Thursday, 26 November 2020

Ganesha

Ganesha, the god with an elephant head, is one of the best-known and most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is revered as the god of beginnings, the remover of obstacles and the patron of arts and sciences and the god of intellect and wisdom. I talked about the reason why in my post "Elephant memory".

Ganesha may have emerged as a deity as early as the 1st century BCE, but most certainly by the 4th and 5th centuries CE, during the Gupta period...

There are many legends abut Ganesha. But interestingly, most of these stories concentrate on three things: his birth, his elephant head, and his single tusk.

In this article I would like to talk about these legends and would try to extract from them data that will help us to understand who this god really is...

While Ganesha is popularly considered to be the son of Shiva and Parvati, the Puranic myths relate several different versions of his birth. These include versions in which he is created by Shiva, by Parvati, by Shiva and Parvati, or in some other manner and is later discovered by Shiva and Parvati.

The most well-known Ganesha creation story is probably the one taken from the Shiva Purana. 

The goddess Parvati had started preparing for a bath. As she didn’t want to be disturbed during her bath and since Nandi (Bull servant of Shiva) was not at Kailash to keep guard of the door, Parvati took the turmeric paste (for bathing) from her body and made a form of a boy and breathed life into him. This boy was instructed by Parvati to guard the door and to not let anyone in until she finished her bath.

After Shiva had come out of his meditation, he wanted to go and see Parvati but found himself being stopped by this strange boy. Shiva tried to reason with the boy saying that he was Parvati's husband but the boy did not listen and was determined to not let Shiva enter until his mother Parvati finished her bath. The "usually peaceful" Shiva who was "desperate" to "see" Parvati got so mad with the boy that his "divine fury" severed the boy's head with his Trishul thereby killing him instantly.

When Parvati learned of this, she was so enraged and insulted that she decided to destroy the entire Creation. Lord Brahma, being the Creator, naturally had his issues with this, and pleaded that she reconsider her drastic plan. She said she would, but only under two conditions: one, that the boy be brought back to life, and two, that he be forever worshipped before all the other gods.

Shiva, having cooled down by this time, agreed to Parvati’s conditions. He sent his Shiva-dutas out with orders to bring back the head of the first creature that is lying with its head facing North. The Shiva-dutas soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant Gajasura which Lord Brahma placed onto boy's body. Breathing new life into him, he was declared as Gajanana and gave him the status of being foremost among the gods, and leader of all the ganas (classes of beings), Ganapati.

Goddess Parvati derives her name from Parvata (पर्वत), one of the Sanskrit words for "mountain". She is the daughter of king Himavan (also called Himavat, Parvat), the god of the Himalayas and the personification of the Himalayas range. 

It is Himalayas that create the monsoon. 


And it is that monsoon which is "the bath of Parvati". 

So Parvati created Ganesha from turmeric to guard her bath and stop anyone from coming in...


Now interestingly, turmeric is planted "right after the first monsoon showers" and in a way is the symbol of the beginning of the monsoon season...Monsoon season which in Ganges river catchment area starts in May/Jun and ends in Oct/Nov. 

The monsoon season peaks at the end of Jul beginning of Aug. Right at point when summer (symbolised by a bull, Shiva's vahana) meats autumn (symbolised by a lion, Parvati's vahana)...

So Shiva who was "in meditation" wakes up (at the beginning of summer, end of Apr beginning of May, in Taurus) and goes on to "see" his wife. But he is stopped by the "strange boy made of turmeric" (beginning of monsoon). He tries to argue with the boy, but is getting more and more hot and bothered (temperature peaks towards the end of summer). Finally he blows up and kills the boy. At that moment Parvati is in the bath (monsoon in full swing). She comes out totally pissed off and starts yelling at Shiva who knows that he has screwed it up and will not get to "meet" Parvati unless he fixes the shit he has made pronto. So he sends his goons to get another head for the boy and they bring back an elephant head...Abrakadabra...Elephant boy...By the way, the fight between Parvati and Shiva happens in the middle of Parvati's bath, in the middle of monsoon, at its peak, at the end of summer, beginning of autumn, and of Jul beginning of Sep. At the peak of the Indian elephant mating season...Which overlaps with the monsoon season...

I talked about all this in detail in my posts "Ardhanarishvara" and "Musth". 

