouring Pyre.
Yet when we speak of Rudra – it is seemingly only for a rather more rarified audience that ‘Wolves’ spring so swiftly to mind.
Allow us to change that. With a Prayer. This, drawn from the Calland translation of the Shankhayana Shrauta Sutras (aptly, perhaps, IV 20):
“O Lord of the Earth, O Lord of the Intermediate Region
O Lord of the World, O Lord of the Spirits,
O Lord of the Great Spirit, spare our two footed and our four footed cattle
Treat kindly our two footed ones and our Four footed cattle
He who hates us and whom we hate (for him) art Thou difficult to satisfy
with Thy Shadow, because of Thy Insidiousness
The Heart is Thy Bow, the Mind is Thy Arrow, the Shooting is Thy Eye
As such we know Thee
Homage to Thee !
May Soma refresh Thee
Do not hurt me
The Two Who like Wolves with Jaws Wide Opened , roam in the forest
Bhava and Sarva, the sons of the Great God, (may) homage (be paid) and with the (four) hymns (beginning)
‘What might we say to Rudra” (RV I 43), “These prayers we offer to Rudra” (RV I 114), “Let, O Father of the Maruts ” (RV II 33), “These praises bring to Rudra of strong bow” (RV VII 46)”
And rest assured – we have far further Roudran regalings to detail to our cause further on into this piece !
[One hopes this enables us to say we managed to measure up to the standard set by S. Iyer with the fantastic artwork with which this (A)Arti-cle opened!]
However, this conception of the Wolf in relation to the Deific is also known ‘midst the Classical sphere. And we shall come to cover this in due course viz. particular observances pertaining to Zeus, Apollo, and of course, Leto or Latona.
Yet we do find it useful to begin with a brief etymological point favourably illuminated via the Ancient Greek.
Lykeios – On The Wolves of Light and Lycia [ I ]
λύκειος – Lykeios (more properly, ‘Lukeios’ but with an accented ‘u’) is a prominent Apollonian epithet. Its meaning should be reasonably clear. It either means the relatively straightforward ‘Of the Wolf’ / ‘Wolfy’ … or it means ‘Of Lycia’ / ‘Lycian’ … or, for rather significant interest to our purposes – it pertains to λύκη : ‘Luke’, as in λευκός (‘Leukos’) – that is to say ‘Light’; and with a particular emphasis upon the pre-dawn or twilight.
Now it is not our purpose to endeavour to reconcile all three of these. Yet it is intriguing to contemplate that the old pseudo-folk etymological ethnonymic speculation pertaining to Lycia may yet prove to have some ring of truth to it. That is to say – making it a realm of Wolves. Certainly, they would not be the only nor the first Indo-European tribe to overtly declare themselves to be the ‘Wolves’. Nor to be recognized by other neighbours via such an epithet. But as we say – Anatolian IE ethnonymics are not our purpose to get into here.
Now I personally suspect that the introduction of Apollo (at least under that name) into the Hellenic sphere occurred due to cultural contact (probably at spear-point) with the Anatolian IE – the Apaliunas found mentioned in the treaty between (Luwian) Wilusa (Ilium – Troy) and the Hittites representing an obvious point of origination considering Apollo’s famed favouring of Troy during that city’s eponymous, cataclysmic war. The meaning is somewhat debated (with a perhaps mistaken attempt to link this to the ‘Stormgod of the Army’ mentioned immediately prior in the Treaty’s list of witnessing Gods), yet appears to work out, effectively, as ‘The Hunter’. Strictly speaking, it is presented more as the ‘One Who Entraps’; which, funnily enough, actually coincides rather usefully with some of the Roudran theonymics well-familiar to us from the Vedas. In any case, an Archer as Huntsman is most definitely a familiar image to us. And we should also observe with interest the occurrence of this ‘Lykeios’ (or ‘Lykaios’) epithet in direct relation to Zeus (a figure that also engages in one of the primary totemic ‘markers’ of the Indo-European Wolf-Lord viz. His Defence of Semele against the would-be interloper Actaeon). We shall come to address this in due course.
This suite of co-occurrence helps to account for the otherwise most curious situation we have occasionally had cause to observe when it comes to ‘reconciling’ the Hellenic Indo-European theology with that we find in the Vedic. Namely, the fact that we have all of these direct and inferential attestations for Rudra as Dyaus Pitar, a situation doubly confirmed via the strong concordancy of Rudra to the ‘Sky Father’ reconstructive IE deific complex … yet we also have good grounds to link Rudra to Apollo. Can a given IE mythos really have two Sky Fathers, One a Father of the Other? I think so. ‘Apollo’ effectively resulting from the ‘core’ Hellenic sphere ‘incorporating in’ a deific from another, fellow Indo-European people upon its fringes. Having ‘encountered’ said other Indo-European group and its mythos – and brought in its seeming-chief deific (perhaps), as a ‘Subsidiary’ (indeed, a Son, a Descendant – and therefore owing fealty to the Father) within their own major pantheonic perspective. We can see some arguable ‘resonancy’ for this when we consider the situation viz. Sabazius of the Phrygians and Thracians – wherein whilst we can see that via etymology and other such factors, this should be a Sky Father deific expression (and seemingly recognized as such at least sometimes during the course of Antiquity) … in various Classical texts we instead find Sabazios referred to as an expression of a ‘Son’ of the Sky Father (Zeus Pater / Jupiter).
Yet these are peripheral matters to us. And we ought best keep moving.
The Wolves Who Stalk Between The Stars [ II ]
The Lycians, we find to the East of the Hellenics – and it is therefore somewhat appropriate to hear of ‘Morning Pre-Dawn’ ‘Gloaming’ light in such regard. However there is a rather more direct means via which we may seek to explicate this potential ‘Light’ root for Apollo Lykeios.
I contend that in part what is therefore referred to here is the Moon. Which, as we are well aware, is in most Indo-European mythic perspectives, held to be a male deific. This is certainly the case for the archaic Anatolian IE – at least, insofar as we know, based largely upon both Hittite as well as Luwian evidence (although later Anatolian IE, under Hellenic influence, appear to have ‘broadened’ in this regard). Indeed, even amidst the Greeks we still occasionally find male linkages – one of the Eyes of the Sky Father, per the Orphic Rhapsodic Hymn to Zeus is stated to be the Moon (a counterpart in this position to Helios – and directly recalling the much earlier Vedically attested notion for the ‘Eyes of the Sky Father’ as the Sun and the Moon (and Fire when we are dealing with the Three Eyed One)), for instance.
This would therefore posit Apollo with such ‘Wolf’ association in the name as perhaps being a Lunar Divinity. And that is something that makes considerable sense. After all, as everyone knows from childhood, we associate Wolves and the Moon – Wolves Howl to the Moon (a ‘Lord of Wolves’, we may suggest?), Wolves – or, rather, Werewolves – are similarly ‘governed’ by the Moon, and we also find rather intriguing mentions in certain Classical texts for the most excellent eyesight of the Wolf even amidst conditions wherein only they can see. Indeed, there is a direct term for the ‘Wolf-Light’ in such a context attested in Aelian’s De Natura Animalium … and more upon that work in a moment !
Some corroboration for my theorizing may, perhaps, be offered by SBr XI 1 5, wherein we do indeed find the Moon being referred to as a Hound. We also note with some interest the suspiciously familiar offering of a Bow and Three Arrows in order to propitiate or ward against the annihilatory attentions of that Hound-Moon upon the cattle-flocks of the sacrifice [SBr XI 1 5 10]. This perhaps resonates due to the famed ‘Three-Arrow’ [Tri-Kanda] utilized by Rudra as Pashupati (the Lord of Beasts) in the various Brahmana tellings of His Deed – something that most definitely ‘resonates’ with the Wolf-Form when we consider the identification of said Archer with the star Sirius within the broader Jyotisha milieu.
So … I would posit this notion of the ‘Wolf Form’ of the Sky Father being something along the lines of ‘The Wolf That Stalks Between The Stars” – yet before somebody makes the inverted-suggestion, we do NOT mean this in anything like the sense of the Nordic Hati Hróðvitnisson (another ‘Son of Famous Wolf’, it should seem … but, of course, a dark and devilish counterpart to the Divine Great Wolf Whom we should righteously hail). Instead, we contend that this particular Wolf is, in addition to being a Hunter – is a Guardian.
