[Author’s Note: As we had said – it’ll be awhile before I’m fully operational again. So, in the mean-time, here’s a half-completed draft looking at the prominent figure of Lord Skanda. We had sought to set out the various refractions as to the origin-mythology around this most eminent of ‘Charger-Skewerer’ figures of the Sky Father’s Sons, compare this with the standard perspective of the birth of Mangala (Mars), link in His Father as ‘Kumara’ also … and, if there was time, Heimdallr’s Birth from the Nine Mothers motif.
But that was last week, and I ran out of functionality. So here’s the first half.
Yesterday was Tuesday – widely reckoned to be the Day associated with the planet Mars. Or, as we call it in Sanskrit: ‘Mangala’ ( मङ्गल ) – a term that also connotes ‘auspiciousness’.
In that, we may suggest, Mangala (Mars) takes after His Father – Lord Shiva. Whose name also does the dual duty of designating He, and denoting auspiciousness, (good) luck, in train.
And so … here is some glorious art of Kartikeya – Lord Skanda. One of our many, many War Gods.
Now this might at first seem rather curious. As we are perhaps more used to thinking of Mangala (Mars) and Skanda in separate terms. Yet an examination of the scripture and mythology proves instructive.
The rather remarkable circumstances as to the birth of Lord Skanda are, perhaps, well-known. But we’ll just briefly run through them for the audience.
A particular formidable demon-lord (Tarakasur) had managed to obtain a boon of (conditional) invulnerability. We do not have absolute invincibility available in such a form in our religious metaphysics – there always has to be some weakness. Often chosen by the recipient of the boon … and often betraying something about the character of the figure requesting such.
In Tarakasur’s case, he went for what, upon the surface of it, must have seemed a particularly clever option. He chose for his vulnerability to be exclusively to a yet-to-be-begotten Son of Lord Shiva.
Why this was supposed to be ‘clever’, was because Shiva had recently lost His Wife, Sati, in the pyre at the ill-starred Horse-Sacrifice of Daksha. The distraight God had wandered the universe roaring in grief whilst bearing Her Body with Him, until Vishnu had held an ‘intervention’ of sorts and sliced the Divine Corpse (not Shrava, this time!) with His Chakra in a bid to try and help Shiva to ‘move on’. Mahadev had then retreated up into the higher reaches of the Himalayas to meditate and brood. Given the immense love He Held for Lady Sati, it seemed all but impossible that He should ever truly recover, and once again share His Mighty Heart with a spouse.
And thus, in the absence of a Wife – and with no overt prospects for this situation reversing itself in the future – it correspondingly seemed all but impossible that Lord Shiva should ever beget such a Son.
Yet “all but impossible” is that most curious of narrative conditions – the predictively ‘quantum’ ‘phase space’ wherein Devi may truly be said to work universes all but imperceptible prior to their making the jump from ‘intangible’ through to ‘inevitability’.
Sati reincarnated as Girija – the justly famed ‘Daughter of the Mountain’ (Shailaputri) – best known as ‘Parvati’ (which means the same). We have covered Her quest to reunite with Her Beloved elsewhere, and so shall not repeat that here. Suffice to say that eventually She does indeed manage to catch up with the reticent Mahadev and through a process of both austerities and theological debate (you see, it turns out I’m not the only being who does this in such circumstances) manages to woo Her Other Half. Indeed – remind Him that that is exactly what She, in truth, is.
Now, one thing leads to another – and a child is, in fact, conceived. However at this point in the story we find the intrepid figure of Agni ‘intervenes’, taking the embryonic God-Child from Parvati’s womb. This, He does for ‘safekeeping’ – reasoning that whilst the child, one born, will be the great destroyer of the demon … even God and Goddess are not necessarily invulnerable to the boon-empowered Tarakasur (who, as another attainment had been guaranteed to have no equal in amidst the Three Worlds). So, as harm may have befallen the Mother as soon as Tarakasur had found out that Mahadev had re-married and conceived, Agni had sought to intervene. Taking Mat(t)ers into His Own Hands, we may suggest. Not that, prior to this being explained, Parvati had thanked Him for it – a Curse is bestowed upon Agni (potentially inter alia amidst the Gods), the terms of which vary from source to source. The Skanda Purana [I 27 42, Tagare translation] phrases it thusly: “Girijā became furious and cursed Him. “O mendicant, on account of my curse you will quickly become Sarvabhakṣa (‘omnivorous’—one who eats everything)”.
This act of perhaps necessary concealment provides a basis for one of His theonyms – Guha (गुह) – which refers to exactly that. A hiding place.
At this point there is some … considerable difference in various permutations to the narrative. We shall not go into each individually here, and instead attempt to address these ‘in aggregate’, after a sort.
Agni is said to pass the embryo (or, in some tellings, the male genetic contribution rather preceding the embryo – perhaps passing it rather … directly) to a female figure or figures. In some tellings, this is the Ganges (Ganga Devi – hence the Skanda theonym of ‘Gangeya’). Who may then pass it on to the Krittikas – known in the West as the Pleiades. In other tellings, things proceed more directly from Agni to the Krittikas. There may be another figure included, as well, a Mountain that may bear the Child (the Mahabharat has Himavat in the role, as does the Shiva Purana); and we also may find mention of a forest of Śara (शर) – a term that is likely here employed in intentional double-meaning as both ‘Reeds’ yet also as ‘Arrows’.