This Ganesha creation story simply states that he was born by Parvati...

Parvati gave birth to a beautiful boy. All the gods came to see him. Except Shani. He had not come due to a curse which made the head of anyone he glanced at get burnt to ashes. When Parvati heard about this, she felt her son faced no such threat. She pressed Shani to visit her. But, even his hesitant glance at the child - with just one of his eyes; proved his fears right. The child's head went up in flames. A distraught Parvati demanded that Shani restore her child's head. She asked him to send a servant to bring back the head of the first person he met. But Shani could punish someone only if he had erred. His emissary, who went looking for an erring individual, found an elephant sleeping with his face turned northwards. He cut off his head and brought it back to be placed on Parvati's little son.

It is interesting as it says that Parvati's son's head "went up in flames"...I believe that this is the description of what happens to nature, which Parvati gives birth to, during the last few scorching hot days before the arrival of the monsoon. This is the time of drought, the time of fires. The nature dies...But then the elephant musth starts and the rain arrives and the nature is revived...This time with an elephant head...

But why do both of these stories state that "the elephant was lying with his head pointing north"? Well I believe that this has to do with the direction of the monsoon winds...They blow northward during the rain season.


Do elephants face away from the prevailing winds, basically facing the same direction as the wind blows? Or is this just a symbol for "when the rain winds blow and elephants mate"? Either way it's all there, in plain sight...

This next version of the Ganesha creation story links it directly with the elephant matins season, which starts in June and lasts until September. Basically covering the whole monsoon season: 

Shiva and Parvati went to rest in a forest on the slopes of Himalaya. They found two elephants making love there. Their passions ignited, Shiva and Parvati wanted to enjoy themselves like these elephants. They turned into elephants and made love. This is why Ganesha, the son who was born to them afterwards, had the face of an elephant. 

I fully believe that ancient Indians directly linked elephant Musth (mating season) with the arrival of rains. Which is why the Thunder god Indra "rides" on Airavata, a white elephant which is also called "Abhra-Matanga" meaning "elephant of the clouds". 


And which is why Ganesha, the elephant god, is the product of the union of Shiva and Parvati. Shiva "rides" on a white bull (symbol of summer, May-Jul). Parvati "rides" on a lion (symbol of Autumn, Aug-Nov). Their union, meeting place, is the moment when summer meets autumn, end of Jul, beginning of Aug, the peak of the monsoon...Also the peak of the Elephant Musth...Hence the elephant boy...

I talked about all this in detail in my post "Ardhanarishvara". 

By the way, this is why this story makes perfect sense: 

Once there was a competition between Ganesha and his brother to see who could circumambulate the three worlds faster and hence win the fruit of knowledge. Skanda went off on a journey to cover the three worlds while Ganesha simply circumambulated his parents. When asked why he did so, he answered that his parents Shiva and Parvati where his whole world and was thus given the fruit of knowledge.

Several other versions of the Ganesha creation myth involve Parvati creating Ganesha "after her bath". 

1. After finishing her bath, Parvati made a human figure from the bathing oil and the dirt scrubbed away from her skin. It came to life after she sprinkled water from the Ganga on it.

2. Parvati took the mixture of bathing oil and the dirt cleaned from her body to where the river Ganga began her course. She made Malini, a rakshashi with an elephant’s head, drink it. Malini conceived afterwards and gave birth to an elephant headed son. Parvati took him away from her and kept him with her.

Like in all areas with a monsoon driven climate, it is the annual monsoon rain which creates the annual floods which rejuvenate and replenish the alluvial soil with nutrients and prepare it for another agricultural season...

You can see that the Ganges river level peaks right at the time when Shiva (summer, bull) meets Parvati (autumn, lion), at the peak of the elephant mating season.

Is this why Ganesha is revived by the water of the river Ganges? After all it is Parvati "the mountain that gives birth to the monsoon. And it is the monsoon that gives birth to the holy river Ganges...And it is the silt rich waters of the holy river Ganges which create abundant harvests in the Ganges catchment area...

There is a very interesting festival called Ganesh Chaturhi. This festival celebrates Ganesh's arrival from his mother's place (Himalayas). It takes place in late August, early September. It is a 10 days festival during which a clay statue of Ganesha are installed in people's homes, worshiped, and then submerged into rivers to dissolve in river water. 

