For Pratyangira – Roaring Goddess of the Counter-Fire

A murti of the fearsome Goddess[-form], Pratyangira – a theonymic we would be tempted to translate as “Return Fire!”

She is regarded as Goddess of the Atharva Veda via Atharvana Bhadrakali – and also linked to Kali through the Narasimhika (‘Heroic Lioness’ / ‘Lion-(Wo)Man’) encountered in the Sri Kalika Sahasranama stotram of MahaKalaBhairava : and we would also suggest another familiar figure as providing a further direct foundation within the Vedic Samhitas. That being Vak Devi as a Wrathful Lioness, as we hear of in the Taittiriya Samhita and the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajurveda.

And more upon Her in due course.

‘Prati’ (प्रति) as in ‘return’, ‘opposing’, and ‘Angira’ … well, we are translating somewhat figuratively – in-context it is an Atharvanic metaphysical operation (or the practitioner of same); its etymology should seem to ultimately be from PIE *h₁engʷ- (‘fire’, ‘burning’; not coincidentally, as *h₁n̥gʷnís , ‘living fire’ the root for ‘Agni’, ‘Ignition’, etc.) – developed to *h₁óngʷl̥ (’embers’, ‘charcoal’), whence Sanskrit Angara (अङ्गार – also used, for obvious reasons, for the planet Mars) [and c.f. Sayana’s commentary upon RV  IV 2 15 wherein अङ्गारा , as in ‘Cinders’, is presented as the origination for *The* Angirasas, the priestly clade].

It is intriguing, as well, to note the ‘duality’ between the two ‘sides’ to the Atharvangirasa (another name for the AtharvaVeda) – the ‘Atharva’ side in that context being associated with the more ‘beneficent’ styles of operation and intended outcome, the ‘Angirasa’ with .. well .. not that. ‘Ghoram’ – ‘Dread [Magics]’ being the operative labelling.

Which does not mean ‘Unholy’ via implication – we are reminded of the situation encountered in RV X 108 8, wherein Sarama (the Divine Hound), sent off on a mission to recover a lost wealth of cows stolen by the demonic Panis … threatens the adversaries by saying that (inferentially) should anything happen to Her (the Panis having just er .. pointedly noted the sharpness of their weapons and the strength of their defences), then in amidst other clades of ‘combat theologian’ Holy Man (Rsis and Navagvas) there shall come the unyielding (ayaasya) Angirases. Which, whilst it could be taken in the conventional sense – would certainly fit the context for more overt coterminity with ‘Angirasa’ as it pertains to the AV. Anti-Demon Warding, and all.

As Griffith’s translation to Her Words to the Panis puts it:

“Then will the Panis wish these [threatening] words unspoken.”

But I have digressed somewhat.

Both ‘Angirasa’ and ‘Atharva’ are, fundamentally, ‘Fire’ terms. Many are aware of the cognate in the Zoroastrian sphere for the latter – Athravan (‘Priest’ ; Āθravan / Āθrauuan), however there has been a persistent effort to insist that this ‘must’ be a BMAC origin term rather than something Indo-European (and frankly, given Pinault’s work in this area also seeking to apportion ‘Sharva’ (Śarva / Ćarwa) to BMAC origination despite eminently viable IE etymology, seemingly whilst claiming its meaning to be “living in the forest” (assumedly by overreading ‘Hunter’) rather than ‘Injurer / Archer’ (because then we’d have a pretty straightforward IE rooting …  “k̂er-4 und k̂erə- : k̂rē-“, as Pokorny puts it for Srnati / शृणाति  )  … well, you can see why I’d be a bit suspicious, even if his suggestion viz. a Tocharian *Athr or ‘Superior Force’ is quite nice) .

To this we would proffer Pokorny’s observation of the relevant terminology as instead deriving from PIE *āt(e)r- … meaning “Fire” – and whence also Serbian ‘Vȁtra’ (Fire), Albanian ‘Vatër’ ([Central] Fire), Latin ‘Āter’ (‘Black(ened)’, as in ‘Burnt’, Black-Wreathed), Proto-Celtic *ātis (‘Oven’, ‘Furnace’) and Irish ‘áith’ (Kiln).

