I find this very adorable. Devi as – as we would say in the Western IE sphere (well, in Ancient Greek, at any rate) – a ‘Potnia Theron’.
Now this term is generally applied to Artemis. And we have explored in great depth elsewhere how Artemis concords with our Devi.
It therefore seems adamantly excellent for the ‘urge’ (ugra?) to pen most of this having welled up on an occasion which was, unbeknownst to me, an observance dedicated to Artemis as Agrotera – The Huntress.
A Huntress, after all, a Ruler of the Wild (and I mean that, perhaps, in the sense of both the Environs and its Denizens – as well as a certain ‘quality’ innate even, also, within Man) and most especially the Forces found ‘out there’ within – is exactly what we find both Artemis, as well as our Devi being hailed as.
Kirati, Mrigaya, and other such terms – this is what they refer to. As, we may sensibly infer, does the prominent suite of depictions for Devi as a ‘barbarian’ young woman of the Vindhyas or Himalayas, equipped with a Bow and oft surrounded by many fearsome creatures. Most particularly in those occasions wherein some demonic despoiler has attempted to bite off far more than they could conceivably chew – and so becomes, themselves, the ‘hunted’ in turn.
In this context, Artemis as Agrotera ought prove synonymous with Agraea (in masculine form, Agraeus, this is an epithet of Apollo); in both cases from Ancient Greek ᾰ̓́γρᾱ (‘Agra’ – ‘Hunting’, ‘Taking Prey’) – a term that we consider worth closer examination precisely because the specific Agrotera observance during the Boedromia festival (to Apollo) was also one of Victory and Thanksgiving for the epic triumph of the Greeks against the Persians at Marathon.
In this, it is in good (mytholinguistic, etymological) company – its cousin term, Proto-Celtic *Agrom (whence Old Irish ár) refers directly to a Battle, and particularly one wherein quite the slaughterous defeat has been meted out to the opponent.
Artemis Agrotera, therefore, we might perhaps sobriquet as ‘Artemis Of The Rout’. Chasing down the foes like the prey of some great hunting cat – a lioness or a tigress, perhaps. Or a Wolf. Something which ‘Drives’ (PIE *h₂eǵ-) the Prey. Yet given the fashion in which Sanskrit ‘Ajati’ (अजति), another descendant of PIE *h₂eǵ-, refers to ‘Shooting’, ‘Casting’, ‘Throwing’ … it is apt that the ‘Hunting’ may indeed be done in that eminently human manner of utilizing Spear or Bow and Arrow.
To expand somewhat upon the reasoning for the Hellenic observance, here’s Plutarch, from his ‘De Heroditi Malignitate’; wherein the careful observer should also note the presence of Hekate (the ‘Far-Working’, as we have ridden with in writing elsewhere) – hailed as a clear co-expressive (via the Diva Triformis conceptry in particular) of Artemis or Diana in the Classical Age.
“And professing to write more particularly and carefully of the affairs of Athens, thou dost not so much as say a word of that solemn procession which the Athenians even at this day send to Agrae, celebrating a feast of thanks-giving to Hecate for their victory. […] Moreover Herodotus, as many say, has in relating the fight at Marathon derogated from the credit of it, by the number he sets down of the slain. For it is said that the Athenians made a vow to sacrifice so many kids to Diana Agrotera, as they should kill barbarians; but that after the fight, the number of the dead appearing infinite, they appeased the Goddess by making a decree to immolate five hundred to Her every year.”
[Plutarch, De Herodoti malignitate, 26, Goodwin translation]
Indeed, the Boedromia festival appears to have quite the suite of military saliencies to it (this providing various of the contexts in which Apollo Boedromios is to have ‘Assisted’). Which we may return to discuss at some other point in time. For now, we intend to restrict ourselves (broadly speaking) to that situation of Artemis , Devi as Ruler of Animals and the Wild.
Yet there is also another figure that has Rulership of Animals as one of His prominent hailings – and He is standing there in the background.
That is Rudra. Prominently known as Pashupati – and also as Mrgapati.
However often, the distinction is not carefully made (and that is not entirely worrisome – Sanskrit terms are, literally by definition, often quite broad in their potential ambits of meaning and applications).