There are two explanations for the practice of immersion. It is said that Ganesha is immersed in order to send him back home to Mount Kailash. It is also said that the process of immersion is considered a proper way of disposing of the deity or rather a way of its safekeeping.

This is very interesting as this "disposing of deity" coincides with the peak of the monsoon and the peak of the musth, the mating season of the Indian elephants...It also coincides with the peak of the flood sediment deposition...

And so it is the literally the "dirt scrubbed away from Parvati's skin" and "Partvati's bath water" which create Ganesha, the god of harvest and of abundance. You did know that Ganesha was explicitly connected to the grain harvest? To the point where he is considered to be an old harvest god? 

You can read all about it in the intro to the "The Origin of the Ganapati Cult" by S. M. Michael.

That Ganesha represents the bountiful harvest can be seen from one of his names "suprakarna". Supra means winnowing basket. One of the names for the last sheaf of grain harvested from the field is "benappu" which is a synonym for Ganesha...It is also believed that Ganesha's customary yellow color was derived from the color of the ripe grains...

And who is one of the biggest enemies of the grain farmers? Mice and rats who can devastate the granaries. So in order to have a bountiful harvest, people need to destroy mice, rats...Which is why it is believed that Ganesha, the god of bountiful harvest, rides on (subdues) a mouse, rat...

Rats were sacrificed to Rudra and his sister Ambika. Rudra later became Shiva and Ambika became Parvati, whose son is rat riding (subduing) Ganesha...After the clay statue of Ganesha is dissolved in the river during Ganesh Chaturhi festival, a bit of clay is brought back home and ceremoniously thrown into the granary. It is believed that it would protect the grain from rats...In Ratnagiri district (🙂) they have a special rat festival during which both Ganesha and a rat a worshiped. The food offerings placed before the rat are taken to the grain fields the next day and are crumbled among the grains to appease the rodents so they don't eat the grains...  

Interestingly, in India, people see rats more often from April through June (spring breeding). This is basically during the wheat harvest, just before the beginning of the elephant musth (mating season) which starts in June and which announces the beginning of the monsoon...

Elephant arrives on (comes after) a rat...

Oh and guess when is the second best time of the year to see feeld rats in India? In October and November as the season changes, the monsoon, which coincides with elephant mating season (June to September) has ended, and when the rice harvest begins...

Rat - Elephant - Rat...Elephant riding on a rat...

Oh and guess what is the first thing that people do when the elephant arrives on a rat? They plant rice...The the main rice planting season is in May/Jul. What is the only thing that can make insatiable Ganesha full? A bowl of rice...And guess when the rice is harvested? After the end of monsoon, in Sep/Dec...This article has dates of rice seasons per region

Oh and guess who is one of the biggest enemies of the field mice and rats in India? Cobra. Which is why Ganesha "wears cobra around his neck or around his fat belly, which is the symbol of bountiful harvest, oh holds it in his hand or..."


These next two Ganesha creation stories indicates that he is actually Shiva:

1. A good looking boy emerged out of Shiva's laughter. Noticing Parvati getting attracted towards him, Shiva turned jealous. He cursed the boy and took away his good looks by giving him an elephant's head and a fat belly. 

2. A part of Shiva turned into a handsome being and emerged from Parvati's womb.

Ganesha is Shiva. Shiva "wearing elephant skin". 

This is basically spelled out to us in the first, most famous Ganesha creation story: "The Shiva-dutas soon returned with the head of a strong and powerful elephant Gajasura which Lord Brahma placed onto boy's body"...

Who the hell is Gajasura? 

Well he is the demon Rakshasa who assumed the form of an elephant and terrorized Brahmins who were worshipping the Shiva linga. Shiva emerged from this linga, slew the demon, and removed the elephant skin, thereafter wearing the hide on his upper body. 

Since then Shiva became known as Gajasurasamhara (lit. "The Slayer of the elephant demon"), also Gajasamhara, Gajantaka and Gajaha (all three lit. "the Slayer of the elephant") and Matangari ("The Enemy of the elephant"). 

So here we can see that Shiva literally wears elephant skin. His slaying of the elephant demon just depicts the anthropomorphisation of the original elephant worship...

Here is another, even better story about Gajasura and Shiva. 

