On The Equinox War-Rites Of The Indo-Europeans

The 19th of March, per the Roman calendar, marks a prominent observance to Minerva – so named ‘Quinquatria’ due to its occurring on the fifth day (‘Quinque’) following the Ides of March. 

And, as should perhaps come as a surprise to no-one by this point, we happened to notice some rather significant points of Indo-European comparanda in relation thereto. Which may potentially point back toward an archaic Proto-Indo-European understanding for the period and its purpose – or, at the very least, should seem to indicate a seemingly rather pervasive Indo-European typology in evidence for the suite of observances undertaken in two, and potentially at least three post-PIE IE culturo-religious spheres. 

We shall elaborate by outlining some of those aforementioned 

The first of these is that shortly after the beginning to this Minerva observance, we find ourselves at the point (the 21st of March, NZ time – aptly, perhaps, a Tuesday) that marks the Equinox. Spring, if in the Northern Hemisphere – Autumnal if you are down here with us. I am informed by my Nordic / Germanic revivalist associates of Ostara being about this time; and we would, of course, note the linkage bask of ‘Ostara’ [viz. ‘Easter’, ‘East’, ‘Eostre’, etc.] to that Proto-Indo-European ‘Dawn’ terminology that also gives us Hellenic ‘Eos’, Latin ‘Aurora’, and Sanskrit ‘Ushas’. 

Why do we raise this? Because there is a rather intricate matter – that I intend to address more fully at another time – around the “Pallantis” / “Pallantias” utilized in Ovid’s works to seemingly refer to Aurora, and in the case of Cicero in his De Natura Deorum (III 59) in intriguing reference to Athena (Minerva). 

In the course of the Brahmanas we encounter recurrent telling of a particular Roudran myth – indeed, in many ways, it is the Roudran Myth; that of the Emanation of He in supreme wrath, congealed to protect and defend against a criminal act carried out by Prajapati against His Own Daughter, known as ‘Diva’ and ‘Ushas’ (various texts pointedly make mention of both theonymics), and identified as the Wife of Rudra. 

We have earlier demonstrated how this particular myth is co-expressed amidst both the Stars (with Rudra as Ardra, Prajapati as Mrgashira, and the Goddess as Rohini), as well as in the Hellenic milieu – with Zeus interceding (via Hunting Hounds) to protect His Semele from the unwelcome advances of Actaeon as one exemplar, the similarly Wolf-Furor (‘Lytta’) enacted defending of Artemis against the figure in other myths being another. We could go on. 

However, here we should like to – but briefly – introduce Athena / Minerva into the fray. Or, rather, highlight how She has likely always been there. Attested via fragmentary (by the time of the height of Rome, at any rate) accounts which should seem to point in exactly that direction. 

As mentioned above, we encounter various mention in Ovid for this “Pallantias” in relation to Aurora – the Dawn. This is a patronymic. It indicates Her descent from ‘Pallas’. 

This brings us to that alternate account for Minerva’s origins as presented by Cicero – wherein we hear of a Minerva that “is said to have slain Her father when he attempted to violate Her maidenhood” [De Natura Deorum, III 59, Rackham translation]. 

Now, prima facie, we can see the relationship between this and the Vedic account … except the Slayer of Prajapati is not Ushas / Diva – but is rather, Rudra. Does this present us with an obstacle?

As it happens, not really. We have long observed that Athena is a strong ‘resonance’ for Rudra in various particulars – indeed, Her Latin Theonymic, ‘Minerva’, is demonstrably correlate with the ‘Manyu’ that is the Wrathful / Furor quality (c.f. the ‘Menos’ which She imparts to Diomedes in the Iliad) and also a major Roudran theonym for He as Vedic War God. 

The detailings found in Ovid’s Fasti that we shall get to before I get too carried away also help to substantiate this in various ways. The lead of which would likely be the statement at III 827-8, wherein those who employ the art of Apollo [Phoebus] for the curation of disease [with an intriguing pun – ‘pellitis’ – interpreted as ‘banishing’, although in adjectival form it would be ‘clad in skins’ … rather like a certain Goddess hailed by a similar name] are enjoined to make offerings also to the Goddess from their earnings (I am tempted to say from their ‘referrals’ given both the Latin and the parlance of doctoring). 

Rudra, after all, being that famed presider over not only the infliction of Disease – but also the alleviation of its suffering and the provision of healing, healing herbs and medicines. We do not consider it coincidental that that other Roudran expression amidst the Classical sphere (well, One of Several – Zeus must also be considered ! ), Apollo, is mentioned here at this point and in that specific capacity. 

It would be tempting, at this point, to go off and begin detailing the swathe of elements which demonstrate the essential concordancy of Athena with Zeus, Athena (and Zeus) with Rudra in more comprehensive terms. However, as we’ve already addressed quite an array of that elsewhere in my previous efforts … just this once, I feel I should exercise restraint and not significantly complicate things further by going down this path in the here and now again.

To return to this situation of ‘Pallantis’ / ‘Pallantais’ and to more overtly relate it to the Vedic perspective … what seems to have happened is a complication and a conflation of sorts in one of the (pre-)Classical skeins of myth. 

