Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Pero

Looongish article, but hopefully interesting...In it I will talk about ferns, feathers and thunder god names...

Ferns are a very ancient family of plants: early fern fossils predate the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. 



They are older than the dinosaurs. They were thriving on Earth for two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved.

The English word fern comes from the old Anglo-Saxon "fearn" meaning feather. 


Like feathers, the leaves of most ferns are delicate and divided. So fern literally means plant that looks like a feather...

The cognates are found in Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, Indo-Iranian and Albanian languages and officially all come from the PIE root "*pornóm" ‎(wing, feather) which comes from PIE root "*p(t)erH-" (fern). 

Ferns are non flowering plants. But, according to the lore found in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic folklore from Russia to England and from Estonia to Serbia, people once believe that ferns did flower. 

But only once a year. On the eve of the Summer solstice (St John's eve). The flower appeared and disappeared almost instantly, so the gatherer had to be lucky in order to be at the right place at the right time, and quick in order to pick the flower before it vanished... 

The fern flower was believed to bring fortune to the person who finds it. In various versions of the tale, the fern flower brought luck, wealth, ability to defeat demons, fulfill wishes, unlock secrets, and understand the language of animals and trees. 

But getting this flower was not easy. As a matter of fact it was an almost impossible task. And very very dangerous...Because the flower was closely guarded by evil spirits, or devil himself...They did all they could to prevent the gatherer from obtaining these "fiery blossoms". 

Most commonly the evil guardians of the fern flower put the gatherer into a magic sleep, so he could not see the flower blooming, and therefore could not pick it. 

But the evil spirits / devil also caused the earth to rock, lightning to flash, thunder to roar, flames to surround the gatherer...So success in obtaining the magic fern flower was rare...

It is interesting that "the evil spirits / devil" used lightning and thunder to protect the magic fern flower from being picked...Why? Because it gives us a clue who these "evil spirits / devils" were actually.

In the past in England, ferns were known as Devil Brushes. Devil here being the old Thunder God. Why do I think so? Because it was believed that "fern keeps the devil away"... 

"In the place where fern grows the devil rarely practices his glamour. He shuns and abhors the house and place where fern is, and thunder, lightning, and hail rarely fall there"...  

In England, people also believed that it may rain when the ferns are cut or burnt. Just like in Poland, where it was believed that plucking of fern produces a violent thunderstorm. 

This was because, fern, "being rooted and transformed thunderbolt, resumes its pristine nature, when the plant that contained it was taken from the ground"...

That in Slavic mythology ferns were associated with the thunder god Perun and that he was "The Devil" protecting the fern flower, can be seen from this Serbian and Croatian beliefs related to ferns. 

There is a Serbian legend about ferns and St Sava (patron saint of Serbia who is credited with defeating the old devils, read old gods, but who in process acquired all their attributes)...

Once St Sava was walking across mount Rudnik. On top of the mountain, he blessed what he saw before him. This is why ferns don't grow on that side of the mountain. But he forgot to bless what was behind him, so this is why ferns still grow on that side of the mountain...

That it was Perun, who made the ferns grow on the unblessed side of the mountain, and who protected the magic fern flowers, can be seen from the fact that "...they were called among the Croats by the name of Perenovo Tsvetje" (Perun's Flowers)...

In some parts of Europe, like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Poland, it was couples who went into the woods searching for the fern flower on the eve of Ivan Kupala Night (Summer Solstice eve). 

The girl went into the wood wearing a flower wreath on her head. If when the couple came out of the woods, the boy was wearing the girl's wreath, it meant that the couple was engaged to be married 🙂

This lead many to believe that "seeking the fern flower" was just an euphemism for sex. Because everyone knows that ferns don't flower...Weeeeell...

There is one fern which is known as flowering fern: Osmunda regalis, the royal fern. Osmunda regalis is a species of deciduous fern, native to Europe, Africa and Asia, which grows in woodland bogs and on the banks of streams... 


It produces clumps of red fronds which look like flowers and its "bloom time" is May - August. Summer. Peaking in midsummer...How curious...So far so good. Now it gets interesting :)

It is uncertain where exactly the name "Osmunda" came from. But the story which is all over the net, suggests the name Osmunda comes from the Saxon thunder god Osmund(er) (from  "Os" meaning God and "mund" meaning protector), who was the equivalent of Norse Thunder god Thor...

I couldn't find any actual written source for the link between Osmun, Osmunder and Thor, except this. Equally I couldn't fine any written link between Osmun, Osmunder and Osmunda fern...If anyone has any links to any written source talking about these links, please post it here...

