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