De Natura Lupōrum – The ‘Temple Wolf’, The Custodes of the Holy Ground; The Guardian Typology of the Wolf-Born Lord of the Bow [ III ]
This brings us back to that work of Aelian whom we had mentioned just above. We shall quote the passage in full, for reasons that shall become apparent subsequently:
“ G The neck of a wolf is short and compressed; the animal is thus incapable of turning but always looks straight ahead. And if it wants to look back at any time, it turns its whole body. It has the sharpest sight of any animal, and indeed it can even see at night when there is no moon. Hence the name Lycophos (wolf’s-light, i.e. gloaming) is applied to that season of the night in which the wolf alone has light with which Nature provides him. And I think that Homer gives the name [Il. 7. 433] ‘ twilight of the night,’ to the time during which wolves can see to move about. And they say that the wolf is beloved of the Sun [Helios]; and there are those who assert that the year is called Lycabas in honour of this animal. It is said also that Apollo takes pleasure in the wolf, and the reason which is commonly reported has reached me too. It is this : they say that the god was born after Leto had changed herself into a she-wolf. That is why Homer speaks of ‘ the wolf-born lord of the bow ‘ [Il. 4.101 ] . That is why, as I learn, at Delphi a bronze wolf is set up, in allusion to the birth-pangs of Leto. Others however deny this, maintaining that it was because a wolf gave information that offerings had been stolen from the temple and had been buried by the sacrilegious thieves. For it made its way into the temple and with its mouth pulled one of the priests by his sacred robe and drew him to the spot in which the offerings had been hidden, and then proceeded to dig the spot with its forepaws.”
[A.F.Scholfield Translation, Attalus edition]
We would note the Wolf as ‘beloved of the Sun’ with some interest – as it could pertain to a number of things in our yet-emergent comparative schema. One of which being the Wolf as ‘favoured’ by the Sun, as in the Sky Father; another as in the Wolf as in – well, beloved of the Sun … either as a Wife in the case of a Male Solar God (i.e. the Sky Father, most likely), or in the case of a Female Solar Goddess (in which case, the Wolf should prove Her Husband). We shall elaborate upon this in due course. Oh, and just briefly – the rendition of “wolf-lord born of the bow” for Apollo is perhaps not quite correct. In fact, as the Murray translation puts it: “the wolf-born god, famed for his bow” should prove better – the actual word being κλυτότοξος (‘Klytotoxos’), with the foreparticle being coterminous with that justly-famed ‘Kleos’ (‘Kleos Aphthiton’ – ‘Undying Glory’ – being the watchword of the Homeric Hero; or Sravas Aksitam if we are being Vedic) and interestingly from the same root that gives us modern English ‘Loud’; ‘Toxon’ we shall perhaps examine at some other point but suffice to say it means ‘Bow’, and may have some relation to an apparently Scythian loanword into Latin to refer to the wood of the Yew (or its manufactured projectiles). In terms of a ‘famous’ Archer – in Vedic perception we need look no further than Sarva.
We shall also be returning to that detail given about “a bronze wolf is set up [at Delphi], in allusion to the birth-pangs of Leto”, rest assured.
However what has drawn our attention is this other interpretation which Aelian has supplied to us:
That of the Wolf Murti being present at the Temple “because a wolf gave information that offerings had been stolen from the temple and had been buried by the sacrilegious thieves. For it made its way into the temple and with its mouth pulled one of the priests by his sacred robe and drew him to the spot in which the offerings had been hidden, and then proceeded to dig the spot with its forepaws.”
This is corroborated in the position provided for us by Pausanias:
“Near the great altar is a bronze wolf, an offering of the Delphians themselves. They say that a fellow robbed the god of some treasure, and kept himself and the gold hidden at the place on Mount Parnassus where the forest is thickest. As he slept a wolf attacked and killed him, and every day went to the city and howled. When the people began to realize that the matter was not without the direction of heaven, they followed the beast and found the sacred gold. So to the god they dedicated a bronze wolf.”
[X 14, Jones & Ormerod translation]
As you can see, he details the same incident occurring at the same place, and – to my mind – justly commemorated in the same fashion. Except with one key difference: there it is not that the Wolf has only alerted the authorities as to a theft and the ill-gotten loot’s secreted location – rather, the Wolf has, in fact, dispatched the evildoer himself via the mechanism of tooth and claw.
As we had said – the Wolf as Guardian. A ‘Temple Wolf’, we might even say (with deference to that Nordic occurrence for ‘Hofgylðir’ but briefly aforementioned above, perhaps, too).
Now … the question becomes – can we substantiate this claim in any way ?
And, as a matter of fact … we can. In a manner that helpfully further buttresses some of the comparative Indo-European theological linkages of which we had been pursuing driving at earlier.
Sālāvṛka – The Wolves of the Temple, the Enclosure And Ancestral Warding – ‘Cruel Sanction’ Meted Out Via The Howling Hounds Of Heaven [ IV ]
We might also, at this point, invoke KYV VI 2 7 – which includes as its conclusion a set of verses for the ‘cleansing’ of an altar-space of the presence of Demons:
“‘May the cry of Indra guard thee in front with the Vasus’, he says; verily he sprinkles it from the quarters. ‘Since the high altar has gone to the gods, here must we conquer’ (thought) the Asuras, and with bolts ready they advanced on the gods. Them the cry of Indra with the Vasus repelled in front ; the swift of mind with the Pitrs on the right, the wise one with the Rudras behind, and Viçvakarman with the Adityas on the left. In that he sprinkles the high altar, verily thus does the sacrificer repel his foes from the quarters. Indra gave the Yatis to the Salavrkas; them they ate on the right of the high altar. Whatever is left of the sprinkling waters he should pour on the right of the high altar; whatever cruel is there that he appeases thereby. He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
Now as for what this means – well, ‘Salavrka’ ( सालावृक – however also encountered as शालावृक : ‘Shalavrka’) combines our familiar Sanskrit ‘Vrka’ ( वृक ), which means ‘Wolf’, with a foreparticle. In later texts we tend to find the combination term utilized in a somewhat … broader sense – to mean a hyena, jackal, or wild dog. Sometimes it even seems to be deployed to refer to a deer or a monkey. Yet in that archaic Taittiriya Samhita setting, I have little doubt as to its meaning.
Here, the foreparticle, ‘Sala’, has done something interesting. In the original TS YV text, it should seem to be साल (Sala) rather than शाल (Shala). The two do have significantly overlapping senses, however it is useful to our purposes to make a bit of a distinguishment.
‘Sala’ would refer to a ‘Wall’, a ‘Walled Enclosure’; ‘Shala’ would refer to a ‘Building’ (with walls, ostensibly). In later texts, ‘Shala’ does get used to mean a ‘Temple’ (ostensibly by the time of the AtharvaVeda), and of course, a ‘House’ – it’s from PIE *ḱel-, which refers to a ‘cover’, and also gives us our modern English ‘Hall’ (via K => H sound-shift). ‘Sala’ *can* be utilized in this sense (just as ‘Shala’ can also be used in that other sense of the ‘wall’, ‘fence’, ‘perimeter’) – yet here it is seemingly being utilized in that older notion of an exterior boundary.
Why? Because this ritual instruction is from the archaic Vedic age – wherein fixed, settled Temples were not (yet) a thing; and instead, the ‘ritual space’ was prepared anew outside to purpose. Hence, the exterior barrier to the ritual space is not the wall of a Temple (Shala), but rather that which ‘covers’ of a different kind – a ‘wall’. We can tell this, in part, due to KYV VI 2 4, wherein Indra Himself takes the form of a Salavrka in order to race (thrice) around the perimeter of the mythic ‘inhabitable space’ that forms the template for the Vedic ritual space, in order to win it from the Demons. That is to say – Indra directly turns into a Wolf (Vrka) in order to delineate this Boundary (Sala), and is therefore in the form of the Salavrka.
Perhaps this may inform why it is that Indra’s ‘Ghosha’ is what banishes the demons in fright. It is, after all, a term that can be used to describe a forceful invocation or shouted speech (and is rendered by Keith as ‘Cry’) … but also, rather pointedly, to refer to Howling.