Anyway, the important thing is that this fern was also linked to a thunder gods...The "evil spirits / devils" who protect the fern flower...

So... Is then the Osmunda regalis, the royal fern, the flowering fern from the legends? 

It "flowers" during the midsummer, so that matches. It has fiery (red, orange) flowers, so that matches too...But I don't think that the fronds of the Osmunda regalis were the infamous fern flowers...

Why? Because this fern grew everywhere. It flowered for months...Its flower wasn't extremely difficult to find and it didn't just appear in a flash and disappear in a flash...Picking royal fern flower wasn't life threatening...It was actually piss easy...

So what then? Well, what if, the fern flower wasn't a fern flower at all? What if it only looked like fern (flower)? 

If only there was something that looks like a fern and is somehow associated with thunder and thunder gods...Weeeell there is...

Lichtenberg Figures (named after the German physicist who discovered them) are branching, fern like, electric discharges (or electrical trees) that are sometimes preserved on the surface or the interior of a solid dielectric...

Interestingly, reddish Lichtenberg figures type scars are also left on the skin of people struck by lightning...These scars, which may persist for hours or days, are used as the indicator for the cause of death by lightning strike. 

They are thought to be caused by the rupture of capillaries under the skin due to the passage of the lightning current or the shock wave from the lightning discharge as it flashes over the skin. How cool is this?



Wow, right? Here is the best bit: Lichtenberg figures type scars caused by lightning strikes are sometimes called "lightning flowers"....Ta Ta Ta!!!! 

Are these fern shaped lightning marks the reason for the linking of ferns with thunder and thunder gods? The reason why people believed that ferns were actually lightning bolts that took root? Lightning bolts which get released when the fern is burned? 

Also, are these Lichtenberg figures "The Fern Flowers"? The magic ones, that are almost impossible to find? I mean, picking a "flower the Perun's flower" aka lightning, is extremely dangerous. Also "finding" this "flower" is not easy and only extremely lucky people can obtain it. 

Well, extremely unlucky to be hit by lightning, but also extremely lucky to survive it. The Perun's flower also appears and disappears in a flash...And even if you catch it (you get hit by a lightning, get the fern shaped scar and survive) the scar disappears soon afterwards...

Also, look at this. Thunderstorm frequency in Europe per month. 


The peak thunderstorm season is centered around summer solstice, midsummer...Right when you are supposed to go looking for "Perun's flower"...

So...Did we solve the mystery of the fern flower? I think so...But this is not the best bit...
 
As I said already, fern is shaped like a feather, hence its name, fern (feather). The Lichtenberg figures, which are shaped like ferns are then also shaped like feathers...Lichtenberg figures which are produced by a touch of the thunder god...

Ok...Where are you going with that?

A question: Why is Perun called Perun? Perun is strongly correlated with the near-identical Perkūnas/Pērkons from Baltic mythology. To the point where it is not clear where one stops and the other starts... 

Finnish Perkele, another name for the Finish Thunder God Ukko, is considered to be a loan from Baltic languages. 

Albanian Perëndi, the god of thunder and storms and his wife Prende, Prenne, who has a rainbow as her belt are probably loan from Slavic mythology, where we find Perun, the god of thunder and storms, and his wife Perunika, who has a rainbow as her belt...

Indian Parjanya (Sanskrit: पर्जन्य parjánya) is according to Veda, a deity of rain, thunder, lightning, and the one who fertilizes the earth...In Vedic Sanskrit, the word "parjanya" actually means rain, raincloud...

Thracian Περκων/Περκος, (Perkon/Perkos) could also be related. And even the names Fjörgynn, an alias of Odin, and Fjörgyn, the name of the mother of Thor, have been proposed as cognates... 

It is believed that there was once a Proto-Indo European thunder god whose original name has been reconstructed as Perkwunos...Which according to the etymological dictionaries comes from PIE perkwus, meaning "oak" or "mountain"...

So that would make Perun the oak god, mountain god...Which he in fairness is. Oaks and mountains are indeed associated with Perun. 

According to research, lightning hits oak trees far more frequently than other tree species. Oaks are usually some of the tallest trees in the landscape. They are also more conductive thanks to their higher moisture content and the vast number of water-filled cells running up and down their trunks.

Lightning is an electrical discharge that occurs between clouds or between clouds and the earth. And most often, such discharges hit the nearest, and therefore, the highest places on the ground. Which is why "mountain peaks attract lightning"...

