Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration

It fascinates me how our various Indo-European religions ‘interlock’. Both in terms of the way that the same (or highly similar) elements co-occur in recognizable format across various of these, even separated by millennia or many thousands of kilometers; yet also in the way that a fulsome understanding of one can help to ‘unlock’ the actual comprehension of half-Mystery saliencies found within another.

In this particular case – the Crossroads. And just why these are so potent within our religious topography.

[And, to speak but briefly to the iconography – this excellent art of Hekate is by one Jessica Allison-Bourne] 

Part One: The Opening of the Ways

[Illustration is one of the fine Enodia marble relief works, from Kozani in what was once Macedonia, and dated to mid-late 2nd-3rd century AD; assumedly a votive offering. ‘Enodia’ can be seen written across the top, next to Her head. Note also the presence of the Horse and Hound thereupon – and, of course, that which is in Her Hands]

Now, many are familiar with their most obvious occurrence – in relation to Hekate, and indeed right there in the theonymic of ‘Trivia’ (‘Tri-Via’ – Three-Roads, and where these become joined). It should seem pretty easy to simply suggest the causation for the association as being ‘where barriers between worlds are thinner’ and leave it at that. It would not be – necessarily – inaccurate to do so. But in light of what I have uncovered, it would be missing a great deal.

This notion of a place where one might ‘cross over’ is quite inherent not only in the ‘traversable’ function of Roads, but also in the connotation of ‘Enodia’ ( Ἐννοδία ) – another theonymic epithet of Hekate, encountered in Her Orphic Hymn (indeed, the rather aptly enumerated first Orphic Hymnal in the corpus), as its very first word. This refers to not only a figure ‘upon the Roads’ (a ‘Wanderer’, perhaps? Between Worlds?), but also rather more specifically to a deific that is ‘at the gate’ (We are cognizant of ‘Hermes Enodia’), ‘of the point of transition’ between two areas along said road. The Gates of a City, for example – or, it occurs to me in light of some of the associations of both Hekate and Artemis (Two of the Diva Triformis ‘Facings’), Death and Birth, respectively. The Road, nevertheless, goes ever onwards.

Yet ‘Roads’ are one thing – the joining, the Crossing of Roads, not entirely the same. And lest we be accused of reading too far into ‘Einodia’ – the next theonymic of Hekate in that aforementioned Hymnal is ‘Trioditis’; which is, of course, the figure of the ‘Three-‘ (‘Tri-‘) ‘-Roads’ (‘-Hodos’ (ὁδός) or ‘-Hodios’ (ὅδῐος) give one a sense as to the term) and their meeting. There is also the rather less frequently encountered hailing for Her of ‘Tetraoditis’ ( τετραοδῖτις ) – which, as one probably expects, is She of the Four Roads[‘ Meeting].

Which is rather handy because the major exemplars for ‘Crossroads’ conceptry that we encounter in the Hindusphere tend to be of the decidedly four pathed variety – Catuspatha being just exactly that. ‘Catur’, familiar to any speaker of a Romance language (and cognate with ‘Quad’, etc.), plus ‘Patha’ ( पथ ) … which, perhaps surprisingly, both means ‘Path’, and is also directly cognate with our modern English ‘Path’. How convenient !

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where we shall, ourselves, ‘cross over’ – into my more familiar ‘native’ terrain of the Hindusphere, in earnest.

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.

Part Three: Cosmology, At The Crossroads

[Depicted is the fine marble Hekate from the Greek isle of Aegina, in overtly ‘Triple-Facing’ Goddess form. Note that the Initiatory Torches are, here, utilized to create an illusion of ‘depth’ – and, to my mind at least, almost seem to connote different ‘pathways’ off through trees.]

The first point to be made concerns Ambika. This is more usually encountered as a theonymic of Rudra’s Wife. Here it is ‘Rudra’s Sister’. We do not consider this an incompatibility – we simply infer that ‘Female Counterpart’ (of same source, perhaps?), ‘Female Equivalent’, is intended. Although that said … as we have argued capaciously elsewhere, Rudra is Dyaus Pitar and therefore Zeus (and therefore, per Zeus Triophthalmos conceptry, etc., Hades … Underworld Zeus) – yet Rudra is also Apollo. Apollo, as is prominently attested, having a certain Sister, a ‘Twin Sister’, in fact, called Artemis (or Diana – and we are reminded of the ‘Diva’ that is linked to Rudra elsewhere in the SBr in form we can identify to be His Wife; ‘Diva’ being  ‘Dyaus’ in feminine linguistic construction, as ‘Juno’ and likely ‘Diana’ should seem to be – although there are other proposals). Artemis, as we have mentioned above, being one facing of the Trivia , the Diva Triformis – others being Selene / Luna (with interesting Juno linkages for the theonym), and Hekate or Proserpine (Persephone – Bride of Hades, ‘Reigning Death’, Herself (the relevant etymology to the theonym may suggest ‘Raining Death’, so to speak), and handily spoken of as ‘Juno Inferna’ (ivnoni infernae) with its inherent potentia for clear co-identification with that well-known (and justly prominent) Wife of Zeus).

Quite the array, now that I come to think upon it, of ‘Liminal Figures’ or ‘Figures at Transitions’. Artemis in the Wilderness (which, of course, is what’s outside the Gate) and also Childbirth; Selene, as the Moon is about at Night and has its own Transitions of Light and Dark upon its very face as it rises and sets (and keeps time), whilst also providing a ‘Pathway for the Ancestors’ (at least in our, Hindu reckoning – long story); Hekate for reasons aforementioned (and more!) … and Persephone, well, She (as with Skadi of the Nordic sphere) divides Her Time between two planes, even afore we get to the ‘Death’ angle (viz. PIE *Kel – and the ‘Veil’ between our world and the (Darkened / Unseen) World Which Lies Beyond; *Kel being mentioned here due to the most pertinent figure of Kali … and also certain other terminology – ‘Hel’, ‘Cailleach’, no doubt other labellings as well, in kind).

The second point concerns the juxtaposition of the numbers: ‘Four’, as with the number of Roads at the relevant Crossroads ; and ‘Three’ – as we find in the name of the offering (to ‘Tryambaka’ – usually interpreted as ‘The Three Eyed’ … although also, for a few reasons, understood occasionally as ‘Of the Three Mothers’).

The ‘folk etymology’ advanced in SBr II 6 9 2 9 is interesting and ‘truthful’ in the specific sense and context of which it is deployed (i.e. that particular verse); but we would not (necessarily) think it accurate for ‘Tryambaka’ in more general terms. Although the ‘Three Mothers’ interpretation of ‘Tryambaka’ most certainly does resonate with it. And is, as it should happen, rather relevant in another sense.

We have earlier sought to connect ‘Tryambaka’ to the ‘Triophthalmos’ of the famed Zeus murti in Argos reported upon by Pausanias [II 24 3-4]. More recently, we have also sought to expand this to also countenance the similarly ‘Three-Eyed’ epithet of Apollo Triopion.

In the former case, that of Zeus Triophthalmos, the ‘Three Eyes’ are said to connect to the ‘Three Worlds’ or ‘Three Planes’. This is an indelibly archaic Indo-European concept of cosmology – well known in the Vedas, for a start. Yet it appears to have developed in subtly different ways amidst different IE groups (and even at different points within the same Indo-European sphere or text), with just which locale being referred to as in amidst the Three Worlds … well, it can prove heavily contextually dependent.

For instance, the usual Vedic schema is, effectively, the Earth, the Mid-Atmosphere, and the High Heavens – although there is also [per  RV X 63 2] Earth, the Heavens, and the Waters. Meanwhile, the Hellenic sphere had arrived at the Sky, the Underworld, and the Sea (ruled over by Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, respectively) – and in the portion of Hesiod’s Theogony detailing Hekate, we find: “The Son of Kronos [Zeus] did Her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was Her portion among the former Titan gods : She holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in Earth, and in Heaven, and in Sea.”

Which, one would ordinarily presume, perhaps, to refer to exactly the same three planes … except for the slight difficulty that the actual term used for ‘Earth’ in the Theogony there isn’t Cthonious or some other such ‘Underworld’ labelling. But is rather ‘Gaia’ (γαίῃ, strictly speaking). The other two terms, in case you were wondering, are ‘Ouranos’ (οὐρανῷ) and ‘Thalassa’ (θαλάσσῃ), for the (High) Heaven / Sky, and Sea, respectively. Although we are in a bit of a further predicament, in terms of tracing these back to the Proto-Indo-European cosmological schema upon such things – as both the Sky and the Sea were, in archaic terms, basically regarded as the same sphere. Hence why we have that suite of ‘double-up’ conceptry around, for instance, the ‘Nep-‘ of ‘Neptune’ (think ‘Nebula’, etc. – from PIE *Nebh), or situations of Varuna at once being a deific of the High Heavens … and also of the Sea (a situation clearly shared viz. Poseidon / Neptune in these regards – a Sky Father deific that is Thalassocratic in dominion), etc. etc. One obvious pathway to ‘reconcile’ this, I suppose, is by instead

We would also consider the situation of the ‘Underworld’, in more archaic (P)IE terms being something that’s really more of an ‘Overworld’ – an ‘Afterworld’, often explicitly Solar in characterization (and, interestingly, with prominent Goddess regality – consider Freyja in Folkvangr, the Hittite ‘Underworld Sun’ Goddess, etc.), which is found Up There in the Sky (indeed, one of the highest points in the Cosmos, per the relevant RigVedic hailings for Yamaloka – including the ‘riddle hymn’ attestation wherein it appears to be spoken of as the Zenith of the Noon-Day Sun in terms of topographical location). Except during daylight hours, perhaps, wherein it may be ‘under the earth’ pending the arrival of Nightfall (although this … fits curiously with the aforementioned Solar conceptualization for said Afterworld, for reasons that ought be readily apparent, and suggests either a figurative understanding or later point of emphasis … certainly, ‘later development’ explains how the Underworld becomes fixed ‘under the World’ with its (metaphysical) darkness becoming permanent, accordingly).

