Shamans and Smiths
Of this base metal may be filed a
That will unlock the door they
IN ADDITION to the Sampo, there are many myths embedded in the Kalevala's narrative sequence whose analysis would yield surprises. There was the contest of Vainamoinen with Youkahainen (see p. 97), a malevolent Lapp magician who seems to, be his constant opponent. Youkahainen tries to overcome the ancient sage by asking cosmogonic riddles, but Vainamoinen "sings" the Lapp step by step into the bog up to his throat, and sings his magic formulae "backwards" to free him only when the Lapp has promised him Aino, his only sister. There was also the tale of Vainamoinen searching in the dead giant's belly for three lost runes. These, unless they are treated as "just so stories," look very much like "erratic boulders" deposited in Finland by the glacial movement of time.
For once, it is possible to trace the archaic formulation back to Egypt. [n1 G. Roeder, Altaegyptische Erzahlungen und Marchen (1927), p. 149; A. Wiedemann, Herodots Zweites Buch (1890), p. 455.]. A young Egyptian called Setna (or Seton Chamwese) "wanted to steal the magic book of Thot from the corpse of Nefer-ka Ptah, one of the great Egyptian gods, who was often portrayed as a mummy. Ptah, however, was awake and asked him: "Are you able to take this book away with the help of a knowing scribe, or do you want to overcome me at checkerboards? Will you play 'Fifty-Two'?" Setna agreed, and the board with its "dogs" (pieces) being
brought up, Nefer-ka Ptah won a game, spoke a formula, laid the checkerboard upon Setna's head and made him sink into the ground up to his hips. On the third time, he made him sink up to his ears; then Setna cried aloud for his brother, who saved him.
There is also a Finnish folktale which repeats the well-known Babylonian story of Etana and the Eagle. [n2 See M. Haavio, Der Etanamythos in Finnland (1955), pp. 8-12; also S. Langdon, The Legend of Etana and the Eagle (1932), pp. 46-50.] Here, instead of the King, it is the "Son of the Widow" (no reason is given for this epithet, which appears to belong to Perceval in the first line, but we find it again in later Masonic tradition [n3 Such words have long lives. At the height of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, the first man over the wall was Gen. Armistead, who fell into the breach mortally wounded. To those who picked him up, the general kept repeating: "I am a Son of the Widow" obviously the password of a secret military brotherhood that his captors did not understand, nor the historian either.]) who is taken up into the air by a griffin and sees the earth growing smaller and smaller under him. When the earth appears "no bigger than a pea" (analogous similes are to be found also in Etana), the griffin plunges straightaway to the bottom of the sea, where the hero finds a certain object for which he had looked everywhere, and finally he is restored to land. This looks like the full story of what in the Babylonian cuneiform is interrupted halfway through because the tablet is broken off: it might be the first version of the legend of Alexander exploring the Three Realms.
The anomalous position of Kullervo in the Kalevala remains a puzzle. Where Lonnrot put him in the sequence, he remains a displaced person, seeming to come, as was noted, from another age. There are many such incongruities. On the basis of the variants discovered, it has been boldly suggested that he was supposed to appear only after the departure of Vainamoinen--in fact, that he himself is the nameless Miraculous Child who compelled Vainamoinen to quit the scene, and that would be why the two never met. The people now understand the Child to be Christ himself, but that is the normal transforming influence of the Church.
The Child in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue was also later thought to be Christ, and Virgil earned a reputation as a magician on the strength of his supposed prophecy.
Actually, the mother says of Vainamoinen's and her illegitimate little son (50.199f.): "He shall be a mighty conqueror, strong as even Vainamoinen." This struck the English editor of the Kalevala, the more so as the baby is also called "the two-week-old Kaleva." For Kullervo is both in Finnish and in Esthonian tradition the son of Kaleva--"Kalevanpoika" or "Kalevipoeg" €“much more explicitly than the other heroes, who are "sons". only generically. It would fit into the mythical picture, for reasons which will soon be evident, to have a time-bound tragic avatar of Vainamoinen, following upon the timeless sage."
But then, who is Kaleva? He is a mysterious entity that shines by his absence, and yet is the eponymous presence through the whole poem. The connotation of "giant" is attached to him: in some of the Finnish versions of the Old Testament, the gigantic Rephaim and Enakim are called "children of Kaleva." But there are many reasons for understanding the word as smith [n4 E. N. Setala, "Kullervo- Hamlet," FUF 7 (1907), p. 249. See also K. Krohn, Kalevalastudien 1. Einleitung (1924), pp. 93-101.]. Kaleva might be a smith even more primeval than Ilmarinen. There is a strange line in the spell describing the origin of iron: "Poor Iron man Kaleva, at that time thou wast neither great nor small." In any case, the current notion that Kaleva is a "personification" of Finland, a sort of Britannia with her trident, can be dismissed as unserious. Those were no times for rhetorical figures. Kaleva remains for the present a significant void. But Setala notes that the Russian bylini, the close neighbors of the Esthonian runes, sing the feats of Kolyvanovic, the son of Kolyvan, and say next to nothing of Kolyvan himself.
The Russian texts give the full name as Samson Kolyvanovic, just as in Finland it is Kullervo Kalevanpoika. Here perhaps by chance a name turns up which runs like a barely visible thread through the whole tradition. We have Samson in the Kalevala right in the first rune; his name is Sampsa Pellervoinen, who "sows the trees" and also helps Vainamoinen to cut them down [n5 Krohn suggests deriving Sampsa from Sampo. Comparetti would like it the other way around. Neither is convinced or convincing, but they both show that the name of Samson is a rarity which has to be accounted for.].
His name, "the man of the field" or the "earth-begotten," shows him to be a rural deity, which might translate into the Greek Triptolemus, or the Etruscan Aruns Velthymnus. One can no longer tell what his role was in the original order of the poem. It is enough that he is there. The lore of the Mill begins to extend beyond reach. It will be no surprise, then, to find Lykophron, the master mythologist, speaking of Zeus the Miller (435). With it, paradoxically, goes again the name of Mylinos, "Miller," given to the leader of the Battle of the Giants against the Gods. The struggle was seen obviousiy as one for the control of the Mill of Heaven.