Once, there existed an Asura (demon) with all the characteristics of an elephant, called Gajasura, who was undergoing a penitence (tapas). Shiva, satisfied by this austerity, decided to grant him, as a reward, whatever gift he desired. The demon wished that he could emanate fire continually from his own body so that no one could ever dare to approach him. The Lord granted him his request. Gajasura continued his penitence and Shiva, who appeared in front of him from time to time, asked him once again what he desired. The demon responded: "I desire that You inhabit my stomach." Shiva agreed.

Parvati sought him everywhere without results. As a last recourse, she went to her brother Vishnu, asking him to find her husband. He, who knows everything, reassured her: "Don't worry, dear sister, your husband is Bhola Shankara and promptly grants to his devotees whatever they ask of him, without regard for the consequences; for this reason, I think he has gotten himself into some trouble. I will find out what has happened."

Then Vishnu, the omniscient director of the cosmic game, staged a small comedy. He transformed Nandi (the bull of Shiva) into a dancing bull and conducted him in front of Gajasura, assuming, at the same time, the appearance of a flutist. The enchanting performance of the bull sent the demon into ecstasies, and he asked the flutist to tell him what he desired. The musical Vishnu responded: "Can you give me that which I ask?" Gajasura replied: "Who do you take me for? I can immediately give you whatever you ask." The flutist then said: "If that's so, liberate Shiva from your stomach." Gajasura understood then that this must have been no other than Vishnu himself, the only one who could have known that secret and he threw himself at his feet. Having agreed to liberate Shiva, Gajasura asks him for two last gifts: "I have been blessed by you with many gifts; my last requests are that everyone should remember me adoring my head and you should wear my skin."

So, Shiva, "who was inside Gajasura", basically "who was Gajasura", gets to wear Gajasura's skin while his son, Ganesha, gets to wear Gajasura's head...Together Shiva and Ganesha are Gajasura...

Oh and by the way, the depictions of Shiva dancing triumphantly after slaying Gajasura, show him "holding one of Gajasura's tusks in one of his hands"...For those wondering "how did Ganesha loose one of his tusks"...

Another very interesting part of the above story is the very first sentence: "Once, there existed an Asura (demon) with all the characteristics of an elephant, called Gajasura, who was undergoing a penitence (tapas)". Tapas is a variety of austere spiritual practices in Indian religions. Basically it's asceticism, inner cleansing...The word "Tapas" which means "warmth, heat, fire", is based on the root Tap (तप्) meaning "to heat, to give out warmth, to shine, to burn". The term evolves to also mean "to suffer, to mortify the body, undergo penance" in order to "burn away past karma" and liberate oneself...But I believe that originally it just meant to suffer (from heat, thirst and hunger) during the last few scorching hot months before the grain harvest (Apr-May) and before the monsoon returns (May-Jun)...This is the "Tapas" endured by Gajasura before "Shiva started dancing in his belly"...Before the monsoon returned and the elephant Musth started...

This last Ganesha creation story is brilliant as it actually confirms what I just said abut tapas:

The gods were feeling alarmed: there were too many humans entering heaven after performing penance. They rushed to Shiva for succour. After listening to them, Shiva turned towards Parvati. Rubbing some dirt off her body, she made a plump figure with four arms and an elephant head from it. It came to life soon afterwards. Parvati directed him to place obstacles in the path of humans seeking to enter heaven through penance. 

Now if penance (suffering, no food, no water, to procreation) is what brings people to heaven, then lots of food, lots of water, lots of procreation is what stops them from going to heaven...What keeps people alive, satiated and happy...And definitely keeps them out of heaven...Tapas "warmth, heat, fire" causes drought which causes nature to wither, which causes suffering which cause causes lots of people to die from suffering which causes lots of people to go to heaven (whether they want it or not). On the other hand, the mad humping Elephant of rain causes monsoon, which causes nature to flourish, which causes wells to swell and crops to grow, people to procreate and get born and "puts a lot of obstacles in the path of humans seeking to enter heaven through penance". 

Thank Shiva and Parvati...Oh, and Ganesha, "the remover of obstacles"??? 

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Eagle eating dolphin

I saw this coin earlier today, and thought it looked interesting. I decided to "dig around a bit" and recorded what I found as I found it in this impromptu "thread" on Twitter...And what I have found is truly amazing...I think...

