With Naga Panchami – the Celebration of Serpents – just concluded, it seemed an admirable time to return to something we have oft mentioned in passing in the past.
That being the most implacable figures of the Erinyes … and the perhaps lesser-known deific that is at Their Head.
And, because this is an Arya Akasha (a)arti-cle, how this fits into and reaffirms one of our ongoing efforts at establishing an Indo-European theological typology in earnest.
Now, many are aware of the Erinyes. For those that for whatever reason aren’t – They constitute a clade of female spirits of wrath and vengeance. Where Divine Law is broken … there They stand ready to track down and extirpate the woe-stricken mortal who has dared to go against the Gods and Propriety in train. They are often depicted, for understandable reasons, as having ‘Serpentine’ associations. Something that is generally presumed to pertain to the ‘terror’ dimension and Their Underworld saliency. Yet that is not the full story.
There is also another ‘linking factor’ between these two elements – that of the Serpent, as we have demonstrated capaciously elsewhere, as an Upholder of the Divine Law.
An intriguing exemplar for this is to be found in the Nordic texts that have come down to us. The Lokasenna speaks of the troublesome figure of Loki carrying out a series of calumnious verbal assaults upon the Gods – in a culture wherein to speak so to somebody was, indeed, something injurious and demanding of reprisal lest the imputations be thought true.
What winds up happening is Skaði – that justly-renowned Huntress of the Gods, with all the inescapability of one’s own ‘Shadow’ (hence, perhaps, part of the reasoning for Her Name being thusly derived) – takes entirely legitimate umbrage at Loki’s prevaricating, and makes the following declaration:
“Light art thou, Loki, | but longer thou mayst not
In freedom flourish thy tail;
On the rocks the gods bind thee | with bowels torn
Forth from thy frost-cold son.”
Loki, predictably, doesn’t take the hint … and proceeds with a further round of insults directed at Odin’s Wife. Indeed, suggesting that he has engaged in an entirely improper encounter with Her at some point in the past. A Violation of Cosmic Order [Orlog] in multiple senses, had it in truth occurred.
The results of all of this, however, are never in doubt. To quote from Sturluson’s coda to the verses of the poem:
“And after that Loki hid himself in Franang’s waterfall in the guise of a salmon, and there the gods took him. He was bound with the bowels of his son Vali, but his son Narfi was changed to a wolf. Skathi took a poison-snake and fastened it up over Loki’s face, and the poison dropped thereon. Sigyn, Loki’s wife, sat there and held a shell under the poison, but when the shell was full she bore away the poison, and meanwhile the poison dropped on Loki. Then he struggled so hard that the whole earth shook therewith; and now that is called an earthquake.”
Or, phrased more succinctly:
It did not matter that Loki ran and hid, in shape-changed form hidden. He was hunted down. He was sanctioned. He was bound under the world – and, rather pointedly, punished with Serpents. By Skadi – Just as She had pledged (Vár) to do.
Now, this notion of evildoers being ‘hunted’ by the logical ‘consequence’ of their crime – is a pervasive one. In its sense, the ‘Law of Karma’ is a more metaphysical expression to the similar concept. The fruits of our deeds ‘catching up to us’ in earnest.
One particular presentation for this in a more mythic and anthropomorphically inclined sense is the Brahmahatya personification – that black, terrifying, and pointedly female figure that pursues the man (or even God) that has dared to strike down a Brahmin.
Yet it is not simply the ‘judicial’ role to the Erinyes (well, ‘Executioner Role’, more directly speaking – ‘Executor Role’, we may more aptly say) which we wish to explore here. That, after all, is well-known.
Instead, let us introduce a slightly different typology. One that is very prominent in the Indo-European East, can also be addeuced in the Western IE spheres, yet is not very often thought of with direct relation to the Erinyes Themselves.
In the Hindu perception, we are familiar with there not only being Devi – but also, in various scenarios and situations, Her being accompanied by a ‘warband’ of similarly martial figures. In some cases – as with the various enumerations of Matrikas Who charge down certain demonic figures, these are rather directly differing ‘Forms’ or ‘Aspects’ to the Goddess. She ‘refracts’ Herself out and in so doing brings into sharper focus individual facets to Her … and thence can attack in unison with all of these at once.