It is, then, maybe not by chance that the name of Samson appears in the Far North. For Samson himself, Samson Agonistes, should have a place of honor among the giant Heroes of the Mill. He is in fact the first one in our literature. We are told (Judges XVI.21) how he ground. away, "eyeless in Gaza, at the mill, with slaves," until his cruel captors unbound him to "make sport" for them in their temple, and with his last strength he took hold of the middle pillars and brought the temple crushing down on the heads of the Philistines. Like Menja, he had taken his revenge.
But Samson leads beyond the confines of this topic into a worldwide context. He brings more abstruse concepts into play. He had better be reserved for the next chapter.
Now, at the end of the strange story of the Sampo, one is entitled to ask: does all this make much sense by itself? Is it relevant at all beyond literary history? Comparetti, the great old scholar who in the last century tackled the difficult study of Finnish poetry, set himself a neat and classic philological question. Would it help us to understand the birth of the Homeric poems? Yes, he says. Yet he admits that the Homeric question remains open. In other words, the famous "commission of Orphic and Pythagorean experts set up by Pisistratus to collect the scattered rhapsodies" can hardly have produced by itself any more than Lonnrot could, such works as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Hence in conclusion there must still have been a Homer. Which goes to show that the conventional idea of epic genius ends up in mystery even for the comparative philologist. But Comparetti is prompt to point out that those experts were no scholars in today's sense, belonging as they did to a period when myth, poetry and intellectual creation were all one.
It might have been better perhaps to take the question from the other end. Supposing that Lonnrot had been himself some kind of "Orphic and Pythagorean" in the old sense, might he not have produced a better reconstruction than the-surely intelligent-stitching together to which he had to limit himself? Was he not hampered by his ignorance of the archaic background? Firdausi did actually know the astrological doctrines through which his scattered sources made coherent sense, and this is undoubtedly what allowed him to weld his Shahnama into a real whole. Lonnrot was not, but the "short songs" of Finnish peasant tradition were too far removed from the original thought for anyone to recapture it. His successors who unearthed a bewildering number of variants to every single rune have left the confusion intact. Instead of forcing the bulky piece into an arbitrary whole, the Finnish Folklore Fellows (F. F. for short) have taken up comparative mythology, the only means by which order can be established eventually.
As concerns Homer and the presupposed Homeric rhapsodies, this is dangerous territory. Not so much because Homer belongs in fee simple to the redoubtable guild of Homeric scholars--Comparetti as a respectable member of the guild could afford deviations but essentially because it is not fitting to try to reduce to a "scheme" what remains a prodigious and subtle work of art, the limpidity and immediacy of which should not be spoiled. It is unfortunately a common prejudice that to work out high theoretical allusions contained in the text reduces the text to an irrelevant conundrum, whereas, for instance, the Catalogue of Ships studied literally reveals hidden beauties to the reader. It is enough to suggest here that Homer found pre-existent materials at hand, squared blocks and well-cut ashlars, which he transformed into poetry. One of those prefabricated pieces, the Curse of the Miller Woman, is located in chapter VI, and there is more such evidence to come. Homer's craft lay really in reshaping and humanizing these materials so well that they became inconspicuous. In the case of the Greek tragedies more is known, thanks to Apollodorus. His "Library" of myths,
supplemented by Frazer's wonderful notes, shows that the "Library" provided the "book" for every tragedy, those that we have and those that are lost, those written and those never written. Yet it took an Aeschylus or a Sophocles to transform the meaning, to make out of it a work of art.
Much closer to hand, and better known, are the sources of the Divine Comedy--history, philosophy and myth, measures and intervals--which provide a virtually complete structure without gaps.
Yet because of this, Dante is all the more a true creator clearly, it is the very idea of "poet," poietes, which has to be redefined in moving closer to traditional sources. Veteres docti poetae as Ovid said, himself not the least of them. "Learned" is the key word, not in theoretical tropes and allegories, but in the living substance of mythical doctrine.
But here again common usage is misleading. Today, a learned man is usually one who understands what it is all about. Dante was certainly one. But was it so in remote ages? There is reason to doubt it. An esoteric doctrine, as defined by Aristotle, is one which is learned long before being understood. Much of the education of Chinese scholars was until very recently along those lines. Understanding remained something apart. It might never come at all, and at best would come when the learning was complete. There were other ways.
One can give an extreme case from Rome. Athenaeus [n6 Deipnosophistai 1.20d. See also Lucian's De Saltatione 70.] says that there was a much-applauded mime, Memphis by name, who in a brief dance was said to convey faultlessly the whole essence of the Pythagorean doctrine. It is not said that he understood it: he may have had an inkling, and the rest was his extraordinarily sharpened sense of expression. He had, so to speak, a morphological understanding that he could only express in action. His public understood surely no more than he: but they would be strict and unforgiving judges. Dictum sapienti sat, the wise would say. But here even the one word was missing. His spectators would shout deliriously nonetheless, in their own demotic language: "I dig you, Jack."
And for the slightest lapse from the exact form, they were ready with eggs and overripe tomatoes. Here is a case of true communication which does not need understanding. It takes place only through the form, morphé. In mystery rites there were things which "could not be said" (arrheta) but could only be acted out.
Such happenings must be kept in mind when trying to determine how well the poet understood the material handed on to him. Creative misunderstanding may have been of the essence of his "freedom": but strict respect was there nonetheless. The rune of the "origin of iron" (the ninth of the Kalevala) was incomprehensible to the laulaja, yet he knew he had to recite this "deep origin" to control the lethal powers of cold iron. Magic and mantic implications were present always in the grim business of the smith, as they were in the high business of the poet. Understanding lay beyond them.
Every era, of course, has freely invented its own ballads, romances, songs and fables to entertain it. That is another matter. This concerns the poet, poietes, as he was understood in early times. There was an original complex meaning which comprised the words poet, vates, prophet, seer. Every knowledge and law, Vico wrote with a flash of genius two centuries ago, must once upon a time have been "serious poetry," poesia seriosa. It is in this sense that Aristotle in a sophisticated age still refers respectfully to "the grave testimony of [early] poets."
Now that documents of the earliest ages of writing are available, one is struck with a wholly unexpected feature. Those first predecessors of ours, instead of indulging their whims with childlike freedom, behave like worried and doubting commentators: they always try an exegesis of a dimly understood tradition. They move among technical terms whose meaning is half lost to them, they deal with words which appear on this earliest horizon already "tottering with age" as J. H. Breasted says, words soon to vanish from our ken. Long before poetry can begin, there were generations of strange scholiasts.
