Agni-Heimdall, the Culture-Bringer
~Agni-Heimdall, the Culture-Bringer~
76) As we have seen, the Indo-European concept of the first human pair was far removed from that of Christian dogma in that they possessed brilliance in reason and holiness in will.
One seems rather to have imagined them as gifted but unevolved and as such, easily accessible to evil.
Their offspring inherit their faults and are surrounded, as are they, by temptations. The most dangerous one, who tempts them and shows them the ways of sin— according to the Vedic, the Iranian, and the Germanic concepts— is a demonic woman, the personification of witchcraft, the author of black magic. I shall come to the myth of her arrival farther along.
Consequently, without divine intervention, mankind would have fallen into deep misery and would have become prey for demons. For this reason, a founder of religion and customs and a culture-bringer was sent as a savior. The Vedic, Iranian, and Germanic cycle of myths agree in that he was the bearer of the pure celestial fire. Rigveda calls him Agni ("fire," ignis), and he has the byname Kâma.1 The Teutons call him Hama and Heimdall. Avesta calls him Sraosha, "the fine hearing" (from the root sru, "to hear"), which designates one of the qualities that particularly distinquishes Heimdall from other gods in Norse mythology.
77) One could expect that the Zoroastrian religion, which retained so many of the old mythic names and epithets, which are found again in Rigveda, would have also preserved the name Agni, since his mythic personality, active under the name Sraosha, has been preserved and, like Vâyu-Odin, made into one of Ahuramazda's greatest heroes. But not only has the divine name Agni, but even the word agni, completely vanished from Iranian literature, while it has been preserved since the Proto-Indo-European era by the Romans as ignis, among the Letto- slavic tribes as ugnis, and partially as ogni. This can hardly be an accident, since the Vedic and the Iranian languages in other respects are so closely related that they can be referred to as dialects of one and the same mother tongue. This may have its explanation in the altered status fire received among the Iranians within the reformation that occurred among them. After this reformation, fire became a symbol of Ahuramazda, of the All-Mighty and the only actual god. When it became his tool in the religion's service, it could then no longer maintain the pronounced independent epic personality with which the god Agni appears.2 In his place, the fire was given a protective genius and invoked with the Agni-attribute "the fine hearing," i.e. Sraosha, and tells the same epic myths of Sraosha that of old belonged to Agni. Sraosha's quality as the fire's genius and protector is clear from another passage in Vendidad 18, 48, where it says: “At night's third third, the fire, Ahuramazda's son, calls on the holy Sraosha to come to his aid: Come, holy, tall Sraosha! Give me some fuel purified by your clean hands! Azi, the form of the demon, could still attack me, he who has the confidence to overthrow the world! And Sraosha comes and wakes the bird Parôdarsh (the cock), who sings his song to the approaching dawn, and makes the demons disappear.”3
The parallels below demonstrate the original identity of Heimdall, Agni, and Sraosha.
a) Heimdall has many mothers; Agni as well. Rigv. I, 141, 2 and X, 45, 2 hint at nine births or nine wombs for Agni. Heimdall's mothers are nine.4 (Compare Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. I, no. 82).
b) Heimdall is distinguished among the other gods as "the whitest As," "the whitest of the Aesir."5 Agni is the "bright white," Rigv VII, 4, 3, "the purest white, beaming," Rigv IV, 1, 7, compare III, 7, 1.
c) Heimdall has extraordinarily fine hearing: "he hears the grass grow on the earth and the wool on the sheep."6 Sraosha's fine hearing is attested to by his name. Agni is "the listening" (Rigv. IV, 3, 3), who hears everything; he can infiltrate plants and radiate into plants and animals (Rigv. I, 67, 5; VII, 9, 3; VIII, 43, 9; X, 1, 2). The ability of the sharp-hearing Agni to be imminent in plants and animals contains the explanation of Heimdall's ability to hear grass and wool grow.
d) Heimdall also is distinguished for his sharp sight. "He sees in both night and day, one hundred rasts7 about." Agni has searching eyes (IV, 2, 12), that see far away (VII, 1, 1) and penetrate even the darkness of night (I, 94, 7). His gaze sees all, penetrates all worlds. He is pracetas, "the observer."
e) Heimdall needs less sleep than a bird. In Yasna 57, 16, it says of Sraosha: "He who, never slumbering, protects by vigilance the creatures of Mazda." "He who never enjoyed sleep, since the two spirits, the beneficent and the hurtful, created (each his world, the good and the evil)."8
f) Heimdall bears the epithet gullintanni, the one with the golden teeth. Agni also has gold teeth (Rigv. V, 2, 3).
g) From the Bifröst bridge, Heimdall sees out over the world. On a circular path, Agni observes all beings (VII, 13, 3) and sees and knows them all (X, 187, 4).