Seriously cool coin. 


Moesia, Istros. Drachm. C. 280-250 BC. Aeginetic standard. Two young male heads facing, side by side, one up, the other down (???). Sea-eagle to left, eating fish (not dolphin); IΣTPIH above, AΠ monogram below. Found on this auction page.

Whose heads are these? Interestingly, another Istros coin which also has Sea-eagle eating fish on the reverse has "Diademed head of Apollo" on the obverse. Moesia, Istros Æ20. Circa 125-100 BC...

The eagle is most likely the white tailed eagle which inhabits the whole of Europe (at least once did). Great pic of a white tailed eagle swooping down on a fish by Ron Velner from this report about white tailed eagles gathering in Oder Delta in late summer to feast on fish stranded in shallows...

Interesting: "There is evidence of strong seasonal shifts in food habits [of the white tailed eagle]...usually the largest portions of fish are caught during warmer months..."

Because of the low water levels and the fact that the fish are feeding in the shallows during the summer...

From "Fishing in Bulgaria": With the warming of the weather the fish...start getting active and move to shallow waters..." 

So I believe that the scene depicted on the Istros coins possibly represents the warm part of the year, when white tailed eagle feeds on fish...

Now this is very very interesting...There are actually Istros coins where the eagle is actually clutching a dolphin...

C. 4th Century BC. Facing male heads, the right inverted. Sea-eagle left, grasping dolphin with talons; IH monogram below dolphin. 

Now I suspected from the beginning that this was an animal solar calendar marker, but now I am absolutely sure that this is definitely an animal  solar calendar marker...White tailed eagles don't catch or eat dolphins. Why are these two animals depicted like this together???

Here are pics of dolphins from the Black sea.

I would say that the dolphin on the coin is the Bottlenosed dolphin. See the round forehead bulge before the beak?

"Shallow waters of the north Black Sea coast are known as important breeding, calving and feeding grounds for Black Sea dolphins during warm season"..."Female fertility peaks in June, male fertility peaks in July"..."Gestation last 12 months"...Which means that it is June-July when most dolphin babies are born too...

From: "The current status of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Black Sea"

So maybe dolphin is on the coin because the breeding seasons for both the white tailed eagle and the Black Sea bottlenose dolphins overlap with the warm part of the year...

Well, well, well... 

It seems the reason why the coin shows an eagle eating a dolphin is much much weirder and cooler...

oldeuropeanculture

There is a period of the year, when a white tailed eagle living near the ancient Istros, could have been seen by people actually eating a dolphin. An already dead dolphin. A stranded dolphin. Like this harbour porpoise stranded in Zatoka, Odessa region..

In 2017 a study of Black Sea dolphins was being conducted in Ukraine...The results were published in "Identification and initial assessment of cetacean groupings in coastal waters of the north-western Black Sea, Ukrainian sector" And some very very weird things were observed. Weird and really important for understanding of the meaning of the scene depicted on the ancient Istros coins...

115 cases of dolphin strandings were registered, starting from late March and peaking in May (48), June (40) and July (43). The number of reported cases significantly decreased since the early August...Wow...

Why all these dolphins were getting stranded, no one really knows...

But what we do know is that the dolphin stranding season, during which you can see a white tailed eagle feasting on dead dolphins, starts right after the spring equinox, peaks during the summer and then (probably) ends by autumn equinox. 

The time of the year ruled by Apollo...Hence the head of Apollo on the obverse of one of the versions of this coin.

But what about the weird "two young male heads facing, side by side, one upright, the other inverted" obverse? Well, guess what's in the middle of summer which is in the middle of the dolphin stranding season? Well mid summer of course...Summer solstice...

Marked by Gemini zodiac sign (21st of May -  21st of June)...

The twin brothers Dioscuri,  holding torches in hands, extinguished & hot...

Why?

Or the Head of Apollo pointing up (day increasing before summer solstice) and the Head of Apollo pointing down (day decreasing after summer solstice)???

Is this what is depicted on this strange and beautiful coin?

You have been watching live investigation of the meaning of the Istros "eagle eating dolphin" coin in real time 🙂 It took 2 hours from the moment I saw this coin for the first time. Thank you for your following...