Pashupati ought refer to Lord of the (Domestic(ated)) Animals – and more specifically, to ‘Cattle’, to ‘Cows’. It can be utilized to refer to ‘Animals’ more generally (and, incidentally, to ‘Humans’ in a figurative sense – who are ‘fettered’, ‘leashed’, ‘unliberated’) … but we are on fairly good grounds in asserting that it is the Cattle that ‘Pashupati’ was intended to demarcate the Lordship of.
As, after all, that is what the texts tell us. SBr VI 1 3 12, for instance, has the Pashu in question being explicitly herbivorous; and there are further attestations for Rudra having particular dominion over the Cow – SBr V 2 4 13 has the Cow as being of ‘Rudra Nature’, precisely because She is a Cow, as one example.
However I contend that ‘Paśupati’ has another meaning also.
‘Lord of Wealth’ – rather akin to Pluto / Plouton ( Πλούτων ) … or, for that matter, Dis Pater.
How can we tell? Well, the Cow (or Cattle) was once quite the store of (and source of) wealth. And therefore quite the measurement for a man’s (or a lord’s) prosperity.
Pashu ( पशु ), as it happens, is from Proto-Indo-European *peḱ- … which is also the root for Proto-Germanic *Fehu – better known, perhaps, in its Runic form: ᚠ . Which, unsurprisingly, means both ‘Cattle’ and ‘Wealth’. As does its Proto-Indo-European forebear.
The pattern continues with, say, Old Norse ‘fé’ (and, if we are looking at the Germanic sphere – ‘Fee’ is from the same root … as is ‘Feudal’); as well as the development in Latin from Pecū (which refers to the livestock) to Pecūnia (money) – whence our modern English ‘Pecuniary’.
The fact that various liturgies present Rudra attaining the epithet and dominion of ‘Pasupati’ in recognition of His Deed in dispatching a particular difficult foe (or criminal, depending upon which version of the myth we are going with), from the rest of the Pantheon.
He is, it would appear, quite literally paid in ‘Wealth’. All of the Wealth. His is the Dominion of Wealth (Cows, Domesticated Animals), as the result.
But that is not what we are here to discuss today.
Instead, it’s the other side to the duality – the wild animals rather than the ‘leashed’ (or, if you like – ‘corralled’) ones.
For this, the Roudran epithet in question would be ‘Mrgapati’ – which, understandably-yet-obscuratingly, is often translated as ‘Lord of Deer’. Which is not exactly incorrect … just, again, significantly incomplete in its scoping ambit.
Mrga ( मृग ) refers to a wild animal. It is frequently meant as in a ‘game animal’ that one would hunt (Mrgaya – मृगया ) … and, of course, the most prominent such creature is Deer. Hence it’s quite logical that Mṛga has come to frequently be thought of as ‘Deer’ .
Even though we have attestation for Mrga (also anglicized ‘Mriga’) being utilized in this broader sense – whether to mean ‘Game Animal’ more generally, or to mean ‘Wild Animal’. And notwithstanding that the famed Roudran Mrgayatra rite (the rite of the ‘Wild Hunt’, as I have not-all-that-figuratively come to favour translating it as) hunts far more dangerous game than merely deer (including the type of prey which walks upon two legs – and might fire back).
Although then again, I suppose that approaching ‘Mrgapati’ in its designation of ‘Lion’ as meaning ‘Lord of Deer’ rather than ‘Lord of the (Wild) Animals’ (or, perhaps, ‘Lord of Prey’) does have a certain poetic flare to it (and I say ‘flare’ rather than ‘flair’ for an inferential purpose we shall be approaching shortly).
As a brief aside, this sense of ‘Mrga’ as ‘Deer’ shows up perhaps most prominently within the mythology (and astrology) when we speak of Mrgashira (also anglicized as Mrgashiras, Mrigashira, Mṛgaśiras, etc.) – often thought of as ‘the Deer’s Head’ (more rarely, ‘Antelope’s Head’), and standing for a particular victim (Who definitely had it coming) of Rudra’s formidable Arrow(s) and/or Axe.