In other cases, something a bit different goes on – and it should seem that accompanying Her are other figures. Although, of course, the ‘dividing line’ between what is a supernatural being and a Goddess-form, is not one. So there is intentionally a necessary degree of crossover within the typology. Perhaps best exhibited in the usage of ‘Shaktis’ to refer to these emanated or created warriors ; as seen, for instance, in the Lalitopakhyana’s description of the ultimately victorious war-effort of Devi against the demonic Bhandasura et co.
‘Shakti’, after all, being the term that we also utilize to refer to Her – and the ‘Her’ that is in the literally ’empowered’ devotee, likewise. Handy term for ‘Spear’, as well, as it happens.
Where is it that I am going with this?
Consider the etymology to ‘Erinyes’ (Ἐρῑνύες). Now, it is something that has been – as is regrettably often the case – declared by Beekes et co to likely be a non-Indo-European ‘pre-Greek’ derived element. That would be bizarre.
What it likely is, is a continuation of PIE *h₃er- – a word that refers to ‘stirring up’, to ‘fighting’, to ‘strife’, and also, interestingly, to things that are ‘raised up’ such as Mountains (viz. ‘Oros’ – όρος). That last one … well, we cannot help but note the traditional demesne of Skadi, and the strong ‘Mountainous’ associations of environs and other elements with Diana, Parvati, and other such Goddess forms. That aforementioned situation of όρος (‘Mountain’) is strikingly similar to *another* ‘Oros’ ( ὅρος – ‘Horos’, more accurately) which pertains to Rule, Law, and the limitations of same. We would tentatively suggest that ὥρᾱ (‘Hora’) should also prove pertinent. Given, after all, we tend to encounter ‘Hora’ in relation to those other divine figures correlate with propriety … the Horae. Indeed, a certain Dragon Goddess, the much-storied Drakaina Skythia, is directly hailed as ‘Hora’, Herself.
We might take this line of speculative inquiry further, observing the hypothesized linkages of ‘Hour’, ‘Hora’, etc. to Hera – and also to ‘Hero’ – with the latter being a figure who fights to uphold the proper order of things (or turns up in an ‘hour of need’), but that is for another work at some point in the future.
One which may also examine the other root that has some bearing here – PIE *h₂er-. Which refers to ‘fitting’, and informs rather important subsequent IE terminology *for* Cosmic Law or what is right and proper … like Sanskrit Rta ( ऋत ), Latin ‘Ordo’, etc.
And, for that matter, the innate saliency for ‘Truth’ terms to all of this, as well. There is another Nordic term germane to the ‘Var’ discussion above, for instance, that seems suspiciously familiar in multiple directions. But I digress.
To return ourselves to *h₃er- more directly – the logic for this underpinning the Erinyes is quite clear. And is amply demonstrated via the Erinyes’ Latin correlate, the Furies. Fury. Raging. These are Very Angry figures. As They should be. They are ‘stirred up’ by injustice, They are ’empowered’ by the Law (given that the Goddess is Cosmic Law in-universe per elements we have observed in various IE religious perceptions both East and West, They are indeed ‘Shaktis’ of Her), and They intend very much upon laying waste to the person who would otherwise seek to contravene and imperil the immense saliency of Cosmic Order, Divine Law, through scurrilous or outright demonic acts.
This *h₃er- is also, as it should happen, the same term underpinning modern English ‘Earnest’ – which is, itself, from Proto-Germanic *ernustuz, a term connoting both strength but also combat or struggle. Sanskrit ऋति (‘Rti’) – ‘conflict’, ‘attack’, ‘strife’, ‘assault’, ‘army’ (and interestingly, likely homophonically and from the same root as ‘Rta’, also ‘Truth’); Ancient Greek ἐρίζω (‘Erizo’) – ‘fight’ or ‘challenge’; and the somewhat archaic Russian рать (‘Rat’ – from Proto-Slavic *ortь), referring to a War or an Army; all help to ’round out’ the senses meant via the PIE root aforementioned.
