II – The Surging Power Of The Dragon’s Force – With Head Uplifted Like A Serpent, Rearing To Strike
We have long observed (and here, I mean this also in reference to the rather lengthy digression discussing and attesting this that I have excised from this point in the piece … ) that there is a pervasive Indo-European typology for both i) the figure empowered by ‘Furor’ to have their eyes described in ‘fiery’, ‘flaring’ terms; and ii) that the Divinity Who presides over such empowering is likewise frequently hailed.
A non-Germanic exemplar for this typology ‘in motion’ is handily provided by Achilles in Book XIX of the Iliad. Athena, the ‘Bright Eyed’ (‘Glaukopis’), to quote the Murray translation, “like a falcon, wide of wing and shrill of voice” appears from the Heavens and bestows upon him the potency borne by the Nectar and Ambrosia … and his eyes, as they say, are lit up, “blazed as it had been a flame of fire”, to quote Murray’s rendition again – with his ‘Menis’ (ref. Sanskrit ‘Manyu’, and also Roman ‘Minerva’, as we have capaciously detailed elsewhere) being quite literally the stuff of legend.
Long-running readers shall spot instantly where I’m going with this. Agni-Rudra, the similarly ‘blazing eyed’, in the Shyena (‘Hawk / Falcon’) Form brings the Soma (‘That Which Is Pressed’); and is also typologically linked to Furor – the aforementioned ‘Manyu’ being both theonymic for Rudra as the foremost of the Vedic War Gods, and also the designation (well, one of them), for such a ‘Furor’ state. ‘Ugra’, likewise, performing ‘double duty’ – and intriguingly, in RV X 125 5, being bestowed by Vak Devi to Her Chosen as what we might term ‘Furor Poeticus’ as well.
All of which brings us to Odin, the ‘Bale-Eyed’ (‘Báleygr’ – ‘Bál’ being quite directly ‘Fire’, and ‘Eygr’ assumedly needing little introduction … as it’s directly and quite overtly related to ‘Eye’), brings the Empowering Elixir (Kvasir (‘That Which Is Pressed’), the Mead of Poetry), and does so in Eagle Form.
Oh, and did we mention that Athena is, canonically speaking, also (elsewhere) a Dragon? Goes rather handily with the Draconic Forms for Rudra (that we shall be encountering in greater depth in due course) … and that Serpentine shape worn by Odin during the course of the Mead of Poetry’s obtaining, as well.
Speaking of Serpentine shapes for the Furor’s active expressor – this typological association for the Serpent or Dragon and Furor is directly attested within the Vedas Themselves. RV I 64, a Hymnal for the Maruts – the ‘Marya(s) of Rudra’ [RV I 64 2; and ‘Marya’ [c.f., per some reconstructions of etymology, ‘Mars’, ‘Martial’] is a term we shall not delve into herein – suffice to say that ‘Youths’ doesn’t quite capture it, and we hold Sayana’s suggestion viz. ‘Mortals of’, and therefore ‘Sons of’ to be not entirely incorrect, yet nevertheless apt for the wrong reasons; ‘Glory-Seeking Young Warriors’ is perhaps close enough], the ‘Young Rudras’ [RV I 64 3] – has Them hailed via the splendorous epithet ‘śavasāhimanyavaḥ’. What does this term mean?
‘Śavas’ ( शवस् ) is a term for Strength, Power, Might, ‘Heroic Valour’, ‘Superiority’, etc. (and, interestingly, is from both the same root as ‘Shiva’ [viz. ‘śvi’ ( श्वि ) – ‘to grow’, ‘to thrive’, ‘to prosper’, ‘to be “puffed up” with pride’; and c.f. its Hellenic cognate, ‘Kurios’ ( κύριος ), for ‘Lord(ship’, ‘Authority’], as well as being a homophone for that other saliently Shaivite term, Śavas ( शवस् again) as in ‘Corpse’); yet Śavas does not intend to imply these simply as an abstract, ‘static’ quality. Rather, it suggests the ‘surging with / surging forth’ of such, the active and tangibly visible ‘increase’ – in a word, the swelling with such potency [c.f. Sanskrit ‘śváyati’ ( श्वयति ), which more directly means just exactly that].