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Pantikapaion coins





If I was to pick my favorite ancient coins, these would be way up there...Gold staters from Pantikapaion, c. 340 BC. 

Obverse: Bearded head of Pan with a wreath of ivy leaves.  

Reverse: Π-Α-Ν - griffin standing on a stalk of grain, holding spear in its mouth.

Pantikapaion (today's Kerch on Krimea), was founded in the 7th century BC by the Greek colonists from Miletus.  By the 480 BC it became a capital of the Kingdom of Bosporus.

The city located at the intersection of trade roads between Asia and Europe, and surrounded by fertile land and sea, grew rapidly and amassed fabulous wealth, which is attested by its large gold coins whose obverse always depicted Pan, the protector of the Pantikapaion.


Now back to the original coins. I love the wild Pan frowning from the obverse . But I love the reverse with the griffin even more. Why? Because I believe that this is a great example of the use of animal solar calendar markers in Europe...

In many of my posts I showed that the ancient Eurasians and North Africans used animals as calendar markers. The animal markers were derived from a significant lifecycle event (usually the beginning of a mating season) of the animal in question...

For instance, Eurasian lion mating season started in August. Which is why throughout Eurasia, Lion was the the symbol of the end of Jul beginning of Aug, the end of summer - beginning of autumn...I talked about this in my posts "Entemena vase", "Musth"...

On the other hand, Ibex Goat and Goitered gazelle were used as a calendar markers for the end of Oct beginning of Nov, end of autumn - beginning of winter. Because this is when their mating season started throughout Eurasia...I talked about this in my post "The pissing gazelle" and many other...


All zodiac animal signs are such solar calendar markers, marking significant lifecycle events of the depicted animals in Europe

So if you wanted to represent autumn (Aug,Sep,Oct) using animal solar calendar markers, you could do it by using the back half of a Lion and the front half of an Ibex or a Goitered gazelle...Right?

You could also add wings to that composite creature. Just so people understand that this is a solar calendar marker...Just like on the reverse of the Pantikapaion coin...

But I don't think that the griffin on the revers of this coin represents autumn. The head of the gazelle does mark the end of autumn. And the back of the lion does represent the beginning of autumn. That's all fine...

But as the head --> tail direction indicates, the progression of time goes: the end of autumn -> winter -> spring -> summer -> beginning of autumn. I believe that the direction in which the spear points also indicates that this is what this "griffin" marks...From head to tail...

But why would you want to mark this time period on a coin? Well the clue is under the "griffin"...The sheaf of grain...

In the Azov sea area, Southern Ukraine/Russia, winter wheat is the main grain crop. It is planted in Sep/Oct (the end of autumn, Gazelle), it grows over winter, spring, summer, and is harvested in Jul/Aug (beginning of autumn, Lion)...

So from gazelle's head (sowing, beginning) to lion's butt (harvest, end)...Exactly as the spear direction indicates...

And if you are a grain farmer, it is the golden grain, which grows during the time marked by the golden "griffin" that turns to gold...

Again, maybe I am reading too much into this...But maybe not...

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Elephant memory

 



This figurine depicts elephant headed Indian god Ganesha writing down the epic Mahabharata...Why?

Well considering that Ganesha was regarded as the god of knowledge and wisdom, who better to write down (preserve) one of the most important Indian epics?

But why was Ganesha considered to be the god of knowledge and wisdom? Well knowledge and wisdom is accumulated with experience. The longer one lives and learns the more knowledgable and wise one is...(At least in theory 🙂)

Now Indian elephants reach adulthood at 17 years of age, just like people...The life expectancy of the Indian elephants is about 60 years. Always has been...


While the human life expectancy in India was 25 years in the year 1800, and and is only today the same as the life expectancy of the elephants...


At the time when Indian religion was created, the human life expectancy was probably not higher than in 1800...Probably lower...

Which must have made people believe that elephants, because they were able to live almost three times longer than people, were three times more knowledgable and wiser than people...

Is this also why Ganesha was the god of knowledge and wisdom? 

Now elephants have big ears...Is this where the belief that the bigger the ears in a man the more knowledgable and wiser he is? 

Like Buddha for instance...



We know that the ancients, including Ancient Indians, believed that the ears were the seat of memory...

Which is why kids at school are pulled by the ears to "stimulate their memory"....


