In recent days, our attention had been drawn to a most remarkable occurrence within the Þorleifs þáttr jarlaskálds wherein, as our learned associate, Gottfried Yann Karlssohn (who had drawn our attention to it in the first place) had phrased it – we find “a Norse king using incantations to animate a trémaðr (treeman), giving him a weapon, and sending him to take a boat and cross the sea to kill someone.”
Now, there are various interesting things which we could say about that precise scenario – and the ritual involved to animate the agent in question. But that was not where my mind went.
Instead, it was a far broader suite of points pertaining to the Indo-European Man (at least, in the Germanic and Hellenic (self-)perspectives) as being … well, an (often rather warlike) figure of Ash as well. That is to say – quite directly descended from the Ash-Trees, ourselves.
The most obvious exemplar for this, known to almost any Germanic sphere enthusiast, is that case of Askr & Embla – quite literally, Ash & Elm. Imparted with, of course, relevant faculties for … being a bit less ‘wooden’ in some regards, by relevant Divinity.
Which means that ruler – assumedly a human one – is acting in an interesting ’emulation’ of Divinity …
Although having said that, the actual situation of of Jarl Hakon here does present an obvious point of difference from that occurrence we read of in the Voluspa or Gylfaginning. In those accounts, it is enough for the triumvirate of Gods to be able to impart the relevant qualities for animation directly (and into living trees, at that). Here, Hákon instead must animate a piece of driftwood through stealing the heart and life-force of a man killed expressly for the purpose, availed in this by two witch-sisters (the Hǫrgabrúðrs, Þorgerðr and Irpa) – and, per the text, the “power of the devil” (a post-Christian frame of reference, needless to say – although there is interesting speculation that the entire tale may be something of that … which we shall leave for another time). Clearly humans acting in imitation of Divinity are not as powerful as Divinity – or, perhaps, there is more required to turn a piece of (dead) driftwood into a viable assassin (capable of not only independent ambulation but even conversation, it should seem) than an already-alive pair of trees into a different kind of life, replete with the sapience and sentience that comes from no longer being ‘Orloglauss’ in such a way. Maybe it’s both.
However, we can go further.
And I do not simply mean by invoking the ‘Aescling’ [or Æscling , if we are being more proper with the characters] exonym deployed by the Anglo-Saxons in relation to the Vikings [a rather amusing ‘German’ [‘Geir-Man’ – ‘Spearman’] labelling, perhaps? In addition to the more direct ‘Descended from Askr’ notion]
Part One – The Sons Of The Spear-Nymphs, The First Bearer of Flame
We are well familiar with the situation of the Meliae [and, of course, the Melia that is a Consort to the Sky Father [viz. Apollo, Poseidon]] … the Ash-Nymphs / Spear-Nymphs … that, per Hesiod … well, here is the relevant passage [140-156] in the Evelyn-White translation:
“But when earth had covered this generation also—they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honor attends them also—Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees ; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armor was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron. These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name: terrible though they were, black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun. “
The relevant word, ‘Ash-Trees’, is , in fact … μελιᾶν – i.e. μελία [‘Melia’] ; and we encounter it also as the stem (pun not intended – by me at any rate) for the word utilized in Apollonius of Rhodes’ ‘Argonautica’ [IV 1641 – Seaton / Heinemann translation] to similarly describe the ‘Men of Bronze’ [of the Bronze Age .. er in Hesiodic terms]: μελιηγενής … μελία and γενής; ‘Melia’ and ‘Genos’ … of the Tribe of the (Spear/)Ash(-Nymphs).
There is some .. back-and-forth about whether Meliae (as in the Ash/Spear Nymphs) had been meant … or whether it is more directly / literally (simply) the Ash-Trees. I do not consider this to be an entirely viable distinction in practical (er .. mythic) terms.
Why? Because we have clear evidence for the Meliae acting as, well, ‘Mothers’ to at least some clades of Mankind.
And not just in the ‘rear-view mirror’ of quite (mytho-)literally ‘Ante-Diluvian’ provenance amidst a previous ‘cycle’ of Creation. But instead in what would have been, in the archaic Greek view, the ‘current’ era.
Phoroneus, the father of Argus (viz. Argos) springs to mind (along with Aegialeus, the Brother of Phoroneus and founder of the city-state of Aegialea / Sikyon); as does the situation of Apollo’s Sons with (a ) Melia – Teneros and Ismenos in the Theban context … and, of course, viz. Thebes, the line of Phoroneus eventually resulting in famed Cadmus (we should consider, perhaps, the Grove Sacred to Ares guarded by a particular dragon, whence an immensely warlike tribe rather integral to Thebes’ foundation … was sprung via planting the teeth of same – Pausanias IX 10 5 speaks of the site of the spring in connection with Melia and Ismenus, figures partnered with Apollo and Argos, respectively)
Phoroneus is unquestionably our best example here. He is a figure that, effectively, (re-)founds Civilization post the Deluge – and also, interestingly, seems to play a key role with i) (re-)introduction of Fire, and ii) (re-)introduction of the Worship of Hera specifically.
In short, he reminds one of the Hindu figure of Manu.
Placed together with the situation of his brother, Aegialeus (also known, in some perspectives, as Phegeus – ‘Oak-man’, although in PIE terms, *bʰeh₂ǵos would therefore potentially render him a Man of Beech), who dies without having founded a lineage, we might be tempted to contemplate the ‘other half’ of *that* particular Indo-European typology as well. Although the fit is not a particularly good one, and it should instead appear potentially a case of a twinned expression of the same typology, rather than the true Twin typology, itself.
But let us return to Phoroneus and his status as the first man of a new age.
Hyginus’ Fabulae phrases the matter thusly:
“Inachus, son of Oceanus, begat Phoroneus by his sister Argia, and he is said to have been the first of mortals to rule. Men for many centuries before lived without town or laws, speaking one tongue under the rule of Jove. But after Mercury had explained the languages of men (when he is called ermeneutes, “interpreter,” for Mercury in Greek is called Hermes; he too, divided the nations), then discord arose among mortals, which was not pleasing to Jove. And so he gave over the first rule to Phoroneus, because he was first to make offerings to Juno.”
[143, Grant translation]
In terms of the citation for Phoroneus’ Mother being Melia (instead of a name of ‘Argia’ (‘Bright’), although that will prove pertinent later on … and the figures are otherwise quite clearly coterminous) – we have Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca:
“Having now gone through the family of Deucalion, we have next to speak of that of Inachus. Ocean and Tethys had a son Inachus, after whom a river in Argos is called Inachus. He and Melia, daughter of Ocean, had sons, Phoroneus, and Aegialeus. Aegialeus having died childless, the whole country was called Aegialia; and Phoroneus, reigning over the whole land afterwards named Peloponnese, begat Apis and Niobe by a nymph Teledice.”
[II 1, Frazer translation]
However, the substantive detail comes from, as per usual, that inveterate voyager of the sole, Pausanias:
“There is also another legend which says that Phoroneus was the first inhabitant of this land, and that Inachus, the father of Phoroneus, was not a man but the river. This river, with the rivers Cephisus and Asterion, judged concerning the land between Poseidon and Hera. They decided that the land belonged to Hera, and so Poseidon made their waters disappear.
Phoroneus, the son of Inachus, was the first to gather together the inhabitants, who up to that time had been scattered and living as isolated families. The place into which they were first gathered was named the City of Phoroneus.
 Argus, the grandson of Phoroneus, succeeding to the throne after Phoroneus, gave his name to the land. “
[Pausanias, II 15 5 – 16 1, Jones and Ormerod translation]
We would also draw attention to the scenario also attested in Pausanias:
“Next to this statue is a fire which they keep burning, calling it the fire of Phoroneus. For they do not admit that fire was given to mankind by Prometheus, but insist in assigning the discovery of fire to Phoroneus.”
[II 19 5, Jones and Ormerod translation]
Although as a brief aside in relation to Prometheus, we note the citation in the Theogony for Zeus, following Prometheus’ shenanigans, being distinctly unimpressed – “and from that time He was always mindful of the trick, and would not give the power of unwearying fire to the Melian race of mortal men who live on the Earth.”