Who also makes an interesting suggestion for the Tocharian A and B ‘Atär’ and ‘Etär’, ostensibly ‘Hero’, as perhaps deriving from same archaic ‘fire’ term via a PIE *ētro, he takes to mean ‘Swift’ (and inferentially, we surmise, ‘Impetuous’, ‘Passionate’ – ‘Hot-Tempered’/’Hot-Headed’/’Hot-Blooded’?) – ref. Latvian ‘ātrs’ and some of its related Baltic ‘tempestuous’ variations , as well as Old High German Ātar (‘Sharp’, ‘Keen’, ‘Quick’, etc.). Perhaps we may also inferentially speculate upon the notion of Agni as Priest (by which I mean the human Priest stepping into the role of Agni – as we shall soon examine an instance of from the Vedic ritual canon), Priest as ‘Fire’, with figurative connexion to this likewise. Certainly, ‘Vipra’ (cognate with ‘Vibrate’), the empowered quality of a powerful Brahmin, springs to mind. 

And speaking of speculation linguistic – taking ‘Atharva’ as ‘Fire’ and ‘Angira(sa)’ as ‘Cinders’ (or Embers) , we are presented with the interesting contemplation as to ‘Atharvangirasa’ as in both the ‘Beneficent’ and ‘Baleful’ invocations being, perhaps, ‘Fire and Cinders’ itself. Fire, as in the central and focal, ornate and orthodox, drawing one in to its warmth and life-illumining properties … Cinders, as the sparks and sooty sprays emittent and emergent from the sacral fire which billow out to seek their targets and which have that darkened, miasmatic appearance interspersed with burning. But that is purely speculative hypothetical upon my part at this odd hour of the morning. 

But let us return to our major (my)theme. We had spoken earlier of Vak Devi – and made mention of the fact of Pratyangira as protective against the cursing forces of those arrayed against the supplicant. 

In both the Taittiriya samhita of the Yajurveda and the Shukla-attached Shatapatha Brahmana we hear of Her in the form of a Wrathful Lioness, linked quite pointedly with the Altar-Flame elsewhere therein (hence why the offering is able to reach Her even afore Agni, per one of the relevant propitiating verses [SBr III 5 1 23 / TS VI 2 7 1; repeated quite pointedly in the next SBr occurrence for Her, as well, at III 5 2 9 … because it is through Her that all is (to be made) possible in the first instance] – a situation that at once reminds one of Hestia of the Hellenics … or, perhaps, the pre-eminent share of Hekate (of the Three Worlds) granted by Zeus Himself, per Hesiod).

She is invoked twice in each text in this style – on one occasion [SBr III 5 1 / TS VI 2 7], it is in the context of a Ritual Combat occurrent between Agni as Priest of the Gods and a Sahasrakshas as Priest of the Demons (Asura-Rakshas here , per the SBr III 5 1 21 account). She is propitiated and won over via such to the Side of the Gods (and, assumedly, the human priest acting in Divine Resonancy and Mythic Emulation – Eternal Return, some would term it) – and by that mechanism are the Gods’ Enemies within this metaphysical combat to be vanquished (we would surmise both via the ‘Power of Speech’ and Vedic Rites being favourable to the Divine Side … and not making Herself available to the Adversary).

As SBr III 5 1 33 puts it:

“Thereupon he shifts (the Earth) asunder, with the text (Vâg. S. V, 10), ‘Thou art a Lioness, overcoming the enemies; be Thou meet for the Gods!’ Inasmuch as, on that occasion, She [Vak] became a Lioness and roamed about unappeased, therefore he says to Her, ‘Thou art a Lioness;’ and by ‘overcoming the enemies’ he means to say, ‘Through Thee may we worst our enemies.’ ‘Be Thou meet for the Gods’ he says, because the High Altar is a Woman: Her he thus renders meet for the Gods.”
[Eggeling translation]

It is not difficult to see how this understanding would align with the later-prominent suite of perceptions viz. the pointedly leonine-featured Pratyangira. Through Her, indeed, one is able to overcome one’s enemies. Just as through Vak, the Gods (and a supplicant-Priest whether Divine or of more human origination) are able to exercise the requisite metaphysical force to drive back Their foes. A situation not displaced even via the Taittiriya Samhita’s notation at VI 2 7 4 that the Asuras seeking to assail the Gods and the sphere of the Rite (c.f. the role of the Angiras to protect the Rite from disruption) have managed to equip themselves with Vajras – suggesting, perhaps, that these demons are themselves quite esoterically capable and therefore doubly underscoring the vital necessity of dealing to them accordingly.