This produces quite the ‘confusion’ when the radiant war-child eventually emerges to the notice of the Gods as to just Who the young soon-to-be savior’s Parents truly are.
In the Mahabharat’s Shalya Parva [section 44, Ganguly translation], we find Skanda to take a rather remarkable approach to this. Instead of disappointing any of the Four Who had come forth to claim Him – He goes to Each of Them. Simultaneously.
To quote from the work aforementioned: “The form called Skanda of wonderful appearance proceeded to the spot where Rudra was sitting. Visakha went to the spot where the divine daughter of Himavat was. The adorable Sakha, which is Kartikeya’s Vayu form proceeded towards Agni. Naigameya, that child of fiery splendour, proceeded to the presence of Ganga. All those forms, of similar appearance, were endued with great effulgence.”
The situation of Skanda as the Six-Headed (Sanmukha) encountered elsewhere is quite similar – in order to avoid dissension between His Adoptive Mothers, the Krittikas, Skanda produces six heads, so as to behold each of Them simultaneously, and nurse from Them accordingly.
Now, here we begin to observe something rather important. For via the Pleiades, we find multiple ‘narratives’ begin to converge. In some reports, the Six Krittikas are directly involved (and, in several, are directly involved with Agni; with only one, the seventh, Arundhati not becoming so). In other tellings, Agni’s Wife, Svaha, takes the Forms of particular Pleiades (in particular, intriguingly, ‘Shivaa’, in at least one telling) to seduce Him.
One point we find particularly intriguing in all of this is that this isn’t the only mythic conception wherein the Krittikas become mothers to children of Rudra. The famed Rudraganikas (Rudrakanyas) are also born to the Wives of the Rsis (which the Krittikas are regarded as being – the Sages (SaptaRsis) being found in and as the constellation of Ursa Major, Rksa .. Bear) by Him. Given the observed coterminity in important respects of the Rudraganikas with the later-prominent Matrika clades of Warrior-Goddesses which accompany Lord Skanda, it is possible that there is some hidden dimension to this which connects all of these occurrences. Certainly, we see a ‘Kula’ situation established via such shared bloodline and paternity between the Rudraganikas and Skanda – and the martial vigour of the Rudraganikas is also most definitely attested both in myth and history.
As it should happen, the famed First Sword which is wielded by Rudra also has the Krittikas as the birth-constellation and is born from Flame. Something eminently appropriate for a few reasons – not least of which the meaning of ‘Krittikas’ as ‘Cutters’. But more upon that can be found elsewhere in our works. Look for the piece entitled the Six Swords of the Stars featuring a rather impressive Tiwaz-based Bindrune row.
Meanwhile, if we look more broadly – the association of the Sky Father deific with the Pleiades becomes apparent as both an ancient and evidently a quite pervasive Indo-European mytheme.
Within the Classical mythology, we find the Pleiades numbering at first Seven and thence Six – evidently co-expressive of the similar transition found in the Hindusphere whereby the Seven Wives of the Seven Rsis become the Six stars attested as Krittikas.
We also find a bit of a pattern when it comes to the romantic linkages of these Stars. Three are said to have borne children to Zeus, two to Poseidon, and one to Ares. Zeus (Pater) is, obviously, the Sky Father deific – but, then, as we have recurrently demonstrated … so, too, is Poseidon. Ares is a difficult case – as whilst, on the one hand, He does seem to possess an array of features concordant with the Sky Father deific complex (including, interestingly enough, a retinue of decidedly warrior Daughters, in the form of Amazons) I am not of the opinion that there is a sufficient weight of evidence to suggest that that is entirely what He, too, is. Even if it would considerably facilitate making sense of the major Roman mythic narrative around the parentage of their Progenitor Twins, Romulus & Remus – which, per our broader reconstructive typology in that area should be Sons of the Sun / Sons of the Sky Father directly, yet are, of course, presented as Sons of Mars. More upon all of this, perhaps, some other time.
Of especial interest to us for various reasons is one of the Sons conceived by Zeus by one of these Star-Maidens – that being Hermes, born to the Pleiade Maia. In future we may just get around to taking a more in-depth and detailed look at the Indo-European ‘Interpretatio’ of Hermes and how this links in a functional sense to several of the Vedic and subsequent Hindu deific facings that we have brought up herein. Certainly, the notion of an ‘Emissary of the Gods’ is rather telling ; while the conjecture around Hermes perhaps developing, in part, from an archaic ‘God of Boundaries’ should track interestingly with our own prior speculation in relation to the Maruts and certain other elements both ritual and mythic from the Hindusphere.
In addition to all of this, there is also the vexed figure of Orion to consider. I say ‘vexed’, because while on the one hand, there exists strong evidence to link the giant to the Vedic and Jyotisha figure of Mrgashira / Prajapati … on the other, we also have an array of elements which instead point in decidedly the other direction – toward Rudra (Ardra) that is Mrgashira’s vanquisher. We shall not get into this once more herein – but it is worth noting that, should the latter typology prove apt, we would, once again, have an effective instance of Rudra in relation to these Pleiades.
Meanwhile, as we have been known to argue with some frequency, the Nordic sphere presents a most intriguing point of direct comparison with the Hindu – provided one knows how to look. Heimdallr and Skanda have several clear points of coterminity
[…and that’s where we end, mid-sentence.]