[561-564, Evelyn-White translation]
Which shows that even in the event that it is Prometheus rather than Phoroneus that has the First Flame – humanity, such as it is, are the Sons of the Meliae.
And, for completeness … the reporting (in polemical purpose) by the Christian, Clement of Alexandria, in his ‘Protrepticus’ [‘Exhortation’ .. to leave the ancestral Greek religion, and become Christian]:
“I cannot help wondering, therefore, what delusive fancies could have led astray those who were the first to be themselves deceived, and the first also, by the laws they established for the worship of accursed daemons, to proclaim their superstition to mankind.
I mean such men as the well-known Phoroneus, or Merops, or others like them, who set up temples and altars to the daemons, and are also said in legend to have been the first to offer sacrifices.”
[III 38, Butterworth translation]
Now why have I gone to all of that effort quoting those various occurrences and sources?
To demonstrate that i) this Son of the Ash as a progenitor for a rather pointed swathe of Humanity toward the start of the ‘Current Cycle’ was a belief – and one with some prominence at the time;
ii) That this was not just in Argos, but even being held prominent by a Christian in Alexandria attempting to use well-known mythic ‘touchstones’ in his evangelism efforts.
But also iii) that this particular figure had a suite of associations which are rather familiar to those of us over here in the Hindusphere when it comes to ‘First Man Following Cataclysmic Flood’ conceptry. More on that in a moment.
Part Two – ‘Original Crime’, Hesiod’s Cosmogony, And The Furious Force Of The Hindu Cosmos Comparatively Considered
First, let’s switch mythemes and head back on into Hesiod:
“Then the Son from His ambush stretched forth His left hand and in His right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off His Own Father’s members and cast them away to fall behind Him. And not vainly did they fall from His hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the Seasons moved round She bore the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless Earth. And so soon as He had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden”
[Theogony, Evelyn-White Translation]
Now, as a brief refresher on a few points contained therein – that’s Kronos carrying out a particular deed against Ouranos; and the sickle in question is actually a Harpe (ἅρπη). Interesting, on a side-note, that the same term can also refer to a Raptor … given that it’s declared to be not ‘flint’, but ‘adamantine’ (ἀδάμαντι) in its composition (i.e. ‘unbreakable’, ‘unconquerable’ or ‘unstoppable’ more figuratively) and ‘saw-toothed’ (καρχαρόδοντα – indeed, ‘Carcharodon’, the modern taxonymic for the Great White Shark is directly coterminous) in form. Not that much like an ordinary sickle, you would have to say – even before we get into the fact that a Harpe is, strictly speaking, a curved (or hooked) sword rather than an agricultural implement (hence, in part, its Bird of Prey crossover of nomenclature – akin to ‘Grypes’ and ‘Gryphon’ for the Curved (Sharp) Beak).
Where am I going with that?
Well, we have long sought to argue that the Harpe, the Adamantium Harpe, showing up in archaic Greek myth … is, in fact, a Thunderbolt. A Vajra. Whether that wielded by Indra (or Thor) – in the case of the Weapon of Perseus (a Striker/Thunderer deific expression / resonance – PIE *Per-, ‘To Strike’ being literally right there in the name even afore we begin to consider the suite of mythic coterminities between Perseus and others of His Clade); or of the kind, perhaps, more akin to that wielded by Rudra (c.f RV II 33 3 for His being armed with a Vajra directly and by name – and various other places wherein it is the Arrow of Rudra, particularly that *Three-Arrow* [TriKanda] that is the Thunderbolt [c.f SBr III 4 4, for instance]).
A Vajra is, after all, a byword for ‘irresistible force’ – and, for that matter, for being ‘unbreakable’ (hence why it has (also) come to mean ‘Diamond’ in subsequent linguistic development over the millennia); whilst the ‘saw-tooth’ descriptor (assuming, for the moment, that the underlying etymology of ‘Karcharos’ doesn’t simply point toward ‘hard’ (viz. Sanskrit ‘karkara’ (कर्कर)) for a tautology of sorts in the blade’s descriptor) – well, we might tentatively contemplate the jaggedness of Lightning in this particular regard.
Now as for why this confrontation between Kronos and Ouranos – well, Hesiod again:
“But vast Earth groaned within, being straitened, and She thought a crafty and an evil wile. Forthwith She made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told Her plan to Her dear Sons. And She Spoke, cheering Them, while She was vexed in Her dear heart: “My Children, gotten of a sinful Father, if You will obey Me, We should punish the vile outrage of your Father; for He first thought of doing shameful things.” So She Said; but fear seized Them all, and none of Them uttered a word. But great Cronos the wily took courage and answered His dear Mother: “Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our Father of evil name, for He first thought of doing shameful things.”
[Theogony, Evelyn-White translation]
How does this connect to the Origin of Man, per the ancient Indo-European mythic perspective?
Let us quote a most particular accounting from the Aitareya Brahmana:
“Prajapati thought of cohabiting with His own Daughter, whom some call “Heaven,” [Diva] others “ Dawn,” (Ushas). He transformed Himself into a buck of a kind of deer (ris’ya), whilst His Daughter assumed the shape of a female deer (rohit).
He approached her.
The Gods saw it (crying) “ Prajapati commits an act never done (before).” (In order to avert the evil consequences of this incestuous act) the Gods inquired for some one who might destroy the evil consequences (of it).
Among Themselves They did not find any one who might do that (atone for Prajapati’s crime). They then put the most fearful bodies (for the Gods have many bodies) of Theirs in One.
This aggregate of the most fearful bodies of the Gods became a God Bhutavan by name. For he who knows this name only, is born.
The Gods said to Him, “ Prajapati has committed an act which He ought not to have committed. Pierce this (the incarnation of His evil deed).”
So He did.
He then said, “ I will choose a boon from You.”
They said, “ Choose.”
He then chose as His boon sovereignty over cattle. That is the reason that His name is pas’uman, i. e. having cattle. He who knows on this earth only this name (pas’uman), becomes rich in cattle.
He (Bhutavan) attacked Him (the incarnation of Prajapati’s evil deed) and pierced Him (with an arrow).
After having pierced Him He sprang up (and became a constellation). They call Him mriga, i. e. deer (stars in the Orion), and Him who killed that being (which sprang from Prajapati’s misdeeds), mriga vyadha, i.e. hunter of the deer (name of star).
The female deer Rohit (into which Prajapati’s Daughter had been transformed) became (the constellation) Rohini. The arrow (by which the phantom of Prajapati’s sin was pierced) which had three parts (shaft, steel, and point) became such an arrow (in the sky). The sperm which had been poured forth from Prajapati, flew down on the earth and became a lake. The Gods said, “ May this sperm of Prajapati not be spoilt (ma dushat)” This became the madusham. This name madusha is the same as manusha, i. e. man. For the word manusha, i. e. man, means “ one who should not be spoiled” (madushan). This (madusha) is a (commonly) unknown word. For the gods like to express themselves in such terms unknown (to men.)”
[Aitareya Brahmana, III, 33 – Haug translation]
Now, several points ought immediately present themselves for our consideration. However before we get to those it is necessary to more properly ‘introduce’ the above myth. Most particularly with regard to its proper understanding when viewed within Hellenic terms.
The general underlying myth here is one wherein the Sky Father carries out a bloody sanction against the would-be defiler of His Wife. We can tell this via a number of elements which are present (either directly or inferentially) in various of the recountings that have come down to us from distant antiquity.
Multiple Hellenic sources reference a myth wherein a certain figure by the name of Actaeon sought to steal that famed romantic partner of Zeus, Semele – and so was ‘put to the hounds’ for his sin. We reference this here as it is the same myth in core details as that we have just encountered. The Star that is Rudra in the Hindu astrological perspective here – Sirius – is well-known for just such a role (we additionally find linkages for both Zeus (Ikmaios) and Apollo in relation to this Star, as we have discussed at some length, elsewhere).
Yet when we speak of Actaeon, most would instead think of Artemis … that Female Counterpart to Apollo, Who is, nevertheless, defended via the precise application of Hounds as a problem-solving approach, that tear limb-from-limb Actaeon – who has been transformed into a stag, just as Prajapati (Brahma) becomes Mrga-shaped.