In terms of comparative Indo-European theology – we would at this juncture note the situation of Hekate seems strongly reminiscent of that of Aditi : Herself identified with and in effective dominion over (in various verses), the Earth, Waters, and Sky (as, perhaps, we might expect for a saliently Solar Goddess). And, just as with Hekate – with a certain ‘Afterworld’ association; indeed Ruling over the Pitrs (‘Ancestors’, ‘Forefathers’), per SBr VIII 4 3 7.

[Reverse facing of a Roman Denarius issued in 43 BC by one P. Accoleius Lariscolus; the triple female figure often held to be ‘Diana Nemorensis’ – Diana of the grove of Nemi. Note the trees of the Grove up behind Her (and we shall address the decidedly Arboreal associations of the underlying Indo-European typology in due course) – and the individuated panoply of accouterments held by each figure, starting with the Bow in the hand of the figure upon the left]

In any case, the point here is quite simple: Triple-Goddess for Triple-Realms. With the situation of the Diva Triformis – Artemis / Diana, Selene / Luna, and Hekate or Persephone / Proserpina – being perhaps interesting to attempt to reconcile with this cosmological model (‘On Earth’, ‘Mid-Heavens’, and ‘Outer Realm’ / ‘High Heaven’ would be one potential approach); and also considerable in terms of the relevant ‘Celestial Bodies’: perhaps ‘Sun’, ‘Moon’, and ‘Underworld Sun’, respectively (and c.f. the earlier made point concerning ‘Diana’ relative to ‘Dyaus’ for why the Sun is to be found where I have tentatively placed it therein).

Although it should be mentioned, at least in passing, that of the Three Goddess(es) immediately Above, only One has an explicit and direct association of this kind – that being Selene / Luna. And in any case, this is one that is on ‘interesting ground’ – given that in most other Indo-European religious spheres, we tend to find a male Moon deific; whilst the theonym of ‘Selene’, due to its clear resemblancy to ‘Helen(e)’, instead points to a ‘Fiery Radiance’ most unlike the soft lambency of Moonlight. ‘Helen’, after all, we have elsewhere identified as representing a ‘Beautiful Solar Princess’ typology of deific (and yes, deific – She was still worshipped by the Spartans even into the Classical era) directly cognate to the Tapati of the Hindusphere.

This would, interestingly, therefore suggest that all Three of the Diva Triformis have at least ‘residual’ Solar saliencies and associations. Which would likely have been much more readily apparent in the Anatolian IE context from whence Artemis and Hekate appear to have emerged … and which we do not even think to look for, today, because the Western conceptual perception has become hard-wired via its foundations in the (later) Classical milieu to believe that Solar has to be Masculine, and Lunar has to be Feminine. A situation no doubt further contributed to, as applies this Goddess in specia, due to the strong ‘Nocturnal’ associations for the Devi. Even if, as Ronnie James Dio once pithily observed – ‘The Moon Is Just The Sun At Night’. At least per some perspectives.

Yet why do I mention the Sun, Moon, and a third source of radiancy? Because that is the major understanding for Tryambakam – the Three Eyes of Rudra as the Sun, Moon, and Fire. We might ponder, for reasons that ought become readily apparent in due course, whether ‘Fire’ and ‘Underworld Sun’ have some conceptual resonancy. Largely because if the Moon presents as a ‘pathway’ for the Pitrs in one sense … Fire presents as a ‘pathway’ for the departing Dead to head off to the next stage of Their existence in the other. A cremation pyre, in other words. Which does, indeed, lead off down the Pathways of the Dead towards that Underworld or Overworld so  vauntingly aforementioned.

Where am I going with all of this? Quite simply – I am ‘squaring the circle’. Or, perhaps more accurately, something more along the lines of ‘Triangling the Square’. Insofar as the more archaic ritualine attestation we have for ‘Crossroads’ in Indo-European understanding (i.e. that found within SBr, II 6 2) features Four roads rather than Three … yet also, at the same time, features Three Worlds (and Three Radiances) becoming implicitly meant. Just as, in the latter case, we should seem to find indicated via the ‘Trivia’ conceptry of the Classical sphere – and in each case, identifiable via the ‘Three Goddess’ (Tri-Ambika) ‘signposting’. (And I say ‘Signposting’ for another reason we shall come to towards the conclusion of this piece, looking at subsequent, post-Vedic ritual attestations pertaining to the Matrikas et co, to be propitiated at such crossing-ways for identifiably familiar reasoning).

All of which brings us to our main article of examination here. That of the reasoning for the Crossroads in the first place. And yes, the Four numbering is a pertinent part of all of this. For it is not quite as simple as merely inferring “well, Three Directions for Three Worlds, therefore the Barriers between Worlds are symbolically more permeable here …”, with an additional integral function of ‘Crossroads are, by definition, places for ‘Crossing Over’, therefore … ‘ – although both of these elements are, of course salient, as well.

Part Four: The Fetters Of Fire And The Direction of the Dead – Agni-Rudra (And Ambika) Anchoring At The Cross-Paths

Let’s take a look at some relevant scripture. Which, handily, we’ve already quoted above. But, to refresh our (collective) (unconscious or) memory:

“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]

Now, straightaway we see something vitally important – the saliency of Fire in proceedings. And not just any fire – but rather, a burning brand taken from the ‘Dakshina-fire’. That is to say, the Southern ‘Hearth’ of the ritual space … the Direction of the Realm of the Dead. Which, if you direct your attention a few lines up, you shall see my pointed notation viz. ‘Cremation Pyre’ coming once again ‘to light’. In one sense, this helps to explain the ‘transverse’ characteristic to the Crossroads offering – as the officiant is walking with this Fire, from the Entryway to the Realm of the Dead (in terms of the Ritual Space being a ‘Mesocosmic’ Resonancy for the Universe At Large), up to the North point of the Ritual Space, which is the Direction of Rudra. They are walking along the South-to-North axis, and therefore directly crossing the East-to-West one which is the Sun’s more direct pathway across the Skies.

We might also feasibly entertain the notion that the bringing forth of Fire from the Direction of the Dead – an implicit resonancy, as previously discussed, with that of the Cremation Pyre … produces an air of the Cremation Ground itself; particularly when this flame is brought to the North – the Direction of Rudra. After all, ‘There’s No Place Like Homa’ – and by drawing together these two diametrically opposed (yet fundamentally congruent) directions and their essences, one produces just the conditions (metaphysically speaking) to ‘resonate’ the environs where Rudra (and His Wife) are so frequently to be comfortably found within.

The Crossroads, in other words, is not a demesne for particular Deifics simply because it is a Crossroads – but also because the environs can be felt to overtly resemble other situations wherein the Gods should preferentially choose to inhabit, which express something vitally important as to Them and Their Nature. Rudra (and Devi in these relevant Forms) has His Cremation Grounds, Agni has His place of ‘connexion’ (see subsequent remarks), and Hekate … well, where Three Worlds are Joined, become One (and we shall be encountering an Axis Mundi ‘resonance’ also in due course).  

But we can go further. Much further.

In the Taittiriya Brahmana’s presentation of this same ritual, we find the Catuspatha described as the ‘Padbisa’ or ‘Padvisa’ of Agni. ‘Pada’, as in ‘Foot’, ‘Bisa’ or ‘Visa’ to refer to a ‘Staking’ (or ‘Fastening’). That is to say, the ‘Fetter’, ‘Binding’ or ‘Peg’ to the Fire – where it is Fixed. That’s vital.

When I began to ponder this in earnest, it seemed to me that the place where one ought find the ‘Foot’ to the ‘Fire’, would be the place where it was ignited. Say, by rubbing together two sticks. Two sticks crossed over. In much the same fashion as our Crossroad should prove to be in earnest.

As it turned out, the sage Angiras had been thinking upon similar lines when I had asked him – and we both proved to be on the money when the Agamic literature then confirmed this rendering to be apt. Angiras then went rather further in bringing to bear additional ritualine conceptry.