A ‘Hunter’s Trophy’, perhaps, we might translate ‘Mrgashira’ as then. Although the ‘Deer’ association in that particular case is evidently both sound and very archaic indeed – as several of the clearly cognate Hellenic presentations of the exact same myth, in various cases, make quite the point of having the antagonist of the piece turned into a Deer. You may know him as Actaeon (likely from PIE *H2ek / *Ak – ‘Sharp’, ‘Point(ed)’) – and the ‘Hunting Dog(s)’ … well, Sirius and Ardra in Hellenic and Vedic (Jyotisha) terms respectively to refer to the self-same Star. (Albeit with the ‘Wolf’ being also capable of utilizing ranged weaponry in His Hunt in the case of the latter – hence the ‘Orion’s Belt’, as we’d know it in the West, being the TriKanda (‘Triple-Arrow’)
But we digress again.
Mrga has a bit of a paucity when it comes to sustained etymological proposals of an Indo-European nature. It’s been suggested that it might even lack such a thing all up – as while it does occur in other Indo-Iranic languages (in the Iranian sphere, the cognates tend to refer to birds – the ‘-murgh’ of the famed ‘Simurgh’ is one of these), there’s a lack of general agreement about its possible PIE originations and therefore prospective (Western IE) cognates.
Predictably, I have a different view.
One which isn’t fettered by the frequently encountered damn near insistence on the part of various corners of academia that seemingly anything to do with Rudra, His Wife, and Their saliencies as Hunters or Barbarians has to be non-Indo-European in effective origination.
Pokorny proposes that Mrga may derive from *mer(ǝ)gʷ- , ultimately from *mer-2 / *mer-ek-, and with a reconstructed meaning-field which pertains to ‘Dark’, ‘Shimmering’, respectively.
However, we suspect that part of the skepticism toward deriving Mrga from this (or, as Mallory & Adams have it: *(ha)merhxgw .. with superscript elements that are presently being unco-operative in this particular textual medium) is due to a bit of a lack of ‘feeling’ for how a term for ‘Dark’ or ‘Shimmering’ might link to that for a wild animal or a creature which is, succinctly, ‘prey’.
It would be straightforward to suggest that the sense may be ‘disappearing’, or ‘half-glimpsed’, or even ‘difficult to grasp’ (as the Fog terminology in some IE languages thusly also derived from similar roots is) – all eminently apt for a thing that is, after all, having to be tracked and hunted … and, much like the Golden Deer stalked by Rama in the Ramayana at the behest of Sita, may turn out to be a decidedly ephemeral figure in practice.
Yet I suspect we can do better.
One of the most prominent (or, at least, storied and reputationally familiar) derivatives of this aforementioned PIE term is the Old Norse – ‘Myrkr’. Which is probably most well-known (to us, at any rate), in its conceptual colouring of Myrkviðr – that is to say ‘Murk-Wood’. Or, as Tolkien put it in his Legendarium: “Mirkwood”.
Now yes, certainly, on one level we might interpret this as the ‘Dark Wood’ or ‘Dark Forest’ – yet that latter term contains within it a rich vein of symbolic resonancy quite above and beyond a mere lack of physical illumination ‘neath its boughs or in colouration of its trenchant foliage.
When we hear the phrase ‘Dark Forest’ – we think of a place which is foreboding (in Latin – a delicious and difficult-to-translate whilst retaining appropriate gravitas, ‘Obscuras’, springs to mind … ‘Spooky’ just doesn’t cut it), which is perilous. Which is, effectively, characterized by the clear fact that it is not under human nor civilizational control. Quite the opposite.
It is, proverbially – ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. And it is ‘outside’ the ‘bounds’ of what is known, what is ‘civilized’, what is part of the ‘enclosure’ that stands for ‘our demesne’ in the mesocosmic conceptry of the Indo-European (ritual) cosmos.
Which is, funnily enough, where Rudra should very much seem to be encountered – and His Wife, too.
It should prove tempting to ponder ‘Morning’ in such regards – not least due to the ‘Twi-lighted’ ‘Hour of the Wolf’ which we find attested in Aelian, et co. (Lycophos – ‘Wolf-Light’, per De Natura Animalium) wherein those hunting creatures are held to have the most excellent and piercing ken of vision. It is, at the very least, a time of great shadows, where things are half-perceived and yet somehow ‘more real’ – at least in the sense of ‘more frightening’.