However, the Salavrkas that we encounter in KYV VI 2 6 are ‘delineating’ the boundary between the ‘safe’ and ‘civilized’ and ‘Divine'(ly inhabited) territory of the ritual space versus its antecedent antithesis in quite a different manner. There, they are making this region safe by acting to remove a threat to the ritual operation and the sacred space. One which, given the preceding context featuring the Demonic assault against the Gods, we can quite easily surmise the nature to.
Later scripture should seem to present these ‘Yatins’ in a rather interesting manner – effectively suggesting these to be almost ‘priestly’ sorts … certainly capable of carrying out rites, however hopelessly in league with Demons and in arrogant opposition to the Gods. Indeed, in at least one telling they (or the forces they are aligned with) even have had the temerity to attempt to steal the Wife of the Sacrificer (Man – or, more directly, Manu) via a mentally afflicting “influence”. Thus necessitating the enlisted aid of Indra in order to smash both the scurrilous mind-ensnaring enchantment and its would-be beneficiaries. By feeding them to the Wolves! We might compare them, therefore, to the Yatudhana. Certainly, one’s mind instantly goes (‘swift-of-thought’, indeed) to that typology so prominent within the SBr and other such sources wherein the effective process via which Vak Devi is Won Back by the Divine Priest entails a contest ‘gainst a ‘Priest of the Demons’. The Divine Priest then and therefore once again becomes the ‘Man Whom She Chooses (Kama)’ [c.f RV X 125 5, the famed DeviSukta – as well as, of course, SBr III 2 1]. Ah, the things of which the ordained Man goes through for Her !
Yet we have one other key identifying detail to examine here. That position to the right of the Altar. The one that is coterminous with, as Keith renders it – “the swift of mind with the Pitrs”. The Pitrs are the Forefathers, the departed shades of the honoured ancestors. The word being rendered as ‘swift of mind’, ‘Manojavah’, is taken by Sayana to refer to Lord Yama. As a point of perhaps triangulative interest, a closely related term occurs to refer to a particular Son of Rudra, elsewhere. And, indeed, given the situation of Yama as a Son of the Sky Father (i.e. Odin, Rudra, etc.) – we may therefore quite directly point to the status of Yama having two Canine comrades (‘Sons of Sarama’, no less !) as being an indelibly emblematic case of ‘Like Father, Like Son’. So as applies why ‘Swift-of-Mind’ (or, perhaps more interestingly for Death – ‘Swift-as-a-Thought’) is being invoked along with His Wolves in such a context:
We therefore may suggest that what is going on there is that the specific location of these ‘Wolves of the Border’ as being proximate to the station of Yama and the Glorious Departed Dead … means that these Wolves are also watching that most sepulchral of borders, too. Thus, what we are being told quite obliquely toward the closing of KYV VI 2 7, is that the Yatins in question are being put to death. Whether ‘directly’, via the inference of the snapping jaws of these Guardian Wolves … or ‘inferentially’ via the implication of having been sent (no doubt screaming) into the most inhospitable (indeed – ‘cruel’, a direct cognate for ‘kruram’ here, both descended from the aptly ‘cold-blooded’ PIE *krewh₂- ) or ‘bloody’ Jaws of the Edge/End of Life. We *would* say ‘Gates of the Underworld’ … but, of course, even though there is broad Indo-European currency for ‘hellhounds’ of a sort to be watching the border of such ‘liminal space’ – in Vedic terms and times, the concept of an ‘Underworld’ has not ‘descended’ yet. Yama’s Hounds watch a pathway that leads up to a more ‘celestial’ realm. But we digress.
Another (not-necessarily-mutually-exclusive) interpretation would observe that if the Salavrkas are to the right of the altar, where the Pitrs are also stated to be … that this may, in fact, be a more direct point of co-identification. That is to say, the Shades of the Glorious Dead may be occurrent in Wolf form – and ready to set upon the would-be interlopers in order to tear them to pieces. As an associate [S.W.] had noted, it does perhaps remind one somewhat of the Wild Hunt. And there is certainly something uniquely powerful as to the notion of the Ancestors, Heritage, mobilized in such a fight – Ancestors coming forth as Famed Wolves. Or perhaps that’s just me.
To bring things back to the actual liturgy itself – we find it expressly said that through the continued performance of acts oriented toward that right-hand side of the altar, “whatever cruel is there that he appeases thereby.”
The Sanskrit word utilized there is ‘Kruram’ – an interesting choice, as it comes from PIE *krewh₂- (i.e. ‘blood’, but ‘cold blood’, in the sense of death or indeed ‘raw meat’, and savagery). We are familiar with ‘Kravyada’ (again, same PIE root) in other Vedic contexts to effectively mean ‘Carnivore’ and implicitly incorporating the Wolf within its scope; however something else is meant to be entailed here.
‘Krura’ ( क्रूर ) itself means not only ‘Cruel’ or ‘Bloody’ – but also ‘Wrathful’, ‘Pitiless’, ‘Savage’, ‘Formidable’, ‘Frightful’, ‘Violent’, ‘Aggressive’, ‘Harsh’, and rather ‘Barbaric’. It is therefore likely to nobody’s especial surprise that it is also an attested Name of Rudra.
The utilization of ‘Kruram’ to convey the nature of the Guardian force which dwells in that quarter of the ritual space is therefore, likely uncoincidental. A Wolf God’s Specter invoked in amidst the Wolves. (Although before somebody says it – yes, yes we do also have the Rudras given place in the ‘behind’ space to the Rite’s focal. This does not vitiate such a Roudran quality also being present in another quarter – not least as the figure stated to be leading these Rudras in the Behind Quarter, is ‘Pracetas’ … an enigmatic sort that, going off Sayana’s commentary on the RV etc., is encountered as a hailing for Varuna. Although other interpretations are certainly possible, including the notion of a more generalized ‘quality’ executor rather than a specific major Deity)
In any case, and with specific aim at the Demonic forces thusly targeted through the ritual invocation and commentary in question, we note with relish the conclusion:
“He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
The Sacrificer / Priest, we may say, ‘Sends The Wolves’ ‘gainst his foeman. The ‘Wild Hunt’ typology, no doubt, continues to resonate via inference.
(As a point of perhaps comparative interest, the SBr liturgy for (broadly) the same ritual undertaking , SBr III 5 2 8 , actually makes the above process inherent in that last line rather optional. And, intriguingly, what is entailed is rather more overt – an “exorcism” (to borrow from the Eggeling translation – going through particle-by-particle on that delicious phrase ‘abhicaredādiśedidamahaṃ’ would be rather beyond the scope of this piece) … one wherein it is the discontent (‘Ashanta’) and ‘sorrow’ (‘Shocati’) of Vak which is ‘weaponized’ in such a fashion. Vak, as we had noted earlier, being here encountered in the forms of both the Altar (compare Hellenic Hestia) … and also a very annoyed Lioness – another Carnivore of the Wilds, encountered in this situation instead of the Salavrka yet with a not entirely uncotermious ambit of a ‘Devourer’ of those who would seek to violate the dictates of propriety and Cosmic Law.!)
Bhairava Kshetrapala – The Terrifying Guardian Of The Temple , Castellan Of The Holy City And His Hounds Of Furious Vengeance And Law’s Upholding [ V ]
Now in the above we have looked at the notion of the Wolves as defending the Ritual Space in archaic Vedic terms. Yet what of the Temple? For that, we turn to the figure of Bhairava – ‘Terror’ Himself – a prominently Canid associated Roudran deific expression that, as we have covered extensively elsewhere, presents a direct continuance of the ‘Sirius’ / Dark Hunter Amidst The Stars typology so prominently attested in both the Hindu and the ‘neath the surface’ Hellenic star lore.
Bhairava is often quite directly the ‘Kshetrapala’ – the Protector (‘Pala’) of the Space or Place (‘Kshetra’) – that is hailed to do exactly this for many a Temple. Indeed, one reads of the Bhairava Murti being directly entrusted with the keys to the Temple and the Night’s solemn vigil after all others have gone home.
