The continuation of the previous part…
Hera, Shiva and Odin
…Georges Dumezil has identified a common for all three stories about Heracles, Sisupala and Starkadr contest between “light” warrior gods, Athena, Vishnu and Thor, helping a hero to stay on his true path, and rivaling “dark” gods, Hera, Rudra and Odin, who wreck hero’s destiny.
However, epithet “dark” doesn’t necessarily mean “evil” or “bad”. Jaan Puhvel, student of Dumezil and well-known Indo-Europeist, notes the “dark” – ”light” opposition could be interpreted as the “demonic” – “cultural god” one.
Hera was born of Titans, and Shiva-eyed Cyclopes, and hundred-armed Hekatonkheiroi were her uncles. The same way as Zeus and Poseidon, though Hera didn’t completely surrendered pre-Olympian connections, in archaic tales she is also mother of Typhon – monstrous winged beast with snake-tail legs. Odin, as well is born by the giantess Bestla and he rides eight-legged horse. Sisupala is incarnation of multi-armed and three-eyed Shiva, who, in previous incarnations had even more hideous appearances. (Dumezil 1983 xiv)
We can also develop this line of thinking. Titans, demons, possessing various excesses of life, represent “primordial” or opposition of “nature” to “civilization” divinities. Their excesses may be not appropriate for the second, Kingly caste, but these excesses have their use for the far wings of the First and Third castes. These excesses bring life force into a formalized and artificial world of civilization.
“Cow-eyed” Hera was “jealous” of Zeus’s “love adventures”, which, “jealousy”, is a strict no-no for a King or Queen. But she is no Queen, and being jealous is not a problem for her. Hera shares with Zeus a binary complementary position of the First, Jurist-Brahmana Function. Zeus occupies the closest to the Second, Rajana Function wing, possessing some Kingly secondary traits, including his thunder-lightning weapon, usually found in hands of the Second Function deities: hammer of Thor, thunderbolt of Indra or Perun/Perkunas. Zeus is master of fates, but he is bound by the rules and predictions he pronounces, similarly to the Vedic master of contracts – Mitra, or Avestic counterpart Mithra, who also has a very specific weapon – club. Indo-Europeans had a name for that divine weapon – a mix of hummer, axe and spear – “vajra” or “vazra” (Dumezil 1988 117)
Hera, the same way as her Vedic colleague Varuna, is more a creature of the ever-changing mood and gut feelings. When Heracles was born, his mother Alkmene, fearful of the Hera’s revenge, abandoned him in the countryside. Hera and Athena descended from Olympus to inspect the baby. Amazed by his strength and vigor, Athena persuaded Hera to offer Heracles her breast. Despite her enmity to Heracles, she agreed, but wasn’t able to bear the pain from the strength Heracles tagged to her breast, and Athena returned baby Heracles to Alkmene.
Only after the end of Heracles’s career on Earth, Hera finaly finishes what has failed after Hercles’s birth:
“We should add to what has been said about Herakles, that after his apotheosis Zeus persuaded Hera to adopt him as her son and henceforth for all time to cherish him with a mother’s love, and this adoption, they say, took place in the following manner. Hera lay upon a bed, and drawing Herakles close to her body then let him fall through her garments to the ground, imitating in this way the actual birth…” (Diodorus, IV, 39, 2)
Odin also shares the First Function with another god, Tyr. In West Germanic version – Tiwaz, whose name has the same Proto-Indo-European root found in Latin Deus or Sanskrit Deva. Both Odin and Tyr are divine cripples, one is one-eyed, another – one-handed. If Tyr lost his hand taking care of the World Destiny – he offered his hand as an assurance that the magic collar the gods wanted to try on the Wolf Fenrir, who was about to destroy the World, will be taken off, and lost his hand when Fenrir realized the trickery; Odin paid by his eye for the knowledge and wisdom of the Mirmir fountain. While Tyr/Tiwas belongs to the closest to the Second Function wing, and is associated with war and law; Odin exchanged his eye for a magical, spiritual sight, and the magical powers it brings, and he is also a Jurist, but of a wild, Warlock type, who requires human sacrifices and rides a mutant horse. He is master of the border where a savage, “berserker”, “einherjar” meets civilization (Dumezil 1988, 139-140, 125, 87). However, this “dark”, wild, “lynching” Justice in the form of today’s Jurors makes the whole Judicial system a live organism.
Sisupala’s boss, Rudra-Shiva is no way The First Function character. In his Vedic origins, Rudra, being an archer, had some warrior associations, but his primary preoccupations as being a healer, a herbalist, a master of what was not yet domesticated, hazards and risks of wilderness, narrow roads and crossings, the very name having the same root as Latin “rudis”, “rough, unpolished”, points to the Third Function.
In post-Vedic India Rudra’s status of the master of violent storms has transformed into the figure of Shiva, the master of destruction. Not the pointless destruction, but rather a destruction that benefits regeneration, and clears the way for the new beginnings. Shiva’s status of “Pasupati”, Lord of Domesticated Animals, and his favorite ‘pet’ Caw, even more decisively lads him in the Third Function. (Dumezil 1988, 79, 84, 81, 57)
Nevertheless, the far, from the Second Function, wings of Third and First Functions meet each other. Gandharva, the upside-down centauri of Hindu tradition, also are called “Varuna’s people”, and like centaur Nessus they also possess the secret of fertility and procreation, and they saved the wild Juror Varuna’s potency when he had a problem with it.