To quote his brief overview: “There is a link between araNis & Agni’s birth. A link between catuSpatha & making offerings for a new born child in the gRhyasUtra. And also a link between the tryambaka offering and the protection of the unborn child.” Which we mention for reasons that ought appear rather immediately obvious in light of Artemis, and Her well-known childbirth and protection-of-the-infant potency. This would go beyond the ordinary invocation of Agni for ritual purposes precisely due to that Crossroads conceptry – and we would surmise that it is precisely the ‘liminal’ status of the Crossroads that renders it appropriate here. The Soul, after all, the Child, is coming into this world from somewhere else (via a Mother – both Divine as well as human). Just as, at the other extreme – death – the Soul, the Body, is leaving this world to go somewhere else, and ultimately into the arms of a Mother. And yes, yes the physical ‘place’ where yon newborn enters the world via is rather expressly identified with the Sacral Flame [see, for instance, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad VI 2 13]. ‘In Between’ these two stages, we are perhaps unsurprised to find that there are also some ‘Marriage’ salient dimensions to be considered, too (c.f., for instance, Bharadvaja Srauta Sutra VIII 22 10, Kashikar translation; inter various alia). That, after all, is most certainly a ‘crossing over’ – as well as an ‘intersecting’ of paths. Albeit, one should hope, of the two-into-one variety, rather than the mere temporary overlapping of such with two paths in and two paths then out again subsequent.

We must also, however, also hasten to mention that whilst people do leave this world via such liminal spheres (and their accompanying Southern Flames) … ‘Death Is Not The End’ – nor is the passage entirely ‘one way’. And we are, therefore, unsurprised to observe that in addition to departing through such intersections (via death) or returning in relation to such (via birth), there are also figures that, whilst dead, are (become) ‘un-departed’ at such places. Just as we should expect – this is, after all, the place favoured by the Lord and Lady of the GHOST DIVISION (which, for those yet to encounter it – is my general short-hand term to refer to the BhutaGana, Wild Hunt, and other such often-sepulchral Honour-Guards and Retinues of the Sky Father and Goddess … for reasons that ought be readily, hauntingly apparent). We shall be meeting some of these Darkened (yet Radiant) figures also, in due course !

One prominent occurrence in relation to the above comes to us from the Manava Grihya Sutra [reportedly MGS. ii. 9. 1-8.] – the much-commented-upon form of the Astaka (‘Eighth’ – for the dating in the relevant part of the month upon which it is to be carried out) observance and its following Anvastakya. Occurrent at the Crossroads (where else?), it features offerings rendered both to those Pitrs (‘Fathers’) aforementioned, in the East as well as , per Keith’s interpretation of ‘stribhyah’, to the Wives of the Pitrs in the West. In addition to this, we also find offerings being made to the Matrikas. And, as it happens, a rather pointed emphasis upon bloodied sacrifice as an essential ingredient to proceedings (although this is ameliorated elsewhere to providing sustenance to a Cow, rather than killing and carving up an animal for the sustenance of various (ostensibly human) passers-by upon the Crossroads).

It would be tempting to ponder whether this situation of the Ancestors being, in a sense, ‘present to receive’ Offerings of sustenance (in a manner rather different to our modern Sraddha rites) – might be exactly why the ritual in question enjoins that one feed those people coming and going upon the Crossroads. It is, perhaps, a ‘resonancy’ for the subsequent feeding of the Ancestor-Spirits Who are Themselves ‘coming and going’ upon the (metaphysical, cosmological) ‘Crossroads’ to which the site is ‘keyed’. After all, if we think about it – what is Crossing the River which separates the Realm of the Living from that of the Dead, other than crossing one’s own path over another route of  transportation.

Yet if the Crossroads can provide a ‘meeting point’, a ‘congregation’ place, and an area where figures (or other elements) formerly ‘lost’ are able to come back together, be reunited with their (be-)loved ones, and otherwise ‘re-appear’ … the Crossroads can also be utilized for the opposite purpose, as well. That is to say – for the ‘departure’ of elements baleful, or the outright banishments of elements malefic.

As it happens, that is the actual purpose, in part , of the Tryambakah rite [SBr II 6 2] aforementioned. To quote, once more, from the Eggeling translation:

“17 Having then packed them [the sacrificial cakes] into two net-work baskets and tied them to the two ends of either a bamboo staff or the beam of a balance, he steps aside towards the North; and if he meets with a tree or a stake or a bamboo or an ant-hill, he fastens them thereon, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 61), ‘These, O Rudra, are Thy provisions; therewith depart beyond the Mūjavats!’–(supplied) with provisions people indeed set out on a journey: hence he thereby dismisses Him supplied with provisions whithersoever He is bound. Now in this case His Journey is beyond the Mūjavats: hence he says, ‘Depart beyond the Mūjavats!’–‘with Thy Bow Unstrung and muffled up–,’ whereby he means to say, ‘Depart Propitious [‘Shiva’], not injuring us;’ ‘Clad in a Skin,’–whereby he lulls Him to sleep; for while sleeping He Injures no one: hence he says, ‘Clad in a skin.'”

The Mujavats appear to be a mountainous locale considerably to the North (whether Geographically or Cosmologically – it is both, and not strictly important in directly specific terms for our purposes herein), and hailed prominently for its Soma elsewhere in the Vedic sphere of texts. Rudra is, after all, a God of the Mountains (and of Soma), a Wanderer, of the North cardinal direction, and (projectile-) pointedly associated with rather baleful occurrences when He is not propitiated – or when His Attention and Presence has been incautiously drawn.

This part to the Tryambakah observance, therefore, seeks to ensure that Rudra is propitiated – not only with the offerings made earlier in the course of the Rite (and it is interesting that other translations and/or other iterations of the ritual instead identify the key sacrificial creature as a ‘Mouse’ or ‘Rat’ rather than the ‘Mole’ singled out in Eggeling’s Shatapatha Brahmana effort – interesting, I say, due to Apollo Smintheus and His rodential linkages), but also with adequate provisions to be able to go on His Wandering Way and not run out. Which would cause Him to , we may surmise, become rather less than beneficent (a state succinctly portmanteau’d in modern parlance as being ‘Hangry’ … low blood-sugar etc. with hunger contributing to irritability and Anger) – and potentially inclined to double back toward civilization.

He has been Invoked, He has been Worshipped – and now He goes on His Way, via the Crossroads, to head a-Wandering – and the shadow of His baleful potency in its loka-lized potentiality to ‘dissipate’ to the four corners , the four quarters, the four directions (of the Crossroads) accordingly.

In similar fashion, the Asvalayana Grihyasutra (IV, 6, 1-18) sets out the following for post-Funerary conceptry:

“Before sunrise they should carry their fire together with its ashes and its receptacle to the South, reciting the hemistich :
“I send far away the flesh-devouring Agni” (R.V. X, 16, 9).
Having thrown down that fire at a cross-road or somewhere else, they walk round it three times, with their left sides turned towards it, beating their left thighs with their left hands.
Then they return home without looking back ; take a bath ; have their hair, beard, the hair of their bodies, and nails cut off ; and provide themselves with new jars, pots, vessels for rinsing the mouth,
At the time of the Agnihotra the performer of the rite kindles a new fire by the attrition of two new kindling-sticks, reciting the hemistich:
“Here may this other Jatavedas, the Knowing One, bear the Offerings to the Gods” (R.V. X, 16, 9).
Keeping that fire burning, they sit till the silence of night, repeating the tales of the long-lived ones, and listening to the stories of auspicious contents, Itihasas and Puranas […]”
[Translation presented in Ram’s Kalpasutras]

Now, to explicate but briefly upon what is going on there – the ‘Flesh-Devouring’ (‘Kravyada’) ‘facing’ to Agni has been justly invoked for the Cremation Pyre … however as He is a baleful and ‘tarnishing’ form of the Great Luminous God, He cannot remain – having done His Sacred & Solemn Duty, He must be (as with Rudra) sent upon His Way. (Interestingly, the final stage before the participants themselves depart for home – “they walk round it three times, with their left sides turned towards it, beating their left thighs with their left hands” resembles rather strongly that portion of SBr II 6 2 (line 12) “They then walk thrice round the altar not sun-wise, beating their left thighs (with the right hand)” which accompanies Rudra’s departure, and the invocation of the famed MahaMrityunjaya (‘Triumphing over Death’) liturgy; the conceptual resonancy almost suggests itself … )

This having been done (via transport to a Crossroads … in the direction of the South), the participants involved carry out appropriate personal-cleansings – the Bath, the cutting off of Hair (where ‘Sin’ builds up), and rinsing out also their Mouths (which have Invoked), and procuring new ritual utensils likewise. The ‘Illuminating’ Agni is then invoked – same God, different ‘Facing’ – and propitiated in the appropriate fashion following this, also. At a different ‘cross-roads’ – those of the kindling-sticks, we have so frequently aforementioned.

We mention this as a rather more … overt presentation of the understandings we are herein advancing. Wherein a God is not truly ‘banished’, as it might first appear – and most definitely not in the sense of something undesired and malefic (in the sense of ‘maleficarum’ – a curse or a demon). But rather, a necessary (if baleful) figure that is in respectful fashion engaged with, and when Their role is completed, They are not cast out also of our Hearts as we would with something actually malevolent.

Whilst we are discussing funerary rites – a further point of interest concerns the injunction of the Jaimini Grihyasutra (II, 5) – which prescribes that the bones resultant from a cremation be carried past “a cross-road, or a big tree, or a river”. Following which, “he should bury the urn at a fordable place in the river.” We mention this not only due to the obvious point – wherein a ‘cross-road’ of a certain kind is where the human remains wind up, which is where a River (a Way) is able to be Forded (Crossed) … just as is so frequently encountered in Indo-European Metempsychosis. But also because the situation demands that one go to and through, past a cross-roads in the more conventional sense (or some other semi-cognate structure of similar multi-planar and ‘crossable’ resonancy – a ‘big tree’, a ‘river’) bearing such a grim cargo. One goes, in other words, through the cross-roads to the ‘other end’ of a conduit established therefrom. The terrestrial, mortal-remains equivalent to a Psychopomp for the dearly departed figure in question.

We further raise it due to the saliency of the Tree in connexion to all of this, as well – a situation seeminly resonant with that reported in SBr II 6 2 17, wherein the ritualist is enjoined, when making the offering of provisions to Rudra: “[…] he steps aside towards the North; and if he meets with a tree or a stake […] he fastens them thereon, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 61), ‘These, O Rudra, are Thy provisions; therewith depart beyond the Mūjavats!'”. North, there, as it is Rudra’s Direction – and the one that Rudra shall be departing in. But a Tree … it is not mentioned there merely because it is ‘convenient’ as a fastening-place. It is mentioned there as the sacrifice is fastened to it – as a direct and deliberate ‘resonancy’ for the Sacrificial Post, the Sthambha of Vedic rites. Something which, surprise surprise, is also what the later-prominent ShivLing becomes – the ShivLing, if memory serves, having such an equivalency articulated in commentary; and given the facility for Trees to be utilized as ShivLings (as with the seeming coterminity of Trees and Irminsuls in the Germanic sphere), quite ‘triangulable’ in this regard, too. We shall be meeting the Tree again when we come to consider the Matrika clades domiciled likewise – but suffice to say that just as Yggdrasil is the ‘Crossroads of the Cosmos’ in Nordic myth, it should appear that the Tree can likewise form such a ‘Crossing’ point (a miniature Mountain, after all) for our ritualine purposes here, likewise. Certainly, the two major ‘roads’ for ritual observance via the Conduit of Agni are made of ‘wood’ – those kindling-sticks rubbed to produce the Flame’s Sure Foundation.

In terms of the situation of a ‘ShivLing’ style sacral post or representation at the Crossroads, we might also ponder the placement of relevant devotional elements of not only Hekate / Trivia or the Lares (Compitales) – but also of Hermes and Apollo. In the case of Hekate and Trivia, or the Lares – statues or other ‘iconic’ presentation appears to have been prominent at such sites. In the case of Hermes (particularly as Hermes Strophaios – ‘At The Hinge’; not to be confused with the perhaps apt ‘Strophalos’ that is Hekate’s Wheel) we would predict pillars or posts – a feature also shared with Apollo Agyieus  ( : ‘Of the Street’ – or, for that matter, ‘Gate’; Macrobius [Saturnalia I 9 6] noting for the Greeks this particular Aspect formed a dvandva with Diana / Trivia – Apollo covering the streets inside the city and civilization (‘Agyiai’ – ‘Within The Enclosure’), His Sister encompassing those roads beyond; although given both Hermes and Apollo are also hailed as ‘Thyraios’ (‘The Outlander’, ‘The Foreigner’ – although also interpreted as ‘of the Door’), it must be evident that Her Brother ‘wandered’, Too in the Wilds Beyond, in earnest.).

This notion of ‘sending away’ something finds a more ‘pure’ expression in other areas – with certain ‘negative energies’, afflictions both supernatural and mundane, and even otherwise intractable physical maladies (viz. ‘Kshetriya’) all being held to be removable (‘paapmano vinidhayah’) via appropriate ritual enactions at the Crossroads. As we have said – the multiple directions from the single point provides ample scope for the force in question to ‘leave’ (potentially to ‘Get Lost!’, in the colloquial sense of a forceful injunction against continued presence somewhere at shouted and threatening volume and tenor). Not least if these are borne away by other denizens of the Crossroads that are metaphysically potent to be able to do such things; and/or as they are able to be sent off extra-planarly to spaces beyond the mere physical one via the more permeable ‘barriers’ between worlds to be found therein. Curse or worrisome Energy comes from ‘The Other Side’, via the Astral, etc. ? Well then – best to send it back the way it came. And where better to do this than, well, There.

However, it must be underscored that such ‘Banishment’ operations are very different from the earlier cited situation of Rudra being farewelled – and not simply because one doesn’t tend to send a metaphysical malediction off with a pack-lunch for the occasion (although it is, of course, bound up with that particular fact and its absence as applies the genuine Maleficarum being sent beyond). With Rudra – He is, first, Invoked, and then directly offered to. We Want Him to come around – both in that specific ritualine context, as well as more generally. He is, after all, not just a God, but a vital and seriously positive figure in His potencies (when He Chooses to bestow from such – c.f the requests made elsewhere in the liturgy of SBr II 6 2 and its correlate-cognate cousins in other texts, including the finding of husbands for young women (c.f verses 14-15), the wealth, prosperity, and material abundance which is His to Give (c.f. verse 11), and the Happiness encountered due to the favouring approval of His Wife, Ambika (verse 13) – as well as, of course, exactly those connotations we ought expect where ‘Tryambaka’ is invoked, given the Mrityunjaya Mantra’s purpose and intended meanings).

In other words – We are not ‘Banishing’ Rudra .. how could we? All the Worlds are as His Dominion – and the Mythos is littered with the wrecks and ruination of those who had tried to forcibly keep Him Out, interfering with His Due. Instead, we are simply ensuring that He is able to adequately go upon His Way, following our deliberately intentional calling out to Him in the first place to come amongst us from out there in the great Wilds of both Astral and Physical topography. Til Next Time.  

There is quite a lot more we can and probably should detail about various ‘Crossroad’ operations of a Roudran saliency that we had encountered in the course of our delvings – yet I think that we ought move even further into the ‘core’ of our thematic approach, and more truly address the ‘why’ element afore we can begin to contemplate any further ‘hows’ resultant therefrom.

Part Five: The Conduit of the Crossroads

The situation of Agni is often ill-understood. Agni is a God, yes; and Agni is also, we may say, a ‘Conduit’. This is in no small part why He has such grand and quite literally ‘central’ importance to our religion. Because in order to engage with the Gods – He must be present (at least, in the major ‘high religion’ rites). That can take one (or, more usually, several) of a number of not-exactly-exclusive ‘approaches’.

The most prominent one which we are all basically intuitively comprehending of is when the ‘conduit’ is ‘going Up’. We make offerings into the Fire so that the offering may be transported on to the Gods at the ‘other end’ of the conduit. They Receive what we Send.

Another which is well-known is the situation of Agni as the ‘Witness’ – there, what is being brought into the Hearth of the Altar is the Living Fire that is the God, called upon to act as scrutineer and guarantor, say for a wedding-vow, or other such solemn oathful undertaking. This is not something entirely unique to the Vedic sphere – Swearing upon the (Fire) Altar is archaically attested as the foundational act of Zeus’ efforts to cast down the Titans, for instance. In this (Hindu) situation, you might say that the God (or, at least, His Attention(s)) have been ‘Called Down’ to be there and to extend Their Ken of Vision out accordingly. Something which, of course, requires the propitiation and ‘offering into’ of requisite elements ‘going Up’ to secure this vital service from He.

A third is little-known – yet harmonizes most interestingly with what we have aforesaid viz. Childbirth, Newborns, and ‘entering this world’, above. Here, the Altar-Fire finds Vak Devi in residence. And this Goddess then proceeds to not only receive first share of the Offerings (compare Hestia – or, for that matter, Hekate being established in pre-eminence in terms of the worshipful undertakings by Zeus), but also acts to ‘birth’ into this world of ours a God amongst us. So, in its sense, this is the furtherance of the aforementioned scenario of Agni’s Attention being ‘Called Down’ to be proximate to us for a rite … insofar as in this case, it is more than ‘just’ the Attention that has come amongst us for ritual propitiation.

Now, where does that leave us for the Crossroads conceptry in not only the Vedic (or, for that matter, Agamic, etc.) but also broader Indo-European milieu.

‘Better Situated’, we would have to say.