That is to say: that version reported in Cicero seems to feature a single divinity being both the daughter that is advanced upon by the father (Prajapati / Pallas) and the avenging slayer (Rudra / Athena) of the forebear in question. 

The comments afforded by Ovid wherein Pallantais pertains to Aurora – are likely closer to the ‘original’ formulation; insofar as we have the Dawn (Ushas), described as being descended of such a father (Prajapati / Pallas), just as it is in the more archaic Vedic textual occurrency. 

I personally suspect that the famed near-impenetrable elephant-hide cloak of Rudra, wrought from Gajasura, may be similarly resonant with that flayed hide of Pallas worn by Athena. But that is another exploration for another time. 

The  long and the short of it is that this Nordic / Germanic situation viz. Ostara being held proximate to the Spring Equinox (as it is up there in the Northern Hemisphere), an observance correlate to that “Eastern” Goddess, Eostre (etc.) … shows up very closely aligned upon the calendrical to the observance to Minerva which Ovid identifies with the anniversary for the occasion of Her Birth / Emanation.

With this detailing viz. ‘Pallantais’ providing a potential ‘bridging point’ between the two cultural spheres – afforded, as ever, via the Vedic perspective that contains the ‘full’ and more ‘archaic’ renditions to the authentic tradition than that we have to work with as applies those European canons of text. 

There is quite a lot more that I can, should, and at some point almost certainly must reveal and/or explicate concerning all of this … but for now, I am running down my energy (and my time-til-midnight) with which to do so.

One point which we WOULD seek to highlight is that the Vedic figure of Ushas is very much a War Goddess. Or, at least, is hailed in such terms quite prominently in the Verses which I am thinking of. 

There is some speculation that the Germanic figure of Eostre may be correlate with the perhaps rather better-known deific that is Freyja. I am not in a position to offer detailed commentary upon this (at this time), however it seems to me that if we may observe instances wherein the Wife of Rudra is hailed via the name ‘Ushas’ – it should not prove beyond the bounds of possibility for the Wife of Odin to be likewise named. 

This does not necessarily mean that all instances of ‘Eostre’ (or similar, cognate nomenclature) are axiomatically Freyja – as there is a phenomenon observable in the Vedas of particular theonymics (and, for that matter, conceptual resonancies) in fact being more ‘positional’ or ‘descriptive hailings’ rather than intended to individually (and explicitly / discretely / uniformly) pertain to a single God or Goddess. 

Caution would therefore be advised before thence attempting to apply the same rubric that we have just outlined in pursuit of any identification of Aurora’s and/or Eos’ romantic linkages in the direction of the Sky Father deific. Lest one inadvertently link another Goddess to He in such a manner. 

Now, in terms of more contemporary Hindu understandings, we would observe that this week shall also bring about the observance of Chaitra Navratri. That is to say, the Spring Navratri – the Nine Nights (Nava-Ratri) of the Goddess. 

We shall quote from a scriptural source:

“[3-5] O king! Hear about the vow of auspicious Navarātra. This has to be performed with loving devotion in the vernal season; but its special season is Autumn. The two seasons, Autumn and Spring, are famous as the Teeth of Yama, the God of Death; and these are the two seasons, very hard for the persons to cross over. Therefore every goodfaring man should everywhere perform this vow very carefully.

6-8 O king! The people are very much afflicted with various terrible diseases in these two seasons Autumn and Spring and many lose their lives during these portions of the year. Therefore the wise should unquestionably worship with great devotion the Candikā Devī in these auspicious months of Caitra and Āśvin.”
[Devi Bhagavata Purana III 26, Vijñanananda translation]

We have, in other works, linked the underpinning to this to an observance in relation to that Female Counterpart of Rudra – Ambika. A Fearsome Female Counterpart to the Sky Father, indeed … expressly hailed as having potency with regard to disease, per the commentaries of Mahidhara [on VS III 52] and the Taittiriya Brahmana’s [I 6 10 4] renditions upon the subject.

The Autumn (Sharada / Sharad, occurrent in the month of Asvin) Navratri is significantly concerned with Warfare – Bihani Sarkar’s work setting out the weapons- and war-animal blessing rites which accompany this as likely being due to its immediately preceding the viable season for military campaigning. Other scholars and texts make rather impressive reference to the Goddess of this time – the Chandika Devi hailed immediately above in our Devi Bhagavata Purana excerpt –  in relation to Swords, assumedly to such a purpose. 

We would ponder whether the position of the Quinquatria, the festival for that most famous of War Goddesses, Athena / Minerva, is correlate with the observances of the Spring NavRatri for good reason. Certainly, we find hailings for the Goddess’ Love of Swords and Combat in Ovid’s account in relation to the observance [those days immediately following that of Minerva’s Birth ” are celebrated by the spreading of sand [for gladiatorial combat] : the warlike goddess delights in drawn swords.” – Frazer translation; Kline has Her delight in “naked swords”, for comparison] – and the final day of the Five constitutes the Tubilustrium / Tubilustria , wherein the Sacral Trumpets (and, perhaps, the War Horns of the Roman Army) are to be blessed, along with offering made also to Mars (Whose Month, entirely uncoincidentally, all of this is occurring within). 