Her next arrival within the Yajurvedic ritual conceptry, at SBr III 5 2 (the Taittiriya Samhita correlate just continues directly on from the previous appearance in the earlier part of TS VI 2 7, unbroken and then immediately on into TS VI 2 8) is perhaps even more overtly resonant with our prime perception of Pratyangira. 

Insofar as it concerns itself directly with the mechanism via which an enemy of the ritualist himself – say, a Yatudhana – can be hurled screaming into the jaws of the Underworld via Her Grim Grace [‘Grim’, here, most appropriately, in the archaic Germanic sense entailed via Old Norse ‘Grimmr’ (‘Terrific’, ‘Fierce’, ‘Savage’ – ‘Kruram’ we would say in Sanskrit) – and also the PIE *gʰrem- (‘Roar’, ‘Thunder’) from whence that descends … ].

To quote, first in English and then certain relevant portions of the Sanskrit:

“The sprinkling-water which is left he pours outside the altar close to where is the southern of those two front corners (of the high altar) with, ‘This burning water I dismiss from the sacrifice.’ Because She (Vâk–the Altar) on that occasion became a Lioness and roamed about unappeased, he thus dismisses from the sacrifice that Sorrow of Hers,–if he do not wish to exorcise. But should he wish to exorcise, let him indicate it by saying, ‘This burning water I dismiss from the sacrifice against so and so!’ He then smites him with that sorrow, and sorrowing he goes to yonder world.”
[III 5 2 8, Eggeling translation]

And, to pick up upon some key points of interest from therein … the Southern / Rightwards (‘Dakshina’) direction of the ritual space is, of course, oriented toward Yama’s Realm – hence, in no small part, why the earlier phase of the relevant liturgy has the Pitrs (the Forefathers, the Ancestor-Spirits) appearing at this Direction in order to protect the Ritualist and his proceedings [III 5 2 5 / TS VI 2 7 5]. 

The disposition for the Wrathful Vak Lioness as declared here [SBr III 5 2 8] is not adequately conveyed via the English (to the surprise, I surmise, of precisely no-one). The actual terms are ‘aśānte’ (‘Opposite-to-Shanti’ – opposite to ‘peaceful / tranquil’, that is to say, ‘wild’, ‘restless’, ‘violent’, ‘furor-‘) and elements of ‘śuc’; the latter of which having, as I phrased it elsewhere, an effective sense that is eminently … funerary. 

To quote myself: “शुच् (‘Shuc’), its root, refers at once to ‘grieving’, ‘mourning’, ‘being in a state of clear (and loud) emotional distress’ … and yet also to ‘burning’, ‘consuming’, and to the gleaming, shining, radiance of fire.”

Or, in other words, She being rather ‘upset’ (to put it … mildly) means somebody is about to end up On Fire, and/or otherwise in tearful pain. Seriously. That’s expressly what the term is used to mean (inter alia) in various of these Vedic contexts. 

Oh, and in later texts (and, for that matter, the steadily repeated refrain within RV I 97 – ‘apa naḥ śośucad agham’), ‘to purify’. Flame, after all, is the great cleanser !

Handy that we have the ‘Flame (Atharva) Veda’ on hand, then, isn’t it. 

As for the term which Eggeling has (understandably – if a little unconventionally, perhaps, relative to how we usually might think of the term) chosen to render as ‘exorcise’ – well, we do not intend to go through particle-by-particle that delicious phrase  ‘abhicaredādiśedidamahaṃ’  herein for … several reasons. 

To return to the Taittiriya Samhita rendition for the rite, it differs in one key respect from the Shatapatha Brahmana iteration – and which just so happens to be quite pertinent for our cause of Pratyangira evocation herein. 