But I don't think that the name Perun is derived from the word that means oak or a mountain...If anything, oak and mountain are probably named after the thunder gods: Thunder god's tree and Thunder god's favorite hangout 🙂

I would here like to propose another possible root for all these thunder god names which start with "Per", and that is PIE "*perH-" meaning feather, wing, to fly but also fern, a feather, wing like plant...

This root is best preserved in Proto Slavic "*pero" (feather) and its descendants, but we find cognates in Lithuanian spar̃nas (wing), Albanian "fier" ‎(fern), Proto-Germanic "*farn" (fern), Proto-Indo-Iranian "*parnám" (feather, wing, leaf). 

As I already mentioned at the beginning of this article, official etymology of all these words is: from PIE root "*pornóm" (feather, wing, fern, leaf) which comes from the PIE root "*p(t)erH-" (fern)????? 

This makes absolutely no sense. You mean people looked at feathers, wings, all the different leaves on all the different trees, and said: they all look like ferns??? When even today we say that ferns look like feathers...Not that feathers look like ferns...

Anyway, the important bit is, that if "per" (feather) was the root of the the name Perun, that would make Perun "the feathery one"... Which would neatly explain the fern--thunder god flower--thunder god link found in folklore...

This is where I arrived when I first started pondering all this, many years ago...And this is where I stopped. Because as much as all this looked logical to me, I just couldn't make myself go out in front of the people and say "Behold the holly chicken"!!! 

Even though cockerel is the bird sacred to Perun...And is used in magic rituals performed to protect the house and fields from lightning... 

Then I came across the legend about the Firebird...In Slavic folklore, the Firebird (Russian: жар-пти́ца, Serbian Žar Ptica...) is a magical glowing bird which is both a blessing and a bringer of doom to its captor...


The Firebird is described as a large bird with majestic plumage that glows brightly emitting red, orange, and yellow light, like a bonfire that is just past the turbulent flame...Whose feathers do not cease glowing if removed, and one feather can light a large room if not concealed. Sounds familiar?

I believe that the fire bird story is an amazing description of the man's quest for fire before people invented the way to light it themselves...When only thunder gods knew how to do it...

Fire bird represents the fire that comes from the sky, from the clouds, the electricity, the lighting that flickers and flashes in the clouds during storms...Lightning which looks like feathers, wings of a giant glowing bird...


Sometimes the fire bird flies down from the clouds to nest. This is a lightning striking the ground. The nesting fire bird is a burning bush or a tree struck by a lightning...

What is left after the fire bird ascends back to heaven are a few or just one of her feathers, magic feathers which can light up the whole room. Burning branches?


I talked about this in my post "Firebird"...

Still I wasn't sure...Then, while I was analyzing various animal calendar markers, I came across this double headed eagle dude:


This artifact led to discovering the link between vultures mating season and the rain season in Mesopotamia, Western Iran and Central Asia...They both start in November....



Ninurta/Ningirsu, Sumerian thunder god, is the oldest thunder god we know by name. He was depicted either as a lightning trident wielding warrior or as a warrior armed with a bow and arrow. 



Ninurta/Ningirsu was The Feathered One...Or Perun...

Later on he became the eagle headed winged dude, then just a dude associated with eagles...Like Zeus, Jupiter, Perun...

So...Finally I was sure...Perun, Perkunas, Perkele, Perendi, Parjánya...The gods covered in feathers of fire and light...The ones whose touch leaves marks on the skin in a shape of a wing, feather, fern...What do you think?

I can hear people saying: wait wait wait...How can you link Neolithic Mesopotamian thunder gods with European thunder gods??? Too much geographic and temporal distance...To which I would say: remember the goat of rain?

In Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Iran, Central Asai, Ibex mating season coincides with the beginning of the rain season...Which is why during the Neolithic, ibex was the most depicted animal in these lands. Ibex, The Goat of Rain, whose mating dance (fighting) brings rain...


Then The Goat of Rain, became a goat dude, a dude with goat horns...


Then a dude whose sacred and sacrificial animal was goat...The "goat man", with same goat horns wearing the same big elf boots, with his goat(s), 4th millennium BC Qazvin, Caspian coast, Iran...


We find the same evolution in Europe. In Minoan Crete we find The Goat of Rain associated with winter, rain, water, vegetation and the tree of life...


Then we find Pan, the goat man, associate with rain, water and vegetation...



Eventually we find Zeus being suckled by goats, riding on a goat, wearing a magic goat skin...


Until finally we find Thor, Perkunas and Perun riding in goat pulled chariots and having goats sacrificed to them...



