I – The ‘Difficult’ Facings To The Draconic Lord, At Least In Minds Of Academia
Few figures better demonstrate the immediate worth of our approach for the Western IE sphere in these matters, perhaps, than that of Zeus Meilichios. Why? Because here we have a deific – an Aspect of Zeus, I should more properly state – which is seemingly reasonably attested. We know a fair few things about this God-form, and much of this is quite explicitly rather than the creatures of inference and academic theorizing.
Yet when you read the commentaries pertaining to this Aspect of Him, it is a curious exercise. Some are, of course, better (or worse) than others – but there is a pervasive feeling in some quarters that this is a God (facing) Who ‘shouldn’t’ exist. That things are ‘all wrong’, or just slightly ‘off’ and that we’ve all collectively missed something which would take things off in a different direction entirely.
The reasoning for this is because this figure – Zeus Meilichios (‘The Easily Propitiated’ – or, as James Davidson put it, and I liked enough to incorporate into our sub-title, above … “Zeus Be Nice Now”) doesn’t seem ‘right’ for their typologies.
After all, Zeus “shouldn’t” be a Serpent, “shouldn’t” be connected to the Dead (or, for that matter, to “chilly gloom”) – and so the major festival for this Aspect, the Diasia, is referred to as the “supposed festival of Zeus” in that venerable ‘Prolegomena’ of Harrison; who then proceeds to try and barrel-roll through a rather significant swathe of textual and archaeological-iconographic materials in order to reach her pre-ordained conclusion.
Namely, that Zeus Meilichios – and the attendant, surely somewhat eponymous Diasia observance pertaining to said Aspect – might very well have been regarded during the Classical Age as having been a Zeus Form and Festival (an “astounding fact”, she calls it) by the Greeks themselves … but only because, in her opinion, they had effectively deceived themselves in order to ‘forget’ some sort of “superposition of cults” – the supplanting, by Zeus, of the worship of “an ancient serpent-demon of the lower world”. Therefore allowing her to reject almost out of hand “that Zeus the Olympian has ‘an underworld aspect’.”
Bizarrely, the denouement she chooses for her argument is a prominent carving that clearly and unambiguously has Zeus in the form of a serpent (because it’s quite literally labelled as such – Διὶ Μειλιχίῳ : ‘to Zeus Meilichios’), place alongside a broadly contemporaneous one found nearby which also features supplicants worshipping Zeus Meilichos (indeed, it’s quite directly labelled Ἀριστάρχη Διὶ Μειλιχίῳ : ‘Aristarche to Zeus Meilichios’ – ‘Aristarche’ likely being the female figure and supplicant who’d commissioned the piece), this time depicted in the rather more familiar form of a sceptered, bearded, and enthroned male. Which proves nothing about a “human-shaped Zeus [having] slipped himself quietly into the place of the old snake-god”, as she puts it. Not least because there’s no chronological ‘divide’ here – as Daniel Ogden points out in his book upon the subject published a little over a century later … the Greeks appear to have quite merrily kept carving serpentine representations of Zeus Meilichios along with less frequent but still occurrent anthropomorphic presentations right the way through. It’s a case of ‘both’ rather than ‘either’. And something which is almost trivial in its mundanity (insofar as anything to do with Gods, Myth, the Supernal, and a past near two and a half millennia archaic can be ‘mundane’) – at least to my Hindu eyes.
Yes, this God – Zeus – can appear (or can be perceived as appearing by worshippers) as a giant Serpent. Just as, funnily enough, we seem to keep running into (in other contexts) Zeus being attested to do elsewhere in the mythos. Gods can take on non-anthropomorphic shapes – or be represented as so doing by the mytho-cultural religious complexes that They stand (upon One Foot – Aikapad – or otherwise) at the centre of, for symbolic purport.
We must surely file Harrison’s emphatic declarations that the serpentine Zeus Meilichios cannot ‘really’ be Zeus along with those of Einstein pertaining to the matter of God(s) playing Dice with the Universe (…something which is quite prominently attested within the Hindu scriptural canon, oddly enough).