This can also apply on a much broader scale, too, as demonstrated via the Shaivite Holy City of Varanasi. There, Bhairava is hailed as the ‘Kotwal’ (‘Castellan’ – although interestingly also translated as ‘Chief of Police’) ; something taken rather literally as applies the police station immediately near to Bhairava’s main Mandir within the city, where the physical position of station commandant is, quite literally, held by a depiction of Bhairava.
Also of interest for our purposes concerns the folk-telling of an incident from within that fabled polis that reportedly occurred in 1669 immediately following Aurangzeb’s destruction of the famed Sri Kashi Vishwanath temple (that has recently been back in the headlines due to a court-ordered archaeological survey that may have paved the way for its reclamation from the Mosque Aurangzeb had turned it into … back into a Shaivite Temple). So the story goes, Aurangzeb’s soldiers then made for the Kaal Bhairav temple in order to do likewise to that site as well. Their intended iconoclasm was brought to a pre-emptory halt via the sudden appearance of a wild dog or pack of dogs which set upon the soldiers, biting them in furious vehemency.
That would prove an exemplary enough instance of our typology by itself. Yet the situation then develops further. The soldiers that had been bitten by the canine fangs then themselves underwent a ‘change’ of a sort – they began to act with ‘madness’, and in fact with a certain canine behavior which saw them begin to bite other soldiers themselves. The whole thing was so disruptive as to cause the Mughal executor in charge of the operation (some accounts somewhat fancifully have it as Aurangzeb himself) to flee.
It should seem simplistic to seek to explicate the above as rabies or something of the like. Yet rabies does not, to my knowledge, have an onset of minutes or seconds. I am not an infectious diseases specialist, so it shall have to be to others to seek to provide a bacteriological or viral agent that could be at play here. Yet I do not know that that is necessary. Rather, the account should seem to my mind to recall with some interest those tellings we are familiar with from the Classical sphere wherein a certain transgressor or transgressors upon the bounds of religious propriety suffers such a fate. We recall the popular telling of the myth of Lykaon – the Greek king that was transformed into a wolf by Zeus due to the former’s outrage in daring to serve an honoured guest the human flesh of a slaughtered child.
However, there is something rather more going on with the Lykaon myth as attested in other source-material, and we shall come to that in due course.
This incident does draw out a rather useful point of distinction to the ‘canid’ sphere. For on the one hand, we have those ‘wild’ dogs that arrive and act as the direct enforcers of the God’s Will, upholders and protectors of the religious sphere (whether physically or in terms of propriety – and, in this particular case, both at once). However we also have these human would-be iconoclastic interlopers – who wind up acting like wild animals (indeed, directly like their righteous assailants) due to the Curse of the God that their actions have made trenchantly manifest. It should prove altogether far too simplistic – and indeed downright occlusionary to both our purpose and any hope of accuracy to artificially conflate these two categories. We shall addeuce and further attest that which we mean upon this score towards the conclusion of this overarching piece.
For now its enough to simply say – not everyone who purports to be a ‘wolf’ is, in fact, a Wolf of the Sky Father. Some, it seems, are demons in human(ish) form whom the true Wolves fall upon – would-be subverters and usurpers of the Divine Order that are shown precious little mercy by His True Sons. Even as, in a no doubt deliberate irony, they find themselves condemned to wear the forms and/or engage in the conduct that should otherwise prove reminiscent of those True Wolves aforementioned. Though unwilling, they are rendered into tools of His Divine Justice – carrying out the furtherance of precisely that which they had fought against, in compelled confederation with their victorious vanquishers in train. We are reminded of that exquisite phrase in Sanskrit – शंकरचेतोविलास (Shamkaracetovilasa) – ‘The (Subtle) Play Of Lord Shiva’s Wit. Perhaps aptly, the title of a poem to the glories of Lord Shiva’s Holy City of Varanasi.
In essence: despite being ‘wild’, and seemingly not operating in obeyance of any conventional, terrestrial law writ from mere corruptly human artifice … these Canine clades of the Sky Father cannot be confused for being Anti-Law, Anti-Dharma, Anti-Rta, Anti-Orlog.
Quite the contrary. They are, as it were, bearers of a ‘Deepa’ kind of Order. One unutterably superior, and vitally necessary as the true ‘Natural’ foundation upon which all else must eventually come to stand. And meanwhile, it is the erstwhile ‘imparters’ and ‘upholders’ of law and civilization – the soldiers of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor and (locally) dominant human sovereign of the day – that are the evident forces of chaos, impiety, and iniquity.
It is a delicious downright inversion of the ‘expected roles’ for each to play in this loka-lized manifestation of the Cosmic Drama. And a wise reminder to all of us out here both upon the stage and seated out there within the audience, that a lazy adherence to the shallowly salient ‘expected tropes’ (dare we say ‘stereotypes’) of easy resort … can oft-obscurate far more than it could ever hope to illuminate.
Hence our deployment of the ‘wolf-sight’ amidst this Lycophos in order to demonstrate the actual truth.
That of Wolves, encountered just where we should expect Them to be. Defending the Rite, Defending the Righteous, and Defending in such a way that even Demons and would-be Demon Worshippers are rendered afraid !
As well they should be ! For one must be truly formidable and excellently terrifying in order to be ‘more so’ in each of these than the demonically aligned threats that one hunts !
Yet we can take things further still – and, as applies Rudra, yet more directly as well in train.
Sirius Amidst Vastopati – Space Wolf : The Lupine Lord Of Over-Night And Terrific Starlight (Tvesha) Glittering In The Darkness [ VI ]
RV VII 55, dedicated to Vastopati, makes for intriguing reading in this light. Here we have a Hymnal dedicated to a (bright) ‘Son of Sarama’ – that is to say, a Wolf. Sarama being the famed Wolf(-Mother) amidst the Gods, and Herself quite the Guardian – as demonstrated in Her Major Hymnal, RV X 108, wherein She harries the Panis and intimidates those demons into abandoning their stronghold and stolen wealth of cows. We shall simply quote directly the Griffith translation and then provide some brief annotation:
1 VASTOSPATI, Who killest all disease and wearest every form,
Be an auspicious Friend to us.
2 When, O bright Son of Saramā, Thou showest, tawny-hued! Thy teeth,
They gleam like lances’ points within Thy mouth when Thou wouldst bite; go Thou to steep.
3 Saramā’s Son, retrace Thy way: bark at the robber and the thief.
At Indra’s singers barkest Thou? Why dust Thou seek to terrify us? Go to sleep.
4 Be on Thy guard against the boar, and let the boar beware of Thee.
At Indra’s singers barkest Thou? Why dost Thou seek to terrify us? Go to sleep.
5 Sleep mother, let the father sleep, sleep dog and master of the house.
Let all the kinsmen sleep, sleep all the people who are round about.
6 The man who sits, the man who walks, and whosoever looks on us,
Of these we closely shut the eyes, even as we closely shut this house.
7 The Bull Who hath a thousand horns, Who rises up from out the sea,—
By Him the Strong and Mighty One we lull and make the people sleep.
8 The women sleeping in the court, lying without, or stretched on beds,
The matrons with their odorous sweets these, one and all, we lull to sleep.
Even were we not in possession of the additional constellation of identification information provided elsewhere within the scriptural canon, it should prove reasonably straightforward to identify just Whom is meant here.
It is Rudra. Hence the commentary over being able to dispel disease. Hence also the rather familiar pattern wherein the Priests effectively seek to placate Him and ask that His baleful attentions be directed elsewhere. Something that we shall also see with deference to Sirius specifically in a little-known Hellenic occurrence provided for us by Apollonius of Rhodes in an occurrence we shall detail in due course.
The recent Jamison/Brereton RigVeda translation makes an intriguing point in its commentary pertaining to the ‘Bull Who Hath A Thousand Horns’ in relation to the Moon. It is certainly not improbable. Although we should, perhaps, note that Sayana commentary instead suggests said Bull to in fact be the Sun. And then goes further in linking this Solar potency to the figure of Kumara – here, we would infer, the earlier Vedic conception (also Agni-Rudra) rather than the later Son of the Sky Father referred to via the same name (i.e. Skanda).
But this is not of chief interest to us here, so we shall move forward.
What is is that theonymic epithet – Vastopati (or Vastospati).
