It is Thursday. Odin’s Day [yes, really – stay tuned]; and therefore, some fine Odin art [‘Odin, the Northern God of War’, by Valentine Cameron Prinsep]
And, in order to explicate just why I’m upending … quite a lot of ‘general perception’ and saying Thursday to be Odin’s … here’s an excerpt from our earlier ‘Of Goddesses, Gods, and Ghosts at the Crossroads – A Comparative Indo-European Exploration‘, which looks at Odin’s propitiation at yon Crossroads – and notes that we seem to have something of a pattern of Odin’s worship at such sites (or, the similarly Shaivite-resonant locale of the Graveyard, etc.) attested as having been undertaken on Thursday Nights, per centuries of court-records (etc.) from the post-Christianization era in Sweden.
That is to say – the ‘folkways’ (hence why these adherents were being prosecuted – and thusly why we have court records to draw from in the first instance) appear to have preserved an authentic (and accurate) association of Odin with Jupiter and Jupiter’s Day in consequence.
With, perhaps more remarkably still – the ritual preserved (broadly speaking) IN those post-Christianization Folkways … being recognizably significantly resemblant of a Roudran observance found in the Vedic canon and quite literally thousands of years afore !
But on with the excerpt !
Part Seven: Thursday Night Rites – Odin The Plutonic Lord Thrice-Invoked At The Crossroads
Yet to speak towards the broader Indo-European cognates for the understandings advanced in this (A)Arti-cle, it occurs that we have, in fact, left several roads as-yet untravelled. It is to these that we shall now – briefly – turn.
We have taken as our major point of ‘anchorage’, the ‘Tryambakah’ rite found within the Shatapatha Brahmana [II 6 2] – a propitiation of both Rudra and Ambika (whether we are regarding Her as His Sister, His Wife, or His Shakti (a term which, as with ‘Melia’, can also directly mean ‘Spear’)) occurring at the Crossroads. We have devoted significant attention to examining an array of correlate Forms to the Goddess for Ambika in amidst other Indo-European milieus, Who also have some salient connexion to the Crossways – yet we have left the fellow-adjoining ‘Masques of the Sky Father’ strangely un-remarked upon (at least, by our more usual standards in this area).
If Rudra is so indelibly prominent in His Haunting of the Crossroads … this would logically suggest that we ought find Odin there, too. And not least because Odin, as with Rudra, is quite the ‘Wandering God’.
Now unfortunately, when it comes to the Nordic / Germanic sphere we just simply do not have anything like the Brahmanas (i.e. detailed ritual manuals and commentaries) which have come down to us – even though it must be acknowledged that some elements broadly commensurate with such have been preserved (for instance, those instructions upon Runic utilization found in the Sigrdrífumál – which I believe is, in effect, something of a Nordic ‘cognate’ for some of our own Tantrika sphere style texts).
In their absence, we are left drawing from decidedly secondary perspectives – Christians commenting upon the behavior of the people they’d sought to ‘educate’ away from folk-ways and superstition; or folkloric elements which had managed to survive exactly that process for occasionally centuries in remarkably ‘recognizable’ format before they were committed to parchment for us to (critically) digest.
This therefore presents us with the ‘usual suite’ of problems in this area. i) ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’; and ii) what we do ‘know’ has come to us via lenses that may have changed in particular ways what’s come down to us – and therefore may require some careful ‘filtering’ … and certainly some innovative (without getting unduly ‘creative’!) ‘gap-filling’ from the DNA of the ‘cultural cousins’ of this sphere in order to perhaps envisage something of ‘what might have been’.
So, within the iteration of the Christian polemical ‘De Falsis Diis’ (‘On False Gods’) propounded by Archbishop Wulfstan II of York somewhere between 992 and 998 AD, we find interesting mention for our Crossroads. To quote therefrom:
“A certain man also was called Mercurius in life, who was very deceitful and nevertheless full of thoughtful cunning in deeds and deceptions.
This the heathens also made to be their great god for themselves, and offered him sacrifice at crossroads often and frequently through the devil’s teaching, and brought various praise-gifts (offerings) for him to high mountains.
This false god was also honoured among all heathens in those days, and he is called Odin by other name in Danish manner.
Now some Danish men say in their error that it was Jove, who was called Thor, Mercury’s son, that they called Odin, but they do not have that correct, because we read in books, both heathen and Christian, that he who was called Jove in truth is Saturn’s son.”