Now it must, of course, be acknowledged that there is a slight discrepancy here – insofar as it is the Spring (Chaitra) Navratri which is soon to be unfurling, and yet the Autumnal (Sharad) Navratri which has the most overt of the bellicose associations (including that most excellent of narratives in which Lord Ram propitiates Devi in an effective ‘combat of piety’ against Ravana so as to enable His then success in vanquishing the demonic foe that had stolen His Bride – see our work pertaining to the Devi Puran Mahabhagwat Ramayan for more details). 

So if this Minerva observance , in broadly the right part of the year to correlate with Chaitra / Vasant Navratri , is most definitely a ‘Martial’ occasion (insofar as it is, quite literally, within the Month of Mars – March; and serving as a ‘lead in’ to the Roman’s season of military campaigning … and, of course, rather mytho-literally occurrent under the Aegis of Warlike Minerva / Athena) … how do we reconcile this ?

Well, by noting that no necessary contradiction exists, in the first instance. There are two NavRatris (indeed, strictly speaking, there are four); simply because the one has the greater ‘warlike’ linkages and saliency does not mean that the other is an inveterately ‘peaceable’ occasion. We would perhaps ponder whether local climatological conditions may serve to help explicate why the ‘sharpening’ for the martial saliency has occurred in different directions in each of these Italian and Indian cases. After all, the existence of the Monsoon season etc. does demonstrate rather tangibly the overt distinction in annual regular climate between the two contexts, for a start. Put simply – the best time for campaigning (and therefore, the most important time for the observances in question – which therefore attracts the mythic associations thus likewise attesting same) may have differed for such ultimately meteorological motivations. 

It would also, perhaps, be interesting to note – as we have referenced Lord Rama within the context of the Devi Puran Mahabhagwat Ramayan, after all – that the Autumnal Navratri of Ashvin is said to have been the ‘Akalabodhana’ one … the ‘Awakening [of the Goddess]’ (Bodhana) that occurred ‘Not [at the proper] Time’ (A-Kala). As contrasted, of course, with the circumstance of the Chaitra Navratri which therefore was the Awakening of the (War) Goddess at the Right Time. 

It is rather intriguing to observe some of the conceptry with specific regard to just how Rama was able to accomplish this – suffice to say, it involves the combination of Divine Fiat (specifically, in this instance, Devi Wanting it to happen … ), and Lord Ram effectively undertaking to worship Devi as an Ancestor-Spirit, a Goddess seemingly at once ‘of the Dead’ in the sense of being such a Forebear-Spirit (appropriate, given Pitru Paksha’s proximity to the Autumn Navratri – it is immediately prior to, our Fortnight of the Ancestors with its thinned veils between worlds enabling the Pitrs to come back amongst Their Folk) … yet also, I would surmise, in the sense of “of the Dead” in the more conventional “Goddess of-” styling. 

This is, after all, something fairly prominent across the Indo-European expanse. Aditi is Queen of the Pitrs per SBr VIII 4 3 7 (a duty that does not forestall Her from providing augmentation and defence of the living within the field of war, as we have attested at some length in previous work with relevant Vedic verse numberings etc.), and Persephone springs instantly to mind (not least due to Her movement to the Underworld being correlate with the portion of the Year wherein the land’s abundance fades upon a seasonal basis). As does (not least via the Diva Triformis conceptry), Hekate – Whom we mention because, as with Ambika (Rudra’s Female Counterpart, as noted above, and the Deadly Force of Autumn, smiting alongside He ), She should seem to be encountered at the Crossroads (and is also very prominently, per Hesiod, invoked for victory in war) . And, in the Germanic / Nordic sphere – we have Freyja presiding over Folkvangr, as well (subsequent folkloric attestations, particularly in relation to the Crossroads, for certain Goddess-forms amidst the Germanics ought also be countenanced in this regard … as we have but briefly sought to address in our works elsewhere). 

Where am I going with this? Well, put simply – as there is a pre-extant Devi-observance pertaining particularly to Death to be found at the Autumn phase of the calendrical (i.e. roughly when the Sharada Navratri is supposed to occur nowadays anyway) … the notion of Lord Rama carrying out a Navaratra style observance that effectively ‘transposes’ the saliency for the Spring Navratri hereto does not seem so strange. After all, He would be building upon foundations evidently very much in situ already.

And thence ‘anchored’ – per various accounts (the DurgaPujaTattva of Raghunanda Bhattacharya, for instance, or the Brhaddharmapurana) for  the ‘Awakening’ of the (War-)Goddess and therefore the the Ashvini (Autumnal) observance’s timing – to the arrival of Ardra (that is to say – Rudra, specifically as the Defender against the depredations of the Goddess’ Father, Prajapati) in the sky. Which is, if you recall, the stellar / jyotisha co-expression of that singular Indo-European mythic skein which occasions itself as the emanation of Rudra for the purpose aforesaid in the Vedic … and this intriguing narrative, per Cicero, for Minerva acting in almost exactly the same capacity. The “Birth of Minerva” – “causa, quod est illa nata Minerva die” , as Ovid puts it, as the ‘reason [for the observance]’. 