I shall quote from some of my own previous work:
“This casts the theonymic of Rudra so prominent in the Vedas – ‘Vastopati’ ( वास्तोष्पतिं ), ‘Lord of the Dwelling’ – into a most intriguing light (that’s a Sanskrit pun for those of you in the audience who … you know what? We’ll leave that for now.).
The PIE root in that case, viz. ‘Vaastu’, is *h₂wes- – ‘to dwell’, of course, but also to do so on a much more temporary basis (consider Ancient Greek ἄεσᾰ – to spend the night somewhere). Oh, and to pick up upon that pun briefly aforementioned … वस्तु (‘Vastu’), as in ‘Light’, or ‘Essence’. In this, it may have some coterminity with Proto-Germanic *wesaną – ‘to be’, ‘to exist’, ‘to remain’. Certainly, the latter’s immediate descendant, PG *wistiz – ‘essence’, ‘nature’, ‘being’ – should seem eerily pertinent herein.”
“Now, intriguingly, in the most archaic direct textual expression of the situation which we have, in the Xth Mandala of the RigVeda, Rudra is manifested from the combined anger of the rest of the Pantheon – and is hailed as वास्तोष्पतिं : Vastopati.
This term – Vastopati, Vastos Patim – is the Lord / Protector [‘Pati’] of the House or Dwelling [‘Vaastu’]; however it is perhaps interesting to consider the related ‘Vastu’ – which sets out an ambit for definitional interpretation corresponding more closely to ‘Reality’, ‘Divine Plan’ (perhaps we may suggest रचना – ‘Rachana’ – the Divine Plan in Her Active Immanentization), or for that matter, given the nature of the Roudran appearance there in RV X 61 7, with वास्तु (‘Vaastu’), referring to the Light and Direction of the Universe (c.f. the Eight Vasus; and an intriguing saliency given that it is ‘Diva’ – the ‘Light of Heaven’ – implicitly under such threat in the first place).”
Now I have quite deliberately quoted from one of those pieces in particular, as it details an evidently very archaic Indo-European mythic episode – wherein the Sky Father manifests (or is manifested as) a Guardian … and, rather pointedly, a Wolf.
We have detailed this typology at much greater length in my earlier ‘Of Artemis And Actaeon, The Wolf As Defender Of The Goddess – A Forensic Theology Examination Of A Classical Myth In The Vedas And In The Stars‘. But suffice to say that we find not only Apollo acting to defend Artemis in such a manner (acting as a Huntsman) … but also Zeus acting to defend Semele through hunting-canid intervention. And, of course, Artemis defended Herself through exactly the same fashion. That most excellent of all-purpose problem-solving techniques: Wolves.
In the Vedic typology, still found amidst the Stars, we find this “Vastopati’ occurrent as the Great Huntsman (Mrgavyadha, per Sayana’s commentary upon RV X 61 7) – the Wolf-Star Who shoots a three-pointed Arrow (known in the West as Orion’s Belt) at His the prey (the would-be interferer with His Wife). That Wolf-Star, of course, being Sirius. Just as it is in the West. But more upon that some other time. Perhaps we might term Him a ‘Space’ Wolf (this goes also with another sense to the luminous ‘Vastu’ aforementioned in terms of ‘dimensionality’).
For now it is enough to observe that i) the Defended Deity in the Vedas is variously identified as ‘Diva’ or ‘Ushas’ (although which Ushas is another matter ..); ii) that the continuance of this myth in the Puranic era is to be found in Rudra more explicitly defending His Wife. As we should expect given ‘Diva’ is the feminine linguistic form for ‘Dyaus’ … and whether we are saying ‘Diva’ or ‘Ushas’, we are referring to a Solar figure – which, per Aelian … “And they say that the wolf is beloved of the Sun”.
We would also note that that other sense of ‘Vastu’ (वस्तु rather than वास्तु) – the one wherein it is ‘Light’ – should therefore produce the interesting circumstance of a slightly different ‘Vastopati’. One which, at once, might satisfy the ‘λευκός’ (‘Leukos’ – Light) sense for Apollo Lykaios … and also, due to ‘Pati’ meaning not only ‘Lord’ or ‘Protector’, but also ‘Husband’ … ‘Beloved of the Light (Sun)’. How about that.
However, as applies the Light of the Wolf, we would be extraordinarily remiss if we did not dwell upon Sirius in at least some greater, grander depth than we have thus far in this piece. A more fulsome consideration can be found in our earlier ‘Sirius In Central Asia – Soma, Tisya, Tishtrya, Rudra‘, yet we shall quote some choice excerpts therefrom :
“Ancient Greek ‘Sirius’ (‘Σείρῐος’ – ‘Seirios’, as we have met before), is speculated to harbour an underlying, archaic meaning that is, effectively, ‘Searing’, ‘Scorching’, ‘Glowing’; and/or, on a non-exclusive basis, ‘Shining’, ‘Sparkling’, ‘Flickering’.
The etymological root for this ‘Sirius’ / ‘Σείρῐος’ – is supposedly Ancient Greek ‘Seiso’ / ‘σείω’, also the root of our modern English ‘Seismic’. Unsurprisingly, it means ‘To Shake’.
The point is – ‘Shaking’ as the result of being ‘Seized’ by this Divine Investiture, is exactly as we should expect. Becoming, as we might suggest, akin to the Ulfhednar – the Wolf-Skin / Wolf-Head Warriors, and their assorted Indo-European cognate expressions.
It is perhaps no wonder that the cognates for ‘Sirius’ in Sanskrit – ‘Tvis’ ( त्विष् ) and ‘Tvesha’ ( त्वेष ) have such relevant meaning-fields. The latter, encompassing not only the illumination of Brightness, Glittering quality – but also the bringing of Fear, and possessing the quality of emphatic, impetuous, vehement, forceful action amidst Their radiancy of Glory.
‘Tvis’ is even more intriguing in this manner – For in addition to the ‘Shining’, ‘Sparking’, ‘Blazing’, and general incandescent Brilliancy … we find Vehemence, Violence, Beauty, Authority, Agitation (especially of the ‘Violent’ kind), Desire or Wish, … and Speech.”
Now we mention that, of course, because the Indo-European mythopoetic canon does. And quite pointedly, at that. RV I 114 4 begins with ‘Tvesam’ in its invocation to the ‘Wandering Kavi’ (the word utilized as ‘Wandering’, is in fact Vanku – which means to proceed in a ‘crooked’ manner (an indirect trajectory?) or with an emphatic swiftness) – asking for Aid for the Worshipper, and that His Divine Wrath be directed elsewhere (incipiently toward the justly-deserving enemy yonder). The Hymnal itself is one of those that had been cited in the Shankhayana Shrauta Sutra section with which we had opened this (A)Article – and rather prominently features Rudra called upon as the “Lord of Heroes”. We mention that due to the Iliad specifically:
Diomedes, for instance, in Book V, is described having been invested with the ‘Menos’ (‘Furor’) potency by Athena (another deific expression of close confederacy with Rudra – long story, have covered at length elsewhere), is described thusly:
“Then Pallas Athena put valor [‘Menos’] into the heart of Diomedes, son of Tydeus, that he might excel all the other Argives, and cover himself with glory. She made a stream of fire flare from his shield and helmet like the star [Sirius] that shines most brilliantly in summer after its bath in the waters of Okeanos – even such a fire did She kindle upon his head and shoulders as She bade him speed into the thickest uproar of the fight.”
Or, in Book XXII and with deferent regard for that other of Athena’s Chosen, Achilles:
“On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs of Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as he scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call Orion’s Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest more brilliantly than those of any other that shines by night; brightest of them all though he be, he yet sends an ill sign [sêma] for mortals, for he brings fire and fever in his train – even so did Achilles’ armor gleam on his breast as he sped onwards.”
Phrased another way and more succinctly (a challenge) – Sirius, the Terrifying Wolf-Star and Hunter (Lubdhaka ( लुब्धक ) and Mrigavyadha ( मृगव्याध ) – both terms for ‘Hunter’, that are explicitly that of Rudra) shines not only up above ‘midst the Firmament … but also within the hearts (and brows) of those most illustrious of the Heroes aforementioned. Thus situating They, too, as part of this Star-Wolf mytho-poetic and no doubt ritualine also tradition.