As a point of interest, it’s used in such a fashion in RV VI 43 4. There we find what is often translated as the ‘Might of Maghavan’ (i.e. Indra) [which Jamison / Brereton … curiously translate as “the capacity for generosity”, presuming, it would seem, a rather different sense for the ‘Potency’ and ‘Capability’ of ‘Magha-‘ – and inferentially approaching it from a different ‘angle’ upon Lordship] – is, rather fittingly, as Sayana summarizes it, ‘māghonam śavas’. An ‘Increasing Power’ rather than simply the ‘Power of the Powerful’. As, after all, that is what occurs when one imbibes the elixir in question – in figurative terms, think of the familiar illustration of the Gaulish hero Asterix when he drinks his magic potion. The power surges, rears up. Perhaps the eyes also ‘flare’ (and we are reminded of that particular detail for Striker/Thunderer deifics such as Thor in the Husdrapa or the Armenian Vahagn ( c.f. ‘Vritraghni’ / ‘Vritrahan’ – ‘Slayer of Vritra’) in the ‘History of the Armenians’ of Moses of Chorene, in both cases immediately prior to Their fighting demon-dragons … if the Empowering Elixir makes one as a Dragon in some qualities, then we might perhaps think of this in some way as ‘Sending a Dragon to Combat a Dragon’).
It should prove most intriguing to contemplate that enigmatic identity underpinning the ‘Prdakusanur’ occurrent in RV VIII 17 15 in such a light. Some take it as the name of the Priest officiating – Who then ‘leads’ Indra to the rite and the imbibing. Others view it in somewhat different terms – Lubotsky notes the association of the ‘Prdaku’ with Varuna (in the West) in the lists of the Six Serpentine Guardian-forms of the Directions found in both major Atharvanic recensions (Paippalāda and Śaunakīya), as well as the Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā (although as he notes, in the Taittiriya Samhita, it is Indra (in the South) thusly linked – and Varuna there has the Tiraścirāji that is otherwise Indra’s), as part of an effort to make it out to be Varuna wearing a Panther-skin (Prdaku, after all, can also mean ‘Panther’), assumedly then ‘leading’ Indra.
We might feasibly contemplate whether Soma (the Deva) is meant (Grassman’s objection to this on the grounds that ‘Soma’ is directly spoken of by such direct name in the final part of the second half to the verse seems rather artificial). And Sayana advances the innovatively logical understanding that Prdakusanu in fact refers to the posture adopted by Lord Indra Himself – “Head uplifted like a Serpent”, to quote Horace Hayman Wilson’s translation to the verse; this also referring to the manner of the offering thusly required : reverently, certainly, but also (we would infer) with proper caution and deference, as one would when treating with a Dragon. He would also then seem to link the next half of the verse, concerning a “rapid seizure” (to again, quote the H.H. Wilson rendition) to this same ‘Serpentine’ evocative conceptual illustration – perhaps in the manner of a snake swiftly lunging out with its head and neck to take prey.
If Sayana is correct – then we have, it should seem, another exemplar for the imbiber of the Elixir being presented in Serpentine terms. If Lubotsky is (partially) correct – then we would instead have another Sky Father expression (Varuna) hailed in (potentially) Serpentine regalia [‘Serpent-Crested’, indeed – although Lubotsky’s interpretation for ‘-sanu’ is that it ought mean ‘back’ as in ‘[upon His] back’]; rather than something akin to ‘Peak’, or ‘Precipice’, or a Wise Man]. If it is Soma, then Soma is Serpentine. If it is the Priest, then it is most interesting that we should have the Priest as Human Custodian hailed in such terms. Whatever the truth of just Who is meant – it is most certainly a powerful image. But we digress.
To return to ‘Shavasaahimanyavah’ – the next two elements to it are by now eminently familiar ones. ‘Ahi’, as in ‘Serpent’, ‘Dragon’; and ‘Manyu’, as in ‘Furor’. So, this quality of the Maruts, śavasāhimanyavaḥ, refers to the ‘Surging Fury of the Serpent’, or the ‘Power of the Dragon’s Fury’. And it is ascribed to those justly-famed Sons of the Sky Father, the Maruts, hailed as Rudras. With the entitling to it again resonating most strongly with the relevant Divine – not just in terms of the aptly Roudran theonymic (and strongly associated quality of) ‘Manyu’ (c.f. its Italic cognate, ‘Minerva’), but also that ‘Ahi’ element, as well.