There are other myths we might draw upon to illustrate the point; yet that is not the time for this. And we shall instead satiate ourselves by noting that the Hindu perception preserves also in Puranic form (as well as in the Shruti) this narrative – yet in the later texts makes it more clear for us that it is Rudra acting to defend His Wife against the depredations or simple disrespect of His Father-In-Law. Even the myths around the ill-starred horse-sacrifice of Daksha (and the consequent immolation of Sati) may contain some ‘echo’ of this.
All of which abundantly assist us in explicating just why it is that this Goddess is, in the above-quoted Brahmana, hailed as ‘Diva’ rather than only Ushas. Diva (a term occurrent also in the SBr I 7 4 1 iteration of the incident) being the female form of ‘Dyaus’.
And Dyaus, as we all know, also being Rudra.
The reason that we deliberately draw out this aforementioned scenario of the Goddess being hailed as both Diva and Ushas – is that we are reminded of the hailings (and other details) utilized for certain deific personages encountered in that Hesiodian (and other Classical) presentation.
The figure borne out of the waters where those drops of Ouranian provenance come to rest is, of course, Aphrodite – widely regarded as being a Hellenic ‘refraction’ (in terms of character, if not nomenclature) of Proto-Indo-European h₂éwsōs … otherwise known as Ushas.
The situation of λεῦκος (‘Leukos’) being deployed in the relevant passage of Hesiod in direct connection to this figure within the ‘foam’, further serves to confirm that ‘Light’, ‘Shining’, is what we are looking (also a cognate – all from PIE *Lewk) at here. The ‘Argia’ (‘Bright’) utilized as an alternate hailing for ‘Melia’ makes for an interesting additional detail (it is cognate with the ‘Arian’ (Silver) of the Welsh – whence the name of that certain celestial Goddess, Arianhod). And ‘Diva’, as one ought presume – is the female counterpart to ‘Dyaus’, and therefore, Divine, ‘Bright Sky’ Illumination. It all fits together most eminently correctly.
Except for the slight difficulty that Hesiod’s account has Kronos contra Ouranos – not Zeus contra Kronos (or, for that matter, Zeus contra Ouranos).
The simplest explanation is probably that something has ‘doubled up’ within the Greek schema. And so, instead of the singular conflict (if multifariously refracted) occasioned in the Vedas and preserved amongst the Stars – we find the same basic incident perhaps in both Kronos contra Ouranos, as with Zeus contra Kronos. There are no doubt other possibilities – but it is not our purpose herein to get into them.
One further detailing that we will draw attention to, however, comes from one of those aforementioned Pauranika accounts:
“We have heard, O Kshatriya, that Svayambhu (Brahma) had a passion for Vach, His slender and enchanting Daughter, Who had no passion for Him. The Munis, His Sons, headed by Marichi, seeing Their Father bent upon wickedness, admonished Him with affection :
‘This is such a thing as has never been done by those before You, nor will those after You do it, — that You, being the Lord, should sexually approach Your Daughter, not restraining your passion. This, O Preceptor of the World, is not a laudable deed even in glorious personages, through imitation of Whose actions men attain felicity. Glory to that divine being (Vishnu) Who by His Own Lustre revealed this [universe] which abides in Himself, — He must maintain righteousness.’
Seeing His Sons, the Prajapatis, thus speaking before Him, the Lord of the Prajapatis (Brahma) was ashamed, and abandoned His body. This dreadful body the regions received, and it is known as foggy darkness.”
[Bhagavata Purana III 12, 28-33, as presented by Muir]
Now, clearly, this is a heavily bowdlerized take – as instead of being killed (even if temporarily – maimed or injured, perhaps) by the Divine Avenger [Rudra – also hailed as Vastospati in the RV, etc.] conjured forth from the collective Wrath (Outrage) of the Gods [c.f the situation also reported in Hesiod] … we have a figure being castigated by Munis, and then being sufficiently embarrassed to ‘abandon His body’. Which, it would have to be said, being slain with an axe or with an arrow is … a bit different to – even if both do, of course, involve ‘giving up one’s body’ in the end.
We would also observe that it is Vishnu that is said, here, to be the necessary ‘maintainer of righteousness’ – as we would expect, given the Purana in question is a Vaishnava one. Although this is, needless to say, decidedly not how things are presented in the more archaic Vaidika forms to the tale.
It is intriguing to note the saliency of Vak here – and this corroborates the long-running observation we have held viz. Vak in relation to the Sky Father, to various of His Forms. But more upon that elsewhere and at some other point in elocution.
Our major interest here is, instead, that last pertinent detail – “This dreadful body the regions received, and it is known as foggy darkness.” With the words being translated there presumably incorporating ‘Nihara’ (i.e. ‘Fog’, ‘Mist’ – and also, intriguingly, a sense of ‘ejection’); and forming a rather useful ‘signposting’ for just what is connoted viz. ‘Ouranos’ – likely derived from PIE *h₁wers-, referring to ‘rain’ (and a few other terms involving moisture being disseminated, to put it politely).
But we are digressing off into the Mists of the Astral – our prime purpose here had been to sketch out how the Race of Indo-European Man having a decidedly Arboreal genesis from the womb of Melia (the Ash) ought be presented as ‘plausible’. (If, as ever, only ‘one perspective’ and ‘one picture’ of the panoply – myths in the Indo-European schema are rarely to be taken as ‘literal’ and ‘unilateral’ texts that have ‘The Whole Truth’. But rather, to illustrate something of particular importance – one ‘facet’ to the greater (and far less transparent) whole).
Part Three – The Children of Fury
The concluding portion to Aitareya Brahmana III 33 has, as we have encountered, a most curious detail – linking ‘madusha’ to ‘manusha’ and declaring these to be, functionally, the same. This is not so much ‘folk etymology’ as that particular and peculiar ‘encoding’ of meaning common within the Vedas … and most especially the Brahmanas. It is one reason why ‘Scriptural Literalism’ is a Very Bad Idea Indeed.
‘Manusha’, here, as it is ‘Man’, is clearly from PIE *Men (‘Mental Activity’, ‘Spirit’) – a term that also shows up not only for humanity (per one likely rooting for ‘Man’ – as ‘Thinking Being’), but also for ‘Furor’ (viz. Ancient Greek – ‘Menos’; Sanskrit ‘Manyu’ – also a hailing for Rudra, for reasons that ought appear readily apparent; note also ‘Odr’, from different root, but with commensurate meaning, and also cited in relation to an ‘Ash-Man’, per the Voluspa). It is particularly pertinent for that certain Deific Who springs from Prajapati – whether Manyu (as aforementioned – and the SataRudriya presentation in the Shatapatha Brahmana makes active use of this terminology for Him), or Minerva (see my previous work connecting Athena to Rudra in exactly this manner via theology as well as etymology; Wielders of the Spear, indeed!); and also shows up amidst the nomenclature for those *other* furious avenger / enforcer of Cosmic Order figures – the Eumenides (‘Eu-Menis’ … ostensibly the ‘Good Spirits’ (or, at least, the (hopefully) more favourably disposed forms to the Erinyes clade) – although we would (also) observe ‘Menis’ in relation to the feared ‘Menis’ (‘Rage’) of Achilles etc.).
We would contend that here, ‘Manusha’ – well, the *Men term, at any rate – is perhaps *also* being utilized in a broad sense to mean ‘Spirits’, in the sense of that thing which renders matter alive … ‘Beings’, perhaps – hence the ‘Bhutavan’ hailing for Rudra given what comes next in the Aitareya Brahmana. Which we shall spare the lengthy quotation and exegesis of – but suffice to say it involves the Maruts in attendance, the direct potency of (Bright) Agni Vaishvanara, and the congealment also of several rather prominent clades of Gods and Sages (most particularly – the Solar classes of Aditya and the Adityas, as applies the former; the ‘Red-Coal’ Angirases as applies the latter – and that term is also one salient for Dawn and Dusk elsewhere, as we intend to cover in a future piece).