And if They strike such balestruck apprehensiveness into those officially favourable to them in general terms (for how else to describe Homer or a Hellenic audience hearing the regaled feats of Diomedes or Achilles at their Highest martial glory) … one can only imagine just how terrifying the enemy should find them !
Our ‘sin’, should we have had one, is collectively failing to maintain this vitally necessary differentiation. And therefore so frequently encountering this depictive description of the Wolf as ferociously unconstrained by us and of demonstrably lethal proficiency … we have forgotten that it is not us who ought be most afraid of the Wolf.
Provided that He is Our Wolf – Our Champion, Our Hero, Our Holy (Infused) Warrior – then just as we are a Gods-Fearing People … So, Too, Shall The Enemy Learn That They Have Much To Fear.
The Sons of the Wolf Mother – A Lupine Scourge ‘Gainst The Interloper [ VII ]
However our purpose in quoting that aforementioned RigVedic Vastopati hymnal is multifarious. You shall have noted the ‘Son of Sarama’ designator – via which the Rsi’s rendering declares a Wolf. You shall also note that it is the situation of being a Son of that particular Mother that renders Him so. Figuratively or otherwise.
So, to turn aback to our Classical sphere of texts …
Aristotle, in his ‘History of Animals’ (‘Historia Animalium’ … or, if we are being pedantically Greek – Τῶν περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστοριῶν) relates an explanation for the supposed twelve-day pregnancy of the female wolf – “that during this number of days Latona was brought from the Hyperborean regions to Delos, in the form of a wolf, for fear of Juno.” (Cresswell translation). Obviously, the Roman theonymics are standing in there, in that particular translation, for their Greek counterparts, but the sense is quite straightforward. The key element therein is of Leto or Latona, the famed Mother of Apollo (and Artemis) being sent from Hyperborea (or thereabouts) to the eventual site of Their Birth to Her, in the form of a Wolf. Thus explaining Apollo’s ‘Wolf’ associations rather directly.
Or, as Aelian had put it, in the manner we had seen (and briefly sought to somewhat correct viz. the Iliad rendering), earlier:
“It is said also that Apollo takes pleasure in the wolf, and the reason which is commonly reported has reached me too. It is this : they say that the god was born after Leto had changed herself into a she-wolf. That is why Homer speaks of ‘ the wolf-born lord of the bow ‘ [Il. 4.101 ] . That is why, as I learn, at Delphi a bronze wolf is set up, in allusion to the birth-pangs of Leto.”
[A.F.Scholfield Translation, Attalus edition]
Now, to pick up upon that point in a slightly different directly, we should also like to quote Antoninus Liberalis’ ‘Metamorphoses’ (Celoria translation) :
“§ 35 THE HERDSMEN: Menecrates from Xanthus tells this tale in his Lyciaca; also Nicander. Leto, after giving birth to Apollo and Artemis on the isle of Asteria, went to Lycia, taking her children with her, to the baths of Xanthus. As soon as she arrived in that land, she came first upon the spring of Melite and wanted very much to bathe her children there before going on to Xanthus. But some herdsmen drove her away so that their own cattle could drink at the spring. Leto made off and left Melite. Wolves came out to meet her and, wagging their tails, led the way, guiding her to the River Xanthus. She drank the water and bathed the babes and consecrated the Xanthus to Apollo while the land which had been called Tremilis she renamed Lycia [Wolf Land] from the wolves that had guided her. Then she returned to the spring to inflict a penalty on the herdsmen who had driven her away. They were then still washing their cattle besides the spring. Leto changed them all into frogs whose backs and shoulders she scratched with a rough stone. Throwing them all into the spring she made them live in water. To this day they croak away by rivers and ponds.”
Why do we quote this? Because it presents the Wolf-Mother that we had aforementioned accompanied by rather helpful Wolves. ‘Guarded’ by Them, we may fairly impute, indeed !
However, there is another purpose.
AtharvaVeda Śaunakīya VII 95 makes for intriguing reading with the addition of Whitney’s commentary. Griffith entitles the Hymnal as “An incantation against an undetected thief” – and were that the only point of saliency it should still prove useful for informing our overarching typology, per the much-aforementioned descriptions granted by Aelian. Which, to reference once more, has interlocutors “maintaining that it was because a wolf gave information that offerings had been stolen from the temple and had been buried by the sacrilegious thieves. For it made its way into the temple and with its mouth pulled one of the priests by his sacred robe and drew him to the spot in which the offerings had been hidden, and then proceeded to dig the spot with its forepaws.”
We shall therefore reproduce the Whitney, with its associated line-by-line commentary. See if you can spot my points of intrigue before I get to their more overt explication:
“1 Up have flown his two dark-brown quiverers, as two vultures to the sky—up-heater-and-forth-heater, up-heaters of his heart.
[Whitney:] The comm. renders vithurāú by saṁtataṁ calanaçīlāu (also vyathanaçīlāu bhayavantāu), and understands by them (through the hymn) either the two lips or the breath and expiration of the enemy who is represented by the frog (maṇḍūkātmanā bhāvitasya)—which is very unsatisfactory. To the vultures he applies the epithet tārkṣyāu. Roth suggests, as intended in the second half-verse, the heat and passion of love, which are to be expelled from some woman’s heart.
2 I have made them (dual) rise up, like (two) weary-sitting kine, like (two) growling dogs, like (two) lurking wolves.
[Whitney:] The comm. explains udavantāu by goyūthamadhye vatsān udgṛhya gacchantāu; Henry renders “that watch one another.”
3 The (two) on-thrusters, down-thrusters, also together-thrusters: I shut up his urinator who bore [away] from here—[whether] woman [or] man.
[Whitney:] Strī́m in d would be a welcome emendation: “of the man who bore away the woman from here”; but the analogy of i. 8. 1 c favors the text as given by the mss. The comm. supplies āsmākīnaṁ dhanam as object of jabhāra; or, alternatively, he takes the latter as = prahṛtavān asmān bādhitavān; meḍhra (mih + tra) he paraphrases with marmasthānopalakṣaṇam. His ignorance of the sense of the hymn is as great as that of Kāuç.—or as ours. SPP. retains the ḥ of itáḥ before strī́ in d, against his usual practice elsewhere, and with only a small minority of his mss.”
The major observance we have to make here, other than the obvious (and another one that we shall be getting to in a moment) – is the saliency of a frog in the ritualistic proceedings. A frog that is the simulacra and ritual ‘resonancy’ for the Enemy in question. Indeed, one might even say that, in a certain sense (that of the ritual proceeding and environs), the enemy has become turned into a frog. Which, as we have seen viz. Leto / Latona above, is the prominent fate of those herdsmen (a frequent opponent to the wolf) that had driven away the Mother Wolf. It is not, it would seem, directly stated that Leto was in Wolf form during the course of Her encounter with the shepherds – yet it would seem quite logical. After all – what other creature would be so readily welcomed by Wolves, and what other creature so swiftly driven away by men with flocks of livestock to worry about.
Now perhaps, of course, it is ‘coincidental’ that we find these notions – the Wolf as Guardian, and the Frog as Adversarial Assumed-Shape – co-occurrent between the tale of Leto and the situation of AV-S VII 95. And some might seek to query why it is that a Hymnal whose verses feature no overt invocation of Deity, I should seek to connect to our emergent Roudran typology. It is to the latter that I can furnish some more immediate answers: Namely, that we do not only find two Wolves herein … but also two Vultures.
As it should happen, Vultures (Grdha) are also to be found quite expressly in amidst the Animals of Rudra. AV-S XI 2, to Bhava and Sarva (those two aforementioned Forms of Rudra – Wolf-Forms, too, I might add, at least as we had earlier encountered Them in the Shankhayana Shrauta Sutras), makes a point of mentioning these – alongside an array of other such creatures … including not only the Wolves, but also our good friends the Ravens. Yes, just as with Odin – Rudra, too, has both Wolves and Ravens. As, funnily enough, does Apollo also have both Lupine and Corvid (more specifically, Crow – although in truth it is a somewhat artificial distinction) forms and emissarial associations.