These “wild”, “nature” gods, on both sides of the First-Third Function divide: Hera, Odin and Rudra-Shiva lay in a direct opposition to the “civilized”, or “culture” gods of the Second, Hero-King-Warrior function: Athena, Thor and Vishnu. Traits that are excusable, even desirable for the “dark” side of the Jurist and Commoner Functions are not tolerable for a King. Thirst for human sacrifices via hanging, projectile piercing, electrocuting or poisoning may be well suited for the Court Rooms, or greed – for Financial Offices, but they are no way appropriate for the Oval Office, and are self-destructive for its inhabitants.
Suicide of Starkadr, Heracles and Sisupala
When their careers are finished, when all three unforgivable sins of a hero and a king-to-be are committed, and all three heroes have finally realized there is no way to go to achieve their ambitions, they give themselves up to the gods of their choice, and thus either parting with their dreams, choosing their “dark” patron, or they realize what went wrong in their enterprise, and choose the “light” divinity.
Starkadr at the end of his three lives is still strong, but numerous battles, according to Thor’s prediction, left him many grave wounds. He barely walks on crouches, still bearing his two swords, in search of the ideal executioner. The view of the helpless old man burdened by the two, too many swords, a bounty for common folk those times, tempts many to try to relieve Starkadr from such needless for his age possessions. They pay a heavy price for these attempts, because there is only one person worth to end Starkadr’s life. The one who spelled out the blue print for it on the small island in a sea – Odin.
Heracles, ascending to the pyre, reconciles with both divinities, whom he failed, and who was the culprit of the failure. They, it seams, are satisfied with the draw in the game and now are taking care of the player who has done with his performance. Zeus uses his thunderbolt to bring Heracles to Olympus, and Hera adopts him as her own son.
Sisupala does not, technically, commits suicide, however he does all he could to provoke the Krishna’s final blow. When his headless body falls on the floor of Yudhisthira’s palace, a strange event happens:
“Thereupon the kings watched a sublime radiance rise forth from the body of the king of the Cedis, which, great king, was like the sun rising up from the sky; and the radiance greeted lotus-eyed Krishna, honored by the world, end entered him, O king.” (Mahabharata 2 42 20)
The more mystical Vishnu Puranas explain the scene that at the course of previous reincarnation cycles, Sisupala accumulated so much hatred to Krishna/Vishnu, and this time all his thoughts were fixed on the Vishnu’s incarnation. This focused attention lead to the break of the reincarnation cycle, and understanding by Sisupala’s soul that he is only a part of the Higher All, which just wanted to recover him – a lost part. By understanding that, Sisupalagets free, his haltered is evaporated, as well as the pile of his sins, consumed by the Vishnu, and Sisupala willingly joins the Higher Being. (Dumezil 1983 67-68)
For all three main characters of these “three unforgivable sins of the Warrior-King” stories, it takes many years to commit full list of sins. However, epochs are changing. Nowadays, in our fast paced world of high-speed transportation, communication and information consumption, Presidential hopefuls manage to commit all three unforgivable sins in few minutes. By doing so the become walking political dead, however, unlike Starkadr, Heracles and Sisupala, they unable to recognize that.
A usual Libertarian candidate, who tries to run for President form one election to another, always complains that because he is outsider, mainstream mass media, controlled by the establishment, deliberately ignore and ridicule him. Not arguing with him about the control over the media, we can say that in the particular case the media is innocent. This candidate is perfectly capable of self-destruction by himself.
Answering medical care related questions during debates, for example, should a child of an illegal immigrant be given a medical care, he commits one of the mentioned above sins after another. He, like Starkadr, flies the battle scene, he tries to withdraw from the answering the question, mumbling about changes in the economy, and that America is no longer an attractive place for illegal immigrants, and that questing gets resolved by itself; and that it can’t be that a person can be left without a medical attention, that, miraculously, somebody, but not he as a President, and not the state, but some mythical charities or churches will pay the bill, committing an another, the avarice or niggardness sin, again, like Starkadr, selling his dignity for a mere gold. Again, the third time, like Starkadr, he is ready to conduct the human sacrifice for his idols of the pure Libertarian gods.
This is not sins of the concrete political doctrine. These are pure personal ‘traits’. A Libertarian, but a Libertarian possessing Royal Presidential qualities could easily answer the same question. He could just say that he won’t allow American health care system to spend its money for the illegal immigrant’s child, but, he, personally, as President would use his “Air force One” jet to speed up the child to the best Mexican hospital and would pay for this child.
Dumezil, Georges, 1983. The Stakes of the Warrior. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA
Dumezil, Georges, 1988. Mitra-Varuna, An Essay on Two Indo-European Representations of Sovereignty. Zone Books, New York, NY
The Mahabharata, Translated and Edited by J.A.B. van Buitenen, 1975, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL