Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration [Extract 2]: Part Two – The Dread Deifics Of The Catuspatha

Part Two: The Dread Deifics Of The Catuspatha

[Art by Rupam Raaj R.; and we are having Rudra in amidst a Smashana because we are unable to find good art of Him at the Crossroads directly. Yet for reasons we shall get into in due course – well, the two spaces are somewhat coterminous]

Now, a bit of ‘backstory’ as to this piece. A week or so ago was Ganesh Chaturthi – wherein, as one might impute given the naming for the occasion, we are worshipping Ganesha. As we do all the time, given He is also necessary to be invoked both when one ‘crosses over’ to enter into a Temple (or, as the first ‘stop’ within, to pay respects) – as well as at the outset of various ritual operations or recitations. Interesting ‘coincidence’ there, viz. that Enoida element, no ?

The Sage Angiras, with whom I occasionally correspond, had posted a ‘trivia question’ (in more than one sense, as it turned out) for the occasion:

“The link between Gaṇanātha & crossroads goes all the way back to a Śrauta prototype. Who can guess?

Hint: Tryambaka “

To which I had rather succinctly replied:

“We would observe Shatapatha Brahmana II 6 2 7, and the Catuspatha mentioned therein as Rudra’s favoured haunt.

A case, therefore, of ‘Like Father, Like Son’ ?”

Now, as it happens, there is quite a broad saliency for Ganesha – or, we ought say, Vinayaka – at the Crossroads, Himself (and, as applies the Vinayakas (plural) – Themselves) – in part for the obvious reasons (a ‘Remover of Obstacles’), yet also because i) of the ‘Inauspicious’ quality (‘Vastu’) said to accumulate at such sites (which Ganesha, therefore, helps to dispel / dissipate); and ii) the aforementioned Vinayakas (plural) which are a class of rather disconcerting spirits which might also be encountered at same.

To quote the sage Manasataramgini upon the subject (immediately following his having carried out a relevant propitionary Puja towards these beings):

“Be safe from mid-night dread of the visitation of the 4 dreadful vinAyakas at the crossing of 4 roads: May they delight in fish, meat&beer”

Yet while interesting – and, as applies ‘Openings’, in its way quite pertinent – these aren’t our major purpose in writing herein.

Instead, let’s arcen back toward that verse of the SBr I had cited:

“7 Having removed all (the cakes from the potsherds) into one dish, and taken a fire-brand from the Dakshina-fire, he walks aside towards the North—for that is the region of that God—and offers. He offers on a road,—for on roads that God roves; he offers on a cross-road,—for the cross-road, indeed, is known to be His (Rudra’s) favourite haunt. This is why he offers on a cross-road.”
[SBr, II 6 2 7, Eggeling translation]

And, to join it, for reasons that shall become swiftly apparent:

“9 He offers, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 57 a), ‘This is Thy share, O Rudra! graciously accept it together with Thy Sister Ambikā! Svāhā!’ Ambikā, indeed, is the name of His (Rudra’s) Sister; and this share belongs to Him conjointly with Her; and because that share belongs to Him conjointly with a woman (Strī), therefore (these oblations) are called Tryambakāḥ. Thereby, then, He delivers from Rudra’s power the descendants that have been born unto him.”
[SBr, II 6 2 9, Eggeling translation]

Intriguingly, the Taittiriya Brahmana rendition adds the following detail – “His sister Ambika is the Autumn; with Her He smites (or kills)” [Taitt. Br. I 6 10 4 ; Muir translation], particularly also via the mechanism of disease. This resonates both with one of the major saliencies for the worship of Raksha Kali (‘Kali the Protector’) at the Crossroads – as well as, more pointedly for our immediate purpose, with the situation reported in the Devi Bhagavata Purana as to the importance of Navratri (an observance which is shortly to be upon us – coming, as it does, immediately following Pitru Paksha (the Fortnight of the Ancestors, when the Shades of our Forebears arrive due to the thinned barriers between the worlds), and therefore (at least, at time of writing) in just over two weeks’ time):

“[3-5] O king! Hear about the vow of auspicious Navarātra. This has to be performed with loving devotion in the vernal season; but its special season is Autumn. The two seasons, Autumn and Spring, are famous as the Teeth of Yama, the God of Death; and these are the two seasons, very hard for the persons to cross over. Therefore every goodfaring man should everywhere perform this vow very carefully.

6-8 O king! The people are very much afflicted with various terrible diseases in these two seasons Autumn and Spring and many lose their lives during these portions of the year. Therefore the wise should unquestionably worship with great devotion the Candikā Devī in these auspicious months of Caitra and Āśvin.”
[Devi Bhagavata Purana III 26, Vijñanananda translation]

We mention this because, of course, it demonstrates rather usefully that the changing of the seasons, too, between the poles of Winter and Summer is also a time of ‘crossing over’; and one which finds Classical resonance when we consider the transmigration of Persephone (in illuminated guidance and accompaniment by Hekate in various iconography etc. upon the subject) from one World to the Other occurrent at just these times. And certainly, the invocation of Dread Yama – the ‘Teeth of the God of Death’ – in relation to these seasonal shifts should seem to deliberately underscore that the ‘Liminality’ is not merely between terrestrial seasons … but also betwixt Life and Death, the perilous intersection of the Worlds of the Living and the Departed, Itself.

As the text above puts it – one should, indeed, pray to the Goddess to be able to traverse these times of ‘transition’ without peril. Just as one might do at, say, a Crossroads.

Now let’s briefly make some observations about these Brahmana verses themselves (and Their Dramatis Personae) before we go into more depth as to the enduring question as to why Crossroads.

Thus concludes the second excerpt from our full-length piece:


One thought on “Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration [Extract 2]: Part Two – The Dread Deifics Of The Catuspatha

  1. Pingback: Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration [Extract 2]: Part Two – The Dread Deifics Of The Catuspatha – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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