Over the past several weeks, we have been running a series of excerpts from our ‘ On The Wolves Of Rudra – The Terrific, Well-Storied Wolves And Wolf Forms Of The Indo-European Sky Father ‘.
The first and second of these sought to briefly examine Apollo Lykeios and the Wolf That Stalks The Stars .
The third extolled the ‘Temple Wolf’ – a labelling we variously encounter in both Hellenic and Nordic terms (inter alia); with the Greek figure justly renowned for acting as Sentinel Protector of the aforementioned sacred space (to the point of tracking down and killing a thief who had stolen from Apollo’s temple at Delphi, and then proceeding to guide the worshippers of the God to where the thief had buried his ill-gotten loot that it might be restored to its rightful situation inside the God’s House).
This fourth excerpt (i.e. this one) presents an exploration of what we might call an ‘operationalization’ of this theology (for the Temple Wolf and the forceful ensuring of the sanctity of the sacred space) – namely, the Vedic ritual enactment wherein the ‘enclosure’ within which the ritual is to be performed (itself a ‘mesocosmic’ resonancy with the cosmos at large, just as the ritual operation itself is a repetition or emulation by the human ritualists of the prior mighty deed of the Gods and Their supporting Forces) … is forcefully cleansed of a demonic presence by *feeding the maleficarum to the Wolves* .
We suggest that this is … well, you see how it fits in with our broader typology.
If one is having Demon / Black Magic / Sorcerer / Demon-Worshipper problems – We appeal to the Beloved of the Sun
(And also, viz. Indra, the Smasher of the Ninety Nine Forts)
A most assured manner, indeed, to ensure that one’s War shall be Won.
Anyway, on with the show … !
Sālāvṛka – The Wolves of the Temple, the Enclosure And Ancestral Warding – ‘Cruel Sanction’ Meted Out Via The Howling Hounds Of Heaven [ IV ]
We might also, at this point, invoke KYV VI 2 7 – which includes as its conclusion a set of verses for the ‘cleansing’ of an altar-space of the presence of Demons:
“‘May the cry of Indra guard thee in front with the Vasus’, be says; verily be sprinkles it from the quarters. ‘Since the high altar has gone to the gods, here must we conquer’ (thought) the Asuras, and with bolts ready they advanced on the gods. Them the cry of Indra with the Vasus repelled in front ; the swift of mind with the Pitrs on the right, the wise one with the Rudras behind, and Viçvakarman with the Adityas on the left. In that he sprinkles the high altar, verily thus does the sacrificer repel his foes from the quarters. Indra gave the Yatis to the Salavrkas; them they ate on the right of the high altar. Whatever is left of the sprinkling waters he should pour on the right of the high altar; whatever cruel is there that he appeases thereby. He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
Now as for what this means – well, ‘Salavrka’ ( सालावृक – however also encountered as शालावृक : ‘Shalavrka’) combines our familiar Sanskrit ‘Vrka’ ( वृक ), which means ‘Wolf’, with a foreparticle. In later texts we tend to find the combination term utilized in a somewhat … broader sense – to mean a hyena, jackal, or wild dog. Sometimes it even seems to be deployed to refer to a deer or a monkey. Yet in that archaic Taittiriya Samhita setting, I have little doubt as to its meaning.
Here, the foreparticle, ‘Sala’, has done something interesting. In the original TS YV text, it should seem to be साल (Sala) rather than शाल (Shala). The two do have significantly overlapping senses, however it is useful to our purposes to make a bit of a distinguishment.
‘Sala’ would refer to a ‘Wall’, a ‘Walled Enclosure’; ‘Shala’ would refer to a ‘Building’ (with walls, ostensibly). In later texts, ‘Shala’ does get used to mean a ‘Temple’ (ostensibly by the time of the AtharvaVeda), and of course, a ‘House’ – it’s from PIE *ḱel-, which refers to a ‘cover’, and also gives us our modern English ‘Hall’ (via K => H sound-shift). ‘Sala’ can be utilized in this sense (just as ‘Shala’ can also be used in that other sense of the ‘wall’, ‘fence’, ‘perimeter’) – yet here it is seemingly being utilized in that older notion of an exterior boundary.