As the Keith translation puts it:

“In that he sprinkles the high altar, verily thus does the sacrificer repel his foes from the quarters. Indra gave the Yatis to the Salavrkas; them they ate on the right of the high altar. Whatever is left of the sprinkling waters he should pour on the right of the high altar; whatever cruel is there that he appeases thereby. He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
[TS VI 2 7 5]

Now, as we can see, the broad outlines to the ritual operation in question are clearly coterminous with that we have already beheld at SBr III 5 2 8 (and I have chosen not to revisit the invocations for the Guardians of the Directions in both versions which immediately precede this occurrence. Suffice to say they are, again, substantively the same in each iteration – and with the ‘Swift-of-Mind’ (‘Swift-as-a-Thought’?), Manojavah, taken by Sayana as Lord Yama Himself, accompanied by the Pitrs at the Right / South for both). 

Yet within this framework we also have Indra dispatching a group called the Yatins by quite literally ‘throwing them to the Wolves’ [I choose to render ‘Salavrka’ in the obvious fashion in light of broader IE evidence for such a clade: as ‘Temple Wolves’ (strictly speaking, ‘Shalavrkas’ – in singular and with proper textual accenting, Śālāvṛka / शालावृक ) or ‘Wolves of the [Ritual] Enclosure’ ( Sālāvṛka / सालावृक ); later era texts and academic analysis have made rather curious shifts to ‘Hyenas’ or ‘Jackals’, however].

Who are these Yatins ? Well, that is a bit of a question. 

Ordinarily, the term would refer to somebody of spiritual / metaphysical accomplishment – perhaps an ascetic, a renunciate, as in later usage. This has been seized upon by some modern commentators to try and make out that Indra’s hurling of the Yatis to the Wolves was some sort of woefully egregious misdeed. Certainly, that is the temptation when one encounters the incident cited in Aitareya Brahmana VII 28 as part of the ‘rap sheet’ (“a formal indictment, as it were […] drawn up against Indra”, per Oertel) of divinely noted misdeeds of Indra that have lead to His being excluded from the Soma sacrifice. 

Yet such an interpretation makes little sense. At least for this specific context. Pious and morally blameless ascetics being killed do not merit a rather broad array of citations in amist a God’s victory-lists in the Shruti – wherein they are pointedly situated alongside other rather more well-remarked upon threats such as that demon-dragons of the waters, Vritra and Vala (c.f. AV-S II 5 3; Samaveda II 3 1 12 3), and with Bhrigu carrying out a ‘resonant’ deed, likewise (A Priest, a Rsi co-enacting the mythic fight of the God against Demon – rather on-point, you would have to say for the circumstance of TS VI 2 7 / SBr III 5 1 & 2 all up) . We would also be rather surprised if something which was so wrong was therefore to be directly invoked in the relevant Taittiriya Samhita ritual operation as just exactly what the properly pious Brahminical operator himself ought to thusly engage in. 

That said, the Aitareya Brahmana’s presentation does make logical sense in another fashion. By situating the Yatins alongside Vishvarupa (Trisiras) and Vritra – we are obviously invited to remember the unifying characteristic of these other two, that had indeed sent Indra into sin-stained exile for a time. They were Brahmins – and hence Indra’s (necessary, at least quite unambiguously as applies Vritra) slaying of these had incurred the sin-sanction of the Brahmahatya : the dread sin of Brahmanicide. This would certainly seem the sort of thing which, due to the ritual impurity thusly accrued from all of these deeds together plus another exterminating another clade (the Arurmaghas – occasionally seemingly identified with or coterminous to the Yatis (as in Indra’s bold declaration at Kaushitaki Upanishad III, occasionally not), and perhaps most importantly, actively disrespecting His Own Guru, Brihaspati … well, we see how it goes. And it is important to note that ‘ritual impurity’ is not quite the same thing as moral turpitude. Hence our lack of surprise when the sins are expiated [c.f. Jaminiya Brahmana II 134] and Indra is able to return once more to the Divine Fold proper in earnest. 