The experts have noted the uncertainty prevailing in the successors of old texts, the attempts in them to establish correct names
and their significance from obsolete formulas and ideograms. S. Schott, dealing with early star lists of Egypt, [n7 W. Gundel, Dekane und Dekansternbilder (1936), p. 5.] points to the perplexity of later generations concerning the names of constellations, even those of the "greatest gods of the Decans, Orion and Sothis, who in Ancient Egyptian are called by the names of old hieroglyphs, without anybody knowing, in historical times, what these hieroglyphs had meant, once upon a time. During the whole long history of these names we meet attempts at interpretation." This last sentence goes for every ancient text, not only for the names contained therein: there is no end of commentaries on the Pyramid Texts, the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead [n8 See, for example, G. Roeder, Urkunden zur Religion des Alten Aegypten (1915), pp. 185f., 199f., 224.], on the Rigveda, the I-Ging, just as on the Old Testament [n9 J. Dowson (A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, p. 60) bluntly calls the Brahmanas "a Hindu Talmud."]. W. von Soden regrets that we depend on the documents of the "Renaissance of Sumerian culture" (around 2100 B.C.) instead of having the real, old material at our disposal [n10 "Licht und Finsternis in der sumerischen und babylonisch-assyrischen Religion," Studium Generale 13 (1960), p. 647.]. The mere fact that Sumerian was the language of the educated Babylonian and Assyrian, the existence of the many Sumerian-Akkadian "dictionaries" and the numerous translations of the Gilgamesh epic betray the activity of several academies responsible for the officially recognized text editions. One can almost see the scholars puzzling and frowning over the texts. And in Mexico it was the same. In Chimalpahin's Memorial Breve we find notes such as "In the year '5-house' certain old men explained some pictographs to the effect that king Hueymac of Tollan [the mythical Golden Age city] had died." [n11 Chimalpahin, Memorial Breve, trans. W. Lehmann and G. Kutscher (1958), p.10.] This took place before the coming of the Spaniards. The Greek "Renaissance," no less than those of the previous millennia in the Near East, was the result of such an antiquarian effort. Hesiod still bears the mark of it.
These few notions should be present in any ideas about "transmission." The word need in no way imply "understanding" on
the part of those who transmit, and this is true from early ages down to contemporary minstrels. As has been pointed out, it is easy to slip into ordinary literary history if the origins are not seriously investigated. Does the tale of the Sampo have a wider interest than this? A few handsome cosmic motifs scattered through the tale of magic might still have reached Finland through the "corridors of Time" from other cultures without any meaning attached. In short, it might all be "folk poetry" in the usual sense.
The editors of the Kalevala themselves insistently described the background as "shamanistic," by which they simply understood some kind of primitive "religion." It corresponded in their minds to primeval, instinctive magic, to be found in all five continents, associated with the tribal "medicine man." Then came Frazer to introduce the cleavage between "magic" and "religion" as distinct forms, to complicate matters further. Shamanism remained until recently a catchword of an 'uncertain sort-a portmanteau term for specialists, a vague notion for the public, of the kind that gives one the pleasant impression of understanding what it is all about--like that other too-famous term, mana. One of the present authors is willing to admit ruefully that he once stressed the link of Pythagoras and Epimenides with Thracian shamans, with no more thought than to show that there was much in them of the ageless medicine man [n12 G. de Santillana, The Origins of Scientific Thought (1961), p. 54.]. This was several years ago, and it seemed to correspond to the state of the art. It is no longer so. To have uncovered the inadmissibility of the general usage of the term is the merit of Laszlo Vajda's short but dense and logical study on the subject [n13 "Zur Phaseologischen Stellung des Schamanismus," in Ural.-Altaische Jahrbucher 31 (1959), pp. 456-85.]. Vajda has shown that no historical verdict based on such generalities is valid. It is inadmissible to reduce shamanism to memories of Eskimo angekoks or to a "technique of induced ecstasy," or to derive such phenomena from the Asiatic North where, undeniably, this particular kind of queerness is fostered.
"Shaman" is a Tungusian word. Shamanism has its epicenter in Ural-Altaic Asia, but it is a very complex phenomenon of culture
which can be explained neither by psychologists nor by sociologists, but only by way of historical ethnology. To put it in a few words, a shaman is elected by spirits, meaning that he cannot choose his profession. Epileptics and mentally unhinged persons are obvious privileged candidates. Once elected, the future shaman goes to "school" Older shamans teach him his trade, and only after the concluding ceremony of his education is he accepted. This is, so to speak, the visible part of his education. The real shamanistic initiation of the soul happens in the world of spirits--while his body lies unconscious in his tent for days--who dismember the candidate in the most thorough and drastic manner and sew him together afterwards with iron wire, or reforge him, so that he becomes a new being capable of feats which go beyond the human. The duties of a shaman are to heal diseases which are caused by hostile spirits who have entered the body of the patient, or which occur because the soul has left the body and cannot find the way back. Often the shaman is responsible for guiding the souls of the deceased to the abode of the dead, as he also escorts the souls of sacrificed animals to the sky. His help is needed, too, when the hunting season is bad; he must find out where the game is. In order to find out all the things which he is expected to know, the shaman has to ascend to the highest sky to get the information from his god or go into the underworld. On his way he has to fight hostile spirits, and/or rival shamans, and tremendous duels are fought. Both combatants have with them their helping spirits in animal form, and much shape-shifting takes place. In fact, these fantastic duels form the bulk of shamanistic stories. The last echoes are the so-called "magic flights" in fairy tales. The shaman's soul ascends to the sky when he is in a state of ecstasy; in order to get into this state, he needs his drum which serves him as a "horse," the drumstick as a "whip." [n14 The shamans also use as a "main artery" a stream flowing through all levels of the sky, and they identify it with the Yenissei-a conception which will become clearer at a later point of this inquiry. (D. Holmberg, Finno-Ugric and Siberian Mythology , PP. 307f.).]
Now, the "frame" within which the shaman proper acts, that is, the world conception of Ural-Altaic shamanism, has been successfully traced back to India (under its Hinduistic and Buddhistic aspects, including Tibetan Lamaism and Bon-po) as well as to Iran. When reading Radloff's many volumes, one runs into insufficiently disguised Bodhisatvas at every corner (Manjirae = Manjusri; Maiterae, or Maidere = Maitreya, etc.), but the best organized material has been provided by Uno Holmberg (Uno Harva) [n15 See the bibliography.], who has been quoted here and will be quoted frequently.