If we think of Agni within the Altar as providing a ‘Conduit’ – then that ‘Padbisha’ / ‘Padvisha’ ‘fettering’ or ‘binding’ might more properly be approached as ‘Anchoring’. And whilst, in theory, one could endeavour to ‘anchor’ such a Connexion point in quite the array of different places – some locales just seem to ‘work’ better for this. Whether because That Which Is Invoked is already more ‘familiar’ with the surrounds in question (and psycho-metaphysical terrain), or whether because there is something generally about the place which lends itself to the endeavour. A ‘Holyness’, a ‘Sanctity’, or a storied site of Myth. People go off up into the Mountains or the deep Forests precisely to encounter Gods therein. Perhaps in some cases because there – there is ‘little else’ to ‘get in the way’ via blaring pre-occupancy. Perhaps because deep down, we know and we ‘expect’ that these places are already Their Domain. We go to Them – even as we call Them to come to us. Intersection. Intersections all the way down.

In the case of the Crossroads, the Catuspatha, this should seem to be for much the same reason as the ‘Trivia’ (or ‘Trioditis’) in the Classical perspective. Namely, that i) there’s a Deific or Deifics (along with associated Retinue(s)) already specially associated with the typology of location (which helps when one is, of course, attempting to reach out unto Them); ii) that there’s already a ‘crossing over’, ‘intersecting’ quality to these places – that helpfully resonates quite directly with various of the operations being undertaken therein.

So, one carves out one’s ‘tunnel’, where the ground is quite naturally more amenable – more permeable – for one to do so. In no small part because it makes a certain sort of ‘subliminal sense’ in our heads for it to be this way. And that where there are Three Roads – the mind is instantly drawn toward the prospect and possibility of each of these leading off into the netherspace between Worlds, to extraplanar destinations of storied purport. A situation no doubt considerably enhanced when the operations in question are undertaken under moonlit conditions via torchlight at night, as relevant creatures of the Divinities in question make their subtle presence suitably felt as glimmering eyes and rustled murmurs off  to the edge of the visible ken of light. The appropriate ‘mindset’, after all, is ‘everything’.

Hence, perhaps, why we also find, in the Kamika Agama (Purva Pada) (and, no doubt, in other ritualine manual texts of its related sphere, likewise), the fact that a sufficiently advanced operator of requisite initiations and empowerments does not need to seek out a pre-existing ‘terrestrial’ Crossroads – he can, in fact, produce one himself through the appropriate symbolic inscribings within the ritual space he shall be conducting his proceedings within. Because it is that ‘mindset’ which facilitates him in so doing. Along with the fact that he carries within him the Conduit, as well.

This situation in the relevant text is also illuminating for another reason. For the operator invokes both Vagishvari Shakti [the Lady / Empress of Speech – Power] and Vagishvara Shiva [Shiva, the Lord / Emperor / Controller of Divine Speech], Together. Producing an occurrence coterminous with that aforementioned when Vak Devi is invoked into the Altar-Fire in order to ‘birth’ (‘provide a conduit for’) a God into our realm. This produces a ‘Fire-Child’. A situation of clear coterminity for that combination of two Arani staves of wood being rubbed together to produce Agni in the Vaidika context.

We would, here, arken back to the situation encountered so vividly in the Tryambakah ritual we had described portions of earlier: wherein it is Rudra and Ambika that are to be found (implicitly alongside Agni) at the Crossroads. As we can see – there are the same broad cast of participants here (Shiva, Devi, and Fire – ShivAgni, indeed, per the liturgy). Which may ‘map’ rather intriguingly onto the Three figures we find via the Diva Triformis in such circumstances – insofar as, strictly speaking, we often encounter Rudra and Agni to be the self-same deific, and His Wife as similarly strongly co-identified.

Now what I mean by ‘mapping’ in noteworthy form to the Diva Triformis herein is this. Consider Selene / Luna – the Moon deific in the latter schema. The Vedic Trio also includes a strongly Moon-linked deific – except this is Rudra. Rudra has a suite of conceptry which is also Solar, and in many ways is correlate in terms of portfolio and associations with both Hekate and Artemis. Which can also conceivably be explicated via the well-renowned situation of Rudra’s Wife being quite closely resonant also with Him in these regards. Therefore meaning that, as applies, say, Artemis – we can ask whether Artemis is, in effect, a ‘Female Cognate Of’ (in the manner of Minerva / Athena relative to Manyu / Rudra), or a ‘Female Counterpart Of” (in the manner of, again, Ambika as ‘Sister’ to He; Rudrani relative to Rudra, Kali to MahaKaal, Bhairavi and Bhairava, Shivaa and Shiva … and so forth).

The reason why this skein of speculation may prove a tempting exploration, is because we are often eager to try and trace back clearly ‘cognate’ understandings to an archaic (Proto-)Indo-European ‘original’ typological (indeed, archetypal) expression. That can be a useful undertaking – we have certainly engaged in such at various points previous in the course of our efforts. Yet inherent also within it is the temptation to speculate that this or that ‘descendant’ iteration is ‘more correct’, ‘more pure’ – and that the other formulation ought be somewhat discarded in fairly obviously overt due consequence. Which misses the rather key point that if something works, and more specifically – if it works in a particular context (in this case, a general religious sphere’s perspective – the Hellenic or Hindu / Vedic), that that is in many respects the sine qua non requirement for conceptual ‘Validity’.

And also, the other key point that it does not require us to attempt to co-identify Selene / Luna and Rudra (for example) in order to understand the heavily interdimensional interlinkage of these two ritualine and conceptual-theological schemas (not least, because as noted above, there exist good grounds to believe Selene may previously have had a strong association other than that of the Moon) – instead, it is enough to observe that the Moon is particularly salient here (particularly, as applies the Tryambakah ritual (and, as Angiras informs me, another SomaRudrau offering, for reasons that ought be readily apparent) in relation to the Full Moon – which, as it should happen, it is tonight as I pen this here post-Evening’s Darkening).

Yet these are not the only figures to be found in such doom-fielded Demesne. We have earlier spoken of the Vinayakas (plural); and made some references to the GHOST DIVISION in rather literal sense also . Particular of the congregants at such sites are also a large part to their ritual efficacy. Without going too heavily into details and specifics – suffice to say that an appreciable swathe of ritual operations beyond the direct propitiation of Gods are concerned with the warding against, or winning over of various clades of spirits. Which, of course, requires being able to either ‘encounter’, or at the very least, ‘communicate’ with same. Often done via an intermediary – such as the God or Goddess that these said spirits owe allegiance to. Again, we shall not detail more than this here. Except to note that this may mean that certain Corvids or Jackals or Owls … or Wolves … (or other creatures) may not be quite what They seem. At least, in the cold light of the opposite time to Day.

Part Six: The Mothers ‘Midst Wood, Trail, And Tree

The most prominent group to be found – and propitiated – at the Crossroads is, perhaps, the least surprising one. The Matrikas (Mothers). Now we shall not get into the detailed theology of these figures herein. We have covered this at grand length elsewhere as applies many pertinent details. Suffice to say that – contrary to what one frequently reads in some skeins of academia – these appear to be an archaically Indo-European clade. At once ‘carrying forward’ the Female Retinue of the Sky Father typology (c.f. the Rudraganikas , Valkyries, Maenads, Meliae, etc.), yet also providing a ‘resonancy’ and a ‘refraction’ for the Goddess in Her more martial of Forms. Indeed, She tends to appear as something of a ‘commandant’ or ‘archetypal-apex’ to the grouping – with the female figures in question often bearing demonstrable resemblance to Her in key particulars (indeed, directly ’emanated’ from Her – for instance as shown via the Corvid-associated troupe of the Vayasi form resultant from the black-visaged Kaushiki (Kali)).

It is therefore eminently logical that just as we are by now used to hailing the Goddess at Crossroads (c.f the earlier commentary around Hekate and the Diva Triformis / Trivia, as well as Vedic Ambika) – so, too, shall we find Her Co-Expressions, Her Retinue likewise at the Crossroads awaiting our supplication. Or terror.

A succinct description salient to our purposes is provided by the Mahabharat’s Shalya Parva:

“Of charming and delightful features, They were beautiful like the asuras. In Voice They resembled the kokila and in prosperity They resembled the Lord of Treasures. In battle, Their energy resembled that of Shakra. In splendour They resembled fire. In battle They always inspired Their foes with terror. Capable of assuming any form at will, in fleetness They resembled the very wind. Of inconceivable might and energy, Their prowess also was inconceivable.

They have Their abodes on trees and open spots and crossings of four roads. They live also in caves and crematoriums, mountains and springs. Adorned with diverse kinds of ornaments, They wear diverse kinds of attire, and speak diverse languages. These and many other Tribes (of the Mothers), all capable of inspiring foes with dread, followed the high-souled Kartikeya at the Command of the Chief of the Celestials.”
[Mbh, IX, 46 – Ganguli Translation]

That passage pertains to the description of the Army of Lord Skanda – in specia its Matrika clade and Their various characteristics, namings, etc. (including such familiar epithets as ‘BhadraKali’, ‘Kalika’, etc. – other renditions have further well-known Devi theonyms in amidst the clade). It is a popular (my)theme, and various other texts also frequently extol it with some variation – the (Proto-) Skanda Purana, for instance, having Skanda’s Army significantly contributed to by those various Warrior Forms emanated by the emanations of Kausiki as briefly aforementioned above.