How about that.

There’s – predictably – quite a bit more which we could say about just about all of this, but we are already probably overstretching the endurance of most readers (and, for that matter, myself to actually finish tapping this out afore the end of the evening). So we shall instead choose to satiate ourselves (relatively speaking) with but two more substantive observations.

The first of which being that the major swathe of Ovid’s writeup with relation to the Quinquatrus observance  is not, in fact, concerned with the tools (nor, for that matter, the professions) of warfare – but rather, with quite a range of more ‘civil’ occupancies and implements. 

In this, we are fairly instantly reminded of the ‘Astra Puja’ (‘Weapons Worship’) or ‘Shastra Puja’ (‘Tool / Instrument / Weapon Worship’) which occurs immediately following the NavRatri proper. It makes logical sense. If we are construing NavRatri as, incipiently, a War Rite – then due attentions (metaphysical as well as mundane) to the weapons with which such a war is to be fought should prove not just ‘obvious’, but ‘vital’. 

As applies the Roman observance, we would quote Smith, Wayte, and Marindin’s view upon the subject – who hold that at its core, the occasion was “celebrated originally as a lustratio of the arma ancilia, when the arms were brought out to be ready for the campaigning season, just as the ARMILUSTRIUM on the 19th of October was the inventory, so to speak, before they were put away again”. They then go on to suggest a growth in the elements of the observance through the Aventine Temple of Minerva being dedicated upon the anniversary – an entirely logical thing to do, one supposes, dedicate a Temple to the Goddess upon the occasion of the Goddess’ Birthday. With the Temple of Minerva upon the Aventine proving something of a locus for craft-guilds, it would therefore only prove logical for non-martial ‘correlates’ to the weapons-rites aforementioned to thusly ensue. Although that said, I also think it perhaps worth mentioning the situation encountered in the Sri Rudram wherein Rudra’s Cohorts and Forms not only include the more usually thought of Warriors, Charioteers, Horsemen, Very Scary Women, and Wolves … but also pointedly incorporate various shades of ‘craftsmen’ as well. Some of these we might anticipate – fletchers and bow-makers, carpenters and chariot-wrights, smiths and … potters? Yes, as a matter of fact, there they (the Kulala-clade) are, too. It takes all sorts, it should seem, to properly outfit a (pious) army. 

Perhaps more imminently interesting to our purposes are another sort of ‘craftsmen’ – namely, poets (or writers) and actors. One of the earliest attestations which we have for this Aventine Temple of Minerva is that preserved in Livy, wherein the poet and dramaturge Livius Andronicus (the father and pioneer of Latin plotted drama) is recorded as having been honoured for his excellent hymn and performance for Juno in 207 BC via having his fellowship, the ‘collegium scribarum histrionumque’ installed therein. We would have to say that this Goddess presiding over the ‘beautiful word’ makes eminent sense (not least in light of our broader Indo-European theological comparanda – Poets and Actors, you see … rather ‘Odinic’, that) – and it should seem that the Emperor Domitian (who held Minerva as his patroness) agreed, marking Her Birthday with both pageantry and “contests for prizes in oratory and poetry” [Suetonius, Domitian IV, Thomson / Forester translation] .

For various reasons that we shall not delve into here, it occurs that we might, prospectively, make the case for ‘Drama’ (i.e. Acting) and the ‘Crafted Word’ as a continuation (or, at least, an active resonancy) of Warfare via other (and more literary) means. Not least of which being the status of Drama as the ‘next step’ from Ritual (performance) – as we have somewhat sought to explore at greater length elsewhere. Indeed, Ovid’s choice of wording at III 830, ‘Carmen’ (‘certe dea carminis illa est’ – ‘Certainly, She is the Goddess of Song’, per Frazer), is observably one that includes within its ambit the invocation of ritualistic verses of potency and propitiation – perhaps this helps to explicate the immediately following “si mereor, studiis adsit amica meis,” (“may She be friendly to my pursuits, if I deserve it”, per Frazer; “If I’m worthy may She be a friend to my endeavours” , per Kline). The Hoped-For Aid of the Great Goddess, in undertakings of a character we shall most soon be discovering. 

The second (“substantive”) observation concerns the nature of warfare. And a most particular ‘essence’ which seeks to interleaven much of all of this (back) together. 


Think of it this way.

Ask most people what they think “warfare” is, and you’ll get one fairly consistent aspect to their answers. 

Warfare is Violence.

More specifically, it’s Organized Violence. 

Conducted with a particular purpose, an outcome, an objective in mind. 

There’s much more we could say about all of that in various theoretical (and, for that matter, theological) terms – but I’ve excised that rant out for another time in order to focus upon what’s more immediately salient for us here today.