In other words, the Erinyes are expressive of a warrior retinue. It is just that we are not used to thinking of Them in this fashion, because They tend to simply have to implacably pursue a foe rather than fighting Their way in directly. And we are also not quite so used to Their appearance being something that involves, say, a certain Warrior Goddess at Their Head.
Yet we feel it little coincidence – at least, in a mytholinguistic sense – that so often we seem to encounter terms pertaining to the Divine Order that are so phonetically resemblant to those for Fighting and Struggle and Wrath and Rage and Fury. After all – whilst certain documents of the past few hundred years upon the much-vexed area of deontology may have declared certain rights to be “inalienable” … in truth, as with that particular ‘Right to Party’, the continued immanency of Order (whether Cosmic and Divine or a ‘downstream’ co-expression of this amidst ‘merely’ human affairs and dealings) is something that must be Fought For.
Apt, then, that we should find the Erinyes under the aegis (in the colloquial, modern English sense) of a War Goddess.
Now personally, I suspect that in truth the situation of the Erinyes relative to Athena is a ‘carrying forward’ amidst the Hellenic (and likely specifically Athenian) sphere of something irreducibly archaic within the Indo-European legendarium. And that the ‘proper’ position for They is, indeed, as a sort of ‘(Wild) Hunt’ under the Goddess – just as we find the Wild Hunt in the Germanic sphere occurring (also) under the leadership of the Wife of the Sky Father (Holla being also hailed as ‘Frau Woden’ – Mrs Odin). Or, as we have noted earlier, Devi in the Hindusphere, leading an army of female figures into the fray.
We have also sought to connect – in our well-received RUDRAGANIKA efforts – to link the Erinyes to the aforementioned Rudraganika clades under Rudra, and Dionysus’ Thiasos, the Valkyries of Odin (or Freyja in Folkvangr, we could logically infer), and other Masques of the Sky Father. One should not omit hailing the Yoginis, in particular, Who most certainly do punish violators of propriety – and in a fashion that seems directly concordant to our emergent typology herein.
One group that I have meant to return to in earnest amidst these ‘tribes’ of the Divine Following are the Amazons.
In amidst Diodorus Siculus, we find armies of Amazons following both Dionysus and Athena into war against even mighty Kronos and the Titans. To quote from his Bibliotheca Historica:
“Now Dionysus, on learning both of the reverses suffered by His Father and of the uprising of the Titans against Himself, gathered soldiers from Nysa, two hundred of whom were foster-brothers of His and were distinguished for their courage and their loyalty to Him; and to these He added from neighbouring peoples both the Libyans and the Amazons, regarding the latter of whom we have already observed that it is reputed that they were distinguished for their courage and first of all campaigned beyond the borders of their country and subdued with arms a large part of the inhabited world. These women, they say, were urged on to the alliance especially by Athena, because their zeal for their ideal of life was like Her own, seeing that the Amazons clung tenaciously to manly courage and virginity. The force was divided into two parts, the men having Dionysus as their general and the women being under the command of Athena, and coming with their army upon the Titans they joined battle.”
[III, 71, 3-4 – Oldfather Translation]
To this we would add the additional annotation provided for us by Diodorus earlier in the same work [III 54 3], pertaining to the “protective devices” of these Amazons – “they used the skins of large snakes”. Which, one would think, would seem suspiciously reminiscent of that Aegis about the shoulders of thrice-blessed Athena.
Yet this is all somewhat tangential – and we have covered much of the requisite ground in ‘RUDRAGANIKA’ some months afore.
The question some readers should likely prove to be asking is what the actual linkage is between Athena and the Erinyes more directly.
And the answer comes to us from Aeschylus’ famed play, the Eumenides.
Therein, the sinner Orestes – a figure with a name that, most interestingly, is derived from ὄρος (‘Oros’) and ἵστημι (‘Histemi’), and which we shall return to in a moment for that detail – is pursued to Athens by the avenging Erinyes.