We mention all of this, because whist it might at first seem a bit of a departure to introduce the Matrikas and have these as the warrior-retinue of Lord Skanda … in fact, it is a case of ‘Like Father, Like Son’. Or, as applies ‘Son’ – ‘Kumara’ would be the operative term (another Skanda theonym, a term that means ‘Prince’ as well as ‘Son’ … and also occurs in Vedic usage to describe Agni / Rudra – Whose mythology, the young Skanda quite directly ‘draws upon’ and ‘carries forward’ in earnest).

In essence – just as Rudra has His retinue of formidable Rudraganikas (and Sayana had done a great service by linking the Ugana group (encountered alongside the similarly female Vividhyantis) in the Sri Rudram’s  4th Anuvaka to the later-prominent SaptaMatrika clade), so too do we find the Father’s troops being deployed under command of His Lord-of-War Son. To quote the text itself:

“Shiva gave him a large army, exceedingly fierce and armed with diverse kinds of weapons, and endued with great energy begotten of ascetic penances. Invincible and possessing all the qualities of a good army, that force was known by the name of Dhananjaya. It was protected by thirty thousand warriors each of Whom was possessed of might equal to that of Rudra himself. That force knew not how to fly from battle.”
[Mbh, IX, 46 – Ganguli Translation]

And, on a point of brief comparanda: that hailing for the Host as ‘Dhanajaya’ is, per the Agni Purana (360, 11-12), also a well-renowned Heiti (to get properly Old Norse with our prosody) for Fire. It is, more literally, a term we might succinctly render as ‘Winning Wealth Via Victorious War’, and occurrent within the Vedas in relation to Soma directly [c.f RV IX 46 5] as well as inferentially resonating with the extensive suite of Vedic hailings for Agni as, Himself, One Who Wins Wealth Via Conquest (or, perhaps, raiding) [c.f. RV VI 16, RV VIII 60, etc.].

Phrased much more succinctly: at the Crossroads, we are by now accustomed to encountering Rudra (and Agni – particularly as Eater of the Dead), and also Rudra’s Wife. Alongside these, we have now found Rudra’s and Mrs Rudra’s (to reference the ‘Frau Woden’ Who commands the Wild Hunt in various Continental Germanic understanding) Retinues likewise in attendance. Something which comes through not only via this Mahabharat (and many other texts besides – especially of the Tantrika variety) sectioning aforementioned, but also in the ritualine sphere. Consider that occurrence in the Manava Grihya Sutra that we had cited (by now many leagues) above – there, at the Crossroads, we find offering made to the Pitrs (and, per Keith’s perspective, Their Wives) … and also to the Matrikas (with an interesting question as to whether the Matrikas in that context might bear some resonancy if not outright coterminity to the Wives of the Pitrs aforementioned). As we have said – we are fairly instantaneously reminded of those perspectives encountered elsewhere within the Indo-European spectra for the God (Sky Father) and Goddess reigning over such spirits. Including via leading Them out and on to War.

But let us return to the salient sentence from the Mahabharat that we had intended to initially focus upon herein:

“They have Their abodes on trees and open spots and crossings of four roads. They live also in caves and crematoriums, mountains and springs.”
[Mbh, IX, 46 – Ganguli Translation]

Now, there are several points which immediately draw our interest here. One of which being that the Crossroads is implicitly placed in amidst various other sites – Cremation-grounds being the standout (and c.f. our earlier comments in that particular (Southern) direction), although note also the Caves, Mountains, and Springs. Each of these is a place of Cultic salience or otherwise Divine ‘presence’. The Mountains – one goes Up into their vastness, their fastness, and one finds one’s self in amidst the ‘wilds’ and closer to the Gods in quite literal terms. Springs – they are places where Water comes from, implicitly from somewhere ‘beyond’, and often of a decidedly Sacral import. Caves – well, it almost hardly needs to be written. Venturing into the Earth, into a place that leads, very likely, towards the Underworld … you get the idea.

The point is – each one of these sites is, in its way, ‘resemblant’ to the Crossroads in its essential ‘Conduiting’ function. Just as, in a slightly different fashion, is the Tree – as we had covered earlier when considering it in relation to the Tryambakah rite and the conveyancing of human remains post-cremation. It is, in effect, akin to the Sthambha (‘Sacrificial Pillar / Post’) of Vedic ritualism. That is to say – it is a point at which the Worlds are (con)Joined; where one might conceivably find something (or someOne) from Above ‘climbing down’ to meet you and receive your offering. Or rend you limb from limb – in which case, you’re offering.

However, we can go rather further as applies the Tree saliency for these Matrikas. And in a manner that also serves to more closely confederate the situation with that of the ShivLing etc. aforementioned.

This hinges around the prominent eponymous characteristic of a certain grouping reasonably cognate with our Matrikas – the Meliae (Μελιαι), otherwise hailed as the Ash-Nymphs or Spear-Nymphs (due to, as veteran readers shall by now be well aware – the situation of the same word in Ancient Greek supplying both the Ash Tree, as well as the Good Spears made from same. Something also visible in the Germanic sphere’s conceptual thinking in this area). Certainly, the situation of ‘Tree-Nymphs’ in connexion to the Crossroads is an attested reality – the Quadriviae (‘[Goddesses of the] Four-Roads [Meeting]’) are to be found directly alongside the Sylvanae (‘Forest-Goddesses’) in inscriptional evidence (perhaps most prominently in the altar unearthed at Westerwood dedicated to both groups; although the rather .. complex evidence from Carnuntum ought also be considered, even if there is quite vociferous debate about just which of several theonymics is, in fact, a collective and vice versa).

Meliae, the term in question, however, also has another ‘layer of meaning’ – pertaining to the ‘honeydew’ or ‘sweet’ substance found upon the trunks (viz. Meli – μέλῐ). We have earlier connected this to the oblations performed upon our ShivLings – or, in the Nordic sphere, the application of what should seem to be a very similar substance to the trunk of that most mighty of Ash trees, Yggdrasil, by the Norns. Certainly, Ruodolf of Fuld’s description of the Tree cut down by Charlemagne’s forces, an Irminsul of the Saxons, as being “universalis columna, quasi sustinens omnia” – the ‘pillar of the universe which supports all’ – should seem quite pertinent for what we have earlier inferred. As, after all, the Tree proximate to the Crossroads (or, indeed, the Tree as the Crossroads) is just exactly that – in a ‘mesocosmic’, ritualine sense.

This would therefore seek to suggest that the female figures in question are not only ‘weaponized’ – but also have a ‘priestly’ bearing in some regards (hence the carrying out of oblations by the Norns, as aforementioned and as cited in the Gylfaginning); something resonant with both the underlying meaning of the ‘Thiasos’ (Dionysus and Poseidon’s GHOST DIVISION equivalent – the (wedding, particularly) processional of worshippers both mortal and supernatural, devoted to the God) … as well as, more pointedly, the Thyiades class of the God’s female Devoted. Ancient Greek ‘Thuo’ (θῡ́ω), you see, pertains to just such an act of sacrifice – via setting things on fire, and with smoke (θῡμός (‘Thumos’) – cognate with our ‘Dhuma’), consequentially, rising.

We mention all of this here because i) the Rudraganika clade, as we have discussed compendiously elsewhere, pointedly includes in Their hailings the notion of being ‘Those Who Worship’ [the God] in such an active sense; and also ii) because if we re-examine the situation of SBr II 6 2 – in verse 13 we do indeed find a troupe of young women engaged in the worship of Rudra and Ambika at the Crossroads (albeit, potentially, in pursuit of Husbands bestowed by the God, per the interpretation of the particular rendering of the MahaMrityunjaya Mantra prescribed for their recitation, in the immediate next verse).

At this point, we could continue on at some length in extolling various typological expressions for what we have but briefly touched upon above. Our reasoning in so doing would, in no small part, be our duty to mount a response to claims in the style of a certain influential paper which had sought to assert that a significant swathe of all of this having been “borrowed from the “non-Aryan” element in India” (to quote D.D. Kosambi’s major contribution upon the subject) was the true root to its origination. We disagree – and feel very strongly that cognate Indo-European co-expressions to the same underlying understandings help to demonstrate just why. (Whilst also being rather … bemused at how Vedic evidence has been ignored, overlooked, or simply misconstrued in order to produce purported ‘support’ for the opposite view). We may return to revisit this theme in the not-too-distant future (and not least because there is … a very extended suite of material excised from this point onward that means the article may already be significantly written – at least in part).

Part Seven: Thursday Night Rites – Odin The Plutonic Lord Thrice-Invoked At The Crossroads

Yet to speak towards the broader Indo-European cognates for the understandings advanced in this (A)Arti-cle, it occurs that we have, in fact, left several roads as-yet untravelled. It is to these that we shall now – briefly – turn.