However, Manusha more directly most definitely does mean ‘Man’ – and we shall more closely examine that element in shortly-to-be-following due course.
We would also briefly remark upon the situation of the invocation given therein – which asks for the living beings doing the invoking to be separated out from the dominion of Rudra (here hailed as ‘Rudriya’ so as to avoid pronouncing His Dread Theonymic directly) … by which it is meant the Domain of Death (where one is “cut off from beholding the Sun”). We mention this as it may provide a clue as to just why the Sky Father became ‘separated’ between ‘Bright’ (Dyaus, Zeus, Jupiter, etc.) and ‘Lord of Death’ Aspects or Facings – not least due to the quite prominent ‘possessive’ descriptors found elsewhere in the verse. Those that make Lord Rudra, quite directly, a most Wealthy (Pluto, Dis Pater) Lord, indeed!
But let us bring things back to Hesiod:
“But vast Earth groaned within, being straitened, and She thought a crafty and an evil wile. Forthwith She made the element of grey flint and shaped a great sickle, and told Her plan to Her dear Sons. And She Spoke, cheering Them, while She was vexed in Her dear heart: “My Children, gotten of a sinful Father, if You will obey Me, We should punish the vile outrage of your Father; for He first thought of doing shameful things.”
So She Said; but fear seized Them all, and none of Them uttered a word. But great Cronos the wily took courage and answered His dear Mother: “Mother, I will undertake to do this deed, for I reverence not our Father of evil name, for He first thought of doing shameful things.”
So He said: and vast Earth rejoiced greatly in spirit, and set and hid Him in an ambush, and put in His hands a jagged sickle, and revealed to Him the whole plot.
Then the Son from His ambush stretched forth His left hand and in His right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off His Own Father’s members and cast them away to fall behind Him. And not vainly did they fall from His hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the Seasons moved round She bore the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless Earth. And so soon as He had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden”
[Theogony, Evelyn-White Translation]
As we can see – the core elements are largely present. We find a male deific engaged in, as Haug’s rendition of the Aitareya Brahmana put it: an “act never done (before)”, an “evil deed”. We find this being held abominable by assembled other deifics – and a Goddess, in particular, outraged by it. And we find an Avenger stepping forth, armed with an unassailable weapon, in order to make things right through brutal sanction Personally delivered.
Which produces an outpouring of the ‘life-essence’, the certain liquid (whether Blood or Semen) that thence produces a flowering of Life of lesser clades and greater.
Which include the Erinyes (Furies – also ‘Avengers’ against violations of the Cosmic Order), as well as those frequently-aforementioned (inferentially, per our other work, similarly ‘furious’) Meliae. And ‘Gigantes’ equipped with radiant armour and spears – that we would tentatively suggest might be a bit different to that which is entailed in later Hellenic verses (and, indeed, analogous to our Maruts – the Kouretes) … but more upon that some other time.
Part Four – The Men Of Ash And Fire
Now, where are we going with this.
Well, that race sprung from the (wooden?) womb of Melia – Argia … is, of course, known more popularly as the people of Argos, the Argives. They are named after that Son of Phoroneus, Argos – and Phoroneus, as you shall recall, the Argives (and others) held to be the bearer of the First Fire … utilizing this, we can make just presumption, in Holy Rites – and likely, in particular in the worship of the Goddess, Hera, that He is said to have engaged in (indeed, would appear to have brought (back) into the World).
We are also reminded of that verse of Pausanias that we had quoted earlier:
“Next to this statue is a fire which they keep burning, calling it the fire of Phoroneus. For they do not admit that fire was given to mankind by Prometheus, but insist in assigning the discovery of fire to Phoroneus.”
[II 19 5, Jones and Ormerod translation]
Why are we reminded of all of this?
Because, dear reader, that Aitareya Brahmana section wherein the results of this deed are the manifestation of the Manusha (i.e. ‘Man’) … is immediately followed by that aforementioned enumeration of further Beings pro-generated via the occurrence. Which includes not only such overtly Solar figures as Aditya (the Sun) and the Adityas (the ‘Solars’), Bhrigu (that famed fire-bearer, linked also to Shukra (‘Bright’ – Venus), and, per suggestion of N. Mukhopādhyāyaḥ, etymologically derived ultimately from PIE *bhereg-, ‘To Shine’ ) Who is promptly adopted by Varuna (A ‘River’ God, indeed – ref. Phoroneus in relation to His similar parentage), and the Angiras (as well as Brihaspati, upon the coals flaring up again).
The purport of this is quite readily apparent.
Manu, the First Man following the Flood, is an Order-bringer – as is Phoroneus. Manu is also a Priest, a Sacrificer – and that is also, as we have seen, the case for Phoroneus. Via Fire.
Something similarly quite directly hailed via the occurrence for Bhrigu and the Angiras in the subsequent lines. As these are, after all, heavily ‘priestly’ terms (even if ‘Angiras’ is a rather … broad one in Vedic ambit). And, as we have seen, heavily – indeed intimately – connected with those pertaining to Fire.
In short: the same event which gives rise to those groupings aforementioned in the Vedic sphere (at least, per the Aitareya Brahmana’s accounting at III 33-34 – there are most certainly others), and which is recognizably that being recounted by Hesiod in his Theogony … should also appear quite closely causally connected to that eventuation that provides the First Man (Phoroneus), First Sacrificer, Fire-bearer, within the Argive (Greek) realm. Something that attains additional prominency when we consider, as Ilaria Andolfi put it in their ‘Acusilaus of Argos’ Rhapsody in Prose’ that, as “Homeric usage testifies, when speaking about the most ancient times, “Argive” and “Greek” overlapped in meaning […] In other words, the Greeks living in the most distant past were all Argive, and Phoroneus was the first man to set foot on Greek soil”.
Now it is a frequent custom for the Indo-Europeans to take a name that is, effectively, a patronymic (or matronymic) of sorts (although in various cases, we may infer it to be a ‘reverse formulation’ .. the name of the forebear becomes (re-)constructed from the name the grouping of his (or her) descendants gives themselves) … one that also connotes something important, something ‘functional’ as to them and their self-perception, perhaps.
The most prominent exemplar being, of course, Man – Manu and Mannus (in the Latinized presentation of the Germanic progenitor), viz. PIE *Men, and being, quite literally, the rooting for terms like ‘Mankind’ [‘Kind[red] of Man[nus]’]. We have also contemplated ‘Aescling’ in relation to being descended from Askr – the Ash … and yet also, potentially, bearing with it the connotation of being the ‘Spear-Men’.
With the Argives, I would surmise it to be not different. Their ethnonym is from PIE *h₂erǵ- – a term which, whilst it does give us words for ‘Silver’ (ref. ‘Argentum’ … and ‘Argentinian’ from the same root; as is ‘Arjuna’), is also a term for ‘Bright’ and ‘Glittering’. We might contemplate the Proto-Germanic *Erknaz in this (fire-)light, due to its utilization to refer to something ‘Holy’ – given the clear saliency for the Fire, the Brightness in question, in relation to Faith and its tangible exercise through ritual occurrence.
‘Argive’, therefore, we might sensibly construe as being the ‘Men of Fire’ – ‘Shining Ones’ of a different sort.
Whilst not so directly connected via etymological rooting, we might also ponder ‘Argos’ / ‘Argive’ in loose confederation with PIE *h₂ergʰ-, as in ‘Begin’ (consider ‘Archaeo-‘, ‘Archaic’, and the relevant Ancient Greek ‘Arkho’), in relation to the status of the men of Argos as the ‘forerunners’, the ‘First Men’ … or at least descended *from* said First Man. ‘Of the First’, we might say – and that First being a ‘Bearer’ (‘Phoreo’ (φορέω) – habitual ‘Bearer’ – of Fire ?).
That situation of Phoroneus as a ‘Bearer’ we would prospectively connect to the familiar Sanskrit (to any Indian) of Bharata – those (Bharatas) descended from the mythic king Bharata, whence the name of the land even today in some official usage (‘Bhārat’ – ‘[kingdom] of Bharat’), just as it was utilized in RigVedic times for a particular prominent Tribe known even then.