My suspicions appear confirmed in the Tandya Mahabrahmana (XIV 11  28), where Indra’s slaying of the Yatis is indeed said to have accrued Him an (expiatable) ritual impurity – with, more interestingly, the commentator directly having the sin in question declared to be Brahmanicide. Although curiously, the same source then goes on to emphatically declare the Yatis as having “practised observances contrary to the Veda” [Tandya Br. viii 1 4, Muir translation], to be “hostile to sacrifices” [ibid., xiii 4 27] and also against “rites” [ibid., xiv 11 28], yet also being “Brahmans who did not celebrate the jyotishtoma and other sacrifices, but lived in another way.” [ibid., xviii 1 9] 

Sayana, meanwhile, declares the Yatis to be “Asuras in the disguise of [Yatis]” and the  aforementioned Arurmaghas (elsewhere – ‘Arunmukhas’, apparently) to be “Asuras in the form [‘disguise’, per Haug] of Brahmans”, per his commentary upon Ait. Br. VII 28; Haug also notes Sankara Acharya’s Kaushitaki Upanishad commentary as parsing “Arunmukhas” as “in whose mouth is not the study of the Vedas”, with Haug’s inference being that these Arurmaghas “were no doubt a kind of degraded Aryas, very likely a tribe of the ancient Iranians, in whose language (the Zend) the words aurvo and magha are frequently to be met with”. Perhaps surprisingly to some corners of our audience given my recurrent sentiments in relation to Zoroastrianism … I do not share his view. At least, not axiomatically. It would be tempting to speculate that the ‘Ashemaoghas’ mentioned in the Avestan texts (ref. Vendidad Fargard 18 I 11), for example, may bear some coterminity in this direction – but that is not our purpose to get into herein. 

The semi-conflation of the Arurmaghas / Arunmukhas with the Yatis instead suggests that these are, at least in ritual invocation of the sort and style that we have above discussed, intended as an ‘enemy’ clade. And the characteristics that we are able to piece together for these should seem to have them as something along the lines of an ‘enemy caster’, or a ‘dark (even ‘inverse’) equivalent’ to the Brahmins doing the proper-and-pious invoking. In just the same manner as Agni fights via prayerful operation, a Priest of the Demons, at various points in the SBr ritual manuals (ref. SBr III 5 1 21 , etc.). Hence, as Sayana had it – ‘Asuras in Brahmin form’.

Or, perhaps more interestingly, perhaps, something more akin to our understanding for Yatudhana – ‘Sorcerer’, albeit with potency gained via making offerings to enlisted Demons. As that is the reasonably direct meaning for ‘Yatudhana’ – One who feeds / gives offering (‘dhaana’ / dhāna / धान) to the Yatus ( Yātu / यातु – in this context ‘Those Who Go [through the air?]’, and intended to refer to the Demons bound by the spells of the miscreant metaphysically empowered villain encountered herein). 

As it happens, Yati / Yatin appears to actually share an etymological root with ‘Yatu’; although it is a little unclear as to just how ‘close’ the relationship might truly have been intended to be. Given later texts upon the subject, I do not think that the Yatis / Yatins were intended in this context to be the demons themselves (insofar as it matters) – but rather, humans making active use of them in the course of their own ritual ensorcellments. 

To quote myself upon the subject as to their essential nature:

“Later scripture should seem to present these ‘Yatins’ in a rather interesting manner – effectively suggesting these to be almost ‘priestly’ sorts … certainly capable of carrying out rites, however hopelessly in league with Demons and in arrogant opposition to the Gods. Indeed, in at least one telling they (or the forces they are aligned with) even have had the temerity to attempt to steal the Wife of the Sacrificer (Man – or, more directly, Manu) via a mentally afflicting “influence”. Thus necessitating the enlisted aid of Indra in order to smash both the scurrilous mind-ensnaring enchantment and its would-be beneficiaries. By feeding them to the Wolves!”

This is, then, quite pertinent for our contemplation of the Vedic resonation of Pratyangira – as She is called upon in order to deflect the dark enchantments and malefic efforts to be unleashed by such sorts against the pious devotee, the proper priestly invoker.

And also through Her that various great boons may be bestowed, particularly those which the demons and demon-worshippers might have sought to interfere with. 

To quote from the Taittiriya Samhita in relation to Vak as Lioness (i.e. not Praytangira directly – but quite resonantly therewith, all the same):