Yet to return to those ‘borders’ and ‘bounds’ aforementioned – in Sanskrit, we find ‘Marya’ and ‘Maryada’ ( मर्या and मर्यादा , respectively) – reasonably cognate with our modern ‘Mark’ (by which I mean, an older Germanic term, ‘Mark’, which shows up to designate an enclosure of land … ‘Denmark’, for instance – the Mark of the Danes) or ‘Demarcate’ (which means to mark out the borders of something, and thus to identify it via process of exclusion of that which is outside thereof) – or, for that matter, ‘Margin’.
Pokorny places the PIE root for these as *mereĝ- ; Mallory & Adams have *morg-, and I think I have seen several other pretty close confederates to the latter elsewhere. Both approaches highlight an Old Iranic ‘Mruig’ as a descendant; and I do not think it at all difficult to perceive why.
The ‘resonancy’ in this direction would be one of ‘Mrga’ connoting that which is outside the ‘enclosure’, within the ‘Wild Space’ (we would not quite suggest ‘Outer Space’ – except insofar as the Stars contain both Hunter and Prey, viz. Ardra & Mrigashira aforementioned, etc.).
Where am I going with all of this?
Something we have often had fairly direct cause to explore in the course of our work is the situation of the Sky Father and His Wife in relation to these ‘outlands’. Which are, yes, most definitely ‘dangerous’ and often inhabited by ‘demons’ and other sorts which are in violation of the Divine Order. This is one of those ‘ipso facto’, ‘by definition’ things – as due to the situation inside the Enclosure being one where the Divine Rule and Cosmic Order (‘Cosmos’, as we are often wont to point out, being ‘Law’, ‘Regime’, in its original Ancient Greek setting and situation) are established and secure, the Demonic has been pointedly (spear-pointedly – or, with deference to certain Vedic ritual operations, ritual-sword pointedly … possibly On Fire) driven out as a matter of course. That is how the Divine Order is ‘stabilized’ therein. By removing quite (metaphysically) violently those gnawing threats against Same (‘Sama’ in Sanskrit for Samraja meaning … also something else herein).
Yet out there in the places beyond ‘stable’ civilization, we do not only find the demonic. We also find the ‘frightening’ for other reasons – creatures, forces, beings, and Barbarians that are not part of our ‘domestic’ sphere … and yet are also, indisputably, in closer coherency with the Divine, with our Gods, than many more familiar to us might so happen to be. Indeed, who may have moved beyond various of the ‘impediments’ to such connexion which burden us within our ‘civilized’ sphere. And who may need to periodically come back amongst us in order to ‘refresh’ what is happening in our own loka-lized perception. To cleanse away that ‘patina’ that seeming-inevitably builds up upon us and who and what we are to do.
This should, indeed, often seem to involve and to invoke a certain martial panoply of associations. We are well-reminded of the scenario of Dionysus and His Thiasos, Rudra and His Ganas – and Devi and Her Matrikas (the same female and oft-animal-associated figures that appear not only in the retinue of the War God, Skanda – but also as emanations quite directly of His Mother (with reference to Kaushiki) as the Lady of the Vindhyas in the ‘Proto-‘ Skanda Purana when Shumbha & Nishumbha come calling).
And so therefore, as ‘Mistress’ of such Forces – we might recall that particular hailing of Artemis as ‘Hegemone’ ( Ἡγεμονη ), that means much as its descendant does in modern English. And quite the extensive array of Devi epithets of concordant meaning, as well.
The frequent identification of Artemis – as with Devi – to such ‘Hinterland’ locales on the ‘periphery’ of the civilizational sphere is thus also underscored. Just as we find Devi in the Vindhyas or Himalayas which formed the natural ‘border’ to an archaic phase and era of Hindu civilization. Hence, Anatolia, the Scythian sphere, and other such locales immediately present themselves as places where one might seek to similarly encounter Artemis. Even afore we consider the ‘closer-to-home’ mountains and forests where a ‘Lord (Lady) of the Hunt’ and the Wilds would quite logically have Their Demesne.
Yet one question may present itself to the inquiring mind when we are bringing together Devi and Artemis – and not least due to the identifications of the male God(s) also mentioned within this piece as counterparts : those being Apollo and Rudra.