And finally the devil...





So when it came to goats and thunder gods, geographic and temporal distance meant diddle...We can trace the goat aspects of our European thunder goats straight back to Neolithic farmers of the Fertile Crescent...

By the way did you know that Ninurta/Ningirsu was also associated with goats? Storm (rain) god Ninurta, was, in the earliest records, also agriculture god...Whose symbol was the the plough...Which he gave to the people...

Why? Because in Mesopotamia, ploughing is done after the first rains, which arrive in Oct/Nov, when Goat of rain starts mating...Here is a god (Ninurta) giving plough to the people...With goat of rain next to the throne...




And did you know that the eagle dude I talked about earlier was depicted holding "winged" ibex goats...From a Bactrian seal, end of 3rd beginning of 2nd millennium BC...


While goat dude was depicted wearing eagle skin and wings around his neck...



From my post "Strider"...

Just so we know that the eagle dude and the goat dude are one and the same dude...Thunder, Rain God...The Feathered one...The Winged one...The rain cloud...Bactrians actually spelled it for us in the 3rd millennium bc. Clouds...In a shape of an eagle dude and his goat...From my post "Fluffy"...


These two are tightly linked because both animals were used as calendar markers for "the arrival of rain", which then became "the arrival of the thunder god"...

Which is why I believe that Perun was originally "The Feathered One", the great black eagle with outstretched wings which announces the arrival of rains...Who later became the thunder god associated with eagles...With a name whose meaning everyone forgot...

Distribution of the Eagle dudes (The Feathery Ones, Peruns) during 3rd and 2nd millennium BC. From my post "Eagle calendar marker"...



PS: As I was finishing this article, a friend sent me these pictures of tombstones (?) from Serbia. They date to the period of Turkish occupation, 15th century onward, when people started turning back to the old faith, because there was no state pressure to keep them adhering to Christian dogma any more...They all depict a stylized face of a man with big mustaches and a fern/feather on his forehead...Is that him? Is that Perun?



Oh, and in Western Serbia, the bringer of bad weather was in the 20th century still imagined as a black bird...


Fern folklore:

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Jupiter from Ibrahimovci

Altar dedicated to Jupiter, Juno und Minerva, Macedonia


In his 1925 paper "The Ring of Nestor", Sir Arthur Evans, the excavator of Knossos, mentions a curious rain-making ritual which was performed in Ibrahimovci, near Skoplje, Macedonia, during droughts.

This is 1925 we are talking about. At least 1500 years since Jupiter was officially a god of rain...And yet, uneducated, illiterate SLAVIC villagers in Macedonia still remembered him in times of desperation...

What is very interesting is that this altar "was lying face down normally but was lifted when the rain was needed". Compare this with this Slavic rain making ritual from Belarus in which Dabog's stone (Dabog was Slavic Sky god) is ceremonially lifted during droughts...


I talked about Slavic "Weather stones" rituals in my posts "The last megalithic ritual in Europe" and "Weather stones"...


Canals

Cylinder seal depicting he sun god Shamash,  Akkad (Iraq), 3rd millennium BCE, Chert. Currently in the collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority...

Official description:  Shamash emerging through a pair of mountains flanked by columns, perhaps heaven’s door...🙂 Maybe, but I doubt it. Here is why:

Modern impression from a greenstone cylinder seal from Sippar, c. 2300 BC...Currently in The British Museum... 

Here is Shamash (the sun god), in full power (represented by sun heat rays emanating from both shoulders), standing "between two columns with a lioness and a lion". "Between the lions" means that he is standing in Leo, end of July, beginning of August...

And, Leo is a solar year calendar marker which marks the beginning of the mating season of the Eurasian lions. 

Hence lioness and lion...

Leo is the hottest and driest part of the year in Mesopotamia. The time of maximum heat, maximum drought. 


This is also the time of the lowest water levels in Tigris and Euphrates river system...Water level charts for

Tigris


Euphrates

Which is why Shamash is standing in an empty river (canal) bed...And not between two mountains. 

What about the gates of heaven?  Well to understand what these "columns" really are, we need to know a bit about the Mesopotamian agriculture year and their irrigation practices. 

Have a look at the first seal. The image is to be read right to left. The first thing we see is a sheaf of grain. The harvest in ancient Mesopotamia started in April with barley cutting and ended in July with barley storing...