One of the lead exemplars which we’ve cited viz. these War-Rites to the Goddess has, of course, been that of Rama worshipping Devi – in order that He might triumph over Ravana, and in so doing restore to Him a most precious element stolen by the would-be usurper. That being His Wife, Lady Sita, kidnapped by the Demon much earlier in the course of the myth. It is for this purpose that He seeks to advance upon and ultimately emerge victorious over that emperor, his island-stronghold, and his incredible armies. It is for this purpose – the restoration of that which has been taken from Him (most especially by demonic forces) – that Lord Rama undertakes that precedent-setting effort of doing something so remarkable as managing to awake through piety and theological insight, the Devi, the invincible War Goddess, ‘out-of-time’. It is not simply to carry out an impressively scalar act of demon-slaying on point of general principle – although one can certainly fairly argue that Rama was acting in service of a far broader, Deepa, Divine Agenda not (entirely) His Own through His resultant actions. One which did indeed lay waste to the impious and iniquitous forces of the world which had previously sought to subjugate even Gods to their misbegotten wills. 

A similar pattern as to purpose may be divined when we consider the King responsible for, in the Hindu understanding, the original observance for the Navaratra worship of the Goddess. Implicitly, as it is the first and therefore ipso facto a-priori to Lord Ram’s effort, we may presume it to be the Chaitra Navratri that is the mytho-archaic forebear to the occasion soon to be upon us later in this week. 

This King, Surath, had suffered twin defeats – one upon the battlefield against foes from without, and then swiftly following therefrom, a second time to the efforts of traitorous figures from inside his own (then under siege) capital. He was thusly driven into forest-bound exile. Whereupon he meets a Muni (a Sage) and a Merchant, Samadhi – and more upon the latter of these figures at some other time, perhaps. They, the Merchant and the King, are both counselled to worship the Goddess in order that their circumstances be remedied, accordingly. We shall let the Devi Mahatmyam [XIII, Devadatta Kali translation] take over the narration:

“The king and the merchant settled on a riverbank and engaged in spiritual practice, chanting the supreme hymn to the Devī.
When they had fashioned an earthen image Of Her on the riverbank, the two of them worshiped The Devī with flowers, incense, fire, and libations of water.
Now fasting, now restraining their senses, with minds constant in concentration, they made offerings sprinkled with the blood of their own bodies.
When they had worshiped Her in this way with self- restraint for three years, Caṇḍikā, The Support Of The Universe, Was Well Pleased. She Appeared Before Them And Spoke.

The Devī Said:

“That which you desire, O king, and you, the delight of your family,
receive all that from Me. Well pleased, I will grant it.”

Mārkaṇḍeya said:

Thereupon the king chose a kingdom imperishable even in another lifetime and also his own kingdom here, to be reclaimed by force from his enemies’ control.
And then the wise merchant, dispassionate in mind, chose that knowledge which severs attachment from “I” and “mine.”

The Devī Said:

“In a few days, O king, you will reclaim your own kingdom.
When your enemies are slain, thenceforth it will assuredly be yours.

Indeed, the next lines also declare (‘prophesizes’ does not seem quite right, somehow – as that would be ‘prediction’ rather than a commitment to action to make things come about) that Surath shall become, in his next phase of existence, the Son of the Sun (Vivasvat) and the Manu that is Lord of the Age; whilst Samadhi achieves his sought-for (absolute) freedom. And I have always thought it rather worth remarking upon, that last point, precisely because we are so used to inveterately ‘grasping’, ultra-‘materialist’ merchant stereotypes – so the one that does the exact opposite is a refreshing shift. There is ‘nuance’ and ‘depth’ in the mythic world, after all. Or, rather, in the human presentations thereof. I digress.

The point is that – just as with Lord Rama – we have the Goddess propitiated through a Navaratra observance , by a of protagonistic potency who has lost something (or SomeOne) … and thusly empowered, by Her, to take back – through warfare, organized (and metaphysically empowered) violence as we had put it – that which has been stolen from him. 

I do not know if there is something so overt that may once have been found in the Roman (or, for that matter, Hellenic) annals for an Athena / Minerva observance of this nature – although it does occur to me that given the earlier portions to the Devi scriptural source in question extol Her carrying out similar deeds in order to restore to Their lost dominions, the Gods Themselves following demonic usurpation of same, that the actions of Athena in relevant mythic combats against the Gigantes (or, for that matter, Typhon / Typhoeus) might perhaps be somewhat comparable in this space. 

Certainly, one’s mind instantly recalls that most famous of epics, the Odyssey, which is substantively comprised of Athena assisting one of Her ‘Favourites’, Odysseus, in his recovery of his lost wife, home, family, kingdom, life. 

And we could, most definitely, extoll other occasions in which She has assisted the Hellenic hero in the restoration of that which is his – however we ought move to draw things to a close. And that means marching back up in toward the Heavens.

We opened this (A)Arti-cle with, inter alia, discussion of the interrelated astro-mythic expressionals of a particular archaic Indo-European belief. Namely, that of a certain Goddess being set upon by a would-be interloper – and protected (or, at least, avenged) via the wrathful, furious, roaring (and, it would seem, lupine) intervention of a God. 