By which I mean stamping them with the remark attributed to Niels Bohr in reply – “Who are you to tell God what He cannot do?” [the more usually encountered version, along the lines of – “Einstein, stop telling God what to do” – lacks a certain rhetorical urgency, I feel]
My other favoured theological argument : ‘Eppur Si Muove’ – ‘And yet it does move’ [that is to say – the remark supposedly muttered by Galileo following some authorities of the day insisting with a similar forthrightness that something clearly observable (with the right kinds of tools and eyeset/mindset) was supposedly impossible and contravening of a divinity’s nature, ‘acceptable’ theology from the perspective of those limited minds of men, etc.), also springs to mind.
But I have let myself get a bit carried away in my righteous indignation.
Let us return to Zeus Meilichios Himself.
II – Dread Sanction, From The Dragon Of The Deepa Skies
As noted above, the epithet refers to the perceived more ‘approachable’, and able to be propitiated nature of this Facing. Indeed, there is some suggestion for the ‘Meili-‘ of the foreparticle proving coterminous with the ‘Meli-‘ that is ‘Sweetness’ and itself read into the ‘Melia’ that is the Ash Tree with its Honeydew (a situation seemingly resonant with the Empowering Elixir as denoted but briefly much further above).
More ‘approachable’ as compared to what, however? Well, that would be Zeus Maimaktes – the Furious (‘Stormy’, ‘Bloody’, and other connotative labelings are also found about the place as ‘shorthand’ for the term in more recent commentaries than those of Hesychius).
Waitaminute … a Sky Father deific understanding wherein there’s a dvandva, a duality, between a more readily approached and easily propitiated Facing and a ‘Furious’, Raging, terrific one … ? This sounds familiar. (And just to subvert expectations slightly, even at this late stage of the piece, we’ll direct attention to ‘Bholenath’ rather than simply ‘Shiva’ , as applies the ‘approachable’ and ‘amenable to propitiation’ ‘face’)
Various commentators have sought to attribute the above-mentioned situation to something akin to the fashion in which the otherwise-frighteningly-named Erinyes [another ‘Furious’ hailing] are also known as the ‘Eumenides’ (the ‘Good-Spirits’, i.e. ‘Eu-Menis’ – although we would also observe ‘Menis’ being that term utilized for the Furor of Achilles etc.; so, perhaps ‘raging for positive purpose’ in contrast to the less discriminate and more worrying kind).
Certainly, there is some room for an interpretation along these lines – the more positive and ‘placatable’ styles of hailing being a sort of projective optimism. After all, we ‘call out’ (c.f. one ‘God’ etymology – ‘That Which Is Called’) to the ‘approachable’ Facing, hoping that That is Whom we are going to encounter (and be favourably disposed towards us and our petitions) … precisely because it is They to Whom we have Called specifically – i.e. we have sought to minimize the prospect of running into the other Facing(s). The ‘projective’ element is also felt in another sense, likewise – wherein we seek to ‘remind’ the deific or spirit of Their expected role and disposition (‘please leave the immense rage at the door, and come and enjoy the feast in Your Honour’); or, as Terry Pratchett put it – various of these more beneficent style hailings are at least partially there as sending to the God “in the hope that he or she will take the hint and start acting responsibly.”
In truth, the supposition similarly encountered for Zeus Meilichios to therefore be a ‘male counterpart’ to (the) Erinyes has much to recommend it. Yet whilst Pausanias might have encountered a seeming collective of ‘Meilichians’ (Theoi Meilichioi) in Myonia [Description of Greece, X 38 8] – we do not consider it altogether likely that a direct parallel with such a clade had been intended. Instead, it is the rather more singular figure of the Erinyes … a la our favoured and familiar Demeter Erinyes [that is to say – ‘Kali’, ‘Skadi’, etc.] that the counterpart notion most directly applies. By which we mean a Sky Father correlate for the (prominently serpentine-associated) Mother Goddess Aspect / Form that is (wrathfully, protectively) oriented toward the upholding and maintenance of Cosmic Order (Rta, Orlog, Themis, etc.) within the universe (said saliency being particularly expressed via the Axis Mundi … and also, we may infer, via the blaze of the sacred / hearth flame [‘Hearth of Sacrifice’, per Sayana’s rendering for Sanskrit ‘Vastos’; and note ‘Vastu’ (वस्तु) as ‘Light’ also ]; the ‘light of civilization’, if you will – at the center of each and every household and polis alike … and Solar System, if we think about it).