Why? Because, dear reader, of Duty. Or, more specifically, his duty to avenge the murder of his father (Agamemnon), by his mother (Clytemnestra) that the latter might take up with another man. In fairness, it may not entirely have been Clytemnestra’s fault. The man in question – Aegisthus – had, after all, been conceived in a pointedly unholy fashion by Thyestes as a supernaturally-guided ‘revenge gambit’ against his brother Atreus and the latter’s Sons (the Atreides). It is therefore not beyond the bounds of possibility that Aegisthus had some similar metaphysical potency to him which helped to ‘impel’ or otherwise induce such faithless conduct and betrayal on the part of Agamemnon’s wife. Notwithstanding, of course, her understandable anger at the situation of Agamemnon having had to sacrifice their daughter, Iphigenia, in order to enable the Greeks’ warfleet to set sail for Troy following Agamemnon’s transgression against Artemis. But again we digress.
Orestes is ordered by Apollo to slay the figures responsible for his father’s murder, retribution which restores a ‘balance’ and ‘ordering’ to the world. Not least due to Agamemnon’s (now-former) station as a King. Except this introduces a ‘kink’ or a ‘paradox’ into proceedings. As in order to do so, Orestes must slay his own mother. Which he does. And therefore winds up coming to the attention of the much-hailed-in-aforemention Erinyes – as killing one’s own mother is, after all, a fairly unforgivable crime. Even if a God has ordered it.
This situation leads to the unfortunate Orestes being pursued in a state of madness right the way back to Athens – where his trajectory begins to reverse itself due to the direct intervention of divine Athena (interestingly Herself hailed in the Orphic canon as ‘οἰστροῦσα βροτῶν ψυχὰς μανίῃσιν·’ – ‘She Who Drives Men To Madness (Mania)’). She arranges a fair trial for Orestes – and, as part of this, his acquittal. This suggests, to me, another possibility as to the etymology of Orestes name. Perhaps it might in fact be from that other flavouring to the PIE *h₃er- root than ‘Mountain’, and instead refer to the Fury … or, rather, the ‘Furies’. That is to say, ‘Orestes’ might instead signify ‘One Who Has [Successfully] [With]Stood The Fury’.
Yet this is not the only outcome of the trial. Athena also manages to secure also the loyalty of the Erinyes – or, as They are eponymously referred to as … the Eumenides ( Εὐμενίδες ).
Now this term, itself, is fascinating for our purposes. It is often translated as ‘the Kindly Ones’ or ‘Gracious Ones’ … and yet that misses something. Something rather important.
We could suggest ‘The Good Spirits’ (as in, ‘to be in good spirits’ – except with the ‘Spirits’ here being rather direct) ; and indeed that should seem to have something going for it. ‘Eu-‘ does, after all, work out as ‘good’ or ‘well’; and ‘-Menides’ should seem to be from the same PIE *Men (‘Mind’, ‘Mental Activity’, ‘Spirit’) that likewise comes to inform various sorts of ‘Spirit’ terminology.
Yet we can do better.
The singular for the Eumenides is Eumenis – Εὐμενίς. ‘Eu-‘ we have already met. ‘Menis’, meanwhile, we would suggest to be rather directly equivalent to the ‘μῆνῐς’ that is so prominent in the Iliad – the ‘Rage of Achilles’, indeed, is right there in the first lines.
And, for that matter, the ‘Menos’ ( μένος ) which is imparted by Athena to Diomedes during His epic exploits against even certain Gods, upon the fields of war afore Ilium at Troy. We have suggested it to be ‘Furor’ in essence – and most certainly a divine empowerment, viz. the situation of ‘Ugra’ in directly comparable usage in Vedic Sanskrit (as bestowed by Vak to Her Chosen).
So … ‘Good Fury’, we may potentially suggest.
Yet why ‘Good Fury’? Why is ‘Kindly One’ inadequate as a translation?
To put it simply – it is not so much that these Spirits of wrath and woe have been transformed into an opposite nor an inversion as to Their Previous Selves. Rather, it is that Their Attentions have been ‘refocused’.