This world conception, however, with its three "domains," with seven or nine skies, one above the other, and with corresponding "underworlds," with the "world-pillar" running through the center of the whole system, crowned by the "north Nail," or "World Nail" (Polaris), goes farther back than Indian and Iranian culture, namely to the most ancient Near East, whence India and Iran derived their idea of a "cosmos"--a cosmos being in itself by no means an obvious assumption. The shaman climbing the "stairs" or notches of his post or tree, pretending that his soul ascends at the same time to the highest sky, does the very same thing as the Mesopotamian priest did when mounting to the top of his seven-storied pyramid, the ziqqurat, representing the planetary spheres [n16 Nine skies, instead of seven, within the sphere of fixed stars, result from the habit of including among the planets the (invisible) "head" and "tail" of the "Dragon," which is to say the lunar nodes, conjunctions or oppositions in the vicinity of which cause the eclipses of Sun and Moon; the revolution of these "draconitic points" is c. 18 ½ years. This notion, upheld in medieval Islamic astrology, is Indian, but apparently not of Indian origin, as will come out eventually. Reuter, Germanische Himmelskunde (1934), pp. 29Iff., thinks that the Teutonic idea of nine planets including the draconitic points goes back to the common "Urzeit" of Indo-Europeans, and refers to Luise Troje, Die 13 und 12 im Traktat Pelliot (1925), pp. 7f., 25, 149f. Even if the "Dragon" should go back to this time, we do not take the Indo-Europeans, whether united or not, for the inventors of this idea. As concerns Islamic and Indian tradition, see the most thorough and thoughtful inquiries by Willy Hartner, "The Pseudoplanetary Nodes of the Moon's Orbit in Hindu and Islamic Iconographies," in Ars Islamica 5 (1938), Pt. I; Le Probleme de la planete Kald (1955); "Zur Astrologischen Symbolik des 'Wade Cup'," in Festschrift Kuehnel (1959), pp. 234-43. Whether we shall find the time to deal in the appropriate form with the tripartite Universe in this essay remains doubtful. This much can be safely stated: it goes back to "The Ways of Anu, Enlil, and Ea" in Babylonian astronomy.]
From the majestic temple at Borobudur in Java to the graceful stupas which dot the Indian landscape, stretches a schematized reminder of the seven heavens, the seven notches, the seven levels. Says Uno Holmberg: "This pattern of seven levels can hardly be imagined as the invention of Turko-Tatar populations. To the investigator, the origin of the Gods ruling those various levels is no mystery, for they point clearly to the planetary gods of Babylon, which already in their far-away point of origin, ruled over seven superposed starry circles." [n17 Der Bawn des Lebens (1922), p. 123.]. This was also the considered conclusion, years ago, of Paul Mus. To have taken the conception of several skies and underworlds as natural, ergo primitive, was a grievous blunder which distorted the historical outlook of the last two centuries. It stems from the fact that philologists and Orientalists have lost all contact with astronomical imagination, or even the fundamentals of astronomy. When they find something which savors undeniably of astronomical lore, they find a way to label it under "prelogical thought" or the like.
But even apart from the celestial "ladder," and the sky-travel of the shaman's soul, a close look at shamanistic items always discloses very ancient patterns. For instance, the drum, the most powerful device of the shaman, representing the Universe in a specific way, is the unmistakable grandchild of the bronze lilissu drum of the Mesopotamian Kalu-priest (responsible for music, and serving the god Enki/Ea) [n18 See B. Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien (1925), vol. 2, p. 66.]. The cover of the lilissu drum must come from a black bull, "which represents Taurus in heaven," says ThureauDangin [n19 Rituels accadiens (1921), p. 2. See also E. Ebeling, Tod und Leben nach den Vorstellungen der Babylonier (1931), for a cuneiform text in which the hide is explicitly said to be Anu (p. 29), and C. Bezold, Babylonisch-Assyrisches Glossar (1926), p. 210 s.v. "sugugalu, 'the hide of the great bull,' an emblem of Anu." We might point, once more, to the figure of speech used by Petronius' Trimalchio, who, talking of the month of May, states: "Totus coelus taurulus fiat" ("the whole heaven turns into a little bull").]. Going further, W. F. Albright and P. E. Dumont [n20 "A Parallel between Indian and Babylonian Sacrificial Ritual," JAOS 54 (1934), pp. 107-28.]
compared the sacrifice of the Mesopotamian bull, the hide of which was to cover the lilissu drum, with the Indian Ashvamedha, a huge horse sacrifice which only the most successful king (always a Kshatrya) could afford. They found that the Indian horse must have the Krittika, the Pleiades, on his forehead, and this too, according to Albright, is what the Akkadian text prescribes concerning the bull. This should be enough to indicate the level of phenomena brought into play.
The striking of the drum covered with that specific bull hide was meant as a contact with heaven at its most significant point, and in the Age of Taurus (c. 4000-2000 B.C.) this was also explicitly said to represent Anu, now casually identified as "God of Heaven." But Anu was a far more exact entity. In cuneiform script, Anu is written with one wedge, which stands for the number I and also for 60 in the sexagesimal system (the Pythagoreans would have said, he stands for the One and the Decad). All this does not mean some symbolic or mystical, least of all magical quality or quantity, but the fundamental time measure of celestial events (that is, motions) [n21 Compare the sexagesimal round of days in customary notation of the oracle bones of Shang China, 15th century B.C., about which Needham states that it is "probably an example of Babylonian influence on China" (Science and Civilisation in China , vol. 4, Pt. I, p. 181).]. Striking the drum was to involve (this time, yes, magically) the essential Time and Place in heaven.