Pointedly, we also find ‘Bharata’ in usage for Agni, and particular figures descended of Him. This makes RV II 36 2 rather interesting, as it hails the Maruts as being ‘Bharatasya Sunavah’ – the Sons of Bharata, with this (logically) understood by Sayana as correlating with ‘Bharata’ also as a theonymic of Rudra. Given Rudra is also Agni, this makes a certain, logical sense. Although we might also interpret the verse in question in a rather more ‘figurative’ light – that of referring to the Bharata in question as the ‘[Fire-]Bearer’, a Priestly title, and therefore the invoked Maruts as being his ‘Sons’. This is, certainly, commensurate with the presentation of Agni as Bhārata – in the sense of having been brought and incepted (‘sparked’) by the Priests; another approach instead (and likely non-exclusively) harbouring Agni as ‘Bharata’ due to the necessity of the Fire’s being ‘kept alive’ or ‘maintained’ (‘borne’, we might suggest) by (a particular class of) men. For the sake of completeness, it may prove interesting to note the sense of ‘Bharata’ as an ‘Actor’ – one who ‘bears’ a role’ – in relation to the Priestly situation, which can require ‘donning the Masque’ of the God(s) thusly invoked. The other sense, of Agni as ‘Bharata’ precisely because it is He Who bears the sacrifice upward within His Flames, is also rather profound. Although not necessarily so directly related to our core observation here.
Which is, of course, that this general ethnonymic concept-field viz. ‘Argos’ and ‘Phorontes’ is indeed a plausible one – anchored upon a First Man Who ‘brings’ the Flame of Piety.
A First Man who, per various of the pertinent Hellenic accountings, should seem to be a Son of the Ash – Melia.
And, in that regard, resonating most strongly with i) the other Hellenic perspectives wherein we find figures bearing the name or epithet of ‘Meliae’ acting as Mothers (‘Matrikas’ ?) to a firsborn generation of Man; ii) the Nordic conceptualization featuring the First Man as Askr (Ash-Tree), alongside the First Woman that is, there, Elm (Embla). We might also ponder a third, somewhat looser situation, viz. the situation of Ash in each of the Classical Greek and Germanic culturo-linguistic spheres as pertaining not only to the Tree … but quite directly via the same terminology to the Spears made therefrom. Which would therefore posit these Men as being ‘Sons of the Spear’ (and we note the most famous Weapon which the All-Father, and Rudra (but, then, I repeat myself) wield…). And make for a rather intriguing consideration when we come to the figure of ‘Shakti’ ( शक्ति ) … wherein exactly the same term means ‘Spear’ as well as that divine Feminine Energy (and the great Goddess by such a name). ‘Sons of Shakti’ certainly has an intriguing ring to it.
Indeed, in terms of this later dimension – we are reminded of the circumstance of that most famous of Ash-Trees, Yggdrasil, as Axis Mundi. Fittingly, (as applies ‘Hoddmímis holt’) the place where the first humans of the next cycle of creation shall also emerge from, following the Fire and Flood which correspondingly marks the passing of the Worlds in the Nordic ‘Pralaya’ (‘Unravelling’) equivalent – Ragnarok. We say we are reminded of that third point in the above suite of conceptry, due to the situation of the Goddess in relation to Axis Mundi … which also, funnily enough, resonates with the positioning of Shiva’s Trishula (with attached Damaru) as just exactly that. ‘His Shakti’, indeed.
Perhaps we might even contemplate the notion of the (Ash) Tree being invoked precisely because it contains within it the ‘secret’ which is Fire – rubbing together two sticks [Arani] to produce such, in the manner we have extolled in relation to Agni in a ritual context in recent previous work. The First Fire-bearer, First Priest, being descended from a previous Fire-Bearer that is … well, rather more ‘wooden’ in consistency. To this we might append observance that the Kamika Agama (Purva Pada), after all, contains hailing for Vagishvari Shakti [the Lady / Empress of Speech – Power] and Vagishvara Shiva [Shiva, the Lord / Emperor / Controller of Divine Speech] in such a manner – producing a ‘Fire-Child’, no less, through its process – a circumstance as to which the sage Angiras had remarked: “the rite culminates in the initiate’s rebirth through vAgIshvara & vAgIshvarI”.
Part Five – The Roman (Silvan) ‘Warlike Men of Bronze’ ?
Now, at this juncture we must of course acknowledge that there are an array of ‘gaps’ or ‘dysjunctions’ between the various myths that are not entirely accounted for. Not least of which being that there are comparatively better-known ‘major’ renditions for certain of the events in question which present decidedly different views. The telling for Manu’s origination wherein He is Son of Surya and Saranyu / Chhaya, for instance (a tale that finds interesting ‘refraction’ and resonancy in both the myths around Poseidon in pursuit of Demeter Erinyes, as well as that concerning Zeus and Nemesis / Leda, as we have detailed capaciously elsewhere).
We are also left with a lack of direct linkage for Melia to the circumstances presented in the Theogony – there can be little doubt that it is inferentially linkable, upon the basis of various shared details between these narratives (particularly once ‘triangulated’ via the Hindu comparanda); yet we also must grapple with the fact that Hesiod has pertinent events at differing phases of his ‘Ages of Man’. The deed recounted in the Theogony should appear to be, due to the saliency of Kronos, in what he would have held to be the ‘Golden Age’ (or shortly prior thereto); whilst the situation of the Meliae that are Mothers to the warlike Men of Bronze occurs in the eponymous later age … some time prior to the famed Flood which is survived by (per the dominant narrative) only Deucalion and Pyrrha (note the ‘Fiery’ meaning to the name of ‘Pyrrha’ – and the continuation of this theme viz. Thyia, a term which by both application and etymology ought connote ‘Fiery-Sacrifice(r)’).
We can only suggest that just as the role of Kronos in the conflict in the relevant portion of Theogony against Ouranos appears to ‘resonate’ with that of Rudra (Dyaus Pitar – the Sky Father) in Hindu understanding (and, for that matter, roles for Zeus and other clear Sky Father deific expressions in other Hellenic presentations of identifiably the same myth) … so, too, should this suggest that something has become ‘telescoped’ – and that the situation in question can indeed be temporally located (or loka-lized) toward the very start of this particular Cycle of Creation (however broadly we are taking that particular term – there are, potentially, as we know from the Hindusphere, ‘cycles within cycles’ also). Although then again – the very fact of that phrasing: ‘Cycle of Creation’, quite naturally implicates that certain events ‘recur’ … and so perhaps that might present an alternate vector for ‘reconciliation’ of the competing temporal narratives, identities, and affixions.
Yet all of the aforementioned are, in effect, relatively minor obstacles. We can detect the ‘broad outline’ to proceedings – even if some of the finer details or precise points between elements remain less immediately cohesive. More interestingly, we can also then seek to deploy our newfound typological framework to analyze other Indo-European myths of potential pertinence to us as well.
One obvious one being that of the Romans – wherein the Progenitor Twins (Romulus and Remus / Iemus – better-known in the East as Manu and Yama) have as Their Mother a certain Rhea Silva (‘Silva’, as in ‘Woodland’, ‘Forest’; and with a Grove relating to a notable Spear-wielder (Mars) featuring at the conception), and also arrive on a rushing water with a River divinity (Father Tiber) rather prominently hailed in relation to the ‘Wood’ named Mother. It is clear that various elements have differentiated expression from that typology we might feasibly extract from the scenario of Phoroneus and Aegialeus (and/or Phegeus / Pegeus) – there, it is the River God Inachus as Father directly and Melia (Argia) as Mother, the water is a Flood rather than the fearful threat of forcible drowning in a river, and it is the foundation of civilization and humanity in the thence-ensuing Next Cycle of the World rather than the foundation of a city which is the storied deed of the progenitor man.
We have elsewhere explored (during the course of the ‘Sons of the Sun’ series) some likely reasons for why Rome’s foundational mythology had shifted in various particulars. At the time, I had inferred that the ‘original’ position (leaving aside that circumstance of ‘Rhomos’ – a Son of Odysseus and Circe as eponymous founder of the place that was de-emphasized for obvious reasons) likely had a ‘Waters’ linked God as the Father of the Twins (we would also note the situation of Poseidon and Demeter Erinyes in relation to that of Surya and Saranyu / Chhaya; these later figures being the Parents of Yama and Manu, in strongly coterminous circumstances to the Classical pairing just previously mentioned).