Why? Because this ritual instruction is from the archaic Vedic age – wherein fixed, settled Temples were not (yet) a thing; and instead, the ‘ritual space’ was prepared anew outside to purpose. Hence, the exterior barrier to the ritual space is not the wall of a Temple (Shala), but rather that which ‘covers’ of a different kind – a ‘wall’. We can tell this, in part, due to KYV VI 2 4, wherein Indra Himself takes the form of a Salavrka in order to race (thrice) around the perimeter of the mythic ‘inhabitable space’ that forms the template for the Vedic ritual space, in order to win it from the Demons. That is to say – Indra directly turns into a Wolf (Vrka) in order to delineate this Boundary (Sala), and is therefore in the form of the Salavrka.
Perhaps this may inform why it is that Indra’s ‘Ghosha’ is what banishes the demons in fright. It is, after all, a term that can be used to describe a forceful invocation or shouted speech (and is rendered by Keith as ‘Cry’) … but also, rather pointedly, to refer to Howling.
However, the Salavrkas that we encounter in KYV VI 2 6 are ‘delineating’ the boundary between the ‘safe’ and ‘civilized’ and ‘Divine'(ly inhabited) territory of the ritual space versus its antecedent antithesis in quite a different manner. There, they are making this region safe by acting to remove a threat to the ritual operation and the sacred space. One which, given the preceding context featuring the Demonic assault against the Gods, we can quite easily surmise the nature to.
Later scripture should seem to present these ‘Yatins’ in a rather interesting manner – effectively suggesting these to be almost ‘priestly’ sorts … certainly capable of carrying out rites, however hopelessly in league with Demons and in arrogant opposition to the Gods. Indeed, in at least one telling they (or the forces they are aligned with) even have had the temerity to attempt to steal the Wife of the Sacrificer (Man – or, more directly, Manu) via a mentally afflicting “influence”. Thus necessitating the enlisted aid of Indra in order to smash both the scurrilous mind-ensnaring enchantment and its would-be beneficiaries. By feeding them to the Wolves! We might compare them, therefore, to the Yatudhana. Certainly, one’s mind instantly goes (‘swift-of-thought’, indeed) to that typology so prominent within the SBr and other such sources wherein the effective process via which Vak Devi is Won Back by the Divine Priest entails a contest ‘gainst a ‘Priest of the Demons’. The Divine Priest then and therefore once again becomes the ‘Man Whom She Chooses (Kama)’ [c.f RV X 125 5, the famed DeviSukta – as well as, of course, SBr III 2 1]. Ah, the things of which the ordained Man goes through for Her !
Yet we have one other key identifying detail to examine here. That position to the right of the Altar. The one that is coterminous with, as Keith renders it – “the swift of mind with the Pitrs”. The Pitrs are the Forefathers, the departed shades of the honoured ancestors. The word being rendered as ‘swift of mind’, ‘Manojavah’, is taken by Sayana to refer to Lord Yama. As a point of perhaps triangulative interest, a closely related term occurs to refer to a particular Son of Rudra, elsewhere. And, indeed, given the situation of Yama as a Son of the Sky Father (i.e. Odin, Rudra, etc.) – we may therefore quite directly point to the status of Yama having two Canine comrades (‘Sons of Sarama’, no less !) as being an indelibly emblematic case of ‘Like Father, Like Son’. So as applies why ‘Swift-of-Mind’ (or, perhaps more interestingly for Death – ‘Swift-as-a-Thought’) is being invoked along with His Wolves in such a context:
We therefore may suggest that what is going on there is that the specific location of these ‘Wolves of the Border’ as being proximate to the station of Yama and the Glorious Departed Dead … means that these Wolves are also watching that most sepulchral of borders, too. Thus, what we are being told quite obliquely toward the closing of KYV VI 2 7, is that the Yatins in question are being put to death. Whether ‘directly’, via the inference of the snapping jaws of these Guardian Wolves … or ‘inferentially’ via the implication of having been sent (no doubt screaming) into the most inhospitable (indeed – ‘cruel’, a direct cognate for ‘kruram’ here, both descended from the aptly ‘cold-blooded’ PIE *krewh₂- ) or ‘bloody’ Jaws of the Edge/End of Life. We would say ‘Gates of the Underworld’ … but, of course, even though there is broad Indo-European currency for ‘hellhounds’ of a sort to be watching the border of such ‘liminal space’ – in Vedic terms and times, the concept of an ‘Underworld’ has not ‘descended’ yet. Yama’s Hounds watch a pathway that leads up to a more ‘celestial’ realm. But we digress.