The core of Athena’s dialogue with the Erinyes in this phase of the play is a ‘persuasion’ – one wherein the Erinyes are invited to take up residence with Her in Athens. Indeed, not just anywhere in Athens – “a seat of honor at the house of Erechtheus”.
This therefore does not refer to the better-known Semnai temple at the Areopagus – the ‘Hill of Ares’ – where the serious crimes of murder and grave religious impropriety were heard.
But instead should likely refer to the Erechtheion (which was, after all, the Temple to Athena Polias – Of the City). We find this particularly pertinent due not only to the snake-pit which existed within the structure, but also due to the situation of this site as the domiciling for the ‘oikouros ophis’ – the Sentinel Snake.
The etymology to this is, again, interesting. ‘Oikouros’ should descend from the conjunction of ‘Oikos’ (οἶκος – here understood as in ‘dwelling-place’ – so ‘settlement’; although the other sense as in ‘household’ should also, perhaps, prove pertinent given it is Athena’s House that the Serpent is domiciling in in particular) with ‘Ouros’ (οὖρος). The latter is most probably from the same PIE *wer- which gives us modern English ‘Ward’; yet it is interesting to note that it has identical homophones with two *other* Ancient Greek words – one, a form of the ‘Horos’ / ‘Hora’ that we have earlier met and of cognizant meaning, and another from that selfsame PIE *h₃er- which has formed something of a leitmotif for us here throughout this piece. The latter links to a term (ὄρνῡμῐ) for awakening, empowering, and unleashing – and, to my continual amusement, to build from the situation observed in Jasanoff’s ‘Hittite and the Indo-European Verb’ … with an aorist form, ‘ὦρτο’ (‘orto’ – which should not be confused with ‘ὀρθός’ / ‘orthos’), that is reportedly directly cognate with our Sanskrit ‘Arta’ (आर्त). Phrased more directly – it is a minor ‘coincidence’ in a way, yet we once again find terms *suspiciously similar* to those for Order cropping up in relation to these ‘Furor’ or ‘Combative’ terminologies.
Where are we going with all of this? Well, it should prove tempting to consider, therefore, this ‘Oikouros Ophis’ in relation to the Vastospati (or Vastopati) of the Vedas – a ‘Protector of Dwelling’, and with the deific connoted via such a term most definitely having strong Serpentine associations (indeed, in addition to the perhaps better-known figures such as Ahir Budhnya, we even find the simple and direct ‘Sarpa’ and ‘Sarpi’ to refer to Rudra and Rudrani in quite directly, quite literal ‘serpentine’ theonymic terms).
Certainly, the notion of the Serpent as the sentinel-protector of a home or of a temple is hardly restricted to this occurrence. The Lithuanians are well-known to have their Žaltys; and in Hindu understanding we have the Cobra to protect various things (particularly religious things) which are precious. The Cobra, after all, ‘rears up’ (another sense to *h₃er-) when it or what it is guarding is threatened.
And Athens is, most definitely, under the protection of a most mighty Serpent, indeed.
This being Athena Herself – handily identified in the relevant Orphic Hymnal as δράκαινα (‘Drakaina’ – Dragoness). Which, whilst one could perhaps, at a stretch, take as referring implicitly to the serpent-fringing to Her Aegis … we would suggest can also be interpreted in more direct fashion as well. Certainly, as applies various of the other Indo-European deific facings that Athena also resonates with, this is so.
So, a Queen amidst Serpents, we may perhaps say. Something which makes for decidedly intriguing conceptual reading when we consider the Vedic situation – wherein we do most definitely find confirmation as to our nascent typology. But more upon that some other time (and, in fact, we had already written significantly upon the Female facing to this complex elsewhere; what we ought turn our attention to in future, in specia, is the Male representative – the corresponding Sky Father Forms).
Yet let us bring things back to the Erinyes Themselves.