It is not clear whether or not the Siberian shamans were still aware of this past. The amount of highly relevant star lore collected by Holmberg, and the innumerable figures of definitely astronomical character found on shamanistic drums could very well allow for much more insight than the ethnologists assume, but this is irrelevant at this point. What is plain and relevant is that the Siberian shamans did not invent the zodiac, and all that goes with it. There is no need for a detailed inspection of Chinese mythical drums, merely a few lines from an "Ocean of Stories":
In the Eastern Sea, there is to be found an animal which looks like an ox. Its appearance is green, and it has no horns. It has one foot only. When it moves into the water or out of it, it causes wind or rain. Its
shining is similar to that of the sun and the moon. The noise it makes is like the thunder. Its name is K'uei. The great Huang-ti, having captured it, made a drum out of its skin [n22 M. Granet, Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne (1959). p. 5°9. Such imagery is by no means unique. E.g., the Taittiriya Sanhita says: "The pressing stone [of the Soma-press] is the penis of the sacrificial horse, Soma is his seed; when he opens his mouth, he causes lightning, when he shivers, it thunders, when he urinates, it rains" (18.104.22.168 = Shatapatha Brahmana 10.6.4.1 = Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad 1.1; see R. Pischel and K. F. Geldner, Vedische Studien, vol. I, p. 86). It will come out later why it is important to supplement these strange utterances with the statement of the Shatapatha Brahmana: "In the water having its origin is the horse," which sounds ever so inconspicuous until E. Sieg (Die Sagenstoffe des Rigveda, p. 98) obliges the non-Sanskritist by giving the Sanskrit words in transcription, i.e., "apsuyanir va asvah"; apsu is something more specific than just water; it is, in fact, the very same topas as the Babylonian apsu (Sumerian: abzu).].
This looks prima facie like the description of an ancient case of delirium tremens, but the context makes it sober enough. This is a kind of Unnatural Natural History which has small regard for living species, but deals with events from another realm. The One-Legged Being, in particular, can be followed through many appearances beginning with the Hunrakin of the Mayas, whose very name means "one-leg." From it comes our "hurricane," so there is no wonder that he disposes of wind, rain, thunder and lightning in lavish amounts. But he is not for all that a mere weather god, since he is one aspect of Tezcatlipoca himself, and the true original One-Leg that looks down from the starry sky-but his name is not appropriate yet.
And so back by unexpected ways to mythical drums and their conceivable use. A lot more might be found by exploring that incredible storehouse of archaic thought miraculously preserved among the Mande peoples of West Sudan [n23 In East Africa, the drum occupied the place that the Tabernacle had in the Old Testament, as Harald von Sicard has shown in Ngoma Lungundu: Eine afrikanische Bundeslade (1952).]. In the large and complicated creation myth of the Mande, there are two drums. The first was brought down from heaven by the bardic ancestor, shortly after the Ark (with the eight twin-ancestors) had landed on the primeval field. This drum was made from Faro's skull and was used for producing rain.
(The experts style Faro usually "le Moniteur," thus avoiding mislabeling him as culture hero, savior or god.) The first sanctuary was built, and the "First Word" revealed (30 words there were) to mankind through the mouth of one of the twin-ancestors, who "talked the whole night, ceasing only when he saw the sun and Sirius rising at the same time." When the "Second Word" was to be revealed (consisting of 50 words this time), and again connected with the heliacal rising of Sirius, the ancestor "decided to sacrifice in the sanctuary on the hill the first twins of mixed sex. He asked the bard to make an arm-drum with the skin of the twins [n24 It is an hourglass-shaped drum, with two skins, said "to recall the two geographic areas, Kaba and Akka, and the narrow central part of the drum is the river itself [Niger] and hence Faro's journey."]. The tree, from which he carved the drum, grew on the hill and symbolized Faro's only leg." [n25 Germaine Dieterlen, "The Mande Creation Story," Africa 27 (1957), pp. 124-38; cf. JSA 25 (1955), pp. 39-76. See also Marcel Griaule, "Symbolisme des tambours soudanais," Melanges historiques offerts a M. Masson 1 (1955), pp. 79-86; Griaule and Dieterlen, Signes Graphiques Soudanais (1951), p. 19.].
Here again are important one-legged characters, of whom there are a bewildering number with various functions all over the world. It is not necessary to enter that jungle, except to note that the temporary mock-king of Siam, who was set up for yearly expiatory ceremonies, also had to stand on one leg upon a golden dais during all the coronation ceremonies, and he had the fine-sounding title of "Lord of the Celestial Armies." [n26 W. Deonna, Un divertissement de table "a cloche-pied" (1959), p. 33. See J. Frazer, The Dying God (Pt. III of The Golden Bough), pp. 149f.]. The Chinese K'uei is then no isolated character. The Chinese myth is more explicit than the others and becomes more understandable because the Chinese were extremely sky-conscious. Their sinful monsters are thrown into pits or banished to strange mountain regions for the sin of having upset the calendar.
As for K'uei himself, engagingly introduced as a green oxlike creature of the Eastern Sea, he will grow more bewildering as his nature unfolds. Marcel Granet writes that the Emperor Shun made K'uei "master of music"--actually ordered no less a power than the Sun (Chong-li) to fetch him from the bush and bring him to court, because K'uei alone had the talent to bring into harmony
the six pipes and the seven modes, and Shun, who wanted to bring peace to the empire, stood by the opinion that "music is the essence of heaven and earth." [n27 Granet, Danses et légendes, pp. 311, 505-508.]. K'uei also could cause the "hundred animals" to dance by touching the musical stone, and he helped Yu the Great, that indefatigable earth-mover among the Five First Emperors, to accomplish his labor of regulating the "rivers." And it turns out that he was not only Master of the Dance, but Master of the Forge as well: He must have been a remarkable companion for Yu the Great, whose dancing pattern (the Step of Yu) "performed" the Big Dipper [n28 We are indebted for this last piece of information to Professor N. Sivin.].
Enough of drums, and of their shamanic use. They have at least ceased to seem like tribal tom-toms. They are connected with time, rhythm and motion in heaven.
Moving now to another great theme, in fact a very great one, it is possible to trace back the significance of the blacksmith in Asiatic shamanism, particularly the celestial blacksmith who is the legitimate heir to the divine "architekton" of the cosmos. Several representatives of this type, whom we call Deus Faber, still have both functions, being architects and smiths at the same time, e.g., the Greek Hephaistos, who builds the starry houses for the gods and forges masterworks, and the Koshar-wa-Hasis of Ras Shamra, who builds Baal's palace and forges masterworks also.