Do we have such a figure abounding out there in the broader Indo-European spectra?
I think by now you know the answer to that … and exactly where I’m going with it.
That aforementioned figure of Vastopati / Vastospati – aka Rudra – is exactly on point here. Vastopati being the ‘Protector of the House’, as noted above.
III – The House of the Dragon – Both Macrocosmic And Microcosmic Dominion – Of Deyk And Direction, Fang, Arrow, And Claw
Now, strictly speaking, if we are looking for a Sky Father ‘Protector of the Household’ form – then it is Zeus Ktesios that we are thinking of. And it is rather handy that this, too, is a Serpentine Zeus aspect. Goes very nicely for our typology – with this (the Protector of the Household) being the ‘ultra-local’ part to the ‘microcosm’ end of the spectrum … scaling up to the defence of a whole Polis (c.f. the Erechtheion conceptry but briefly touched upon above) … and then, crossing over into ‘macrocosmic’ territory, as applies the God Himself acting to most vigorously oppose the demonic (or otherwise in intentional violation of the mandate and immanent saliency of Cosmic Order) forces active upon such grand scale.
The most overt demonstration for this would, of course, be those circumstances wherein such a foe is to be directly fought – and it is a foe in the direst, most demonic of senses. The situation of Zeus contra Typhon springs instantly to mind – and whilst we don’t have direct conceptry for Zeus in overtly Draconic terms in common texts upon the subject … what we do have is a most intriguing suite of references in the first book of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca (as noted by Ogden) for a pointed confrontation of Typhon’s ‘serpentine’ heads and features against certain ‘corresponding’ constellations.
We would go further than his analysis by noting the underlying ‘character’ to certain of these: Orion / Sirius in relation to Rudra (it is … slightly complex – as Ardra is Sirius directly; and whilst Orion’s stars, in part, belong to the Arrow of Rudra impaling the hunted victim, the lawbreaker Mrigashira (Prajapati / Brahma), as does some of the Greek mythology around Orion … other Hellenic mythology for Orion instead appears to be Rudra directly – most particularly that section wherein Orion is held to be a ‘pooling’ of what we would infer to be ‘essence’ from several Gods (Zeus / Jupiter, Poseidon / Neptune, and Hermes / Mercury), as reported in Pseudo-Hyginus’ Astronomia II and Ovid’s Fasti 5, in a fashion that should resemble Vastopati’s congealment in RV X 61 5-8 … although with something of a curious ‘twisting’ and conflation going on as applies how Pseudo-Hyginus then reports some Greeks believing things proceeding. More upon that some other time); Ophiuchus – which should seem in some sources to be Apollo [Ophiuchus seemingly using the Serpents as weapons – in a manner that perhaps recalls the comments on the role of Serpents in the NilaRudropanishad prospectively as ‘Arrows of Rudra’], attacked by one of Typhon’s serpentine appendages “when he saw another Snake in Olympos” [Rouse translation]; and Draco [assumedly the “heavenly Serpent” that one of Typhon’s snakes “skipt upon the backbone [of] hissing his mortal challenge” [Rouse translation] ] – which, per the most intriguing recounting of Epimenides, is supposedly Zeus Himself … or, at least, the Serpentine Form which He had worn in confrontation with Kronos (the Bears being His nursemaids’ transformed shape in that encounter), hung up amidst the Stars as memoriam and echo.
However, a perhaps better example is the not-so-serpentine one provided via the aforementioned RV X 61 5-8, and its various other Vedic co-expressions. Therein we find a lawbreaker, Prajapati, poised to commit quite the heinous action – and responded to via the manifestation of what the Aitareya Brahmana (III 33) refers to as ‘Paapman’, literally a ‘Spirit’ or ‘Embodiment’ of ‘Sin’ (Paap) … yet surely better understood more figuratively as the consequence for transgression made manifest. This ‘Papman’ is better known as Vastospati – that is to say, Rudra. And, interestingly, we find just such a mention for a ‘Vastos Pate’ in RV VIII 17 14 – in the context of Soma, and the Pole Star (Dhruva – quite proximate to the Draco & Bears constellations immediately prior mentioned), the Pillar [of the Dwelling … however broadly up-scaled that may so happen to herein be], and that aforementioned Prdakusanu of the very next line. Vastopati may more usually be thought of – as Rudra Himself is – in Wolf-like terms [c.f. the aforementioned scenario of RV VII 55 2-3, speaking of He as a ‘Son of Sarama’, a ‘Wolf’]; however we have recently observed a suite of seeming ‘coterminity’ for Lupine and Serpentine/Draconic conceptry in various Indo-European cultures. With one exemplar for this being the circumstance of the Protector of the Home – wherein in Greek, Baltic, and oddly enough, apparently even relatively recent Swedish folk beliefs, it is a Serpent; and more prominently in the Vedas (but not exclusively), a Wolfish sort.