Another (not-necessarily-mutually-exclusive) interpretation would observe that if the Salavrkas are to the right of the altar, where the Pitrs are also stated to be … that this may, in fact, be a more direct point of co-identification. That is to say, the Shades of the Glorious Dead may be occurrent in Wolf form – and ready to set upon the would-be interlopers in order to tear them to pieces. As an associate [S.W.] had noted, it does perhaps remind one somewhat of the Wild Hunt. And there is certainly something uniquely powerful as to the notion of the Ancestors, Heritage, mobilized in such a fight – Ancestors coming forth as Famed Wolves. Or perhaps that’s just me.
To bring things back to the actual liturgy itself – we find it expressly said that through the continued performance of acts oriented toward that right-hand side of the altar, “whatever cruel is there that he appeases thereby.”
The Sanskrit word utilized there is ‘Kruram’ – an interesting choice, as it comes from PIE *krewh₂- (i.e. ‘blood’, but ‘cold blood’, in the sense of death or indeed ‘raw meat’, and savagery). We are familiar with ‘Kravyada’ (again, same PIE root) in other Vedic contexts to effectively mean ‘Carnivore’ and implicitly incorporating the Wolf within its scope; however something else is meant to be entailed here.
‘Krura’ ( क्रूर ) itself means not only ‘Cruel’ or ‘Bloody’ – but also ‘Wrathful’, ‘Pitiless’, ‘Savage’, ‘Formidable’, ‘Frightful’, ‘Violent’, ‘Aggressive’, ‘Harsh’, and rather ‘Barbaric’. It is therefore likely to nobody’s especial surprise that it is also an attested Name of Rudra.
The utilization of ‘Kruram’ to convey the nature of the Guardian force which dwells in that quarter of the ritual space is therefore, likely uncoincidental. A Wolf God’s Specter invoked in amidst the Wolves. (Although before somebody says it – yes, yes we do also have the Rudras given place in the ‘behind’ space to the Rite’s focal. This does not vitiate such a Roudran quality also being present in another quarter – not least as the figure stated to be leading these Rudras in the Behind Quarter, is ‘Pracetas’ … an enigmatic sort that, going off Sayana’s commentary on the RV etc., is encountered as a hailing for Varuna. Although other interpretations are certainly possible, including the notion of a more generalized ‘quality’ executor rather than a specific major Deity)
In any case, and with specific aim at the Demonic forces thusly targeted through the ritual invocation and commentary in question, we note with relish the conclusion:
“He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
The Sacrificer / Priest, we may say, ‘Sends The Wolves’ ‘gainst his foeman. The ‘Wild Hunt’ typology, no doubt, continues to resonate via inference.
(As a point of perhaps comparative interest, the SBr liturgy for (broadly) the same ritual undertaking , SBr III 5 2 8 , actually makes the above process inherent in that last line rather optional. And, intriguingly, what is entailed is rather more overt – an “exorcism” (to borrow from the Eggeling translation – going through particle-by-particle on that delicious phrase ‘abhicaredādiśedidamahaṃ’ would be rather beyond the scope of this piece) … one wherein it is the discontent (‘Ashanta’) and ‘sorrow’ (‘Shocati’) of Vak which is ‘weaponized’ in such a fashion. Vak, as we had noted earlier, being here encountered in the forms of both the Altar (compare Hellenic Hestia) … and also a very annoyed Lioness – another Carnivore of the Wilds, encountered in this situation instead of the Salavrka yet with a not entirely uncotermious ambit of a ‘Devourer’ of those who would seek to violate the dictates of propriety and Cosmic Law.!)