Is this why Ganesha was in charge of writing down (preserving) Mahabharata? Bigger the ears, bigger and better the memory...And these ancient epics were originally preserved through oral transmission, through people learning them by heart...

But because no man lived as long as elephants, and no man had ears as big as elephants 🙂, no man was as wise and had as good a memory as an elephant (you know elephant memory)...

Which is why it was Ganesha, god with elephant head (and most importantly elephant ears 🙂), that was charged with preserving Mahabharata for posterity...

Well at least this is what I think...

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Ardhanarishvara



The Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर) is a composite form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half-male and half-female, equally split down the middle. 

The earliest Ardhanarishvara images are dated to the Kushan period, starting from the first century CE (like this seriously cool one). Its iconography evolved and was perfected in the Gupta era.

Accepted interpretation is that "Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as) Shiva, the male principle of God, and vice versa"

So far so amazing. The Mother + Father = Life is kind of obvious...The Mother Earth + Father Sky = All Life is pretty easy to arrive to from there and we find this idea everywhere...

But I think that Ardhanarishvara has another, more specific meaning. Specific to India. And the clue to decipherment of this meaning is the fact that "the river Gagnes flows from the point where (or close to where) the Shiva and Parvati parts meet"...

Why? 

Ganges is (currently) the most sacred river of Hinduism. It flows almost parallel to the Himalayas and empties into the Bay of Bengal.

The hydrologic cycle in the Ganges basin is governed by the Monsoon. The monsoon is caused by the heating up of the Himalayas which starts at the end of April, beginning of May. The updraft this creates, starts sucking the moist Indian ocean air across India towards the mountains.


The precipitation this monsoon creates increases sharply starting in May. It peaks in at the end of July - beginning of August and then sharply decreases in October...


Consequently, streamflow in the Ganges is highly seasonal and it sharply increases from May, peaks in August and sharply decreases in October.

What does this have to do with Ardhanarishvara?

Ardhanarishvara is surrounded by the vahanas (vehicles) of Shiva (bull) and Parvati (lion)...As I explained in several of my previous articles about the roles of animals in Indian mythology, vahanas are animal solar calendar markers.

Each animal marks a particular period in the solar year during which an important, obvious, difficult to miss annual event from the animal's lifecycle took place. Like mating or birthing.

I talked about these animal (and plant) calendar markers in India in several of my articles. For instance: "Mahishasuramardini", "Kharif and Rabi season", "Fig with bulls".

These animal calendar markers are not just found in India. They are everywhere:

Anyway back to Ardhanarishvara. 

Bull and lion have a special place among these animal calendar markers. They are one of Four Seasons animal markers, the other two being Goat and Ram.  

Bull is the symbol of summer. Summer which starts at the end of April beginning of May, in Taurus. 

Lion is the symbol of autumn. Autumn which starts at the end of July beginning of August, Leo.

Now, Ardhanarishvara is the union (meeting) of Shiva and Partvati. And that union stands (happens) between bull (vahana, vehicle, calendar marker) of Shiva (symbol of summer) and lion (vahana, vehicle, calendar marker) of Parvati (symbol of autumn)

So Ardhanarishvara represents the moment when summer (bull) and autumn (leon) meet, at the end of July beginning of August. Right at the time of the highest monsoon precipitation and right at the time of the highest flow of the sacred river Ganges which flows from their union...

This is kind of cool, right?

Oh, and guess who is their only child? A little elephant god, Ganesha...I forgot to mention him when I was talking about Elephant symbolism in Indian mythology in my post "Musth"... Guess when the elephant mating season peaks? You guessed right...


Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Bleeding for Martin

Cockerel standing on top of the sun gate, on the border between the darkness and light, between the land of the dead (where sun spends night) and the land of the living (where sun spends day). Medieval (?) standing stone, Bosnia...


In the old Irish calendar, the solar year was divided into two parts: the dark part (Nov-Apr) and the light part (May-Oct). The day that marked the end of the light part of the year and the beginning of the dark part of the year was the first of November. Samhain...


But because in the Irish calendar the day started at sunset, Samhain is celebrated  at the sunset of the October 31, on Halloween...And just like the day started with the evening, in the Irish calendar, year started with the beginning of the dark period, on Samhain...