It is within this context that we would consider the invocation for Ahir Budhnya [the Dragon of the Deep] found in Bharadvaja Srauta Sutra IV 2 5:
“To the Āvasathya [i.e. ‘Inside the House’] fire with the verse, “May I produce food from the residential quarters for a hundred autumns. May Ahir Budhnya grant wealth and divine song in my residential quarters.”
We would also make note of the Dragon’s customary association with Wealth being displayed here; the ‘food from the residential quarters’ reminding us instantly, also, of the ‘household stores’ of which Zeus Ktesias is entreated to protect, as well.
A more ‘macroscopic’ perspective of pertinence here would be that situation found in AV-S III 27 & XII 3 (55-60), as well as TS V 5 10, etc. – wherein we hear of the Six Guardians of the Directions that are Serpentine in form; and also correlated to several Sky Father deific expressions ruling these zones – viz. Agni (East), Varuna (West, albeit Northern in the TS), Soma (North, albeit West in the TS), and Brihaspati (Above) [the other two directions – South and Central / Nadir – are given over to Indra / Yama, and Vishnu, respectively, in most texts]. While it’s not quite explicitly stated that these Serpents are Forms of the Gods in question (some might suggest, given the third component for each Direction is the Arrow and accompanying element, that the Serpents are as Weapons, Arrows for the Gods-as-Archers, figuratively speaking) – we nevertheless do think the linkage both relevant and indicative. After all, any clade of creatures could have been chosen to be Guardians under the authority (Adhipati) of these God-Forms – and yet it is the Serpent that acts as the guarantor in each given direction.
This is – predictably – not a mere ‘abstract’ understanding, either. Apart from the rather obvious utilization [made explicit in TS V 5 10 b] for the Serpents in question as Wardens of the Sacred Fire and ritual operational element housed therein (c.f. also their presence in the concluding lines of AV-S XII 3, as well – entitled by Griffith “An accompaniment to the preparation and presentation of sacrificial offerings by a householder and his wife, with prayer for prosperity and happiness on earth and in heaven”) … there is also the situation of AV-S III 27 – thoughtfully labelled by Griffith as “A charm consigning an enemy to the serpents for punishment”.
Punishment, after all, is the preserve of two groups – the contraveners of the Law, and the enforcers of the Law. We note the inclusion of both one of the hymnals in question, AV-S III 27 (and its immediate prequel, AV-S III 26, dealing with the Arrows of the Directions) in the ‘Raudragana’ set , therefore, as rather apt. And we further recollect near-instantly the familiar-feeling situation of Skaði within the course of the Lokasenna and Gylfaginning – wherein Her dread sanction of Loki is carried out utilizing the Serpent and its venom (a Wolf is also involved – although we are of the opinion that Sturluson’s ascribing for the identity of that figure is somewhat in error).
IV – Purification, Propitiation, Protection, & Punishment – The Other Sides To The Serpent
All of this brings us back to that situation of the Zeuses Meilichios and Maimaktes. Nilsson renders the former epithet as “the One who has been Propitiated.” This naturally invites the question of why said figure had to be propitiated in the first instance. It is too easy to merely ascribe it to the notion of Maimaktes being a ‘stormy’, ‘tempestuous’ and terrific facing. Via way of explication we should turn to the situations outlined but briefly in Pausanias.
Were we to simply read the text at, say, II 20 1-2 directly as it is (in translation), we might come away with the notion that this Zeus-form was a creature associated with peace treaties and ‘cleansing after bloodshed’ in a general sense. I have reason to believe there’s something to that, as we shall encounter in due course.