“The High Altar [Vak] said, ‘Through Me Ye shall obtain all Your desires.’
The Gods desired, ‘Let Us overcome the Asuras Our foes.’
They sacrificed (with the words),’Thou Art a Lioness, overcoming rivals; Hail!’
They over came the Asuras, Their foes. Having overcome the Asuras, Their foes, They felt desire, ‘May We obtain Offspring.’
They Sacrificed (with the words), ‘Thou Art a Lioness, bestowing fair offspring, Hail!’
They obtained offspring. They having obtained offspring felt desire, ‘May We obtain cattle.’
They Sacrificed (with the words), ‘Thou Art a Lioness, bestowing increase of wealth; Hail!’
They obtained cattle. Having obtained cattle, They felt desire, ‘May We obtain support.’
They Sacrificed (with the words), ‘Thou Art a Lioness, winning (the favour of) the Adityas; Hail!’
They found support here. Having found support here, They felt desire, ‘May We approach the Deities for Blessings.’
They Sacrificed (with the words), ‘Thou Art a Lioness; bring the Gods to the Pious sacrificer; Hail!'”
[TS VI 2 8, Keith translation]

The equivalent verses of the SBr are to be found at III 5 2 9-13. 

Oh, and as for what shall happen to those thrice-accursed demon-worshippers? 

Their flame shall burn but … briefly.

“The sprinkling-water which is left he pours outside the altar close to where is the southern of those two front corners (of the high altar) with, ‘This burning water I dismiss from the sacrifice.’ Because She (Vâk–the Altar) on that occasion became a Lioness and roamed about unappeased, he thus dismisses from the sacrifice that Sorrow of Hers,–if he do not wish to exorcise. But should he wish to exorcise, let him indicate it by saying, ‘This burning water I dismiss from the sacrifice against so and so!’ He then smites him with that sorrow, and sorrowing he goes to yonder world.”
[III 5 2 8, Eggeling translation]

Or, from the Taittiriya Samhita: 

“In that he sprinkles the high altar, verily thus does the sacrificer repel his foes from the quarters. Indra gave the Yatis to the Salavrkas; them they ate on the right of the high altar.
Whatever is left of the sprinkling waters he should pour on the right of the High Altar; whatever Cruel is there that he appeases thereby. He should think of whomever he hates; verily he brings affliction upon him.”
[TS VI 2 7, Keith translation]

To quote from an earlier piece of mine, aptly enough (given the Pratyangira – BhadraKali co-identification often encountered) on Kali :

“Yet where we took things next was to observe the situation identified in those Yajurvedic Rites, wherein the Baleful, Burning, Furious and Roaring Form of the Goddess was invoked in order to devour an invidious opponent. With, entirely uncoincidentally, Her being Called Forth from the Southern vector that also constitutes the Pathway into the Realms of the Dead – the fire-shrouded Gates of the Underworld Themselves.

This is also where we had earlier met the Salavrkas [‘Temple Wolves’, ‘Wolves of the Enclosure’], and alongside Them, the Pitrs [‘Forefathers’ – Shades of the Ancestors]. The former mentioned explicitly there alongside “That Which Is Cruel (‘Krura’)” in the Taittiriya Samhita and engaged in the victorious devouring of the Yatis (‘Sorcerers’, ‘Demon-Worshippers’) that are the enemy of both Gods and Priest (and His Wife, whether She knows it at that point or otherwise) – whilst it is Vak in the form of an enraged Lioness Who comes surging forth to annihilate the adversary in the Shatapatha Brahmana’s perspective upon the same ritual conceptry.”

And, to speak to ‘Kruram’ itself (the term utilized in the afore-quoted TS verse):

“PIE *kruh₂rós (‘Bloody’), [informs] both Sanskrit ‘Krura’ ( क्रूर ), as well as modern English ‘Cruel’.

Indeed, the Sanskrit is (as we have come to anticipate), rather more expansive in its field of definition – encompassing not only ‘Cruel’ and ‘Bloody, but also ‘Wrathful’, ‘Pitiless’, ‘Savage’, ‘Formidable’, ‘Frightful’, ‘Violent’, ‘Aggressive’, ‘Harsh’, and rather ‘Barbaric’.

Fitting, one would have to say, for the quite literally ‘Terrific’ (for They beget Terror) facings to Deifics such as Rudra – and, of course, His Wife. Who is quite directly hailed as ‘Krura’ (or ‘Krurayai’) in various scripture oriented toward Her (see, for instance, Agni Purana 146; Devi Bhagavata Purana VIII 24; and, of course, the famed Sri Durga Ashtottara Shatanama Stotram [‘Great Durga 108 Name Hymnal’] and in similar fashion in the Kalika Sahasranama Stotram – in both the latter instances, occurring in sequence to read ‘Ameya Vikrama Krura’ … Limitless (Ameya) Power / Valour / Heroism (Vikrama) – and, we may infer, also ‘Krura’-quality : judiciously meted out towards the justly-reviled foe).