h) Heimdall rides a shining horse; Agni has shining horses.9
i) Heimdall is the guardian of the gods, vörðr goða. He observes the enemies of the world by day and night and is thus especially hated by the thurs-race (Skírnismál 28). He is Loki's opponent in particular. Agni is the guardian of order (Rigv. I, 11, 8),10 and as such is unceasingly attentive (I, 31, 12); he protects the world day and night against danger (I, 98, 2), battles demons and is witchcraft's sworn enemy (X, 2, 3-5; IV, 1, 4 and many other places). Through his activity, he is humanity‟s best defense against the fiendish plans of the evil powers. Among the Iranians, Sraosha has the same calling. He is "the just, the handsome, the victorious, who guards our districts." He watches the whole earth with drawn sword. He fights against demons day and night. As Heimdall defeated Loki, Sraosha has vanquished the demon of destruction that blighted nature's growth and wanted to destroy it (Yasna 57).
k) On Bifröst, Heimdall has a fortress, Heaven's defense (Himinbjörg), which in Grímnismál 13 is spoken of as "comfortable" (værr) and "where the watchman of the gods gladly drinks the good mead." Nevertheless, the comfort of the fortress does not depend on its location, because it is situated in the far north, in the darkness of night, in regions with heavy precipitation, from which the giants' attack on Bifröst is expected (compare Lokasenna 48).11 On Harâ Berezaiti, a circular "high-stream" extending up into the heavens, probably a prototype of Bifröst, but thereafter misconstrued as a mountain,12 Sraosha has a stately castle, with "light from within," and "outwardly decorated with stars."13 Both of these pieces of information about the condition of the castle show that that it was situated in a field where there was little outdoor lighting, where stars, the castle's exterior decor, were visible, and thus in surroundings like those of Heimdall's fortress.
1) Heimdall in seal-guise, on a skerry in the sea, fought with Loki over the breast- ornament Brisingamen. In Avesta (Avesta 19, Zam Yasht, 47-51) it is said that Atar (the word means fire and refers to the genius of the fire) fought with a serpent-demon named Aji [Ahzi] over kavaêm qarenô, a glorious piece of jewelry, shining far over the earth, which at that time was located in the sea.14 The demon lost the ornament. An aquatic animal, Makara, which is thought to be a dolphin, is sacred to Agni, who once, according to an Indian legend, had transformed himself into an aquatic animal, as did Heimdall.
m) Heimdall owns a trumpet or a horn whose blare shall be heard over the entire world. When Ragnarök approaches, he shall blow his trumpet and then Mimir's sons shall spring up from the sleep of centuries in order to take part in the last battle against evil. Agni is in a position —it does not say by what means— to cause a thunderous din that reverberates through both halves of the world, and with a fourfold cry Sraosha shall awake the divine hero Kereçâspa, who has slept a thousand years in the underworld awaiting the world's renewal to battle on the side of the gods when the dead are resurrected and the last battle against evil is imminent.
n) According to Rigveda, there was a time when Agni lived hidden from both gods and human beings and was inherent in all things due to kâma, the physical-psychic life-principle, which arose in Chaos through the power of warmth (see the account of the cosmology above, ch. 4). Another time, he dwelt among gods but not yet among men, and finally there was a time when Mâtariçvan, a holy being and the father of the personified Agni, literally or symbolically, arranged it so that he reached our ancestors (Rigv. I, 60, 1). He arrived among human beings, coming from far away (Rigv. I, 128, 2). Human beings, who then still did not possess fire but longed for it and sought traces of it (Rigv. X, 40, 2),15 found the newly-arrived Agni "at the birthplace of waters." In its literal meaning, the "birthplace of waters" cannot designate any other sea than one into which all waters flow; only indirectly can it mean a sea of air, a designation that the nature-mythologists have singularly in sight, although they apply the Agni-concept to lightning which comes to earth through the sea of air. Nevertheless, in the epic mythology that is a product of human beings' beliefs in gods as active personalities, objects of their hope and their prayers — something the nature-mythologists never seem to think of— he is not the lightning, although his life-principle resides in lightning, as well as in all other elements: earth, stones, waters, plants, clouds. But he is a god, and it is as an infant that those who yearned for the holy fire, the primeval-human beings dwelling by the sea, find him "by the birthplace of waters." When they found this envoy of the gods (Rigv. VIII, 19, 21), they adopted him and took care of him (Rigv. II, 4, 2). The byname yavishtha, ("the young one," "the tender one"), which belongs to him, states that he came as a child to a shore, where he was warmly welcomed and became an object of the mortals' affection. The same thing is definitely said in Rigv. I, 96, 4 where Agni is called a child when he was sent by gods to mankind, a child that could not find his way himself; thus it was Mâtariçvan who plotted his course so that the "son of strength" came to the Aryan tribes. Mâtariçvan, through whose provision the god-child "born on the other side of the atmosphere" was brought to them, is a designation for the wind in the classic Sanskrit language. Thus, it was via an ocean and driven by wind that the personal Agni arrived as a child to the coast where primeval human beings live. This corresponds with the myth of Heimdall-Scef, who, as an infant arrives from over the sea to the south Scandinavian coast, is adopted by the inhabitants there, and cared for with diligenti animo16 (Investigations into Germanic Mythology, Vol. I, no. 21).