To quote from that passage via way of illustration:
“Passing over a statue of Creugas, a boxer, and a trophy that was set up to celebrate a victory over the Corinthians, you come to a seated image of Zeus Meilichius (Gracious), made of white marble by Polycleitus. I discovered that it was made for the following reason. Ever since the Lacedaemonians began to make war upon the Argives there was no cessation of hostilities until Philip, the son of Amyntas, forced them to stay within the original boundaries of their territories. Before this, if the Lacedaemonians were not engaged on some business outside the Peloponnesus, they were always trying to annex a piece of Argive territory; or if they were busied with a war beyond their borders it was the turn of the Argives to retaliate.
When the hatred of both sides was at its height, the Argives resolved to maintain a thousand picked men. The commander appointed over them was the Argive Bryas. His general behavior to the men of the people was violent, and a maiden who was being taken to the bridegroom he seized from those who were escorting her and ravished. When night came on, the girl waited until he was asleep and put out his eyes. Detected in the morning, she took refuge as a suppliant with the people. When they did not give her up to the Thousand for punishment both sides took up arms; the people won the day, and in their anger left none of their opponents alive. Subsequently they had recourse to purifications for shedding kindred blood; among other things they dedicated an image of Zeus Meilichius.”
[Jones & Ormerod translation]
Note that expression – “purifications for shedding kindred blood“.
All of which, as we had noted above, invites quite natural comparison with the similarly serpentine-featured Erinyes / Eumenides clade – Who, after all, have Their eponymous outing in Aeschylus’ dramatization of that most famous moral transgression, the matricide of Clytemnestra by Orestes (itself an act of avenging the wrong carried out by her against Agamemnon). In that particular play we find a few details of a more general interest for our typology – only a few details of which we shall but briefly detail here.
First and foremost, we observe that the three major deifics involved in proceedings – and irreducibly bound up with Cosmic Law – are Athena, Apollo, and Zeus. All Sky Father deific expressions (albeit, as noted elsewhere, in the case of Athena … also with other elements as the proverbial strings to Her Bow), and all with substantive Roudran correlation.
Second, all with some degree of ‘Serpentine’ connexion likewise – as well as, intriguingly, all having been described as donning the terrific and ophidian-associated Aegis (Apollo’s utilization thereof, in Book XV of the Iliad, admittedly being rather lesser-known … as with the ‘Melanaegis’ , or ‘Black Aegis’ associated with Dionysus and (the) Erinyes elsewhere). We have sought to argue elsewhere that the Aegis / Gorgoneion device, intimately bound up with Sovereignty (hence its incredibly prominent utilization upon the coinage of the Hellenic world, inter alia) – is, much like the latter’s Sanskrit cognate-counterpart, viz. ‘Ghora’, a situation of a ‘Terrifying Face’ to the relevant Deific; and contrasted, quite naturally, with a more peaceable, calm, and presumably ‘placated’ visage of ‘Aghora’ … or, perhaps we might suggest – ‘Meilichios’.
Although to make things more explicit – other than Athena as ‘Dragoness’, as attested in the Orphic canon (and for good reason), and Zeus with His serpentine aspects and appearances [gestures about this piece we are reading], as applies Apollo, the most overt manifestation for this (at least, in the course of the Eumenides) is provided via His Arrows. Per Herbert Weir Smyth’s translation: ” a winged glistening snake shot forth from a golden bow-string” that would cause the target to “painfully release black foam, vomiting the clots of blood [they had] drained from mortals.” And footnoted by him to draw attention to “a latent word-play: ophis “snake” suggests ios “snake’s poison” which also means “arrow.”” Serpents as Arrows of the Gods, and of Rudra (or His local correlate, in particular), especially. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard that before … scroll up.
We might just as well think of the Erinyes acting in similar fashion – as, after all, the Law is what They are there to enforce, sent after offenders … and therefore, as this relates to the ordinances (rather than .. ordnances) of Zeus, one can well conceive of the Erinyes, too, sent forth like Serpentine Arrows from His Bow in order to strike down the willful transgressor. The Serpents as Devajanebhyah, the ‘People of the Gods’ per the serpent-placationary AV-S VI 56 1-2, also springs instantly to mind.
