Lascaux cave art

Lascaux cave art

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Woden and Vata-Vayu-a Comparison

Comparisons have been made by scholars between Woden and the Indo-Aryan lord of the wind and storm,Vata or Vayu. Va and Vati mean `to blow` and may be related to the Gothic vaian and German wehen. The Common Germanic name for Odin is Vodana, the Old Saxon Wodan, the Old High German Wuotan (pronounced vuotan) and the Old English Voden. 

Viktor Rydberg in his Investigations into Germanic Mythology Volume II Part I:Indo-European Mythology states that Vata is the natural side of the God and Vayu the spiritual side. Like Woden He is considered to be the lord of the wild hunt and is also known as Vayu amongst the Iranians. Interestingly this God survived the devastating Zoroastrian reforms and without any loss of status. He is therefore highly significant and should be considered as a father of the Gods.

 In the Avesta he is portrayed as a lord of the wind and war. He was even worshiped by the Zoroastrian so-called `supreme` God Ahuramazda. Like Woden Vata-Vayu has a penetrating spear and wears a golden helmet.

 "O The Wind`s chariot, O its power and glory! Crashing it goes and hath a voice of thunder. It makes the regions red and touches heaven, and as it moves the dust of earth is scattered. Along the traces of the wind they hurry, they come to him as dames to an assembly. Borne on his car with these for his attendants, the God speeds forth, the universe`s Monarch. Travelling on the paths of air`s mid-region, no single day doth he take rest or slumber. Holy and earliest-born, Friend of the waters, where did he spring and from what region came he? Germ of the world, the Deities` vital spirit, this God moves ever as his will inclines him. His voice is heard, his shape is ever viewless. Let us adore this Wind with our oblation."(Rig Veda Hymn 168)
Students of the Eddas will notice Vata-Vayu`s function as a giver of "vital spirit" or breath as we would term it and this is exactly what Woden imparted to man. Woden is also known as a vinr vagna, guardian, protector or friend of chariots and as valdr vagnbrautar, ruler of the chariot-road and infers His cosmic function as the All-Father ruler of the constellations. There appears to be some overlap with Indra and this should not surprise us as Woden and Thunor do share some similar functions, both being lords of the atmosphere. Woden focusing on the power of the wind and storm whilst Thunor is specifically linked to the thunder and lightning which are features of the storm.
In Rig Veda Hymn II Vayu is referred to as Indra-Vayu in verse 4. Interestingly Donald A. Mackenzie in his Indian Myth and Legend states: "The name Vata has been compared to Vate, the father of the Teutonic Volund or Wieland, the tribal deity of the Watlings or Vaetlings; in Old English the Milky Way was `Watling Street`". The fact that Woden may be found in the form of Vata-Vayu in the Rig Veda demonstrates the antiquity of this God right back to our common Proto-Indo-European past and thus puts paid to the lie that He is a `latecomer` to the Germanic world.


Freya Aswynn said...

Thank you, very interesting
Freya Aswynn

Wotans Krieger said...

Thank you Freya. I am a long-time admirer of your work,wassail!

Cyrus the Strong said...

Very interesting info here. I myself drew the connection between Wotan and Vayu-Vata while looking for an ancient pan-Aryan origin for the names of the Aesir. It is not just Wotan but also Tyr, Zisa, Thor, and the Vanir Freyr and Freyja as well, whose names appear in the ancient Iranian sources, as well as in the Indo-Aryan tradition (Tir, Tissa, Tondar, Fravar, Feriy, etc.) A number of important Persian nobles and generals had names like Tirdad (justice of Tir) or Tissafarnah (under Tissa's protection) even well after State Zoroastrianism took control.

Something just never seemed right to me about the academic 'orthodoxy' that Wotan was a 'latecomer' to Germanic religion from Turanid or Mongolian sources - that hypothesis just made no sense! Wotan is clearly a God of a Farmer-archetype (Aryan) culture, with nothing at all in common with Tengri or any of the chaotic sky gods of Herder-archetype (Turanid) cultures.

Another point of interest here is the story recorded in the Bundahishn and Yashts, that mentions Tyr/Teiwaz (Tivash-Tareyhe in Avestan, Tashtir or Tir in Old Persian) destroying Apaosha, a demon of drought, with aid from a sacrifice from Vatu-Vata (later substituted for Ahura Mazda). This suggests Vayu-Vata being the stronger of the two, and hence indicates that the predominance of Odin over Tyr among the Norse was not an aberration, but a return to ancient pan-Aryan tradition from the supposed early Germanic emphasis on Tyr being "foremost" in some locales bordering the Roman Eepire.

Based on what I've read, it seems more like Ahura Mazda was one of the aspects of Vayu-Vata, rather than a subordinate deity. Ahura Mazda is simply a title that means "wisdom-God". This fits Wotan perfectly. Furthermore, the Yashts mention Vayu essentially being the "guardian spirit" of Ahura-Mazda to whom he sacrifices to gain power to smite the Angra-Mainyu but benefit the creation of Spenta Mainyu, of which Vayu-Vata is a member. Wotan sacrificed himself to himself to gain the runes, "for the weal of mankind and woe of the Jotuns". So here essentially it looks like Ahura-Mazda is basically a kenning for the lower aspect of Vayu-Vata, i.e. Wotan in the form of the gray wanderer in Midgard, while Vayu is the higher aspect, i.e. King of Asgard. Thus we have Vayu-Vata/Ahura Mazda as both giver and receiver of wisdom, sacrificing to himself to thus access deeper mysteries, as encapsulated by the spiraling Gibor-rune, symbolically as both divine giver and receiver.

Angra-Mainyu are clearly the ettins of chaos, perhaps there may be a link to the name Angrbodha here. In modern Persian, '-bod' means 'commander' or military leader (as in Arteshbod = general), and while I don't know the precise definition of Angrbodha in old Norse, it makes sense that this giantess was one of the prime leaders of corruption and chaos, being mother of Fenrir.

Another interesting point is that Tir or Tivash-Tareyhe was originally associated by Iranian cultures with the star Sirius (Tiryaush), commonly known as the dog star or the Wolf Star in many cultures. A curious parallel with Tyr being associated with aggressive canids... being "the leavings of the wolf" and fighting the hound Garm in Ragnarok. Indeed it may be this association, through eastern Aryan cultures like Ordos and the Yuezhi, that led to the adoption of Sirius as "Tenrou-sei" or Sky-Wolf Star by Asian cultures, NOT the other way around. Tenrou or Tian-Lou being likely a corruption of Tiryaush. The Turanid "Tengri" is likely a further corruption of this, given its sky-connection and the Turanid obsession with everything wolf-related.

Wotans Krieger said...

Thank you very much for your erudite and informative comment. If this is ok with you I am going to post your comment as a separate mini-article in response to my post because a wider readership needs to read this: people tend not to see comments in reply to posts. I will give you due credit with a link to your blog which by the way is one of THE finest I have encountered.