We have taken as our major point of ‘anchorage’, the ‘Tryambakah’ rite found within the Shatapatha Brahmana [II 6 2] – a propitiation of both Rudra and Ambika (whether we are regarding Her as His Sister, His Wife, or His Shakti (a term which, as with ‘Melia’, can also directly mean ‘Spear’)) occurring at the Crossroads. We have devoted significant attention to examining an array of correlate Forms to the Goddess for Ambika in amidst other Indo-European milieus, Who also have some salient connexion to the Crossways – yet we have left the fellow-adjoining ‘Masques of the Sky Father’ strangely un-remarked upon (at least, by our more usual standards in this area).

If Rudra is so indelibly prominent in His Haunting of the Crossroads … this would logically suggest that we ought find Odin there, too. And not least because Odin, as with Rudra, is quite the ‘Wandering God’.

Now unfortunately, when it comes to the Nordic / Germanic sphere we just simply do not have anything like the Brahmanas (i.e. detailed ritual manuals and commentaries) which have come down to us – even though it must be acknowledged that some elements broadly commensurate with such have been preserved (for instance, those instructions upon Runic utilization found in the Sigrdrífumál – which I believe is, in effect, something of a Nordic ‘cognate’ for some of our own Tantrika sphere style texts).

In their absence, we are left drawing from decidedly secondary perspectives – Christians commenting upon the behavior of the people they’d sought to ‘educate’ away from folk-ways and superstition; or folkloric elements which had managed to survive exactly that process for occasionally centuries in remarkably ‘recognizable’ format before they were committed to parchment for us to (critically) digest.

This therefore presents us with the ‘usual suite’ of problems in this area. i) ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’; and ii) what we do ‘know’ has come to us via lenses that may have changed in particular ways what’s come down to us – and therefore may require some careful ‘filtering’ … and certainly some innovative (without getting unduly ‘creative’!) ‘gap-filling’ from the DNA of the ‘cultural cousins’ of this sphere in order to perhaps envisage something of ‘what might have been’.

So, within the iteration of the Christian polemical ‘De Falsis Diis’ (‘On False Gods’) propounded by Archbishop Wulfstan II of York somewhere between 992 and 998 AD, we find interesting mention for our Crossroads. To quote therefrom:

 “A certain man also was called Mercurius in life, who was very deceitful and nevertheless full of thoughtful cunning in deeds and deceptions.
This the heathens also made to be their great god for themselves, and offered him sacrifice at crossroads often and frequently through the devil’s teaching, and brought various praise-gifts (offerings) for him to high mountains.
This false god was also honoured among all heathens in those days, and he is called Odin by other name in Danish manner.
Now some Danish men say in their error that it was Jove, who was called Thor, Mercury’s son, that they called Odin, but they do not have that correct, because we read in books, both heathen and Christian, that he who was called Jove in truth is Saturn’s son.”
[Translation as presented by H.M. Aho]

Now, the first point we should pick up upon here is also salient for another reason. And that is the ‘Interpretatio’ we see on display here.

I have long pointed out that Odin is, in fact, Jupiter if we are being ‘proper’ with our Interpretatio Romana (by which I mean theologically accurate). There is some corroboration for this outside of modern-day comparative Indo-European theology – an iteration of the Icelandic Rune Poem ( AM 687d 4° ) makes exactly this co-identification, as we have explored elsewhere, for a start. Yet the persistent presumption that Odin is Mercury (instead of Jupiter – that is apparently Thor) remains. This is a scenario that cannot even be fairly attributed to the (pre-Christianization) Romans. Tacitus et co were quite prominent in mentioning Hercules exaltant amongst the Germanics – that is to say Thor.

The situation of Odin being identified with Mercury is … complex – and may have resulted from several (mutually interlocking and reinforcing) shades of inter-cultural ‘misunderstanding’. My personal supposition is that the situation of Odin as ‘Irmin’ (Jǫrmunr, per Þul Óðins 8, if we are being Old Norse; from Proto-Germanic *Ermunaz) contributed to this – it *sounds* rather like ‘Hermes’ (the Irmins / Irminsul style elements may also have reminded of the Herms etc. and other such erections with some linkage to the Classical deific), and then we add the various prominent associations of Odin which also look relatively like those of Mercury / Hermes, as well. As did, put simply, the Romans’ own differing perspective upon the Sky Father relative to some other Indo-European spheres (hence why features Odin shares with, say, Hades / Pluto (as Saxo Grammaticus would later link Him) would not be bringable-to-bear in militating for a Sky Father … Jupiter … identification), as well as their development of a Hermes / Mercury figure which does’t have well-fitting cognate in various of same (for a good demonstration of which – consider those situations elsewhere where ‘Interpretatio’ became prominent, wherein we find Apollo and Mercury identified with a given deific – Armenian  ‘Tir’ )

In truth, of course, all of the elements necessary to make a ‘Sky Father’ deific identification were also present even in Roman times – the Greeks had no shortage of myths of Zeus going out in disguise wandering (often directly alongside Hermes); sacred posts, pillars, trees, and stones were likewise findable for Jupiter / Zeus ; and so on and so forth. But this is not how things developed. And post-Christianization – when the religion of the Romans was now a thing in serious decline, not well understood by its would-be supplanters who were, in any case, often only looking for ways to disparage and dislodge what yet remained of it and its cousins in earnest … well, it is not hard to see how something so simplistic as ‘well, this ‘Thor’ is associated with Thunder, and so is Jupiter, therefore these must be the same figure …’ could come to replace a much more nuanced framework of the kind which had produced Hercules Magusanus and seemed to link Thor (or what would  become Thor) in such a direction likewise.

In any case, it takes an especial kind of gall to – as Wulfstan does here – seemingly attempt to correct the ‘heathen’ believers on their own comparative theology whilst insisting the whole thing’s false anyway; and we are most interested by this apparent admission that amongst Northmen as-yet unconverted and aware of such matters, the idea was prominent enough to be worth ‘disparaging’ that Odin was, in fact, Jupiter. But we are digressing rather wildly.

The major point of interest for us here, tonight, is that Odin is apparently to be found at the Crossroads (and also upon high mountains – which resembles the relevant Classical and Vedic cognate deifics) receiving sacrifice. In truth, this kind of thing presumably also helped to inform an identification with Mercury – because, again, ‘wanderer’, and association with crossroads, borders and boundaries, and psychopompery in due train.

Which, again, omits another Sky Father deific from the mix – the Janus Who, aptly enough, we find hailed as the ‘Four-Faced’ (Quadrifrons), just as Lord Shiva is (Caturmukha); and Whom Macrobius [Saturnalia I 9] reports as being co-identified by Nigidius as both Apollo and Diana – as well as presiding over not only the terrestrial and even celestial pathways (the latter in relation to His Solar Situation), but also the ‘opening’ of the conduit between worshippers at their rite  and the God being propitiated so that the latter may receive the sacrifice offered and the former’s prayers may make their way unto the Divinity in question. There is much more we can and should say upon Janus in these matters (and, for that matter, Silvanus, but we shall move onwards in order to hasten towards our conclusion. Eventually.

Having just mentioned Diana or Artemis, it should seem apt to then provide a Germanic potential correlate: namely, the castigation in the ‘De Auguriis’ of Aelfric of Eynsham, written sometime around 996 to 997 AD. There, we find his concern that:

“Likewise some witless women go to cross-roads,
and draw their children through the earth,
and thus commit themselves and their children to the devil.”
[Rev. Skeat translation]

This resonates not only with the situation of Artemis in relation to childbirth and the protection of infants – but also with the associations reported by Angiras for us here in the Hindusphere: “A link between catuSpatha & making offerings for a new born child in the gRhyasUtra. And also a link between the tryambaka offering and the protection of the unborn child.”

It would not be implausible to presume that an archaic and pervasively Indo-European understanding was on-show there in the actions of those folk-way enacting women whom Aelfric was so disdainful of. One ‘anchored’ upon the Crossroads as, effectively, the place where a certain Goddess (and God) could be found – correlate with Their Roles at the positions where certain ‘conduits’ of life and death and cosmological purport could come to ‘connect’ with us here in our sidereal sphere.

As the Shatapatha Brahmana puts it, with regard to explicating and extolling the purpose of the Tryambakah Rite to be carried out at the Crossroads:

” 2 And, accordingly, when he performs those offerings, he either does so hoping that thus no Arrow (misfortune) will hit any of his, or because the Gods did so.
And thereby he delivers from Rudra’s Power both the descendants that are born unto him and those that are unborn; and his offspring is brought forth without disease and blemish. This is why he performs these offerings.
4 There is one for each individual,–as many as he has descendants,–exceeded by one. (There being) one for each individual, he thereby delivers from Rudra’s Power the descendants that are born unto him; and there being an additional one, he thereby delivers from Rudra’s Power the descendants that are not yet born to him: this is why there are (as many cakes as there are descendants) exceeded by one.
[7 …] 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.
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.