The Yakuts claim: "Smith and Shaman come from the same nest," and they add: "the Smith is the older brother of the Shaman," [n29 P. W. Schmidt, Die asiatischen Hirtenvolker (1954), pp. 346f. Concerning the terrestrial blacksmith: the many iron pieces which belong to the costume of a shaman can be forged only by a blacksmith of the 9th generation, i.e., eight of his direct ancestors must have been in the profession. A smith who dared forge a shamanistic outfit without having those ancestors would be torn by bird-spirits.] which might be valid also for Vainamoinen, coupled with Ilmarinen, who is said to have "hammered together the roof of the sky." It is the primeval Smith who made the Sampo, as we know, and forged sky and luminaries in Esthonia. It is no idle fancy that the representative of the celestial smith, the King, is himself frequently titled "Smith." Jenghiz Khan had the title "Smith" [n30 A. Alfbldi, "Smith As a Title of Dignity" (in Hungarian), in Magyar Nyelv 28 (1932), pp. 205-20.]
and the standard of the Persian Empire was the stylized leather apron of the Smith Kavag (appendix # 11).
The Chinese mythical emperors Huang-ti and Yu are such unmistakable smiths that Marcel Granet drew historic-sociological conclusions all the way, forgetting the while that Huang-ti, the Yellow Emperor, is acknowledged to be Saturn. And just as the Persian Shahs held their royal jubilee festival after having reigned thirty years, which is the Saturnian revolution, so the Egyptian Pharaoh also celebrated his jubilee after thirty years, true to the "inventor" of this festival, Ptah, who is the Egyptian Saturn, and also Deus Faber. It was necessary to enter this subject in depth abruptly and lay stress on these few selected data, because otherwise the charming and harmless-looking Finnish runes would not be seen for what they are, the badly damaged fragments of a once whole and "multicolored cover." It does no harm to stamp Vainamoinen a "shaman" as long as one remains aware of the background of shamanism. In fact, there is again a vision in depth from seeing that Vainamoinen has discarded the drum which remains the one instrument of his Lapp cousins; he has created the harp, and this means that he must be seen as the Orpheus of the North.
Last survivals are not easily recognized. It needs experience, and it cannot be expected that an unsuspecting reader of "folk poetry" would spot well-known divine characters when they come his way clad in Longfellow's meter. For instance, in reading Kalevala 9.I07ff., it is not easy to discover the mighty Iranian God of Time, Zurvan akarana, who is portrayed as standing upon the world egg, carrying in his hands the tools of the architect:
Then was born smith Ilmarinen
Thus was born and thus was nurtured
Born upon a hill of charcoal,
Reared upon a plain of charcoal,
In his hands a copper hammer,
And his little pincers likewise.
Ilmari was born at night time,
And at day he built his smithy.
Since Christendom was very successful in destroying old traditions, Altaic and Siberian survivals are often found in far better shape
than Finnish runes, but even the Lapps still speak of "Waralden olmay, 'World Man' . . . and this is the same as Saturnus." [n31 This information comes from Johan Radulf (1723), quoted by K. Krohn, "Priapkultus," FUF 6 (1906), p. 168, who identifies Waralden olmay with Freyr. G. Dumezil, La Saga de Hadingus (1950), identifies him with Njordr.]. Nor are Jupiter and Mars absent, the former being called Hora Galles (Thorkarl), the latter Bieka Galles, the "Wind Man." [n32 K. Krohn, "Windgott und Windzauber," FUF 7 (1907), pp. 173f., where the god is once called Ilmaris.]. Voguls, Yakuts and Mongols tell of God's seven sons, or seven gods (or nine), among whom are a "Scribe Man," [n33 The Ostyaks talk even of a golden Book of Destiny, and Holmberg points out that the Ostyaks who have no writing are not likely to have hit upon such notions by themselves. (Holmberg, Der Baum des Lebens, p. 97). Cf. the entire chapter, "The Seven Gods of Fate" (pp. 113-33 of the same work) and Holmberg's Finno-Ugric and Siberian Mythology, p. 415.] and a "Man observing the World." The latter has been compared straightaway with Kullervo by Karl Kerenyi [n34 "Zum Urkind-Mythologem," in Paideuma 2 (1940), pp. 245ff. See now C. G. Jung and K. Kerenyi, Essays on a Science of Mythology (1949), pp. 30-39.], who claims his name to be the literal translation of Avalokiteshvara, the very great Bodhisatva, known in China as Kuan-yin, literally "deserving (musical) modes." One wonders whether this "World-observer" does not go back much farther: to Gilganlesh. We have to keep in mind that the Babylonians called their texts after their opening words; e.g., the Creation Epic they called Enuma elish, i.e., "When above"; accordingly, what we call the Epic of Gilgamesh was with them Sha naqba imuril, "Who saw everything." Such are the bewildering changes rung by time on great and familiar themes. And there is more. Actually, when still young, this Vogulian "World-observing Man" €“A valokiteshvara himself, this great and worshiped deity of Buddhist countries was, like Kullervo, a much-plagued orphan, first in the house of his uncle then in the house of "the Russian" and in that "of the Samoyed." After years of misery--quite specific "measured" misery [n35 E.g., in the house of "the Russian," he is kept in the door hinge (in the English translation this and other details are blurred to insignificance), and dishwater is emptied upon him. To be damned to play door hinge is one of the hellish punishments in Egypt, because the hinge is supposed to turn in the victim's eye. As concerns the heart-warming custom of abusing one's celestial fellow travelers as sink or toilet: we find this in the Eddic Lokasenna (34), where Loke says of Njordr that he was used as chamber pot by Hymir's daughters; with the Polynesian case of Tawhaki, whose father Hema is abused in the very same manner, we deal in the chapter on Samson (see p. 175); this model of a "Horus-avenger-of-his-father" fulfills not only his filial duty, he does it by means of Amlethus' own "Net-trick" The Samoyed binds the pitiable "World-observing Man" to his sledge with an iron wire of thirty fathoms length. We do not know yet what this means precisely. We know that victorious characters use the vanquished as this or that vehicle, saddle horse, etc.--Marduk uses Tiamat as "ship," as does Osiris with Seth; Ninurta's "Elamitic chariot, carrying the corpse of Enmesharra" is drawn by "horses who are the death-demon of Zu" (Ebeling, Tod und Leben, p. 33); Tachma Rupa rides on Ahriman for thirty years around the two ends of the earth (Yasht 19.29; Yasht 19, the Zamyad Yasht, is the one dedicated to Hvarna)--but these code formulae have not yet been broken.]
--he kills all his tormentors. The revenge he takes is for himself. His father, who had lowered down the beloved son from the sky in a cradle, remained aloft.