My summation as to just why the Romans might have altered their own foundational mythology as applies the paternity of the Progenitor Twins being for much the same reason as that underpinning the aforementioned de-emphasis of Rhomos. That being a desire to distance themselves from a rival culture – in this case, the neighbouring Falisci … who ascribed their own foundation to a Halese, Son of Neptune (Neptune having a much stronger ‘riverine’ association in the archaic Italic Indo-European perspective); and who had also fought a protracted series of bitter conflicts against the Romans, the last of which had wound up not much before the first major sources detailing the Romulus and Remus narrative that have come down to us were being produced in earnest.
Hence, instead of Father Tiber being, quite literally, Father … this God occurs as the Husband of Rhea Silva – but married subsequent to the events that give rise to the Twins, and ‘Father’ to Rome in a much more figurative (yet still vital) sense. And in His Place, we instead find a War God … with all the extensive suite of virtues and values and self-justifying (self-fulfilling) civilizational metanarrative that claiming you are the Sons of Mars ought bring with it.
Various of which, if you have been paying attention – are not at all removed from those characteristics that Hesiod had as those defining the Men of the Bronze, the Sons of the Ash (we would say the Sons of the Spear and Spear-Nymphs):
“Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees ; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armor was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron.”
[Works and Days, 140-156, Evelyn-White translation]
The only difference being that we meet the Romans rather further into their technological development (i.e. post-Bronze Age) – oh, and they also ate bread. And had a rather more ‘regimented’ interpretation as to the “lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence” than the frequent Greek perception of Ares, because Mars is just exactly that.
Which does, of course, also imply that the ‘side of the family’ that these ‘martial’ and bellicose traits have been inherited from has ‘shifted’ also – whereas the Meliae, precisely because They are Spear-Nymphs (and c.f Their memorable outings amidst the War-Hosts of Dionysus, for instance) are rather pointedly well-armed (it’s in the name!) and adroit at violence (even, inferentially, Furious ?) … I am not sure that there is a similar Roman perception of Rhea Silva.
Part Six – The Milk Of Victory For The Race Of Mars
Although having said that – it is intriguing to consider the other major saliency for the Ash-Nymphs within the Classical comparanda : as the Nurses (or, perhaps, sacral attendants) upon most mighty divinity indeed.
This is as we should expect – the ‘Meli’ (μέλῐ) of ‘Melia’ is ‘Sweetness’, and connects to the ‘Honeydew’ which collates upon the Ash. It also should seem to represent a Western IE understanding for the Empowering Elixir that we, in the Indo-European East of the Hindusphere, would know as something along the lines of Panchamrut (in a modern ritual context) – or Soma. We can tell this because we find fairly direct attestation in the Nordic textual sphere for just such a cognate understanding.
To quote from the Gylfaginning:
“It is further said that these Norns who dwell by the Well of Urdr take water of the well every day, and with it that clay which lies about the well, and sprinkle it over the Ash, to the end that its limbs shall not wither nor rot; for that water is so holy that all things which come there into the well become as white as the film which lies within the egg-shell,–as is here said:
I know an Ash standing | called Yggdrasill,
A high tree sprinkled | with snow-white clay;
Thence come the dews | in the dale that fall–
It stands ever green | above Urdr’s Well.
That dew which falls from it onto the earth is called by men honey-dew, and thereon are bees nourished. Two fowls are fed in Urdr’s Well: they are called Swans, and from those fowls has come the race of birds which is so called.”
And, to quote myself from elsewhere:
“[The] word being utilized to translate as ‘clay’ – ‘auri’ – isn’t exactly ‘clay’, but rather connotes a wet substance (in fact, given the white liquid of the relevant Wellspring of Urðr is the key ingredient, the Bellows translation not unreasonably has ‘Water’ in lieu of ‘Clay’ there for the libation); and to my mind, recalls our smearing of the ShivLing with light-coloured ritual unguents – or, for that matter, the rather thicker nature of a Panchamrut [Panchamrit – Five-Element Amrit] libation due to the yoghurt / curd etc. involved (along with the Honey, jaggery (raw cane sugar), ghee, and of course, the milk … a pointedly white liquid of life).”
In that Nordic context, it is an oblation carried out to / upon the Axis Mundi – the idea being to shore it up, to help it to rejuvenate from the damages it takes from those anti-Order, anti-Divine forces daily grinding upon it with their calumnious iniquity. The mythic iteration outlined above should surely find direct co-expression when it comes to the ritualistic worship utilizing the Irminsul of Odin.
(As a brief aside, a folk-way observed even after Christianization in parts of Sweden was the propitiation of the ‘Askafroa’ [‘Frau of the Ash’] spirits that were said to live in Ash trees through the offering of a libation poured upon the roots of the (Her) tree, peculiarly on the morning of Ash Wednesday – although we can presume that that dating for the observance is a Christian development. This was held necessary due to the rather baleful character of the Ash-Wives in question – hence the necessity for Their propitiation in order to avoid widespread harm and calamity. Sounding a bit familiar to a few Faces we have met elsewhere afore – whether the Matrikas in Trees (and at Crossroads) of the Hindusphere … or, for that matter, part of the purposing for the Satiation of Rudra via relevant rites in the first place. And, of course, that presented-as-malefic occurrence for the Sons of the Ash in Hesiod, etc. …)
In the Hindu context, the correlate observance for this daily deed of the Norns involves the oblations carried out upon the ShivLing – which is a Post or a Stone that has, within it, Lord Shiva (whether invoked into the focal point in order to receive the offering – or permanently invested therein via His Own Will … and in some cases, such as the Banalingam, with His Wife also housed Therein – as the Meteoric Iron component, no less!).
There are clear Classical cognates for this notion of the Sky Father deific finding tangible expression for ritualine purpose within a Post or a Stone – the Iuppiter Lapis [‘Jupiter Stone’] springs instantly to mind, and we might inferentially also suggest the Omphalos stone(s) famous of Delphi in similar fashion. These include, after all, the purported ‘doublet’ for the Infant Zeus – expressed out of Kronos in a not entirely dissimilar fashion to the expression out of the Manyu by Prajapati in the course of the SataRudriya conceptry of the SBr … with the major difference, of course, that Kronos expelled from Himself a stone that looked like Zeus, Prajapati expelled a God that is also in the course of His rite, propitiated in stone form. And it is not at all hard to perceive how these two situations may very plausibly have been originally but one. Just … different elements having ‘remained’ emphasized in the Classical sphere, whilst others, perhaps, have fallen away or not come down to us in the interim.
However, our purpose here is not a comparative ritual exegesis. It is to deal with the mythic – specifically the origin mythic, and in direct reference to the Ash-Nymphs in a Maternal role.
So, to bring it back thereto …
The actual Infant Zeus (rather than the stone doublet – deposited at Delphi along the way) is smuggled to the safety of a secret site. The Dictaean mountains in Crete, also spoken of as Mt Ida, in terms of the (mythic) locale. There, His cries are masqued by the warlike sounds of the Kouretes in performance of a martial, armour-upon-weapon clashing dance – and no doubt, similar ‘distraction’ from the Corybantes spoken of (for instance in Callimachus’ First Hymn: to Zeus) in similar proximity. This we would connect to the situation of , in the Shatapatha Brahmana, the freshly-emanated Rudra (Manyu) having an assembled coterie of heavily armed companions Whom we may infer to have been engaged in similar high-volume expression, whilst the main Rudra bellowed (as any infant does) for Feeding.
To quote from the SBr directly (at least, in translation):
” And the other drops that fell down, spread over these worlds in countless numbers, by thousands; and inasmuch as They originated from crying (rud), They were called Rudras (roarers). That hundred-headed, thousand-eyed, hundred-quivered Rudra, with His Bow strung, and His Arrow fitted to the string, was inspiring fear, being in quest of food. The Gods were afraid of Him.”