Perhaps all of this aids in explicating the remark of Artemidorus in his Oneirocritica [IV 79, Harris-McCoy translation] that “Serpents that change into men signify Heroes and those that change into women signify Heroines”.
The situation of the Empowering Elixir, we may succinctly surmise as an impartment to the chosen recipient of a ‘Divine Essence’ or ‘Divine Energy’ which renders the mortal more like the bestowing Divinity – whether in metaphysical terms with regard to their competencies and characteristics (a great facility with the sacred speech, for example; an invulnerability and indefatigability in combat; a ‘raging’ state of being; a ‘Divine Sight’, piercing through illusions and granting wisdom amidst insight, you get the idea) … and not (necessarily) all that removed from certain other vectors for such divine empowerment – most pointedly and prominently, the ‘Ergreifen’ style situation viz. Odin that, in Sanskrit, we should refer to more properly as ‘Amsha’ , and occurrent with particular relation to Rudra (a devotee in such a state becoming as Rudra, per our theological / metaphysical perspective).
And that just as this ‘inner’ essence impartment is expressed via such ‘resonancy’ of that dimension … so, too, do we find ‘exterior’ descriptors ‘lining up’ alikewise. That is to say – the human who comes to imbibe the elixir being described in terms that are iconographically (or otherwise) keyed to the Deity Who has bestowed the empowerment.
And given the strong role for particular ‘Serpentine’ Aspects, Forms, or symbolic presentations for the God(s) in question as applies the production, ’embodying’ or obtaining of said Empowering Elixir – it makes similar sense that ‘Serpentine’ characteristics ought be referenced when describing the effects of it within its imbiber. Doubly so when we consider that various of those characteristics eagerly anticipated by the drinker (the longevity, wisdom, insight, potency, power, force) are pointedly those that are also frequently encountered affixed to Dragons as well.
The situation of the Eyes of Fire is, therefore, exactly as we should anticipate – indeed, it is downright mytho-logical.
Dragons, after all, in Greek (and broader Classical) as well as Nordic / Germanic myth and metaphysics being quite prominently known for their ‘Flaring’, ‘Fiery’ oculars.
Indeed, Ovid’s Metamorphoses [III, 32-33] describes the Serpent of Mars [‘Martius anguis’] as having Eyes which “flashed Fire” [Melville translation; ‘igne micant oculi’ being the original Latin]. And we mention that particular text and mythic occurrence because, of course, this is the dragon so prominently encountered by Cadmus (thus enabling water to be gathered for a rite, from the spring guarded by same) … and which provides the famed ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ that Athena (Pallas, in the Latin text) then instructs the hero to sow into the ground. “Why gaze, son of Agenor, at the serpent you have killed? You too shall be a serpent to be gazed on,” quoth the Goddess [per the Kline translation].
From such Divinely directed dirt-and-dental-draconic intermingling comes a most remarkable crop – a full troupe of armed men grown up from the soil like seeds. They would, of course, be armed men – this was Ares’ dragon, after all, which the teeth had come from; and even to this day we speak of the ‘blades of grass’, ‘shoots’ of new growth, etc. These are the ‘Spartoi’ – the name communicating exactly how they had come to be in the first place, via ‘sowing’.
This is the effective ethnogenesis of the polis and the people of Thebes (or, at least, the survivors of the scenario are to be) – and speaks toward the prominent role of the Serpent in such occurrences (we shall be taking a closer look at this in the Greek portion of this work with especial regard for Athens); yet it is not why I have felt it pertinent to highlight here.
Instead, it is a curious detail recounted in several of the Greek perspectives upon the issue.