The back-and-forth as it is presented to us within the realms of Aeschylus’ scriptwriting could almost serve as a sort of ‘template’ for a propitiation of the Erinyes in order to encourage Them to ‘set aside’ Their more Baleful potential attentions toward one – in a not entirely dissimilar fashion to the Vedic rites oriented toward the appeasement of Rudra, as it happens.
Let’s take a (brief) look.
CHORUS : Lady Athena, what place do You say I will have?
ATHENA : One free from all pain and distress; accept it.
CHORUS : Say that I have accepted it, what honor awaits Me?
ATHENA : That no house will flourish without You.
CHORUS : Will You gain for Me the possession of such power?
ATHENA : Yes, for We will set straight the fortunes of those who worship.
CHORUS : And will You give Me a pledge for all time?
ATHENA : Yes, for I have no need to say what I will not accomplish.
CHORUS : It seems You will win Me by Your Spells; I am letting go My Anger.
ATHENA : Then stay in the land and You will gain other friends.
CHORUS : What blessings then do You advise Me to invoke on this land?
ATHENA : Blessings that aim at a victory not evil; blessings from the earth and from the waters of the sea and from the heavens: that the breathing gales of wind may approach the land in radiant sunshine, and that the fruit of the earth and offspring of grazing beasts, flourishing in overflow, may not fail My citizens in the course of time, and that the seed of mortals will be kept safe. May You make more prosperous the offspring of godly men; for I, like a gardener, cherish the race of these just men, free of sorrow.
Such blessings are Yours to give. I, for My part, will not allow this city to be without honor among mortals, this city victorious in the glorious contests of deadly war.
CHORUS : I will accept a home with Pallas, and I will not dishonor a city which She, with Zeus the omnipotent and Ares, Holds as a Fortress of the Gods, the bright ornament that guards the Altars of the Gods of Hellas. I pray for the city, with favorable prophecy, that the bright gleam of the Sun may cause blessings that give happiness to life to spring from the Earth, in plenty.
ATHENA : I act zealously for these citizens in this way, installing here among them Divinities great and hard to please. For They have been appointed to arrange everything among mortals. Yet the one who has not found Them grievous does not know where the blows of life come from. For the sins of his fathers drag him before them; destruction, in silence and hateful wrath, levels him to the dust, for all his loud boasting.
CHORUS : May no hurtful wind blow to harm the trees—I declare My favor—and may no burning heat, stealing the buds from plants, pass the border of its proper place; may no deadly plague draw near to kill the fruit; may the Earth nurture the thriving flocks with twin offspring at the appointed time; and may the rich produce of the earth always pay the Gods’ Gift of lucky gain.
ATHENA : Do you hear, guards of My City, the things She will accomplish? For the Lady Erinys is very powerful, both with the Deathless Gods and with Those Below the Earth; and in Their dealings with mankind, They accomplish matters visibly, perfectly; to some giving songs, to others a life made dim by tears.
CHORUS : I forbid deadly and untimely fate for men; grant to lovely maidens life with a husband, You that have the rightful power; You, Divine Fates, Our Sisters by One Mother, Divinities Who distribute Justly, Who have a Share in every home, and Whose Righteous Visitations press heavily at every season, most Honored everywhere among the Gods!
ATHENA : I am glad that They are zealously accomplishing these things for My land; and I am grateful to Persuasion, that Her Glance kept watch over My Tongue and Mouth, when I encountered Their fierce refusal. But Zeus of the Assembly has prevailed. Our rivalry in doing good is victorious forever.
CHORUS : I pray that discord, greedy for evil, may never clamor in this city, and may the dust not drink the black blood of its people and through passion cause ruinous murder for vengeance to the destruction of the state. But may they return joy for joy in a spirit of common love, and may they hate with one mind; for this is the cure of many an evil in the world.
ATHENA : Do They not then intend to find the path of Good Speech? From these Terrible Faces I see great profit for these citizens; for, if you always greatly honor with kindness the Kindly Ones, you will surely be pre-eminent, keeping your land and city in the straight path of justice.