Now until very recently, in Ireland, the practice in many places was to kill a cockerel on "Ould Halloweve" night, the night prior to St. Martin ’s feast day on the 11th of November.

The date for "Ould Halloweve", or old Halloween, came about as a result of the removal of ten days from the calendar when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian in 1582...

Here is the interesting bit. The killing of the cockerel was known as "the bleeding". The bleeding was done by cutting the neck, or more usually by slitting the head of the bird along the comb and then hanging it to allow the blood to fall on the ground or to be gathered in a jar...

The blood was then sprinkled in all four corners of the house (kitchen if house had more than one room) and across the main threshold, in the belief that this protected the home from evil or "bad luck".

When the blood was not sprinkled in this manner it was daubed in the shape of a cross on the front and back doors while saying, "I shed this blood in honour of God and St. Martin to bring us safe from all illnesses and disease during the year"...

The rest of the blood was collected and used to make a Sign of the Cross on the residents foreheads, again as a protective talisman.

So this was not just "killing of a cockerel to make dinner". This was a blood sacrifice. That this is the case can be seen from the ethnographic data collected around Ireland in the 1930's. I particularly love this story from county Kerry:

So it seems that "the bleeding" was an obligatory blood sacrifice. It was strictly observed that bleeding must be done between Nov. 1st and the eve of the feast, or on the Vigil, as it was said: Martin will accept before his feast but not after it".

But blood sacrifice to whom? To St Martin? Well, no, of course not. To the dead? Samhain eve, Halloweve, Halloween, was in the Irish tradition the day of the dead...

Irish believed that on that night, the barrier between our world and the world of the dead became so thin, that the dead could come back to our world.

And the dead looooove blood. It's their favourite drink, because it makes them feel alive again...I wrote about this in my post "Blood red vine" in which I talked about why red vine is used in mortuary rituals... 

That this is indeed the case can be seen from the identical ritual which is performed on St Mrata's day in Serbia. In Serbia Samhain was replaced by two Holy Days: Mitrovdan (St Martin's day) and Mratindan (St Mrata's) day.

Both days mark the beginning of winter and the beginning of the dark part of the year, as the Old Serbian calendar, just like the old Irish calendar, divided the solar year into the dark part (Nov - Apr) and the light part (May - Nov). 


More about this in my post "Two Crosses".

And on the day of St Mrata, Serbs used to slaughter a cockerel on the house doorstep. 

After the cockerel is slaughtered, a hair from every animal in the household is placed in its beak.

The beak is then tied with a red thread and is hanged over the door or is buried under the doorstep to protect the house and its animals from the evil spirits. The wings and sometimes the head were hanged on the cauldron chain over the fire. I talked about this in my post "Verige".

Both the door and particularly the doorstep and the fire place are in Serbian tradition closely linked with the cult of the dead and are places believed to be inhabited by the spirits of the dead ancestors.

So slaughtering the cockerel on the doorstep is literal blood sacrifice to the dead on their altar. This is the equivalent of the Irish custom of marking the doors with sacrificed cockerel's blood.

Burying the cockerel's head under the doorstep with the hairs of all the animals from the household is clearly a panspermia (mixed sacrifice), a type of sacrifice which was in Serbia offered to family ancestors and to the ancestor of all Serbs, Giving God, Dabog...

The fact that the sacrifice was given to the hearth is the equivalent to the Irish sprinkling cockerels blood only in the room with the hearth. But what about the Irish custom of sprinkling the cockerel's blood in the corners?

Well in Serbian mythology, corners are also seen as places where ancestors gather. During Christmas dinner, which was in Serbia seen as "meal eaten together with the ancestors", walnuts, symbol of fertility was thrown into each corner of the house, for the dead...

Now here is something very interesting. Serbian ancestral deity Dabog has another name: Hromi Daba. In several of my posts I talked about the similarities between the Serbian Hromi Daba and the Irish Chrom Dubh...

One of the similarities is that both gods were in the past offered Human Sacrifices...On Samhain...As thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest which had just finished...

Now remember that in Serbian mythology, cockerel sacrifice is a replacement for a human sacrifice...Particularly when it comes to agricultural rituals. I talked about this in my post "Cock bashing"...


And knowing that St Martin's day is just another Christianised Samhain, when we "bleed cockerel for Martin" who are we sacrificing really and to whom?