[Translation as presented by H.M. Aho]
Now, the first point we should pick up upon here is also salient for another reason. And that is the ‘Interpretatio’ we see on display here.
I have long pointed out that Odin is, in fact, Jupiter if we are being ‘proper’ with our Interpretatio Romana (by which I mean theologically accurate). There is some corroboration for this outside of modern-day comparative Indo-European theology – an iteration of the Icelandic Rune Poem ( AM 687d 4° ) makes exactly this co-identification, as we have explored elsewhere, for a start. Yet the persistent presumption that Odin is Mercury (instead of Jupiter – that is apparently Thor) remains. This is a scenario that cannot even be fairly attributed to the (pre-Christianization) Romans. Tacitus et co were quite prominent in mentioning Hercules exaltant amongst the Germanics – that is to say Thor.
The situation of Odin being identified with Mercury is … complex – and may have resulted from several (mutually interlocking and reinforcing) shades of inter-cultural ‘misunderstanding’. My personal supposition is that the situation of Odin as ‘Irmin’ (Jǫrmunr, per Þul Óðins 8, if we are being Old Norse; from Proto-Germanic *Ermunaz) contributed to this – it sounds rather like ‘Hermes’ (the Irmins / Irminsul style elements may also have reminded of the Herms etc. and other such erections with some linkage to the Classical deific), and then we add the various prominent associations of Odin which also look relatively like those of Mercury / Hermes, as well. As did, put simply, the Romans’ own differing perspective upon the Sky Father relative to some other Indo-European spheres (hence why features Odin shares with, say, Hades / Pluto (as Saxo Grammaticus would later link Him) would not be bringable-to-bear in militating for a Sky Father … Jupiter … identification), as well as their development of a Hermes / Mercury figure which does’t have well-fitting cognate in various of same (for a good demonstration of which – consider those situations elsewhere where ‘Interpretatio’ became prominent, wherein we find Apollo and Mercury identified with a given deific – Armenian ‘Tir’ )
In truth, of course, all of the elements necessary to make a ‘Sky Father’ deific identification were also present even in Roman times – the Greeks had no shortage of myths of Zeus going out in disguise wandering (often directly alongside Hermes); sacred posts, pillars, trees, and stones were likewise findable for Jupiter / Zeus ; and so on and so forth. But this is not how things developed. And post-Christianization – when the religion of the Romans was now a thing in serious decline, not well understood by its would-be supplanters who were, in any case, often only looking for ways to disparage and dislodge what yet remained of it and its cousins in earnest … well, it is not hard to see how something so simplistic as ‘well, this ‘Thor’ is associated with Thunder, and so is Jupiter, therefore these must be the same figure …’ could come to replace a much more nuanced framework of the kind which had produced Hercules Magusanus and seemed to link Thor (or what would become Thor) in such a direction likewise.
In any case, it takes an especial kind of gall to – as Wulfstan does here – seemingly attempt to correct the ‘heathen’ believers on their own comparative theology whilst insisting the whole thing’s false anyway; and we are most interested by this apparent admission that amongst Northmen as-yet unconverted and aware of such matters, the idea was prominent enough to be worth ‘disparaging’ that Odin was, in fact, Jupiter. But we are digressing rather wildly.
The major point of interest for us here, tonight, is that Odin is apparently to be found at the Crossroads (and also upon high mountains – which resembles the relevant Classical and Vedic cognate deifics) receiving sacrifice. In truth, this kind of thing presumably also helped to inform an identification with Mercury – because, again, ‘wanderer’, and association with crossroads, borders and boundaries, and psychopompery in due train.
Which, again, omits another Sky Father deific from the mix – the Janus Who, aptly enough, we find hailed as the ‘Four-Faced’ (Quadrifrons), just as Lord Shiva is (Caturmukha); and Whom Macrobius [Saturnalia I 9] reports as being co-identified by Nigidius as both Apollo and Diana – as well as presiding over not only the terrestrial and even celestial pathways (the latter in relation to His Solar Situation), but also the ‘opening’ of the conduit between worshippers at their rite and the God being propitiated so that the latter may receive the sacrifice offered and the former’s prayers may make their way unto the Divinity in question. There is much more we can and should say upon Janus in these matters (and, for that matter, Silvanus, but we shall move onwards in order to hasten towards our conclusion. Eventually.