[IX 1 1 6, Eggeling translation]
We would also draw attention to, in the Aitareya Brahmana accounting of Rudra’s Emanation (with which we had incepted much of the substantive matter of this piece, way above), the attested presence of the Maruts [per III 34 – 35] there likewise. Although this is not the time for me to delve in-depth into my belief of the Kouretes and Maruts being much-of-a-muchness in archaic (Proto-)Indo-European perspective in key aspects. Not least as these figures are somewhat peripheral to our major purpose here. Which is, of course, the examination of the Ash-Nymphs in Their role – spoken of in the Callimachus Hymnal aforementioned, as the “companions of the Cyrbantes [Korybantes]” [Mair and Loeb translation], and inferentially ‘Female Counterparts to’ or ‘Wives (… or ‘Girlfriends’) of’.
In any case, where I am going with this particular thread is, perhaps surprisingly, rather simple. The feature of these Meliae is, it would seem, a ‘different expression of the similar understanding’ to that found for the ‘Ash-Nymphs’ known as the Norns in the Northern sphere – the provision of a white empowering oblation to a figure essential for the upholding of Order within the Worlds. One that may so happen to be found in a Post or Tree. Perhaps like that Omphalos found at Delphi …
In the case of the Classical sphere, it should seem quite logical to seek to link this to the ‘Ambrosia’ and ‘Nectar’ provided by Athena to Achilles in Book XIX of the Iliad. Certainly, there is an admirable ‘preservation’ feature also in evidence for these most mystical of liquids elsewhere in that same source (where it is applied to the body of Patroclus) – and this is as we should expect. ‘Ambrosia’ is ‘Immortality’, ‘Nectar’ is ‘[Preserving] Through Death’ – to give the cognate / translation renderings for the Ancient Greek terminology.
These correlate – unsurprisingly – to the Mead of Poetry (Kvasir – That Which Is Pressed) in the Nordic sphere (brought, no less, by Odin as an Eagle … just as Athena as a Falcon of Flame does so in the above-aforementioned; and, of course, as Agni-Rudra does viz. Soma (‘That Which Is Pressed’) as Suparna / Shyena (Falcon / Hawk) … and in more overtly Flaming form with the ritual ‘operationalization’ of this in the Vedas). And, as applies the Vedic sphere – there we find the Amrit / Soma (the two terms are a lot more functionally coterminous than one might, perhaps, think) being utilized as something of a combat stimulant.
One which, per the exquisite labelling of the Germanic ‘Vessels of the Mead’, should seem to bestow a ‘Furor’ state (viz. ‘Odrerir’) – something corroborated via the textual descriptions in amidst other canons for Gods in the throes of its most magnificent tangible effects.
What might this mean? Well, that ‘Honeydew’ that accrues around the Meliae that are the Ash Trees (‘Spear-Juice’, perhaps we might suggest as coining a term) should seem correlate to the Empowering Elixir (indeed, ‘Madhu’ (‘Sweet’, ‘Honey’ – like ‘Meli’) and like terms are utilized directly to refer to Soma in a Vedic context) – and therefore the maternal relationship expressed between the Meliae and these ‘Men of Bronze’ acquires an additional shade of meaning. The ‘Warlike’ Men of Bronze – if nurtured and nursed upon such a substance, we are therefore entirely unsurprised that they become world-conquerors. A ‘Race of Mars’ in figurative terms, indeed!
Yet there is another dimension to the Meliae as Mothers (Matrikas ?) we ought consider – and to that we shall now turn.
Part Seven – The Branching Cosmic Law
As we had noted above, one major occurrence for the Meliae is as ‘nursemaids’ to the infant Zeus. Various tellings of this part of the myth differ in a number of respects – some should seem to have Two nursemaids to the infant Zeus, others another number. The names deployed for these figures include ‘Ida’ and ‘Adrasteia’, ‘Helice’ and ‘Cynosura’, ‘Adamantia’, and of course, Amalthea.
Strictly speaking, many will attempt to suggest that Amalthea is not one of the Nymphs – but rather, instead, the Goat Whose milk is utilized to nourish the newborn; however this is not the case in all Classical accounts (a reasonable quotient of which do hold Amaltheia to be of more anthropomorphic characteristic), and in any case, we are well-familiar in the Hindusphere and the Vedas with the notion of Goddesses (or other Divinely salient female figures) being, simultaneously, a ‘Cow’ (at least in terms of scriptural reference) yet also a ‘Nymph’ or a ‘Devi’.
Indeed, speaking of Devis – we are interested to note the citation presented in Hyginus’ Astronomica [II 13 6] from the work of Musaeus for Jupiter having been nursed by, alongside Amalthea (and Amathlea’s pet Goat), the figure of Themis.
Why? Consider this.
The scenario that gives rise to the Emanation of Rudra in the Vedas is one of a grave sin and criminal outrage being committed by Prajapati – it is a violation of Cosmic Order (Rta). And so therefore, from the collective anguish of the Gods (a literal incarnate force of Outrage, we might say – not least due to the circumstances pertaining to the Manyu in the SBr’s SataRudriya conceptry), an ‘Avenger’ is congealed – a figure, equipped with Axe or with Arrow, Who shall bring matters to a head. By which we mean decapitation of the transgressor – and the putting of ‘Corpse’ back into ‘Habeas Corpus’ (and I do not herein mean Shiva as Shava …). In this way, Prajapati might be suggested to be (perhaps somewhat figuratively – and amidst other tellings as to the relationship) the ‘father of His own misfortune’ – insofar as it is Prajapati’s sexual impropriety that leads to a ‘Son’ appearing … that Son being the formidable Rudra.
As we have observed – this situation should seem strikingly congruent with key elements of that reported by Hesiod in his Theogony. Earth declares that Ouranos has carried out a “vile outrage”, is “sinful”, and “first thought of doing shameful things”. Kronos responds to the call, volunteering to mete out Divine Punishment and Fury against His Father.
Now, as experienced readers of our work shall also instantly have thought of – this is part of a broader typology. One that tends to feature Female figures. Principally, a certain ‘Black Avenging’ Form of the Goddess – and, of course, Her Retinue of similarly arrayed fearsome spirits likewise.
Kali is the most prominent of these – and justly so; although we have also sought to highlight Demeter Erinyes / Melaina (‘The Black’) , Skadi , and other such expressions in other Indo-European pantheonic perspectives. The Retinues aforementioned being found amidst the Matrikas and Yoginis (and, of course, Rudraganikas – viz. Keshini, etc., as we have (un)covered extensively elsewhere), the Erinyes, and other such clades. With, entirely unsurprisingly, quite the ‘crossover’ between these groupings and those (whether clustered around the Sky Father deific – viz. RudraGanika again, or otherwise) that contain the Meliae. And not least the situation of those Matrikas and Yoginis being found in Trees, potentially Spear-Armed, and Raging.
Why are these Forces congealed? Because Cosmic Order has been breached – and They are Rta’s Ultimate Enforcement Clause.
What is ‘Themis’ ? Well, both the notion of Divine Order / Law amidst the Greeks – and also the Goddess that presides over and embodies Same. She Who even tells Zeus what He must not do [c.f. Antoninus Liberalis’ Metamorphoses – wherein the sanctity of a Sanctum is upheld by Her (along with the Moirai – the Fates) insisting to Zeus that He may not strike down via Thunderbolt some interlopers transgressing upon the site, as that would contravene the very sacrosanct status of the Holy Ground in question that renders it worth protecting in such a manner … He settles for transforming the mortals involved into birds instead].
Now, along with ‘Themis’, what are some of those other Names to the Nursemaids that we have aforesaid?
‘Adamantia’ – the ‘Unyielding’ (and Unconquerable); ‘Adrasteia’ – the ‘Inescapable’ … a theonymic that is, entirely uncoincidentally, also that of Nemesis (the saliency for Whom ought be readily apparent when we are speaking of Cosmic Order and the Enforcement thereof).