Indeed, AV-S XII 5 adds a further (by now, to our readership, no doubt quite familiar) figure to the midst: that of the Keshini (also found in AV-S XI – aptly enough, for example, in line 11 alongside the Canid contingent). A female spirit (or Devotee) of Fury and Vengeance (XII 5 48). Accompanied, of course, by – Vultures (XII 5 47) and Wolves (XII 5 49).
We have detailed rather extensively elsewhere how Apollo’s female retinue(s) are close concordants of the Roudran (‘RudraGanika’) typology (see my ‘RudraGanika – A Study In Eternal Return As Manifested Through The Sky Father’s Female Retinue Across The Indo-European World‘), and shall not repeat that work here.
But what we shall most pointedly note is that the purport and the purpose of AV-S XII 5 is quite simple: to call upon the dire forces and Dread Guardian figures that might assail the most blasphemous sort of would-be interloper who would dare to interfere with a certain (Divine) Cow. You may recall this typology having been expressed within the myth somewhere before …
The consequences of this for the wrongdoer are, of course, both swift and violent.
To quote in the Griffith translation:
“47 Quickly, when he is smitten down by death, the clamorous vultures cry:
48 Quickly around his funeral fire dance women with dishevelled locks,
Striking the hand upon the breast and uttering their evil shriek.
49 Quickly the wolves are howling in the habitation where he lived:
50 Quickly they ask about him, What is this? What thing hath happened here?
51Rend, rend to pieces, rend away, destroy, destroy him utterly.”
And whilst I’m not usually the greatest fan of the Tulsi Ram AV-S translation … just this once, we shall make an exception for his rendering of AV-S XII 5 49:
“Soon after, Wolves rush into his homes and secret vaults and raise a deathly howl of loot”
A Wolf Is More Than Just A ‘Dog Outside’ – The Wolf Against The Outlaw [ VIII ]
This, one supposes, brings us to the other observation to be made here. Namely, that pertaining to the Hittite legal category that we may perhaps succinctly translate as the marriage-mode of the outlaw. To be more specific – it is a case of marriage-by-capture (or kidnapping) wherein somebody not only abducts (pit-te-nu-uz-zi) a woman, but also kills two or more men sent to rescue the poor girl in the process … and is therefore loudly and vocally declared to be an outlaw for whom there can be no legal remedy nor restitution via way of ‘rehabilitation’ and consequent re-entry into society. He is told (at volume, so Ivanov suggests): “zi-ik-wa UR.BARRA ki-sa-a” . That is to say: “You (zi-ik-wa) UR.BARRA have become (ki-sa-at)”. And as for what an ‘UR.BARRA” is – the word is not Hittite. It is, instead, what’s known as a ‘Sumerogram’. A term written in Cuneiform that reduplicates a Sumerian word – it’s less of a ‘calque’ (insofar as we’re not sure that the actual word came with it, in the spoken sense), and more of a ‘picture’ standing for a concept. It’s often rendered in translation as ‘wolf’, yet that somewhat loses the sense of the term. In Sumerian, it’d be ‘Ur’ + ‘Barra’; with ‘Ur’ (𒌨) , a term meaning ‘beast’ (usually translated ‘dog’) or even ‘man’, and often used to refer to predatory animals – being combined with ‘Bar’ (𒁇), a term for something that’s ‘[sent] Outside’. Or, in other words, it could be rendered as ‘Outside Dog’ – i.e. ‘Wolf’; or ‘Man Beyond The Pale Of Civilization’. Or, some might suggest, both at once. And that’s before we go from Sumerian characters to represent a Sumerian concept, to Hittite legal terminology expressed via a Sumerian ideogram.
Now as for why I’ve just spent an entire paragraph belabouring a point around somewhat obscure Sumerian logographic semiotics (there’s a mouthful!) and its associated placement within the context of a Hittite legal code … the answer is, again, quite simple.
I believe that there has been some fundamental misapprehension as to the nature and symbolic saliency to the Wolf – both in archaic Indo-European terms, and also in how our modern eyes and mindsets seek to somewhat artificially ‘reconstruct’ this sphere for our own perusal and/or use.
We think of the Wolf … we think of something ‘chaotic’, something that is ‘criminal’, something that is indeed outright if not overtly rather ‘demonic’. And thus to be seemingly opposed with a similar vigour.
Now certainly, in some cases, that is abundantly accurate. We have earlier cited two rather prominent exemplars from the Nordic sphere, for instance, with which to tangibly demonstrate and acknowledge such. Those being the Fenris wolf, and that particular son of his that seeks to devour the Moon. We can also speak toward the ‘Wearg’ situation observed in Old English – wherein a term for ‘Wolf’ (c.f Old Norse ‘Vargr’, with which it, admittedly, also exhibits a degree of coterminity of (adapted) meaning … particularly as applies a certain anti-theological placenta cultist) in Proto-Germanic, *Warg, has undergone a semantic shift to more fully mean simply ‘Criminal’ and ‘Outlaw’. I have my own suspicions as to how this might have occurred – and note that it is primarily within the (post-)Christian(ization) and Zoroastrian spheres where we see the most overt and overpowering ‘transposition’ of meaning-field for the term for ‘Wolf’ through to one for ‘Criminal’ or ‘Demonic Adversary’. In other IE spheres, we tend to at the very least preserve a far broader understanding. But more upon that in a subsequent piece, perhaps.
To return from linguistic sociology through to the more ‘pure’ realms of the mythology – we can also most certainly add other examples from elsewhere in the Indo-European spectra of belief. The situation often attached to the ‘Lykaios’ of ‘Zeus Lykaios’ should stand out as a clear case in that regard. There the status of becoming the wolf is, indeed, as with what is often felt about that Hittite legal scenario above-aforementioned, one of having transgressed rather significantly and severely the bonds of morality, civility, divine law, and civilization … and therefore become sentenced to be something of the opposite of all of that indeed.
Yet it is curious to note that that particular mythic occurrence aforementioned has several tellings – some of which disagree in the most fundamental of ways with the broadly-known ‘popular narrative’ version. Pseudo-Hyginus in his Fabulae, for instance, wherein it is the sons of Lykaon that commit the outrage and are sanctioned (via thunderbolt) and Lykaon thence transformed. A situation taken even further in the Suda wherein Lykaon is said to have been an upstanding figure of propriety. We mention these because it should seem to conform in quite overt fashion with the broader typology that we are sketching out here. One wherein – in truth – the Wolf, the ‘Wolf-Man’, is NOT the criminal nor the outcome of Divine Sanction. But is rather quite the opposite. He is its active immanentizer. If King Lykaon was indeed a figure so prominent for the upholding of the ancient laws and proper customs, in this way it should make an enviable quotient of sense for him to be given both the shape – and the name-shape, we may observe – for the Wolf.
We shall address some further exemplars for a potential ‘shift’ in valuations and consequent ‘demonization’ of the wolf in due course.
In any case, leaving aside the rather intriguing speculation that that particular suite of tales around Lykaon is the more recent ‘innovation’, ‘dramatization’, and may have fundamentally distorted something …
… we are nevertheless left with a much more complex picture than the simple binary aforementioned. Which is no doubt as it should be. After all – we frequently find human villains in these myths of ours, and it does not suddenly mean that we automatically presume all humans carry the symbolic value of a villain.
The way it seems to me, the symbolic category of the Wolf is, much like that which is indicated via that Sumerian cuneiform ideogram … something both simple yet broad. It is ‘creature Out There’. And yes, yes of course, that axiomatically entails that certain sorts of person who have either consciously chosen to internally be ‘out there’ beyond the bounds of law and right, or who have become externally sanctioned to such through the branding of criminality and exile … are, of course, ‘creatures Out There’ whether figuratively or literally.
Yet whilst we can say that encompassed within those spheres are individuals and indeed entire clades of beings that are pointedly opposed to Rta and Divinity (heretics, blasphemers, demon-worshippers, the demons themselves…) … the trouble that we have is that this subset and its essence-tial trait has become confused for the domineering characteristic which unites all that are out there.
And that is just simply not the case.
