The Crow-Accompanied Goddess Of Violent Death

The Fierce Warrior-Destroyer Goddess Chandika is depicted in the Kadambari of Banabhatta (and Son) as being accompanied by a most remarkable coterie of worshippers.

To quote from my own translation:

“Being worshipped from all sides by the Retinue of Crows both razor sharp and unyielding Who sang Her Glories”

The Sanskrit reads:

“ārādhyamānāṃ sarvataḥ kaṭhoravāyasagaṇena … stūyamānām”

Aradhyamanam – ‘Being Worshipped’, Sarvatah – ‘All-About’ / ‘From All Sides’, Kathora – can be translated as ‘Old’ (as Sarkar and Layne do for this verse … or, for that matter, ‘Young’ – as the Kale translation does), however I would instead suggest “Cruel”, “Sharp”, “Harsh”, “Piercing”, “Hard-Hearted”, “Ruthless”, “Violent”, “Loud”, “Unyielding”. It’s a complex term.

Vayasa is the term rendered as Crow – and it is rather fascinating to consider its broader Indo-European cognates:

I would suggest PIE *wéyh₁os as its root – *weyh₁- (‘Chase’, ‘Pursue’, ‘Hunt’, ‘Persecute’, ‘Exert Force’) rendered into a noun via the -os suffix.

This should render ‘Vayasa’ cognate with terms such as Latin ‘Vis’ (as in ‘Assault’, ‘Force’, ‘Vigour’), Ancient Greek ἱέρᾱξ (‘Hierax’ – a Raptor (a swift-moving hunting bird) .. interestingly potentially having semi-merged at some point with the other ‘Hier-‘ style term, ‘Hieros’ (ῐ̔ερός), as in ‘Holy’, ‘Consecrated’, ‘Divine’), Germanic ‘Hunt’ terms such as veiða, Irish Fían (‘Warband’, ‘Group of Warriors’), and an entire suite of ‘War’ terminology in the Slavic sphere (‘Voivode’ – ‘War-Leader’ – being perhaps the most prominent; although ‘Voi’ or ‘Voj’, as in ‘Soldier’, ‘Warrior’, is rather more foundational – as with ‘Voina’ or ‘Vojna’ for ‘War’ itself).

We elsewhere encounter a term of this rooting in RV V 41 13 (inter alia) – in relation to the Maruts. To quote Manasataramgini’s rendering for this (and it is, after all, his own ancestor that was the Rsi for the mantra):

“And like mighty birds [the Marut-s] swoop down here, turbulently, to the mortal pursued by deadly weapons.”

So, Vayasa Ganena – Crow, followed by the instrumental case for ‘Gana’, as in ‘Flock’, ‘Tribe’, ‘Troop’, ‘Company’ (as of Retainers – i.e. ‘Retinue’), ‘Clade’ … ‘Gana’ being a grouping united by a shared characteristic and particularly a shared purpose; hence the utilization to refer to the honour-guard of a God (particularly, as applies certain God(s) and Goddess(es), of the post-human / post-mortem variety, as noted above, many paragraphs ago now … ).

And finally – Stuyamanam : ‘Being Praised’. ‘Stu’, as in ‘Stute’ or ‘Stauti’ (viz. chanting or invoking – ‘praise’ is correct, but somewhat misses the ritualine and religious dimension to the term), from PIE *Stew-, which means much the same.

We are reminded, perhaps, of the circumstance also – as recounted in Apollonius of Rhodes’ ‘Argonautica’ [III 929] wherein the great Hera sends a Screaming Crow ( λακέρυζαι […] κορῶναι ), in amidst such a Murder , to provide most vital guidance to the young hero, Jason – interestingly, at once upon matters of the heart and success in love … as well as to secure a most potent ally and defence against a dire draconic adversary he is swiftly soon to meet.

Perhaps we might also think of the circumstance for which the Maruts are invoked in RV VI 61 by the remarkable Rsi Śyāvāśva along with the Night (Ūrmya, here, rather than the more familiar Rātri hailing we are perhaps more accustomed to), with a view to the same purpose that the Corvid has evidently been associated with within the Hellenic sphere [c.f. Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, in a suspiciously similar-sounding incident in Book III thereof]; but we digress.

One supposes They are expert in ‘going for the Heart’, in either capacity.

In terms of formidable Goddess(es) with Corvid associates – we instantly recall Athena, also. The original favoured creature of Her being the Crow – displaced at some point, perhaps due to the Owls of Athens simply being more prominent, albeit with an array of Greek ‘narrativized’ reasonings for the alleged fall from favour of the Crow in order to ‘make way’ for the Owl (which is, after all, similarly associated with Death, Ill-Fortune, the Night and a Harsh Sound).

There are also several most pertinent further Hindu Goddess-forms we might speak of – but perhaps we shall defer these until subsequent appointment and a more overtly dedicatied (A)Arti-cle in Their glorious Direction.

And there are, of course, amidst the Celtic sphere, the very well-known Badb / Badhbh , Macha , Anand / Anann / Anu (Danu) , Neamhan / Nemain, Morrígan / Morrígu , as well as the Cailleach – and, of course, the intriguing coterminity of spirit with the Banshee / Bean-Sídhe .

So :

Aradhyamanam Sarvatah Kathora Vayasa Ganena Stuyamanam –

“Being worshipped from all sides by the Retinue of Crows both razor sharp and unyielding Who sang Her Glories”

Quite a Retinue, these Corvidae !

And Wisely Insightful Messengers of Her, Too, it should aappear!

Jai Mata Di.

And also to the Crows !

One thought on “The Crow-Accompanied Goddess Of Violent Death

  1. Pingback: The Crow-Accompanied Goddess Of Violent Death – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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