These hints will suffice for the time being. It does not matter whether or not pieces, or even the whole, of cosmological tradition came late to the Ural-Altaic populations, that is, whether Manicheism had a part in their propagation. The Manicheans took over the whole parcel of old traditions, changing only the signs, as happens with every Gnostic system. Gnostics never have been of the inventive sort. Their very title, derived from their key word, gives the scheme away, gnosis res hodou = knowledge of the way. The "Way" which had to be learned by heart is that which leads outwards-upwards through the planetary spheres, past the threatening "watchtowers" of the zodiac to the desired timeless Light beyond the sphere of fixed stars, above the Pole star: beyond and above everything, where the unknown god (agnostos theos) resides eternally [n36 Absurd as it sounds, the many Gnostic sects who hated nothing more than philosophers and mathematicians have never denied or doubted the validity of their "evil" teachings. Sick with disgust, they learned the routes of ascension through (or across) those abominable spheres ruled by number, created by the evil powers. Surely, their "Father of Greatness" would not have created such a thing as a cosmos. Tradition does use the most peculiar vehicles for its motion through historical time. Or should one say, tradition did use? Face to face with the outbreaking revolution of "simple souls" against whichever rational thought, there is small reason for hope that our contemporary gnostics will hand down any tradition at all.].
This "Way" is not exactly the same for everybody, and the largest highroads are not everlasting, but the principle remains unchanged.
The shaman travels through the skies in the very same manner as the Pharaoh did, well equipped as he was with his Pyramid Text or his Coffin Text, which represented his indispensable timetable and contained the ordained addresses of every celestial individual whom he was expected to meet [n37 The ephemerides on the inner side of the coffin lids of the Middle Kingdom, and the astronomical ceilings in tombs of the New Kingdom, as well as the "Ramesside Star Clocks," made navigation still easier for the royal soul.]. The Pharaoh relied upon his particular text as the less distinguished dead relied upon his copy of chapters from the Book of the Dead, and he was prepared (as was the shaman) to change shape into the Sata serpent, a centipede, or the semblance of whatever celestial "station" must be passed, and to recite the fitting formulae to overcome hostile beings [n38 Many of the heavenly creatures do all the damage they possibly can; they try, for instance, to rob the dead of his text without which he would be helpless, and generally their conduct, as described in the literature of the Hereafter, is weird. Thus, in chapter 32 of the Book of the Dead, the crocodile of the West is accused of eating certain stars; the properly equipped soul, however, knows how to play up to the celestial monsters, and the traveler addresses the Northern crocodile with the words: "Get thee back, for the goddess Serqet is in my interior and I have not yet brought her forth." The goddess Serqet is the constellation Scorpius. As concerns the Sata serpent, "whose years are infinite. . . who dwells at the farthest ends of the earth. . . who renews his youth everyday" (Book of the Dead, ch. 87), he makes himself suspect of representing the sphere of Saturn, whereas the centipede is not likely to fit any "body" besides Moon or Mercury; that it is no constellation is certain.].
To sum it up-whether Shamanism is an old or a relatively young offshoot of ancient civilization is irrelevant. It is not primitive at all, but it belongs, as all our civilizations do, to the vast company of ungrateful heirs of some almost unbelievable Near Eastern ancestor who first dared to understand the world as created according to number, measure and weight.
If the Finnish runes and Altaic legends sound harmless enough, so do the popular traditions of most of the European countries, including Greece: the kind of mythology known through Bulfinch. But here at least there are additional less popular traditions which have preserved more of the severe spirit and style of old. So the (13th) Orphic Hymn to Kronos addresses the god as "Father of
the blessed gods as well as of man, you of changeful counsel, . . . strong Titan who devours all and begets it anew [lit. "you who consume all and increase it contrariwise yourself"], you who hold the indestructible bond according to the apeirona (unlimited) order of Aion, Kronos father of all, wily-minded Kronos, offspring of Gaia and starry Ouranos . . . venerable Prometheus." Such sayings suddenly thrust information out of the usual patterns and show the true professional minds of ancient mythology working out their theorems. The only conventional attribute is "Son of Ouranos and Gaia." Kronos is termed a Titan, because the word "god" belongs properly to the Olympian generation, whereas Saturn's empire is not of "this world," any more than that of the Indian Asura and the king of the golden Krita Yuga, Varuna; and the formula is found still in the medieval "Kaiser-Sage." At the end of Thidrek's (Theodoric's) reign when there are only corpses left, a dwarf appears and asks the king to follow him; "your empire is no more in this world." [n39 W. Grimm, Die Deutsche Heldensage (1957), p. 338. "Du solt mit mir gan.dyn reich ist nit me in dieser welt." The corresponding most popular folktale shows Theodoric of Verona ravished by a demon horse and cast headlong into the crater of Etna.]. More puzzling, Kronos "is" that other Titan, Prometheus, that other adversary of the "gods," the Lighter of Fire. He "is" many more characters, too, but it will take some time to clear this up. We are at the heart of an "implex."
"Who holdest the unbreakable bond. . ." Assyrian Ninurta, too, holds "the bond of heaven and earth." We shall also hear of a magical invocation (see p. 147) that addresses Kronos as "founder of the world we live in." These words are, however, insufficient and ambiguous. Not only are translations imprecise generally, but in our times of accelerated decay of language even the best-intentioned reader is likely to overlook such words as "bond" or "to found." If instead he were to read "inch scale" and "to survey" €“a divine foundation is every time a "temenos" €“he would promptly react in a different manner. Kronos-Saturn has been and remains the one who owns the "inch scale," who gives the measures, continuously, because he is "the originator of times," as Macrobius says, although
the poor man mistakes him for the sun for this very reason [n40 Sat.1.22.8: Saturnus ipse, qui auctor est temporum.]. But "Helios the Titan" is not Apollo, quite explicitly.
Apart from this, apart also from Plutarch's report, according to which Kronos, sleeping in that golden cave in Ogygia, dreams what Zeus is planning [n41 De facie in orbe lunae 941: "Hosa gar ho Zeus prodianoeitai, taut' oneiropolein ton Kronon."], there is an Orphic fragment of greater weight, preserved in Proclus' commentary on Plato's Cratylus [n42 Fr. 155, Kern, p. 194.]. The Orphic text being one of the delicate sort, we quote some sentences only:
The greatest Kronos is giving from above the principles of intelligibility to the Demiurge [Zeus], and he presides over the whole "creation" [demiourgia]. That is why Zeus calls him "Demon" according to Orpheus, saying: "Set in motion our genus, excellent Demon!" And Kronos seems to have with him the highest causes of junctions and separations. . . he has become the cause of the continuation of begetting and propagation and the head of the whole genus of Titans from which originates the division of beings [diairesis ton onton].