Having just mentioned Diana or Artemis, it should seem apt to then provide a Germanic potential correlate: namely, the castigation in the ‘De Auguriis’ of Aelfric of Eynsham, written sometime around 996 to 997 AD. There, we find his concern that:
“Likewise some witless women go to cross-roads,
and draw their children through the earth,
and thus commit themselves and their children to the devil.”
[Rev. Skeat translation]
This resonates not only with the situation of Artemis in relation to childbirth and the protection of infants – but also with the associations reported by Angiras for us here in the Hindusphere: “A link between catuSpatha & making offerings for a new born child in the gRhyasUtra. And also a link between the tryambaka offering and the protection of the unborn child.”
It would not be implausible to presume that an archaic and pervasively Indo-European understanding was on-show there in the actions of those folk-way enacting women whom Aelfric was so disdainful of. One ‘anchored’ upon the Crossroads as, effectively, the place where a certain Goddess (and God) could be found – correlate with Their Roles at the positions where certain ‘conduits’ of life and death and cosmological purport could come to ‘connect’ with us here in our sidereal sphere.
As the Shatapatha Brahmana puts it, with regard to explicating and extolling the purpose of the Tryambakah Rite to be carried out at the Crossroads:
” 2 And, accordingly, when he performs those offerings, he either does so hoping that thus no Arrow (misfortune) will hit any of his, or because the Gods did so.
And thereby he delivers from Rudra’s Power both the descendants that are born unto him and those that are unborn; and his offspring is brought forth without disease and blemish. This is why he performs these offerings.
4 There is one for each individual,–as many as he has descendants,–exceeded by one. (There being) one for each individual, he thereby delivers from Rudra’s Power the descendants that are born unto him; and there being an additional one, he thereby delivers from Rudra’s Power the descendants that are not yet born to him: this is why there are (as many cakes as there are descendants) exceeded by one.
[7 …] He offers on a Road,–for on Roads that God Roves; he offers on a Cross-Road,–for the Cross-Road, indeed, is known to be His (Rudra’s) favourite Haunt.
9 He offers, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 57 a), ‘This is Thy Share, O Rudra! graciously accept it together with Thy Sister Ambikā! Svāhā!’ Ambikā, indeed, is the name of His (Rudra’s) Sister; and this Share belongs to Him conjointly with Her; and because that Share belongs to Him conjointly with a Woman (Strī), therefore (these Oblations) are called Tryambakāḥ. Thereby, then, he delivers from Rudra’s Power the descendants that have been born unto him.
10 Now as to that additional (cake),–he buries it in a mole-hill, with the text (Vāj. S. III, 57 b), ‘This is Thy Share, O Rudra! the mole is Thy Animal (victim).’ He thus assigns to Him the Mole as the only animal, and He (Rudra) does not therefore injure any other animal. Then as to why he buries (the cake): concealed, indeed, are embryos, and concealed also is what is buried,–that is why he buries it. By this (offering) he delivers from the Power of Rudra those descendants of his, that are not yet born.”
[SBr II 6 2, Eggeling Translation]
We would observe that the ‘conjoint’ offering to both Rudra and Ambika has an interesting (if understated) potential ‘resonancy’ with that situation remarked upon above of Janus being regarded as both Diana / Artemis and Apollo in certain Classical perspectives [and we also reiterate the alternate rendering of other sources for ‘Mole’, ‘Mole-Hill’ as instead pertaining to Mouse, Mouse-Hole, and so forth – viz. Apollo Smintheus’ famed association, perhaps].
There is more which one might suggest as applies the Anglo-Saxon folk-rite alluded to by Aelfric – specifically concerning the situation of the young child being ‘drawn through’ the Earth and how this may resonate with other conceptry around the Earth as a Mother and Strengthener … in addition to the obvious point around the ‘Conduit’ of the Crossroads here converging with the station of the Earth for the youth’s (re-)emergence. But for now, it is almost certainly enough.