We have already written at some length elsewhere upon the co-identification of Apollo and Rudra. This makes logical sense. However, we have also observed the situation of Rudra as Dyaus Pitar – and how via triangulation, this implies that the figure of Apollo was, in fact, an Anatolian IE ‘Sky Father’ style deific or facing thereof that was ‘incorporated’ into the latter Hellenic sphere in a less plenipotentially exalted position : a Son of the Sky Father. This helps to explain the suite of ‘double-ups’ that occur viz. Apollo and Zeus in the more archaic skeins of the Hellenic mythos.
Artemis, meanwhile, is canonically the Sister of Apollo. Devi, however, is the Wife of Rudra. Leaving aside that most obvious of scenarios wherein these two positional relationships ought not be necessarily mutually exclusive (consider the situation of Hera relative to Zeus), we can do rather better when exploring intra-Indo-European deific co-identifications herein.
Ambika is a well-known theonym of Rudra’s Wife. And yet also, per several sources (White Yajurveda III 57, Taittiriya Brahmana I 6 10 4, and Shatapatha Brahmana II 6 2 9 – which, to be sure, is repeating and intentionally resonating with the WYV section aforesaid), She is described as Rudra’s Sister. We would suggest ‘Female Counterpart’ is perhaps the more useful direct interpretation, but the literal sense also cannot be ignored for our cross-Indo-European comparanda.
This might sound rather arcane stuff – and it is – yet we are also fascinated to observe the context of this ritualine hailing: where Rudra, and His Sister, are made an offering to at the Crossroads. An offering, no less, of a rodent (various texts differ in translation as to a mouse, a rat, or a mole). Why is that pertinent? Apollo Smintheus is closely associated with Rodents – indeed, that is exactly what the Smintheus should seem to refer to. And the Crossroads is well-known to be the apt haunt of Hekate’s association as well as Diana. A place where, in Hindu understanding, one ought similarly render sacrifice to the Matrikas / Yoginis – as we intend to detail at greater length in a future work looking more directly on the ‘crossing-over’ potential of Hellenic and Vedic perspectives herein.
There is much more that we can and should say upon various of these points (and the two-piece examination of Artemis Orthia which we had written more than a year ago in happier times ought provide interesting reading upon the general score of Classical and Hindu theological concordance with regard to Her), but in closing we intend only to quote one rather ‘cute’ story from the Puranas.
One which does indeed present Devi as a Mistress of the Wild Animals – and bringing home a great and fearsome Tiger, telling Her Husband simply “We’re keeping him”. This tiger having initially come across the meditating Devi within a forest grove and sought to make what had looked to be a young woman into ‘lunch’. Only to instead become a foremost Devotee of Hers and move to protect Her meditation from interruption from other would-be interlopers.
So, from Shiva Purana, VII 1 25 – 26, Shastri translation:
“8 After some time had elapsed, seeing Her performing the penance a huge tiger approached Her with wicked intention.
9 The body of that animal of wicked soul became stiff and benumbed when he approached Her.
10 Even after seeing the tiger that approached Her with wicked intention the Goddess (Devī) did not turn away from Her pious thoughts like ordinary people.
11-12 The animal with his body stunned and overwhelmed with hunger, stood there in front of Her glancing perpetually at the Goddess and thought, “My prey is nothing else.” Virtually this became his cherished goal.
13 Mercy was generated in the heart of the Goddess who thought, “He is the perpetual performer of contemplation on Me and My protector from the wicked animals.”
14 By this feeling of mercy the threefold dirt of the tiger perished and he realised the Goddess.
15 His hunger receded. The benumbed stiffness subsided. His congenital wickedness disappeared. Contentment set in.
16 Realising his contentment with great piety he waited upon the Goddess as a sudden devotee.
17 He roamed about the penance-grove as a router of wicked animals and wicked souls.”
To skip ahead a bit to the next section of the Purana (i.e. II 1 26):
“The Goddess Said:—
2 Is this tiger that has resorted to Me seen by You? He has guarded My penance grove from wicked animals.
3 Dedicating his mind to Me he worships Me without thinking of anything else. There is nothing more pleasing to Me than his protection.
4 He shall be appointed as an official in My harem. Out of pleasure Śiva will grant him the post of Ganeśvara.
5 I wish to return with My friends keeping him ahead. I seek permission from you the lord of the subjects.
6 Thus addressed, Brahmā smiled and told the Goddess describing the lion’s wicked antecedents as though the Goddess was unaware.