The third detail concerns one of the immediate outcomes to the scenario, as mediated by Athena. The Erinyes (becoming Eumenides – ‘Good Spirits’, indeed, having been Propitiated … ) are to take up station at a “Seat of Honour at the House of Erechtheus” [Smyth translation], in such placing to help support prosperity and abundance [“That no house will flourish without you. […] Blessings that aim at a victory not evil; blessings from the earth and from the waters of the sea and from the heavens: that the breathing gales of wind may approach the land in radiant sunshine, and that the fruit of the earth and offspring of grazing beasts, flourishing in overflow, may not fail my citizens in the course of time, and that the seed of mortals will be kept safe. May you make more prosperous the offspring of godly men; for I, like a gardener, cherish the race of these just men, free of sorrow. […] that the bright gleam of the sun may cause blessings that give happiness to life to spring from the earth, in plenty. […] May no hurtful wind blow to harm the trees—I declare my favor—and may no burning heat, stealing the buds from plants, pass the border of its proper place; may no deadly plague draw near to kill the fruit; may the earth nurture the thriving flocks with twin offspring at the appointed time; and may the rich produce of the earth always pay the gods’ gift of lucky gain.” [Smyth translation]]
Not for nothing do we find mention of Their regard for the “Fortress of the Gods”, and status as ” the bright ornament that guards the altars of the gods of Hellas”.
The former suite of conceptry evokes instantly that situation viz. Zeus Ktesias at the ‘microcosmic’ level of the individual household [“That no house will flourish without you.”, indeed], and also at a rather larger stake, the observed correlation of Zeus Meilichios with the similar fruitful abundance (c.f. those cornucopia depictions for Zeus Ktesios and Zeus Meilichios, as well as Zeus Philios; and other, associated conceptry) for the Polis at large.
The latter (and its ‘Fortress of the Gods’ and unblinking (bright-eyed?) “[guardianship for] the Altars of the Gods of Hellas”), puts us in the mind of the Protector Serpent. And here, in addition to all else which has been said, we would quote with amusement the analysis of Burton:
“It is perhaps worth noting in passing that the Diasia [festival of Zeus Meilichios], too, has a back-handed connection with such civil strife. Thucydides tells the story of the sixth-century athlete Cylon, famous as an Olympian, and married to the daughter of the tyrant of Megara, who attempted in 632 BC to seize political power in Athens. The Delphic oracle advised him to attack during the greatest festival of Zeus. Not surprisingly, he construed this to be the Olympic Games, but his attack went disastrously wrong. Had he attacked during the Diasia, Thucydides points out, he would have found the city largely empty as all the citizens left it for the sanctuary of Zeus Meilichios. Whether designedly or inadvertently, the god protects his worshippers from threats to the city, and ensures their safety.”
In essence – the situation of the propitiated Erinyes (i.e. the Eumenides) presents a direct resonance and correlate for our observations viz. the Serpentine Zeus.
Oh, and lest I be accused of congealing out of whole cloth (or serpent-skin) some association of Zeus and the Erinyes / Eumenides … we are much-hearted via the mention in the Lex Sacra [Sacred Law] of Selinus – wherein we find offerings to Zeus Eumenes (along with, it should appear, the Eumenides Themselves – although others, c.f. Kotansky, instead suggest Zeus Eumenes being offered to ‘in the manner of the Eumenides’ ) and the Zeus Meilichioi of Sheep (c.f. Veles), for the specific purpose of Purification. Ogden also speculates that the same source’s rite of offering of a piglet for purification of a sinner from the stain of having killed a man (therefore letting him be left alone by the Elasteroi ‘Avenging Spirits’ conjured via such an offence) is also intended in the direction of Zeus Meilichios. It is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility.
All of which leads us back to the evidence contained within Pausanias.
As Harrison puts it (she of the axiomatic insistence that Zeus Meilichios cannot in fact ‘really’ be Zeus):
“The suspicion begins to take shape that Zeus must have taken over the worship of these dread Meilichian divinities with its nocturnal ceremonial. The suspicion is confirmed when we find that Zeus Meilichios is, like the Erinyes, the avenger of kindred blood. Pausanias saw near the Kephissos ‘an ancient altar of Zeus Meilichios; on it Theseus received purification from the descendants of Phytalos after he had slain among other robbers Sinis who was related to himself through Pittheus.’