In Vedic terminology, the story should by now no doubt be earnestly familiar – Rudra (Dyaus) intervenes in order to judiciously smite Prajapati (in deer form), the paternal violator of Diva / Ushas. In Jyotisha terms we hear of Ardra (Sirius), the Great Hunter (Mriga Vyadha), shooting Mrgashira (The Deer’s Head – with the Three-Pointed [Trikanda] Arrow impaling the carcass being what we in the West would know as ‘Orion’s Belt’) in dread sanction for the outrage committed against Rohini. 

In the Classical realm there are numerous permutations upon the myth in question, as we have discussed at much grander length and depth of detailing elsewhere. The most prominent of which being that occurrence of hunting hounds ripping apart the would-be interloper Actaeon (in Stag form – c.f. the aforementioned Mrgashira-emphasized ‘Deer’ shaping for Prajapati) in defence of Artemis (Herself of some notably Roudran characteristics) … or, in another iteration to the same myth, Semele – with this forthright canine-enabled defence of His Woman in this latter case being the undertaking of Zeus Himself. 

It is not hard to see how Minerva / Athena with this “Pallantis” / “Pallantias” epithet / patronymic should fit into this rubric. Rudra, too, is described as paternally expressed by Prajapati – and so whether we are prioritizing the ‘side’ to Minerva which resonates with the Sky Father deific complex (i.e. Rudra, Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, Dyaus, etc.), or that which is, self-evidently, a Goddess and the would-be victim to the incestuously-inclined Pallas in question (not to be confused with Athena’s “other” Father in more well-known myth … as there is no tradition I am aware of wherein Zeus is spoken of in such a situation with Her, let alone Flayed – perish the thought !) … we ultimately end up at a ‘resemblant’, ‘recognizable’ position for Her – it’s just that it is, seemingly, ‘two at once’. And we can be reasonably assured that this “Pallantis” / “Pallantias hailing does, in fact, point in the direction which we presume it to – given its application also to Aurora, the cognate value inherent between Aurora and Ushas in linguistic and at least somewhat functional terms, and so forth. 

This would, intriguingly lead us to ponder whether something similar might have once been in evidence viz. the Ostara / Eostre , or perhaps even Freyja , assumedly defended by Odin. But such tellings, should they have existed, are now, sadly, lost to the ages. 

In any case, where I have ultimately been moving with regard to this is that aforementioned Nakshatra (‘Constellation’, ‘Asterism’, Lunar ‘Star Sign’) of Rohini. This is a complex figure in terms of Her associations – however we should choose to emphasize those attestations for Her as the Wife of Rudra which ought prove readily apparent.

In the course of the Taittiriya Brahmana’s enumeration as to the various Nakshatras and Their Istis [‘Wishes’ – basically, the purposes for which one would propitiate particular of these ‘Astral’ Divinity-Forms] is likewise linked to the East, and is Bright and of Red(dish) colouration. These are all, for obvious reasons, traits also mentioned in relation to Ushas – and we are, by this point, utterly unsurprised to find the linguistically coterminous ‘Usa’ (‘Usha’) occurrent as name for Rudra’s Consort in various Pauranika sources likewise [c.f. Vishnu Purana I 8 , Brahmanda Purana II 10, Markandeya Purana LII, etc.] ; which may not necessarily mean that it is that Ushas often thought of in all instances – as we had noted above, ‘positional’ theonymics are very much a thing, as are descriptive ones which are ‘multi-applicable’, such is the nature of our divinity. Perhaps something similar may have eventuated viz. Aurora / Eos at some point – or, for that matter, Eostre. 

Yet our point in bringing up Rohini with such emphasis is a rather more overt one. 

Those aforementioned Ishtis include amidst Them the following for Her: 

“Among them He longed for Rohini. He desired: “May She Come Back to Me. May I unite with Her.”
 He offered that well known sacrificial pap to Prajapati (i.e. to himself) and to Rohini (who is his Naksatra).
Consequently She came back to Him, and He united with Her.
 What is dear to one, that comes back to him, and with what is dear to him, he unites, he who offers that oblation, and who thus knows it.”[Taittiriya Brahmana III 1 4 2, Dumont translation] 

Now, as we had sought to explicate in the course of ‘Rohini – A Re-Examination Of The Red Goddess And Rudra’ some weeks prior, there is rather good evidence to suggest that the figure intended in that verse was originally the (Roudran figure of) Soma, as directly attested in more archaic Vedic text (and highlighted via the work of modern-day sage, Manasataramgini). However this is not our point nor our purpose to most emphatically seek to re-litigate herein. 