7 O Goddess, animals are cruel. How can Your blissful thought be directed to these? Why do You sprinkle nectar in the mouth of the serpent?
8 This is a certain night-prowling wicked demon in the garb of a tiger (vyāghra). Cows, Brahmins and saints have been devoured by him.
9 He is roaming about assuming forms as he pleases, pleasing and propitiating them. The fruit of a sinful action must of necessity be reaped by him.
10 Why shall mercy be shown to wicked souls like this? What is the purpose served by one innately sinful?
The Goddess Said:—
11 What You have said is entirely true. Let him be like this. Still he has resorted to Me. One who has sought refuge in Me shall not be abandoned.
12 I narrated his antecedents without realising his devotion. If there be devotion, sins are not effective? Your devotee never perishes.
13 What can a man of virtuous rites achieve without depending on Your behest? You alone are the unborn, intelligent, ancient Goddess.
14 Bondage and liberation depend on You. There is no greater Śakti than You. Without You rites cannot achieve results.
15 You Alone constitute Śakti of living beings. Himself incompetent to do anything what will a mere agent do?
16 It is only Your behest that is the cause of acquisition of prosperity and glory by Viṣṇu, by Me or by any of these—Gods, Dānavas or Rākṣasas.
17 Innumerable Brahmās, Viṣṇus and Śivas have passed by. Such innumerable Ones are yet to be born, These carry out Your behests.
18 O Goddess of the Gods without propitiating You the fourfold arms of life cannot be acquired by all of us.
19 Since merit and evil have been established by You the mobile and immobile may even be inter-changed.
20 You are the primordial and eternal Śakti of Śiva the great soul, the Lord of the Universe, the Śakti without beginning, middle or death.
21 For the functioning of the universe You assume some form or other and play about in different aspects. Who knows You factually?
22 Hence let this wicked tiger (vyāghra) too attain the great Siddhi by Your blessings. Nothing can prevent it?”
23 Thus requested by Brahmā after duly reminding Her of Her great aspect the Goddess ceased from Her penance.
24-29 Then taking leave of the Goddess Brahmā vanished. […]
The Goddess was impatient to see Her lord. She kept the tiger ahead thinking Him as son born of Herself, out of affection. With the brilliant lustre of Her Body She illuminated the quarters. Thus Gaurī reached Mandara where Lord Śiva was staying—the Lord Who is the Creator, Protector and Annihilator of the Worlds.”
“The Goddess Said:—
25 Was not Kauśiki, created by Me seen by My Lord? Such a girl has never been before in the world nor will ever be.
26-27 Brahma will tell You about Her prowess, strength, residence on the Vindhya, Her victory in the battle with Śumbha and Niśumbha, their death, Her blessing to the Devotees and Her protection of the Worlds.
28 At the behest of the Goddess Who spoke thus Her friends brought the tiger in Their presence.
29 On seeing him the Goddess spoke again—“O lord, see this tiger. There is no other devotee of Mine like him.
30-32 My penance-grove was guarded by him from wicked hosts. He is greatly devoted to Me. In view of his protecting Me he is trustworthy. He has left his native place and come here for your favour. If You are pleased with him and if You love Me, O God, let him stay at the door of the harem along with the other guards and under the charge of Nandin Himself.”
33-34 On hearing the auspicious, loving and sweet words of the Goddess the Lord said to him “I am pleased”. Immediately he was seen like Gaṇeśa wearing the dress and features of a watchman, holding the cane made of gold and a dagger of serpentine lustre and wearing a bodice set with various gems.
35 He was named Somanandin because Soma means Śiva and this tiger pleased Soma as well as Nandin.
36 After carrying out this task pleasing to the Goddess the Lord with the circular moon on His crest embellished him with divine ornaments set with gems.”
With the Tiger also being a most eminently supreme Ruler of the Wilds and Lord of Prey(-taking), what else needs be said.
The Devi is even above He – yet, as we know from any number of ‘All-Devouring’, and ‘Ferocious’, ‘Roaring’ figures in amidst the panoply of Devi-forms (including those in, say, the SBr wherein the ‘Big Cat’ connexion is made quite direct – viz. Vak), She is also ‘resonant’ in various ways with same.
Whether with Bow and Arrow, Spear (Shakti), or Tooth and Claw.
Hail to Artemis !
And, of course –
Jai Mata Di !