[H.W. Smyth Translation]
Now if you’re wondering where the actual ‘debate’ is – the immediately preceding verses to Aeschylus’ script that we have not chosen to include here, effectively comprise Athena’s carefully judicious ‘statement of position’. The excerpt we’ve quoted picks up after the Erinyes are finally impressed that there’s some merit to Athena’s case and prepared to listen to Her to hear Her out in earnest.
It’s fascinating to observe that the effective ‘tools’ or ‘bindings’ that are employed here are, in rough order, ‘offer’ (or ‘inducement’) and ’empowerment’, binding ‘pledge’ or ‘promise’, and, of course, the sacred and sacrosanct potency of Divine Speech.
Which, entirely uncoincidentally, are the salient ritual elements which we utilize in our own more direct engagements with the Powers That Be, upon occasion.
It’s particularly interesting to note that Athena is depicted as not simply ‘corralling’ the exercise of the Erinyes’ dread potency .. but actually investing in Them a great Power directly.
The Theodoridis translation makes this rather clearer:
Athena : “Your power will be that without Your consent no household shall prosper.”
Chorus : “You will do this? Provide Me with all this power?”
This potency, of course, does not merely restrict itself to the supporting of household – or even civic – prosperity. It also incorporates, again per the Theodoridis translation and word of Athena contained therein: “But as for the disrespectful You should always be most severe.”
Nor is it restricted purely to Athens. To again reference that same translation and most august Goddess:
“Do you hear, you guardians of the city, what They will do? The revered Furies have great power both over the Immortal Gods of the Heaven as well as of Those below the Earth. They guard the mortals openly and with full accomplishment, giving to some the joys of song and to others a life choked by tears. Theirs is the power to govern both.”
Or, phrased another way – we have often sought to emphasize that the Indo-European Cosmos is a Realm of Law. Indeed, that is quite literally inherent in the Ancient Greek term (κόσμος) from whence our modern ‘Cosmos’ descends (ultimately from PIE *ḱens- – to proclaim and to put in order .. and likely both at once. We are here reminded, of course, of ‘Rachana’ in Sanskrit in that regard – the ‘Divine Plan’ and Wife of Tvastr, simultaneously both the most perfect ‘design’ and its beauteous vocalized ‘instrumentation’).
A ‘Regime’, if you like.Not simply an ’empty space’ that just happens to have inhabitants … but a cohesive, unified whole that is, as we declare, under the Divine Rule of Law.
This Divine Law, as we have covered capaciously elsewhere, tending to find direct expression in the form of a Goddess. Or, as we see here with the Erinyes – several Goddesses. Acting as the ‘ultimate enforcement clauses’, we might suggest – and, as Athena Herself is declared by Aeschylus to observe … fully capable of exerting power even over other Gods Themselves.
This is as we should expect – and Aeschylus is decidedly not alone in such a theological (or, if you prefer – deontological) precept. Antoninus Liberalis’ Metamorphoses contains another prominent example – wherein Zeus is ‘overruled’ by Themis (‘Law’) in His desire to kill some transgressing mortals via Thunderbolt, due to the terrain these interlopers have marauded their way into being Sacred Ground. We have also cited other examples, elsewhere, from the Hindusphere and other IE mythic perspectives, most prominently around that aforementioned ‘Brahmahatya’ dimension as applies the former; and shall not repeat all of that here.
The final observation I should make concerns that which we had noted earlier – that it should seem that power is being apportioned and ‘delegated’ by Athena to the Erinyes. This does not appear to be ‘merely’ in a ‘permissive’ sense – but rather something perhaps more substantive. The implications of this are quite logical. That Athena, too, has just such an innate and intrinsic connexion to Cosmic Order – in the manner of Vak Devi, Her close Vedic correlate. We have, of course, again explored this somewhat more voluminously elsewhere.
For now, it is enough to observe Athena here as the Princeps to the Erinyes clade.
A ‘Queen of Serpents’, we might perhaps suggest.
“Sarpo Rakshati Rakshitaha”
सर्पो रक्षति रक्षित:
Jai Mata Di !
We Honour the Erinyes !
And Hail, of course, to Athena !