Right after that starts the hottest and driest part of the year dominated by Shamash, who is depicted standing in an empty river (canal) bed. In the "Traditional Dam Construction in Modern Iraq: A Possible Analogy for Ancient Mesopotamian Irrigation Practices" we can read that

Here is what this canal system looks like

Here is what the head dam looks like

And here is how the head dams are made:

The head-dam is built at the final stage of the construction of the primary canal, which is dug from tail to head toward the water source. The head-dam may reach a height of three to five metres, depending on the size of the primary canal and the difference in elevation between the canal bed and the river. 

The construction of a head-dam usually takes place between July and September, during the agricultural off-season and when water levels in the rivers are generally low. This allows for the construction of the dam to take place on relatively dry ground. 

Prior to construction, any loose silt and/or organic material is removed from the canal bed in order to provide a firm foundation for the dam. The foundation for the mud and reed part of the head-dam is built from either baked or unbaked bricks (compressed mud) or stone. On top of the foundation, a number of terracotta pipes are put in place to serve as the water inlet (A). The amount of water entering the primary canals can be regulated by closing the pipes with clay on either side. 

Several rows of palm-trunks or fruit-tree trunks are placed on top of the terracotta pipes in a criss-cross fashion (B). Depending on the length of the head-dam, a number of palm-trunks are sunk vertically into deep holes. More tree-trunks are then placed horizontally against the row of standing logs. The layer of horizontally placed tree-trunks may be up to three rows high. 

Alternating layers of mud (C), reed bundles13 and reed mats (D) and occasionally stones are placed on top of the rows of tree-trunks. The reed bundles, thinner at one end, are woven together to increase the head-dam’s stability.

So what are reed bundles? Only the most important building material in Mesopotamia. Used for building everything, from houses to irrigation canal dams...





Now look again at "the gates of heaven" from the above seals...Vertical bundles of reed tied together with horizontal reed ropes...And how do you cut reeds? With a serrated knife, which Shamash holds in his hand...By the way, the knife still used for cutting reeds is still serrated and curved...

Here is another seal depicting the sun god Shamahs. Cylinder seal, Akkad, 2340 B.C. and 2150 B.C. God carrying mace -- Sun god with rays, ascending between two mountains -- At either side, attendant opening wing of gate the gate of heaven...Currently in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum...

More gates of heaven 🙂...Let's ignore this...This seal adds another interesting detail to the scene. Shamash is facing (walking towards) another god holding a mace...Well that can only be Hadad (Ishkur), the storm god...The rains arrive to Mesopotamia at the end of the hot dry half of the year, in Oct/Nov...



So the sun god Shamash, standing in the middle (Jul/Aug) of the hot, dry part of the year (Apr/May-Oct/Nov), is facing (walking towards) the Storm God Hadad, who comes at the beginning (Oct/Nov) of the cool, wet part of the year (Oct/Nov-Apr/May)...

Finally, here is something I discovered only the other day. I was looking at the reed boat building technology in Mesopotamia. I first read this paper "Building the reed-boat prototype: problems, solutions, and implications for the organization and structure of third-millennium shipbuilding" which documents building of a replica Bronze Age Mesopotamian reed boat. You can see that the main building block is again a reed bundle.




This lead me to this web page "Connecting Mesopotamia with Indus Valley and Egypt: The Tigris Expedition", which describes another experiment in reed boat building. While reading this second text, I came across this chapter:

In Iraq, Heyerdahl gathered evidence for the ancient use of maritime vessels made from a tall freshwater reed called "berdi".  There was more information, as well, on coatings the ancients may have used to protect these reeds against water absorption.  Asphalt in some kind of mixture with pitch and oil was mentioned.  

Much more importantly, Heyerdahl learned from the marsh Arabs of Iraq a vital piece of data on the performance of "berdi" that would influence the entire outcome of his planned experiment. Berdi, they said, must be cut in August, and only in August, or it absorbs water quickly and sinks.  The berdi cut in August was dried for two or three weeks and then used for the reed houses in which the Arabs dwelled.  Estimations of the buoyancy of properly harvested berdi ranged to upwards of a year.  This was a new, seasonal aspect of reed boat construction that no one had considered before.

Cut your reed for construction in August, in Leo...This is what Shamash is telling his people on the above seals...

No heavens gates...Just climate, biology, agriculture and technology...

PS: Part of a model chariot, with an impression of the sun god Shamash, not "rising over the mountains" as the official description says, but standing on top of the main canal dam (see the hole), telling people that it's time to go cutting reeds (see the knife he is holding) to repair the dams...

Old Babylonian, ca. 2000–1600 BC. currently in the Met Museum