Given the context, we are also reminded of the invocation of ‘Krura’ in Krishna Yajurveda VI 2 7 in relation to the (howling) demesne that is as the Gates of the Underworld and the Dominion of the Pitrs [‘Ancestors’ – ‘Pitr’ is a cognate for [Fore]Father] under the command of the ‘Manojavah’ (‘Swift-As-Thought’) that is Death.

There, the Salavrkas [‘Temple-Wolves’, or ‘Wolves of the Boundary’] and the Ancestors (with which the Wolves may be co-expressive/co-identifiable) are called upon to devour the malign Yatis (‘Sorcerers’, ‘Demon-Worshippers’ – adversaries to the Gods and troublers of the religion) that might seek to intrude upon and disrupt the rites of the pious … in particular, in later scripture, via stealing the Wife of the Priest via subjecting His Beloved to a pernicious mental “influence”.

Interestingly, the Shatapatha Brahmana version of the same rite [SBr III 5 2] has, in the place of this invocation to the Salavrkas, the saliency for Vak Devi in Wrathful, Devouring (indeed, Lioness) form. We would suggest that the Goddess becoming Furious, Terrifying, and with the razor-inescapable Maw (and Roar) of a (female) Lion … has clear ‘resonancy’ for our perspective upon Kali Devi.”

And also, viz. a Lioness – well, as you can see, Pratyangira, Herself !

“Whether in Protection of that Demesne that is (of) Her when threatened directly; in forceful, intimidatory warding against the would-be violator or stealer of same; to Remind, where She has (seemingly) been Forgotten, just who and what We are; and, of course, in Far-Working (ἑκάεργος – or, perhaps, more (three) pointedly, ἑκατηβόλος) retribution and ultimate restoration should the former scenario of co-option have come to horrendous pass.

So, to speak towards that ‘Kruram’ quality on grievous (as well as ‘Grave’) display when She is roused to Wrath – and with it, Wrack and Ruin :

We can hardly do better than to quote the last few lines (in Griffith translation) of the Atharva Veda (Śaunakīya)’s Hymn XII 5:

“With hundred-knotted thunderbolt, sharpened and edged with razor-blades,
Strike off the shoulders and the head.
Snatch Thou the hair from off his head, and from his body strip the skin:
Tear out his sinews, cause his flesh to fall in pieces from his frame.
Crush Thou his bones together, strike and beat the marrow out of him.
Dislocate all his limbs and joints.
From Earth let the Carnivorous Agni drive him, let Vayu burn him from Mid-Air’s broad Region.
From Heaven let Sūrya drive him and consume him.”

The Goddess-Figure invoked in those verses is referred to as ‘The Brahman’s Cow’ – I have taken this to mean ‘Vak’, for reasons I have enunciated at far greater length and breadth elsewhere.

She is invoked pointedly as an Angirasi – a Daughter of Angiras … and it ought prove not difficult to see how that fits into our earlier-aforementioned scale of rubric; given the role of the Angiras-priest as set out above.

The reason why She is thusly invoked in such forcefully Avenging tones therein, is because such force (‘Shakti’, indeed) is to be unleashed, roaring, upon some calumnious covetous converter who has dared to try and make off with what we might, perhaps, in light (yajna-given) of various afore-referenced Brahmanas etc. refer to as “The Brahman’s Wife” and otherwise disrupt the Rite and proper religious proceeding attendant accordingly. 

The points of resonancy with our lately-prominent figure of Pratyangira ought prove readily apparent. 

There is more – much more – with relation to Pratyangira which could be written or said.

But for now, I think that it is (likely more than) enough.

May our foeman’s curses break and seizings lose their grip, the forces he feels at his command recoil upon him with aptly judicious and hilarious results;
And that which he has stolen from us return swiftly forthwith!

Through the Shakti Which Knows No End: that Thunderous Lioness’ Roar (In Answer)

Jai Mata Di !

One thought on “For Pratyangira – Roaring Goddess of the Counter-Fire

  1. Pingback: For Pratyangira – Roaring Goddess of the Counter-Fire – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s