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I am a mystic madman, a wandering wildman, scholar of esoterica, dilettante sadhu, dready-headed hippie (only have a few jata on the back of my head right now, though more be forming of this third set of knotted hair), gentle yogi, fierce foe of falsity. I was a preacher, but I renounced that. I was married, but she renounced me. I was a grad student at one of the top universities in the world on my way to becoming a professor, but I realized they taught lies there too. I am protector of souls, lover of mountains, smoker of herb, fond of hot springs, oceans and lakes and rivers and rain and sunshine, devotee of Devi.

Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Apsarasah and Angels




Of the myriad of gods and goddesses, and versions of God and Goddess proffered in this grand world, and so many varied understandings of the Divine to be found among the world’s peoples, it has occurred to this writer, yogi, former Baptist Preacher, grad school dropout, dilettante of an historian and sadhu and veritable hippie wandering freak that in fact in quite a number of cases gods and goddesses and other mythic figures from one tradition—or at least their archetypal figuration—are found in other guises in other traditions, and not necessarily always in ways which might be explained in terms of cultural anthropology or perspectives proffered by traditional historiography. 

The most obvious (if intentionally occulted) and likely most important example of the relationships woven through supposedly unrelated mythologies and purportedly disparate cultures is the connection between Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the Hindu Creator Brahma, that the name Abraham somehow relates to the Sanskrit word Abrahman, and that the three Abrahamic religions somehow relate to the more ancient formulation of the Hindu Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Creator, Maintainer and Destroyer), as I have expounded in other posts to this blog.  With the aforementioned genealogy in mind, I have been given cause to consider the relationship of apsarasah (divine flying nymphs of the Hindu and later Buddhist traditions) to the “Western” understanding of “angels.”  




Apsarasah are described as “female spirits of the clouds and waters” (Wikipedia), are often described as in the service of a god or goddess, and are said to be seducers of both gods and holy men, and are often married to celestial musicians known as Ghandarvas.  They are often depicted with wings, and are often portrayed in the scriptures as seducing ascetics when such holy men press the limits by raising too much tejas (“fire”) for the comfort of the gods.
To further set the stage for the hypothesis I am posing, I ought note that I am reading the development of culture from a markedly pro “dispersion theory” prejudice and perspective, despite that perspective being eschewed by the academe for the most part. 

Whether developed solely or primarily in or around India, the religion known as sanAtana dharma has definitively preserved that paradigm and mythos which seems the root to nigh all the rest, and which is quite clearly the beginning point for the Abrahamic religions.

I should also note that I personally read history as a tale of the gods at play, gods who are not-not us, and yet bear certain signatures sometimes writ quite large as they play across the span of history, human and otherwise.   Indeed, a mythically aware reading of history betrays certain persons and personalities, figures and figurations showing up in a variety of cultures and mythologies, deities or other important mythic and archetypally recognizable figures who seem nigh ubiquitous in the worlds’ many seeming disparate paradigms, else whose stories can in fact be traced upon a map as if recording the journey of a mortal across land and sea, and from one country or people to another. 

One example of this might be endeavoring to trace the figure of Kartikeya/Skanda from his seeming origin in India: a Son of Shiva who was born when his Father spilled His seed into the Ganges River, which then floated into a bed of reeds and Skanda was thus conceived and born.  In South Africa the Zulus worship Unkulunkulu, son of Umvelinquangi, a sky god who created the bed of reeds in which Unkulunkulu was born.  Unkulunkulu and Umvelinquangi seem rather clearly connected to Kartikeya and Ganga—a goddess who is most often depicted as hovering in the sky and pouring the waters of the Ganges on Shiva’s head.  
Skanda is also depicted as a god of war whose Sanskrit name means, among other things, “perishing,” “destruction” and “attacker.”  The first recorded use of the place name “Scandinavia” is by Pliny the Elder in the first century BCE.  The assumed Germanic root of “Scandinavia” is “skaden,” which means “damage” or “danger.”
There is a Hindu myth which tells of Kartikeya/Skanda and Ganesha (Shiva and Parvati’s Son) engaging in a race around the world.  Kartikeya undertakes the journey in a literal sense, whereas Ganesha merely runs a circle around his Father and Mother, understanding Them to be “the whole world.”  Perhaps it is that Kartikeya/Skanda running around the whole of the globe is in fact emblematic of said being’s conquests and the devotions thus proffered him by the peoples whose lands he has visited or “conquered,” whereas his brother did not venture far. 
A couple of interesting corresponding coincidences is that the Zulus, worshipping the war god Unkulunkulu (Kartikeya?), defeated the British in the last major engagement where an army with primitive weapons beat an army equipped with firearms, and that the Scandinavians were well enough known as warlike peoples.  Perhaps a tad more a stretch, Alexander the Great is known by the name Iskandar in the Arabic—again, rather phonetically like the name Skanda.  Iskandar’s campaign to the east was successful until he invaded India, as his troops began to run short of food.  Perhaps it is that by invading India, Skanda’s Mom—who is in one Avatar known as Annapurna, Goddess of Food—cut them off? (see post titled, "Ganesha and Kartikeya's Big Race")

Though not the primary inquiry I’ve intended to explore herein, the above example well enough displays the sort of genealogy of culture and play of the gods that I believe in truth underlie the whole of history and beyond.  With the aforementioned in mind, the theory I propose regarding the beings known in the Abrahamic traditions as “angels” is that they are in fact very much the same beings as apsarasah (singular, apsaras), and perhaps also to be identified with Ghandarvas—who are celestial musicians, very much like some “angels,” and who are often married to Apsarasah, but that they comport themselves chastely when visiting “Westerners,” covering their beautiful bodies when dealing with the Abrahamic peoples—perhaps as adherents to those religions are too much separate from the ancient traditions wherein sexuality is not equated with sin.  Thus said emissaries of the Divine do not generally favor those runaway children of sanAtana dharma with divine sexual favors, though are still attendant to said humans in various ways that those peoples’ faiths do allow, clothed head to toe in white robes to veil their transcendent sexuality from those in their charge who do not understand sex as truly Divine.  

Muslims, I might note, have some seeming memory or recognition of the celestial beings who are in fact not improperly to be perceived as objects of desire and divine lovers, believing that those men who live righteously in submission to Allah are to be rewarded with the caresses of celestial maidens in Heaven.  AllA, sans the "h," is one of Devi Durga's names, by the way, and at least one of the daughters of Allah, Manat, has a name that sounds very like one of Shiva's Daughter's names, Manas...

The picture in the post was taken by me when a friend and I were looking at some 
land I was interested in on the Wyoming/Colorado border around 2010. 
Didn't notice the flying figure till later examining the photo later.


I am indeed positing that such beings known as apsarasah, known to the “Western world” in veiled form, as “angels,” do indeed exist, though do present themselves in varied guises as the context and beliefs of the people to whom they are ministering merit, as I indeed believe to be the case with other immortals, devas and devis, gods and goddesses who are at play in the lila (Sanskrit for “play” in terms of both “making merry” and a writ and to whatever degree scripted play cycle) of history and life on earth and amongst and with those of us playing as mere mortals.

Namaste

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