The passage ends thus: "Also Nyx prophesies to him [i.e., occasionally] but the father does so continuously [prosechos], and he gives him all the measures of the whole creation." [n43 Kai panta ta metra tes holes demiourgias endidosin. We might even say: Kronos "grants" him all the measures.].
In Proclus' style, the same phenomena which look simply flat and childish, mere "etymologizing," when handled by others, sound extremely difficult--which they actually are. So let us shortly compare how Macrobius deals with the responsibility of Kronos for the "division of beings" (Sat. 1.8.6-7). After having mentioned the current identification of Kronos (Saturn) and Chronos (Time), so often contested by philologists, Macrobius states:
They say, that Saturn cut off the private parts of his father Caelus [Ouranos] , threw them into the sea, and out of them Venus was born who, after the foam [aphros] from which she was formed, accepted the name of Aphrodite. From this they conclude that, when there was chaos, no time existed, insofar as time is a fixed measure derived from the revolution of the sky. Time begins there; and of this is believed to have been born Kronos who is Chronos, as was said before [see appendix # 12].
[n44 Ex quo intellegi volunt, cum chaos esset, tempora non fuisse, siquidem tempus est certa dimensio quae ex caeli conversione colligitur. Tempus coepit inde; ab ipso natus putator Kronos qui, Ut diximus, Chronos est.]
The fact is that the "separation of the parents of the world," accomplished by means of the emasculation of Ouranos, stands for the establishing of the obliquity of the ecliptic: the beginning of measurable time. (The very same "event" was understood by Milton as the expulsion from Paradise [appendix # 13]).
And Saturn has been "appointed" to be the one who established it because he is the outermost planet, nearest to the sphere of fixed stars [n45 It is not hidden from us that the indestructible laws of philology do not allow for the identification of Kronos and Chronos, although in Greece to do so "was customary at all times" (M. Pohlenz, in RE 11, col. 1986). We have, indeed, no acute reason to insist upon this generalizing identification--the "name" of a planet is a function of time and constellation--yet it seems advisable to emphasize, on the one hand, that technical terminology has its own laws and is not subject to the jurisdiction of linguists, and to point, on the other hand, to one of the Sanskrit names of Saturn, i.e., "Kala," meaning "time" and "death," and "blue-black" (A. Scherer, Gestirnnamen bei den indogermanischen Volkern , pp. 84f.)--a color which suits the planet perfectly, all over the world-and to point, moreover, to a passage from the Persian Minokheird (West trans. in R. Eisler, Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt , p. 410): "The creator, Auharmazd (Jupiter) produced his creation. . . with the blessing of Unlimited Time (Zurvan akarana)."]. "This planet was taken for the one who communicated motion to the Universe and who was, so to speak, its king"; this is what Schlegel reports of China (L'Uranographie Chinoise, pp. 628ff.).
Saturn does give the measures: this is the essential point. How are we to reconcile it with Saturn the First King, the ruler of the Golden Age who is now asleep at the outer confines of the world? The conflict is only apparent, as will be seen. For now it is essential to recognize that, whether one has to do with the Mesopotamian Saturn, Enki/Ea, or with Ptah of Egypt, he is the "Lord of Measures" €“spell it me in Sumerian, parshu in Akkadian, maat in Egyptian. And the same goes for His Majesty, the Yellow Emperor of China--yellow, because the element earth belongs to Saturn--"Huang-ti established everywhere the order for the sun, the moon and the stars." [n46 M. Granet, Chinese Civilization (1961), p. 12.]. The melody remains the same.
It might help to understand the general idea, but particularly the lucubration of Proclus, to have a look at the figure drawn by Kepler, which represents the moving triangle fabricated by "Great Conjunctions," that is, those of Saturn and Jupiter. One of these points needs roughly 2,400 years to move through the whole zodiac. The next chapter will show why this is of high importance: here it suffices to point to one possible manner in which measures are given "continuously. "
Saturn, giver of the measures of the cosmos, remains the "Star of Law and Justice" in Babylon [n47 P. Jensen, Die Kosmologie der Babylonier (1890), p. 115; Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien (1925), vol. 2, pp. 145,410; P. F. Gossmann, Planetarium Babylonicum (1950), 230.], also the "Star of Nemesis" in Egypt [n48 Achilles Tatius, see A. Bouche-Leclerq, L'Astrologie Grecque (1899), p. 94; W. Gundel, Neue Astrologische Texte des Hermes Trismegistos (1936), pp. 260, 316.], the Ruler of Necessity and Retribution, in brief, the Emperor [n49 "The title basileus is stereotyped with Kronos" (M. Mayer, in Roscher s.v. Kronos, co!. 1458; see also Cornford in J. E. Harrison's Themis, p. 254). For China, see G. Schlegel, L'Uranographie Chinoise (1875), pp. 361, 63 ff. Even the Tahitian text "Birth of the Heavenly Bodies" knows it: "Saturn was king" (T. Henry, Ancient Tahiti , pp. 359ff.).]. In China, Saturn has the title "Genie du pivot," as the god who presides over the Center, the same title which is given to the Pole star [n50 Schlegel, L'Uranographie Chinoise, pp. 525, 628ff.]. This is puzzling at first, and so is the laconic statement coming from Mexico: "In the year 2-Reed Tezcatlipoca changed into Mixcouatl, because Mixcouatl has his seat at the North pole and, being now Mixcouatl, he drilled fire with the fire sticks for the first time." It is not in the line of modern astronomy to establish any link connecting the planets with Polaris, or with any star, indeed, out of reach of the members of the zodiacal system. Yet such figures of speech were an essential part of the technical idiom of archaic astrology, and those experts in ancient cultures who could not understand such ideas have remained completely helpless in the face of the theory. What has Saturn, the far-out planet, to do with the pole? Yet, if he cannot be recognized as the "genie of the pivot," how is it possible to support Amlodhi's claim to be the legitimate owner of the Mill?