10 Now as to that additional (cake),–he buries it in a mole-hill, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 57 b), ‘This is Thy Share, O Rudra! the mole is Thy Animal (victim).’ He thus assigns to Him the Mole as the only animal, and He (Rudra) does not therefore injure any other animal. Then as to why he buries (the cake): concealed, indeed, are embryos, and concealed also is what is buried,–that is why he buries it. By this (offering) he delivers from the Power of Rudra those descendants of his, that are not yet born.”
[SBr II 6 2, Eggeling Translation]

We would observe that the ‘conjoint’ offering to both Rudra and Ambika has an interesting (if understated) potential ‘resonancy’ with that situation remarked upon above of Janus being regarded as both Diana / Artemis and Apollo in certain Classical perspectives [and we also reiterate the alternate rendering of other sources for ‘Mole’, ‘Mole-Hill’ as instead pertaining to Mouse, Mouse-Hole, and so forth – viz. Apollo Smintheus’ famed association, perhaps].

There is more which one might suggest as applies the Anglo-Saxon folk-rite alluded to by Aelfric – specifically concerning the situation of the young child being ‘drawn through’ the Earth and how this may resonate with other conceptry around the Earth as a Mother and Strengthener … in addition to the obvious point around the ‘Conduit’ of the Crossroads here converging with the station of the Earth for the youth’s (re-)emergence. But for now, it is almost certainly enough.

A further Christian-reported-upon exemplar from the  Germanic sphere with clear and overt ‘resonancy’ to the Tryambakah rite comes to us from court documents from Sweden in 1632. There, a man by the name of Jons is reported to have advised one Christman i Svenhult in how to undertake a small and simplistic rite for greater wealth. Per the court description, this apparently entailed venturing to a crossroads – specifically upon a Thursday Night – and shouting thrice for Odin to Come, before requesting that He bestow money and offering one’s self in service unto Him. Predictably, by the time this gets to court and the judgement, we have not only Odin but also the ‘Fanen’ (a curious term – ‘Fan’ would be ‘Devil’ in Christian usage (although ‘Seeker’ – perhaps ‘Hunter’ ? – more directly, in its etymological sense);  yet ‘Fanen’ is either a plural (if it is akin to more modern Swedish – and therefore, ‘Seekers’?), or an archaic formulation) cited. It is an interesting question, given the aforementioned prospect of a potential plural (and I am not linguistically adroit with my Grandmother’s tongue to be able to assay it) whether something else might have been lurking there. Or whether, as would be more mundane (a curious term for the circumstances), it literally is a case of interjecting the Devil into proceedings by a peasant having his folk-magic forcibly ‘translated’ for him by a Christian court.

The reason that we mention this circumstance is the motivation – ‘money’, ‘wealth’.

Or, to dip back in to the Shatapatha Brahmana’s Tryambakah Rite:

“11 Thereupon they return (to the fire) and mutter (Vāj. S. III, 58, 59), ‘We have satisfied the Claims of Rudra, satisfied the Divine Tryambaka, that He may make us richer, that He may make us more prosperous, that He may render us steady in our purpose.–Thou (O Rudra) Art a Remedy for the Cow, a Remedy for the Horse, a Remedy for Man; a Blessing for the Ram and the Ewe.’ This is the Prayer for Blessing at this Performance.

12 They then walk thrice round the altar not sun-wise, beating their left thighs (with the right hand), with the text (Vāj. S. III, 60 a), ‘We worship Tryambaka, the Fragrant Increaser of Prosperity. […]’

13 Let the maidens then also walk round, thinking, ‘May we enjoy Prosperity!’ That Sister of Rudra, named Ambikā, indeed is the Dispenser of Happiness: hence the maidens also should walk round, thinking, ‘May we enjoy Prosperity!'”

Rudra, after all, is Pashupati – a term I have somewhat figuratively rendered, from time to time, as ‘Lord of Wealth’ in the manner of Pluto; a situation of greater resonance when one considers the direct cognates of ‘Pashu’ in the Western IE sphere such as ‘Fehu’ … which, as with their shared ancestor, PIE *Pek, can mean *both* Cattle and Wealth. Rudra as Pashupati, therefore … He is the Lord (Pati) Who has all the Pasus : All the Animals. And therefore, implicitly, All of the Wealth. [This is  before we get into further ‘Wealth’ conceptual associations for Rudra – the Seven Gems, for instance, or that particular beautiful Cloak of the Night studded with what is occasionally translated as ‘coins’, yet should more properly refer to the Stars of the Night Sky, I should surmise]

And so, it is eminently logical that one would petition Odin for Wealth (although we might ponder whether one can afford the … price such a request might entail) – and at the Crossroads, it should appear, just as we find Rudra to Haunt when petitioned for similar purpose.

Although it is most interesting to note the Thursday situation … as, of course, this is the ‘Day of Jupiter’ in Roman reckoning (and of the Graha that correlates as the Planet Jupiter in our Hindu perspective – linked to Brihaspati, a figure with a myth (and more than) in common with Odin (as well as being co-identified with Rudra), as we have discussed capaciously elsewhere). Why do I suggest this is ‘most interesting’? Because in amidst several court cases spanning more than three hundred years in Sweden, we seem to keep running into attestations for Thursday Night being when one would call upon Odin (and, perhaps intriguingly – not only  at Crossroads, but also at cemeteries … and featuring walking around the site ‘withershins’ thrice – or, as the Shatapatha Brahmana put it: ” thrice round the altar not sun-wise”, with a cemetery perhaps acting as a local equivalent to a Smashana … ).

That would take us back to my earlier point around the correct ‘Interpretatio’ for Odin – at least, in Roman terms. Most interesting that a lengthy swathe of Swedish folk-belief managed to preserve such a correct understanding in that way.

Now rest assured that there is … quite a lot more which we might yet seek to explore as to pretty much all of the above. And no doubt I shall return to various of these themes and facings in the not-too-distant future.

Part Eight: The Hidden Hearth Of Holda 

Yet before I depart upon my own return pathway (likely involving, as with Rudra in SBr II 6 2 17 , the situation of an assisted Sleep being heavily recommended if not outright mandated in order to avoid somebody’s injurance … ) , there is one further suite of Germanic examplars I wish to consider.

Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology is a fascinating folkloric resource – and benefits substantially from a more modern comparative Indo-European analysis precisely because it is so viably able to confirm certain points that the original commentary had somewhat speculatively sought to advance. I have a full piece that had initially formed the coda to this current (A)Arti-cle, yet which for reasons of length I’ve chosen to excise from here in order to run separately in its own rite in due course as something of a sequel.

But in the mean-time, we shall provide a much more succinct synopsis of several of those elements as they pertain to what we have already managed to cover in our trenchant work above.

As one ought to expect, there is Odin (Wodan) riding through the night and to be encountered at Crossroads. And there, also, is His Wife – variously hailed and known as Frau Gauden; Holda, Holle, Holla (with co-identification as Diana; and, as I have previously observed, a potential ‘Kali’ direct cognate viz. PIE *Kel); Perchtha ( or Perchta, Berchta, Berchte, Bertha, etc.); and, of course, as Frau Woden.

In both cases, there is similarly the bestowment of wealth and material prosperity (particularly following, as applies the Goddess, acts undertaken to assist with getting Her wagon moving once more) … as well as the potentially quite dire consequences for those who are incautious or impious in their approach. We also find the familiar clades of Retinue – the Wild Hunt of Wolves or Hounds or even Witches in flight (akin, perhaps, to the Yoginis ? ) … and, perhaps as we ought expect, in the case of Perchtha, a group of tearful children (Frau Gauden, too, is remarked upon as having a strong fondness for young tykes … and again, c.f. Artemis / Diana in relation to looking after infants and children from (pre-)birth, as well as the saliency of the Tryambakah rite in this regard for ensuring their protection, likewise).

Tearful, in that last case, because they (and their Lady) were having to leave the region due to a drop-off in positive engagement (offerings, reverence) to Her – hence why this group was to be found departing via a ferry across a river (a ‘crossroads’ of another kind, we might say – for which the ferryman was, of course, well-rewarded in gold).

Phrased another way – these various instances which Grimm had collated serve to remind us almost instantly of that which is found within the Tryambakah rite: wherein the dread deity is propitiated and then may depart – bestowing, it is hoped, prosperity in Their wake to the worshippers who have availed Them so (something evidently ‘misremembered’ in a Triumphalist fashion by later Christian chroniclers as the ‘banishment’ of the God or Goddess all up – I suppose one might say they had gotten their wires crossed).

Certainly, the broader suite of contextual resonancies contain remarkable coterminities with the ancient and archaic Vaidika Rite. Which is not to say that the one is the exact duplicate nor doublet of the other – only to observe that there should appear to be a common heritage and conceptual suite of associations underpinning them all.

Multiple roads that all, it should seem, converge back upon a single, central point.

God(s), Goddess(es), and Ghosts – all Together at the Crossroads.

Hail to the Rulers of the Intersecting Paths.

Or, as we might suggest in Sanskrit:

ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे
सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्
मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥

11 thoughts on “Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration

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