Instead, we are simply observant of that fundamental, nigh foundational fact – that the Ishti associated with this Nakshatra is the trenchant restoration and recovery to one of that (particularly the She) Whom one has lost. Rather like, you would have to say, those undertakings to petition the mighty Goddess which Lords Rama and Suratha had engaged in – and to exactly such victorious outcome in same. As we had noted above, it does not seem to us at all coincidental to hear of the emergence of Ardra (the Avenger, Rudra) in the Sky as being the ‘anchoring’ for the occurrence of the Goddess’ Awakening, as applies the Ashwini / Sharada [Autumnal] Navratri Rites whereby the formidable Chandika is brought forth in imminent advance of the most militant efforts via which such a Wish (‘Ishti’) might become tangibly actualized. 

Yet we should also make mention of one key difference here, between what is going on viz. Navratri etc. and what had gone on in the context of Rohini and Ardra in that suite of astrologically represented myth.

In the latter case (also, chronologically, the earlier) – we have the Goddess being Saved. 

In the case viz. Navratri, however, we have things the other way around – here it is the Goddess Who is doing the Saving, or the empowerment so that such revanchist efforts may be successfully enabled to occur. 

With all of that in mind, what else is left to say?

Well, for the moment, –

The relevant sector to Ovid’s Fasti (III, 835-848) makes a final notation as to the potential root meaning(s) to the epithet of Minerva Capta, the shrine for Whom upon the slope of the Caelian Hill, She appears to have been invested within upon this Quinquatria some years previously. 

He begins with the laudable declaration – namely, that She is the Highest, Greatest (as Frazer’s footnotes put it – “He suggests that capta comes from caput, and adds that Minerva is capitalis, “tiptop.””), due to Her having and indeed outright embodying the ‘Capital’ essence that is ‘Ingenium Sollers’ (Translated often as ‘Ingenuity’, – ‘innate quality of expertise / skill / adroitness’ would perhaps be more immediate), Her ‘Ingeniosa’ quality.

Or, perhaps, he postulates, it may be due to the rather logical reasoning of having sprung from the Head (‘Capitis’) of Her Father (a situation that, with deference to the state of Zeus Pater / Jupiter being both etymologically and theologically cognate with Dyaus Pitar … that is to say, Rudra, we have sought to connect to the recurrent typology of His manyu-festation of certain Warrior/Destroyer/Avenger/Executor/Executioner emanations or Aspects via His Third Eye : a grand exemplar for which being that provided in Gautami Mahatmya 92 wherein The Manyu (etymologically correlate with Minerva) is produced by Shiva to avail the Gods upon the field of war against the Demons, quite directly through this Eye-of-the-Forehead), equipped with a Shield (Clipeo – and it is rather interesting to consider some of the other meanings to ‘Clipeus’ in this … light). 

The third possibility he ventures is the one that has become generally favoured by various scholars … yet which does not quite stand up to scrutiny, at least taken at face value. Effectively, ‘Minerva the Captive’ – and thought by Ovid to be a description for the Goddess as having come to Rome as a “captive”, won during the conquest of the Falerii in 241 BC. Yet this does not concord with the manner in which other Goddess(es) are conceptualized as being treated in the immediately relevant circumstance of the ‘Evocatio’ rite … wherein one would find the divinity to be invited to come (back) to Rome, abandoning Their former place and people in the process. (And c.f. the passages elsewhere in the Fasti where Ovid makes mention of the Juno (Sospita) won over to the Roman side via such mechanisms)

One solution to the conundrum is proposed by Torelli (as cited in Ziolkowski’s ‘Temples of Mid-Republican Rome’) – who innovatively dismisses the elements drawn from to support the ‘standard’ interpretation, in order to instead propose that the ‘Capta’ element instead refers to some other ‘donarium’ which had been captured at Falerii and then offered to Minerva at this ‘Caelian’ site by one of the victorious Roman Consuls in 241. This hinges, in part, around various evidence to show that the relevant Minerva place of worship was not one instituted and consecrated in 241 with the aforesaid victory, but rather was a much older situation (whose true origins and antiquity had faded from the public memory by the time of Ovid – hence his multitude of potential explications for the epithet in question, and therefore the relevant shrine bearing similar). It would not be hard to see how things could have become ‘twisted’ or ‘faded’ with the passages of the centuries – and the place where, perhaps, spoils won in war [‘Capta’, indeed] were offered TO a Goddess of War Who had played such significantly salient role in their obtaining … may have seen this particular function become so dominant in the popular vague-recollection to effectively become a quality which Ovid could (mistakenly) affix as possibility to the Goddess[-Aspect/Form] Herself, as a quality of how She ‘got there’ no less, rather than the essential act of thanksgiving worship offered to Her (Who Was Already There – And Actively Supporting Roman Military Endeavours, Besides). It certainly makes more immediate sense than the rather remarkable idea of somehow being able to, as a mortal force of men, take “captive” not only a divinity, a Goddess … but That Particular and most indomitable of Goddesses. But let us press forward.