A further Christian-reported-upon exemplar from the Germanic sphere with clear and overt ‘resonancy’ to the Tryambakah rite comes to us from court documents from Sweden in 1632. There, a man by the name of Jons is reported to have advised one Christman i Svenhult in how to undertake a small and simplistic rite for greater wealth. Per the court description, this apparently entailed venturing to a crossroads – specifically upon a Thursday Night – and shouting thrice for Odin to Come, before requesting that He bestow money and offering one’s self in service unto Him. Predictably, by the time this gets to court and the judgement, we have not only Odin but also the ‘Fanen’ (a curious term – ‘Fan’ would be ‘Devil’ in Christian usage (although ‘Seeker’ – perhaps ‘Hunter’ ? – more directly, in its etymological sense); yet ‘Fanen’ is either a plural (if it is akin to more modern Swedish – and therefore, ‘Seekers’?), or an archaic formulation) cited. It is an interesting question, given the aforementioned prospect of a potential plural (and I am not linguistically adroit with my Grandmother’s tongue to be able to assay it) whether something else might have been lurking there. Or whether, as would be more mundane (a curious term for the circumstances), it literally is a case of interjecting the Devil into proceedings by a peasant having his folk-magic forcibly ‘translated’ for him by a Christian court.
The reason that we mention this circumstance is the motivation – ‘money’, ‘wealth’.
Or, to dip back in to the Shatapatha Brahmana’s Tryambakah Rite:
“11 Thereupon they return (to the fire) and mutter (Vāj. S. III, 58, 59), ‘We have satisfied the Claims of Rudra, satisfied the Divine Tryambaka, that He may make us richer, that He may make us more prosperous, that He may render us steady in our purpose.–Thou (O Rudra) Art a Remedy for the Cow, a Remedy for the Horse, a Remedy for Man; a Blessing for the Ram and the Ewe.’ This is the Prayer for Blessing at this Performance.
12 They then walk thrice round the altar not sun-wise, beating their left thighs (with the right hand), with the text (Vāj. S. III, 60 a), ‘We worship Tryambaka, the Fragrant Increaser of Prosperity. […]’
13 Let the maidens then also walk round, thinking, ‘May we enjoy Prosperity!’ That Sister of Rudra, named Ambikā, indeed is the Dispenser of Happiness: hence the maidens also should walk round, thinking, ‘May we enjoy Prosperity!'”
Rudra, after all, is Pashupati – a term I have somewhat figuratively rendered, from time to time, as ‘Lord of Wealth’ in the manner of Pluto; a situation of greater resonance when one considers the direct cognates of ‘Pashu’ in the Western IE sphere such as ‘Fehu’ … which, as with their shared ancestor, PIE *Pek, can mean *both* Cattle and Wealth. Rudra as Pashupati, therefore … He is the Lord (Pati) Who has all the Pasus : All the Animals. And therefore, implicitly, All of the Wealth. [This is before we get into further ‘Wealth’ conceptual associations for Rudra – the Seven Gems, for instance, or that particular beautiful Cloak of the Night studded with what is occasionally translated as ‘coins’, yet should more properly refer to the Stars of the Night Sky, I should surmise]
And so, it is eminently logical that one would petition Odin for Wealth (although we might ponder whether one can afford the … price such a request might entail) – and at the Crossroads, it should appear, just as we find Rudra to Haunt when petitioned for similar purpose.
Although it is most interesting to note the Thursday situation … as, of course, this is the ‘Day of Jupiter’ in Roman reckoning (and of the Graha that correlates as the Planet Jupiter in our Hindu perspective – linked to Brihaspati, a figure with a myth (and more than) in common with Odin (as well as being co-identified with Rudra), as we have discussed capaciously elsewhere). Why do I suggest this is ‘most interesting’? Because in amidst several court cases spanning more than three hundred years in Sweden, we seem to keep running into attestations for Thursday Night being when one would call upon Odin (and, perhaps intriguingly – not only at Crossroads, but also at cemeteries … and featuring walking around the site ‘withershins’ thrice – or, as the Shatapatha Brahmana put it: ” thrice round the altar not sun-wise”, with a cemetery perhaps acting as a local equivalent to a Smashana … ).
That would take us back to my earlier point around the correct ‘Interpretatio’ for Odin – at least, in Roman terms. Most interesting that a lengthy swathe of Swedish folk-belief managed to preserve such a correct understanding in that way.
Now rest assured that there is … quite a lot more which we might yet seek to explore as to pretty much all of the above. And no doubt I shall return to various of these themes and facings in the not-too-distant future.
And, of course –
JAI SRI RUDRA !
Hail to EkaNetra / EkaDrish / Ekaksha … The One-Eyed God !