Again Pausanias tells us that, after an internecine fray, the Argives took measures to purify themselves from the guilt of kindred blood, and one measure was that they set up an image of Zeus Meilichios. Meilichios, Easy-to-be-entreated, the Gentle, the Gracious One, is naturally the divinity of purification, but he is also naturally the other euphemistic face of Maimaktes, he who rages eager, panting and thirsting for blood. […] Maimaktes-Meilichios is double-faced like the Erinyes-Eumenides. “
As we can see, she insists upon this situation of the figure of Zeus Meilichios being some kind of ‘overwriting’ of the ‘actual’ Avenger-Serpent(s) – even as she acknowledges that which is patently apparent: that to the Greeks themselves, there was a substantive role for this Serpentine Zeus in relation to the cleansing of a supplicant from a previously-incurred burden of some serious and severe sin (‘Kinslaying’, indeed, being quite grievous in various archaic IE cultures). We might very well put to her the obvious – if she is prepared to accept the notion of Zeus, as Emperor of the Cosmos, as rather fundamentally correlate with Divine Law (a Sovereign, after all, is just exactly that – the Lawful Authority, the Authority of Law’s enaction and enforcement within his or her realm) … then what makes the concept of Zeus being rather more actively embroiled in the upholding of same so incredibly outlandish. And that is before we delve into the vastly-aforesaid Vedic sphere’s situation for Rudra (Dyaus Pitar) in just such a fashion, etc.
Although having said that, we would somewhat differ from her description in another way, also – namely, that of “Zeus Meilichios is, like the Erinyes, the avenger of kindred blood”. Insofar as it should seem – especially in light of the evidence from the Lex Sacra of Selinus aforementioned – rather ‘the other way around’. That is to say, Zeus Meilichios is the Face of Zeus Who has been propitiated … and is therefore no longer acting as the trenchant Avenger (or, perhaps more aptly in some regards, presiding ultimately over a battalion of such Avenging Spirits – viz. the Erinyes, etc.).
4 thoughts on “Dyaus Draconis – The Dread Dragon Forms of the Indo-European Sky Father [ Part Two – Meilichios – ‘Zeus Be Nice Now’ ]”
In the Balkans there were held to be men who took the form of dragons (fiery, winged, serpentine) in order to defend their villages from bad, crop-destroying weather brought either by demons or by rival dragon-men from neighboring villages (interestingly, they could also take the form of eagles). They are also described as shooting fiery arrows and stones at these attackers, which produced thunder and lightning. These battles took place when the man left his body during sleep. I don’t for a second think that these men were stand-ins for the IE Sky-god, but rather suspect that they were continuing an ancient tradition of our ancestors where certain people were regarded as his sons who became beings in their sleep very comparable to Rudra’s Maruts and members of his entourage.
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interesting point , thank you for bringing to attention
i) points on the Livonian Werewolf in Par IX of this
Or, phrased more directly … the ‘Werewolf’ manifestation in taht Livonian case seems *suspciiously* similar – and Wolf/Dragon coterminity may be at play again to produce a parallel manifestation here .
[also there’s some Vajra Herakles’ Weapons points that might be made as well viz. flaming arrows and so on and so forth]
But yes, would be interested in more detail in relation to what you are relating there.
Well I can’t be entirely sure as Europeans have lost so much of the old IE culture, but I feel that many of these beliefs seem to indicate a relationship to ancestral practices of the Sky Fathers followers. Even the ram is connected to these guardian dragons in Balkan tradition as per your previous post on the Golden Fleece, so I tend think these believers descend from folk who prepared and consumed a European form of Soma. The consumption of an unusual meal (snakes, Fafnir’s heart, a Salmon of Knowledge, magic potion) that imparts wonderous ability is so common in European culture and stories it is hard to imagine that there was not an actual practice that formed their basis among our ancestors. The Scythians seem to have seen themselves as the children of the Sky Father and their culture is a reflection of other IE beliefs about his entourage (Einherjar, Maruts). I suspect all early IE cultures had people (whose descendants were the Balkan dragon-men, Livonian were-wolves, Romanian Solomonari who seem to be a type demonized by the dominant Christian culture, and many others including female groups) within their various societies that saw themselves and were seen by others as an earthly manifestations of the (near or wholly) divine followers of the gods like the Einherjar, Maruts, Valkyries, and so on. I think they performed a guardian role within their communities just as their patron deities did.
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