Pseudo-Apollodorus phrases it thus: ” Pherecydes says that when Cadmus saw armed men growing up out of the ground, he flung stones at them, and they, supposing that they were being pelted by each other, came to blows.” [ Bibliotheca, III 4, Frazer translation]
Nonnus, whilst (as with Apollonius of Rhodes) having ‘giants’ rather than ‘men’ spring up from the Teeth’s planting (assumedly, the tale ‘grew’ in the telling … ), nevertheless provides a vital service through his highlighting for the integral role of Athena in this gambit and phase of proceedings –
“Then by the wise counsel of Pallas he lifted a stone high above the giants’ heads; and they drunken with gory lust for Enyo [‘Warfare’], went wild with warlike fury and destroyed each other with the steel of their cousin, and found burial in the dust. One fought with another: with ruddy gore the surface of the shield was drenched and spotted and darkened, as a giant died; the crop of that field was shorn by the brother-murdering blade of an earthgrown knife.”
[Dionysiaca, IV 455 onward, Royce translation]
Meanwhile, Pseudo-Apollodorus (again), Apollonius Rhodius, and Pseudo-Hyginus all attest a strongly resemblant set of circumstances for the hero Jason (indeed, Pseudo-Apollodorus and Apollonius of Rhodes both directly state that the Dragon’s Teeth involved are quite literally the same ones – or, at least, from the same specific draconic maw – as those sown by Cadmus; although Pseudo-Hyginus’ version of Cadmus’ deed has the rock being deployed per Minerva’s direction against the dragon rather than the Spartoi). Albeit with the rather interesting difference that they present the sorcerously skilled (and similarly draconically linked – most clearly via the pair which pulled her chariot) figure of Medea as furnishing Jason with the life-saving guidance on how to deal with his sudden gardening problems.
Pseudo-Hyginus goes an intriguing step further in his Fabulae’s recounting of events – Jason’s aid from Medea being the result of Juno (Hera) seeking to ensure the hero’s safety and success in this endeavour. This, She had undertaken to uphold due to a previous positive encounter wherein he and he alone had assisted a disguised Juno (Who had taken the form of an old woman needing assistance to cross a river, in order to test the virtue of men). And so it was that She enlisted Venus (Aphrodite) to ‘arrange’ for Medea to wish to provide the requisite immediate aid and guidance to Jason … by falling in love with him accordingly.
Apollonius Rhodius takes things further again – having both Hera and Athena involved in ensuring the requisite aid to Jason (Medea-ted via Aphrodite, as above – intriguingly, with Jason described as being akin to Sirius in his approach to the woman … I say “intriguingly” due to the astro-mythic concordance of the asterism with Rudra and other Sky Father deific expressions, as we have covered extensively elsewhere ; we would presume that certain other astrological keyings in the text might also be ‘hiding[-in-plain-sight]’ pertinent mythic details or ritual relevancies ) … and Hera even sending a Crow (λακέρυζαι […] κορῶναι – that is to say, a ‘Cawing’ Crow, in amidst such a Murder) as emissary to directly counsel the lad. Evidently, She had been taking notes from Her Husband – we are reminded of not only Rudra’s and Odin’s (and, for that matter, in prior eras, Athena’s) prominent linkage with the Corvids, but also of Odin’s [we may infer] sending of a similarly harsh-voiced Crow (Kráka) to guide the young Kon to war (and, we presume, his destiny of rulership) in the course of the Rigsthula.
Apollonius also reports Jason to have carried out (per Medea’s instruction) propitiation of Hekate (including via libation of honey – there is also mention of milk being brought for the offering earlier in the passage) in order to secure a potency of invulnerability in the testing strife to come with his dragon-descended (and fire-breathing .. bovine) foes. It would be tempting to ponder whether we might sensibly connect this to the aforementioned circumstances viz. Soma, Nectar and Ambrosia, etc. as a mythologized and half-forgotten (or, if one prefers – ‘half-hidden’) occurrence of a Hellenic (or, at least, whichever relevant local archaic Indo-European cultural) cognate for the relevant rites of Empowering Elixir production / obtainance. Certainly, a Goddess is most vitally engaged in both Vedic and Eddic spheres where such is to be produced – and with ‘Serpentine’ associations also spoken of as applies the actual conveyance [‘transformation’?] of the mystical essence as to the brew. But more upon that in due course.
Thus concludes our second excerpt from Dyaus Draconis – The Dread Dragon Forms of the Indo-European Sky Father [ Part One – Of Grave Wolves And Flashing Eyes : The Odinic Ophidian Observed ]
The first excerpt may be found here –
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