Indeed, we might also observe that the situation of Adrasteia relative to Artemis and Cybele might have bearing viz. Ambika (relative to Rudra), and that ‘Adamantia’ puts us suspiciously in the mind of the ‘Da-Ma-Te’ encountered in Linear B in reference to ‘Demeter’ and with connexion to Poseidon (viz. Demeter Erinyes (in relation to Kali), perhaps) – but more upon all of that some other time.
To bring things back to Hesiod – we have earlier established that where there is a Violation of the Divine Order, then the Enforcers of Divine Order should seem to quite naturally arrive. As the ‘Consequence’ thereof (again, viz. Nemesis).
So it is in the Theogony, wherein shortly following our introduction to Ouranos’ “vile outrage” , we encounter the following:
“[…] and as the Seasons moved round She bore the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless Earth.”
It would be tempting to suggest that the ‘Seasons’ invoked here might be the Horae – however the actual word translated here appears to be ἐνιαυτῶν, which ought pertain to the passage of a year. So at best it is somewhat indirect – although, of course, the passage of the Year is, foundationally, an expression of Cosmic Order itself. Time – the fundamental ‘Orderer’ of All Things, with the proper times for various actions and the orderly processions of Seasons and of the Stars.
In any case, we find quite directly – the Erinyes are conjured (via the ‘Seed’ of Ouranos’ misdeed), … and so, too, as we can see, are the Meliae.
This is, again, utterly uncoincidental.
As we have explored elsewhere, what we tend to find in various Indo-European spheres is the Goddess as an ‘Alpha-‘ or ‘Apex-‘, ‘Archetypal’ figure, accompanied by other female figures as ‘resemblant’ retinue.
In this particular case, we have Cosmic Order in-universe as a Goddess – and we have various figures that assist with the Upholding & Enforcement of Same, in similar fashion and with identifiably similar visages. We have already mentioned Kali relative to the Matrikas & Yoginis (and, of course, Keshinis, Ghosinis, etc. etc.), and via inference, Demeter Erinyes along with the Erinyes (less overtly a ‘retinue’, but still most definitely ‘resembling’), etc.
We can also approach this typology ‘in reverse’ – and start with the broader clade and ‘work backwards’ to the Centre. In this case – via the Meliae as a grouping … and the expected figure at the Centre that should be a most mighty Melia indeed.
This Figure – this Goddess – ought be, as we have said, an incarnate expression of Cosmic Order within this universe of ours. An ‘Axis Mundi’, in fact – as Rta is the Axial about which all Worlds shall Turn. In some cases, this is a Mountain – in other cases … well, an Ash Tree.
And it should most certainly be interesting to regard Yggdrasil – the famed ‘Steed of Ygg(r)’, in this light. Given the frequency with which we should seem to encounter ‘Melia’ as a designation for a Mother Goddess figure (and in consort with Apollo, Poseidon, etc.).
This also assists us in navigating that situation of Askr and Embla being ’empowered’ to be … well … human, rather than ‘mere’ trees – being rendered no longer ‘Orloglauss’, no longer in absence of an essential infusion of Cosmic Order.
And provides us with a further abundant sense, as applies the aforementioned Empowering Elixir that should seem correlate with the ‘Meli’ congealment upon the Ash as well as that which was fed to the Infant Zeus in order to help Him to Grow … that this aforesaid Elixir, as its essential ingredient ought likewise bear the essence, or some imprinting of ‘Cosmic Order’ itself. Hence why it is so ‘permanent’ – it is above the pernicious and degrading tendrils of erosive entropy and the corruption corrosion of chaos (in the sense of the opposition to the Divine Order).
It all fits together.
Part Eight – Conjectural Conclusions, Rooted In The Firmament Of Facts
To speak of ‘fitting together’ is, of course, to speak of Rta Itself (via *h₂er- – which refers to just exactly that). And that has been something we have sought to do in this very piece. ‘Fit Together’.
What have we sought to ‘fit together’? Well, in general terms, an entire suite of conceptry around the Ash Tree and Ash Nymph (and Ash Goddess) in relation to Indo-European Man and Myth.
In the main, the reason that this has proven necessary is because previous analytic efforts have often tended to attempt to consider various of these in isolation – and therefore missed some rather profound underlying patternings as a result.
You might almost say they’d missed the wood for the trees.
A good example of this concerns the specific situation of Humankind having ‘come down from the Trees’. There’s a clear exemplar in the Nordic sphere – and, to be sure, there’s also an instance to be found within the Zoroastrian perspective (the Bundahishn featuring ‘Mashya and Mashyana’ , a first man and woman that apparently fruit from a rhubarb plant or some other such foliage).
There have been some attempts to connect these two occurrences – and, to be sure, there are a few elements which could feasibly be explored further as applies the Zoroastrian instance to see if it has scope for refining or further expanding our underpinning and pervasive Indo-European typology.
However, frequently when we have looked into it, we have basically just seen the ken of vision limited to just those. Without, say, broader branchings out to incorporate the Meliae and the Bronze Race – much less enfolding Romulus and Remus (the Sons of Silva) into proceedings … or, for that matter, a detailed examination of both major occurrences within Greek myth for the Meliae (as those well-armed Ash-Nymphs as well as the Nurses of the Infant Zeus), plus the Consort(s) of Apollo / Poseidon and specific Mother figure(s) for Race(s) of Man attested in this current cycle of Creation (viz. Argos etc.) – and so on and so forth with additional Black Avenging Form and Empowering Elixir and Axis Mundi characteristics.
And that matters. Because unless one considers the full ‘constellation’ of these occurrences – quite specifically, these ‘adjacent’ expressions that just so happen to prove (at least partially – and often well more than partially) coterminous, then we miss so much. We literally only see what we’re already expecting to see – and often only in the most conservative frame of reference.
Which contributes to perhaps understandable skepticism that there could be such a broad – and broadly rooted – typological expression at play here.
The particular point of (academic) apprehension that had motivated me to do a lot of the further writing on this piece was the seeming objection to the notion that the element in question could be both a Tree and a Mother. Whether in the sense of the progeneration of (a clade of) humanity, or in the sense of the maternal (or, at least, nursing) role played with regard to the infant Zeus.
Our perspective, by contrast, is that the situation of the Melia(e) being a Tree is not a vitiation of being ‘Mother’ – but, rather, quite the necessary coefficient for exactly this. Something that we can demonstrate viz. the aforementioned ‘Meli’, for a start.
We are also aware that the natural and logical results of our ‘tracking backwards’ certain likely pathways of development for the mythic elements as they have come down to us … may raise some eyebrows, as well.
For instance, our observation viz. the situation of Rudra contra Prajapati in relation to Hesiod’s Theogony and its presentation of Kronos contra Ouranos. Or, for that matter, what we consider to be the quite likely and logical purport to both Apollo and Poseidon having a consort named ‘Melia’, alongside both individual ‘Melia’ and collective ‘Meliae’ acting as Mother(s) to Humanity and the linkage for the Meliae to the Erinyes and other ‘Black Avenging / Furious’ associations … and how that aligns with the more usually expected characterizations as to the Indo-European typology around the Sky Father, His Wife, and the ‘Sons of the Sun’ (the Indo-European Progenitor Twins).
But that is the beauty of this kind of approach – by looking broadly and deeply rather than more cursorily … we see the kinds of things that have lain neglected and irreconciled for, perhaps, much of five thousand years or more now.
There are no doubt other areas that we ought incorporate into this growing sp(h)e(a)r(e) of analysis – the mind instantly conjures commentary upon VanaDurga, the Aranyani so briefly encountered in the RigVeda, and other exemplars for the Goddess in relation to Trees to be found in the Hindusphere. Perhaps these aspects (and Aspects) shall turn out to be good fits – and help to broaden our horizon (we are certainly a little light when it comes to Eastern IE expressions of some elements to our typology – at least, as we have considered thus far directly).
A further suite of conceptry that we have researched – and, in fact, excised for reasons of length (difficult to believe, I know) from this installment, analyzes the situation of our typology from the perspective of Hindu astrology (Jyotisha). This strongly concords with what we have observed above (and Above), and also opens up dramatic new insights as well upon the conventional Classical mythoi.
We may yet succeed in re-growing Ash-trees from the more ‘Kravyadic’ form of Ash.