The final of those explications proposed by Ovid is also, in some ways, the most pertinent (at least, in potentia) to our purpose: namely, a possible origin for the epithet in the ‘Capital’ (‘Capitis’ – from ‘Caput’, ‘Head’) punishment (‘Poenas’) affixed for the criminal acts of seeking to steal (more directly – to receive that which has been stolen) That Which Is Sacred from Her.
We make notation of this due to the observed association of Athena with the Erinyes – and therefore, so it should be, that notion of tracking down and dread-sanctioning of the reprehensible specimine of a man who would seek to willfully (or, perhaps, even malignantly-inadvertently) violate the bounds of divine propriety, possessions and sanctity. In this, then, we have the ‘Recovery’ and the ‘Laws’ Upholding’ elements so integral to much of which we have previously discussed herein. Carried out, if need be, via violent conquest of and as-to the would-be interloper. 

Or, phrased more incisively – by taking his head. A rather familiar detail to the Roudran cycles, wherein exactly this is meted out against the Brahma/Prajapati figure Who had dared to seek to interfere with Rudra’s Supremacy and/or Wife, dependent upon the text (and really, we have good reason to subtly annotate that these two elements are mutually, heavily interlinked to the point of being functionally co-expressive – Adi Shankara most certainly thought so, in that famed couplet of his Saundarya Lahari [‘The Waves of Beauty’] which we are so frequently reference-quoting). Hence, also, our well-known reference to Rudra’s rejoinder in certain matters of religious disputation … the Roudran Theological Argument – i.e. an Axe. And hence also His (or, again, contingent upon telling, His Warrior-Destroyer Emanation, KaalBhairava, for instance) status as the Kapalika, the Skull/Head[-bearing] figure (and with the ‘Kapala’ of ‘Kapalika’ being assumedly of that same PIE root of similar meaning (either the *kap- which is ‘head’, or the similarly relevant for reasons that ought prove obvious *kap- which means ‘to seize’, as in ‘to capture’ – c.f. , assumedly , that Minerva ‘Capta’ sense but briefly engaged with above).

Yet my actual purpose in recapitulating back to Ovid was to merely make use of – in slight paraphrasing – how he’d chosen to conclude this sector to his Fasti:

“a quacumque trahis ratione vocabula, Pallas,
pro ducibus nostris aegida semper habe.”

Or, per Frazer:

“From whatsoever source thou doest derive the title, O Pallas, do thou hold thine aegis ever before our leaders.”

And Kline:

“By whatever logic your title’s derived, Pallas,
Shield our leaders with your aegis forever.”

I say ‘paraphrasing’, however I actually mean ‘adaptation’.

Where Ovid sought to invoke Her – whatever the ultimate derivation and meaning of Athena / Minerva’s pertinent epithet – to provide the sovereign (and terrific !) empowerment of the Aegis to the leaders of Rome (a capacity most useful upon the field of war) … 

… I am, here, taking the broader Indo-European view. That is to say – whatever the ultimate origination underpinning these seeming-paired observances of the Quinquatria of Roman Minerva and the (Chaitra) Navratri of Hindu Chandika, we would endeavour to propitiate and beseech Her for Her Divine Blessing in the course of the ongoing conflagration(s) and combat operations we are both embarked upon and which are imminently as-yet to come. 

As Ovid had chosen to phrase it:

“mille dea est operum: certe dea carminis illa est;
si mereor, studiis adsit amica meis”

“Goddess of the Thousand Works : Resolved Goddess of the Sung Invocation that She Is; 
If I am Worthy, in my Quests may She be a close Comrade unto me.”

With particular deference to the Goddess of the Carmen, we had thought that ‘Vak Cha Me’ (especially given the Roudran origination to this particular phrasing; yet doubly so due to the ‘Myth In Motion’ expression to this in the context of RV VIII 100’s depiction of Vak Devi aiding and empowering Indra (and, implicitly, Trita Aptya) to smite Vritra – correlate to Athena’s guidance and support of Herakles and Iolaos in the course of the Hydra-slaying) should prove pertinent in correlation – not least, come to think upon it, due to the Diva / Ushas axial to other elements of our proceedings, as we happen to find Vak in exactly that ‘Rohini’ role and attestation in the Bhagavata Purana (III 12 28-33). 

Yet given that Navaratra is, overtly, per the Devi Bhagavatam etc. that we had cited earlier, a Chandika oriented observance – well, especially given Ovid’s concluding line viz. the Aegis of Athena and Her well-known association with the Thunderbolt and Storm … 

Vajrahastā ca me rakṣetprāṇaṃ kalyāṇaśobhanā

3 thoughts on “On The Equinox War-Rites Of The Indo-Europeans

  1. The references to Devi’s Awakening in this post immediately reminded me of her frequent association with and depiction riding upon Bodhi (‘the one who awakens’) by which is so often meant (of course), Kukkuta, the rooster. The rooster being more than any other animal associated with the dawn, this identification of the Goddess with Ushas/Eos/Aurora can’t be a coincidence. Nor can the bird’s martial character as a renowned fighter and so often linked to war (as with Devi’s mighty son). Interestingly Athena/Minerva, though most often these days identified with the owl, was anciently equally associated with the rooster.


  2. Pingback: On The Equinox War-Rites Of The Indo-Europeans – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  3. Pingback: On The Equinox War-Rites Of The Indo-Europeans — arya-akasha | Vermont Folk Troth

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