We can observe this even on the level of ‘naturalism’. The Wolf is not an individual, solitary, antisocial creature. Indeed, quite the opposite ! The Wolf exists in a highly structured, downright communitarian and communally-regulated environment. They are the precise opposite of some sort of ‘rabid dog’ or ‘no gods, no masters’ arch-individualist. Yet I suppose that because the law the wolf-pack is obeying is not – necessarily – that of the civilized realm (even if we can observe an array of interesting and very useful lessons for our own groupings therefrom), and due to the habitual environs within which said wolves are most frequently encountered being demonstrably ‘outside’ the ordered, structured, and above all .. human … realm – well, a dichotomous (mis)perception can be observed to have arisen.
One wherein everything that is ‘non-human’ (and I mean that in the sense of everything not under human dominion) is to be regarded with some level of suspicion at best. And outright (even literal) demonization otherwise. A moment’s consideration should reveal the potentially worrying trajectory such things may ultimately take. As we have said – we shall look at some of those exemplars for where this track has been followed to its insalubrious logical furtherance in due course.
For now it is simply enough to succinctly observe that yes … yes out there in the wilds there are, most definitely, a whole array of perils both human and non. And that the insurgence of these into our ‘civilized’ realm can correlate with (or, indeed, cause) quite the chaos, destabilization, property damage, and death.
Yet the Wolves out there are amidst the most Terrific – precisely because They are out there as ‘pest control’. And when what They are hunting is so dangerous and oft downright literally demonic … well, it is well that They are therefore so formidable.
They are Terrific – They Beget Terror.
Oh, and as applies that ‘wife-stealing’ situation outlined in Hittite law – we should observe that our typology, too, here holds.
The criminal I do not hold to be a “wolf” – although the ‘Rakshasa’ of the ‘Rakshasa Marriage’ category of Hindu law should seem quite resonant. Not least because it – correctly – labels the conduct in question for what it is: Demonic.
It is therefore eminently apt that in order to hunt, pursue, and eventually to kill such a purported “wolf” … one must therefore turn to the Wolf instead.
Even where the ‘long arm of the law’ in a civilizational sense may have difficulty reaching – there He Stalks.
A decidedly ‘Uncivilized’-seeming yet inherently necessary Defender for ‘Civilization’. Capable of operating, per Pausanias’ description of the tale of one such Wolf hunting down and destroying the violator of a Temple, “where the forest is thickest”.
‘Savage Weapons’ unleashed upon most deserving opponents. As inescapable and unsettling as the sounds of Their Howling resounding throughout the Night.
Concluding Remarks – Whilst The Wolf Still Howls, There Is Hope [ IX ]
We have covered a truly remarkable swathe of territory in this piece. Far more than I had initially intended – and with quite some ground yet left for a mostly-written follow-up.
I had originally intended the ninth section to look at the specific phenomena of the Wolf at the foundation of Civilization (rather than its terminus or reduced merely to its peripheral extremities); the sort of processes whereby the wolf becomes relegated not merely to the ‘edges’ of the human sphere, but transmogrified into the seeming dark inversion of what it is to be human and an active contributor to the community; and a rather tantalizing potential co-occurrence between the Hellenic, Hindu (and, yes, Zoroastrian) and even Nordic spheres that might point towards a sort of a ‘Wolf Priest’ typology.
Yet that was going to massively expand the length of this piece, and we have already arguably endeavoured to encompass far too much within the bounds of a single contribution. And so to the sequel, it all goes !
However there is one element that I cannot bring myself to leave unaccounted for within this first volume. And that is the curious case of the so-called ‘Livonian Werewolf’ – Thiess of Kaltenbrun.
This was a man, of the Swedish Baltic sphere, who found himself on trial in 1691 for the crime of being a werewolf. Interestingly, the manner in which he had come to the attention of authorities was due to his role as a witness called to testify in court against another man accused of stealing from a church. That is to say – the ‘Werewolf’ was, here, acting it should seem, to bring the violator of a house of worship to justice. An unexpected point of ‘resonancy’ with some matters of which we have discussed capaciously above herein.
Now, this case of Thiess the wahrwolff is often remarked upon in ‘esoterica’ adjacent circles for another fact: that what Thiess described as to his role and purpose as a werewolf bears precious little resemblance to the downright demonic trope we so frequently encounter in pop-culture today. And, for that matter, the expected behavior (and allegiances!) of werewolves even (or perhaps – especially) back then during the heavily Christian 17th century.
Instead of being some sort of blood-mad beast that rampaged rapaciously through the community, murdering innocents and otherwise undermining if not outright destroying the civilizational sphere of his fellow man … Thies presented as the exact opposite. This was no malevolent nor marginalized figure, either actively, willfully doing the Devil’s bidding or suffering from a terrible curse placed upon him which caused an uncontrollable transmutation. This was a self-declared “Hound of God”. One held in higher esteem by his people precisely because he would dare to go down to Hell upon their behalf to personally do battle ‘gainst those who actually were amongst them and served that most trenchant of terrible evils. He even had the (alleged) scars to prove it – a broken nose from a previous encounter with a Satanist active in a nearby community.
So Thiess’ testimony to the Court went, it was his sacred and solemn duty to embark thrice a year upon what we might term ‘katabatic’ crusades of righteous fury – storming forth across the sea to Hell in order to fight the soul-damned sorcerously enabled agents of the Devil, in order to steal back that which had been so wrongfully taken from him and his (pious) community. Rather than being aligned with those warlocks – he fought directly against them; including, it should seem, through the utilization of certain ‘charms’ such as that he reproduced for the Court of enlisting the aid of both Sun and Moon to venture across the sea and return a stolen Cow to he.
It is, as we say, quite a fascinating account – and there are several pertinent details that we are leaving unmentioned here so as to more fulsomely discuss them in due course later.
But suffice to say, it seems to me that the situation of the ‘Livonian Werewolf’ is, in truth, that of the Indo-European Werewolf – both in terms of the clear concordancy between the conduct reported by Thiess and what we ought expect for such a figure within the realms of the Indo-European mythos … but also in terms of the manner in which he, likely amidst the last of his kind, found himself demonized and quite literally driven out (into exile) by the post-Indo-European culturo-religious institutions which had become dominant.
And so therefore – just as the Wolf has become relegated to the status of an ‘outlaw’ and a ‘criminal’, the ‘Werewolf’ tantamount to one either insane or demonically enabled and aligned … so, too, have our modern perspectives anachronistically ‘reached back’ across the firmament and sought to cast this, all to often, as all there is for the Wolf to be.
Yet even though we may have condemned him and sought to forget about him outright – just as with our Gods, so too does the Indo-European Divine Wolf still remain. Perhaps just out of sight, quietly keeping watch for us from beneath the trees.
And with the right kinds of ears, ones which ‘prick up’ at the mention of that justly ‘Famed Wolf’ – you may still catch a glimpse of His Eyes there, glitterously shining within the darkness and reflecting the Moonlight.
It is time to Call Forth the Wolves again.
Just as we opened with a Prayer to Bhava and Sarva – the Wolf-Forms or Wolf-Sons of Rudra – so, too, shall we close with one.
This is from AtharvaVeda Śaunakīya X 1 – aptly entitled, within the Griffith translation, as “A charm against witchcraft”:
“Bhava and Sarva cast the flash of lightning, the weapon of the Gods, against the sinner who made the evil thing [kṛtyākṛ́te – ‘maker of the spell’], who deals in witchcraft!”
In fact, we shall go for one more. This time, from the concluding lines [again, in Griffith translation] of AtharvaVeda Śaunakīya XI 2 – a Hymnal to Rudra as Bhava and Sarva, aptly enough. And one which, intriguingly, presents a suite of epithets therein that at once seemingly refer to the Wolves – yet may also refer to the RUDRAGANIKA clade that is the Female Retinue of the Indo-European Sky Father. We do rather think it eminently fitting that the hailed Wolf in service to Rudra should find His Female Counterpart, a Rudraganika, towards the conclusion of this piece …
“This lowly reverence have I paid to Rudra’s dogs with mighty mouths,
Hounds terrible with bark and howl, who gorge unmasticated food.
Homage to thy loud-shouting hosts and thy long-haired followers!
Homage to hosts that are adored, homage to armies that enjoy
Homage to all thy troops, O God. Security and bliss be ours!”
ॐ नमः शिवाय