o) The purpose of Agni's arrival is the same as Heimdall's, and their destinies among human beings are identical. Agni remains with his guardians and dwells among them, "an immortal among mortals" (Rigv. VIII, 60, 11; III, 5, 3),17 a guest of human beings, and the mortals' intimate friend (Rigv. IV, 1, 9). He who came with the gift of holy fire and with riches remains personally present among them for a long time, "a wise one among the ignorant," in order to foster them. He who "knows all wisdom and all sciences" (III, 1, 17; X, 21, 5), "came in order to be questioned" (I, 60, 20).18 He instructs mankind and "they listen to him like a father" (I, 68, 9).19 They had previously led a nomadic life but he taught them to establish stable dwellings around hearths on which the fire now burned because of him (III, 1, 17). He became their first patriarch (II, 10, 1; V, 4, 2) and their first priest (V, 9, 3; X, 80, 4). "The Aryan people praise him as the first performer of sacrifices" (I, 96, 3). He arranges all human relationships (IV, 1, 2) and teaches human beings to pray and offer (VI, 1, 1); he initiates them into the skaldic art and gives them inspiration (III, 10, 5; X, 11, 6). Heimdall teaches "runes of eternity and runes of time" and knowledge of the language of the birds, who listen to auguries and the sacrificial service.20 The runes of eternity are religious wisdom; the runes of time are worldly wisdom.
p) At the same time that Agni, like Heimdall, becomes the first patriarch, he becomes, like him, the lord of the classes, the castes, "the races." He has made the same journey as Heimdall-Rig: he sought human beings in their now stable homesteads (IV, 1, 20), where the fire glows (X, 122, 5), has become "the husband of wives" (I, 66, 4) and progenitor to clans of human nature (I, 96, 2), through which he is the lord of the classes, the races, of people, as Heimdall is the lord of the Germanic castes (Rigv. VI, 48, 8; V, 4, 3). It is probably in relation to this myth that Agni is invoked for a home rich in children (VII, 1, 11).
q) In the Germanic myth, Heimdall is produced by the first great friction-mechanism, the world-mill's enormous stones that are kept in motion by the nine giantesses, which for this reason are called his nine mothers.21 Above, I have demonstrated that the god Savitar is a complete counterpart to the Germanic Mundilföri and like him is the operator of the world-mill. In Rigv. VIII, 91, 6, Agni is called Savitar's creation. He is also called the "son of strength" probably because he, like Heimdall, as an infant received a taste of "the drink of strengths," the liquids in the three world-wells or soma-pools, before he was sent to humanity.22)
r)As a fire-god Agni is ruler of the rituals, the means by which the holy fire is ignited or brought forth by friction. Heimdall has the byname Vindler, "the turner,"23 and in the first volume of this work I have shown that he is Rati with the gimlet (Vol. I, no. 82), and given reasons why it is his fire-auger that assisted Odin in escaping with a mead-store from Suttung's halls. In Rigveda, Agni plays a similar role. There, "Agni's tongue" performs the same task as "Rati's mouth." Agni's tongue causes a mountain, where nourishing-juices were hidden, to split open, and these he returns to the gods and to the world, after Trita (the same name as the Odin- epithet Þríði24) killed a giant-monster that had taken them. (Compare Rigv. V, 14, 4; VIII, 61, 4- 8; X, 8, 6-9).
s) In the Zoroastrian doctrine, Sraosha occupies the same place as Agni-Heimdall. Even in the respect that in ancient times, when the fathers still lived in Airyana-vaêyô, the "Aryan homeland," later so badly afflicted by frost, he came as an envoy from heaven, in order to civilize men, to convey the holy fire to them, teach them the true religion and how to lead a proper life. Consequently, he became the first fire-starter, the first sacrificer and priest among men, and their defense against the seductions of witchcraft and the plots of demons. "Sraosha formed the means of drilling the son (the fire) out of his father (the drilled wood)" it says in Yasna 44,25 and Zoroaster praises him for this reason before Ahuramazda. Yasna 57 says that as a religious teacher, he traveled around the entire world. Thereafter, he returned to the heavens, where he is the warrior of the highest god, Ahuramazda, alongside Vayu and Mitra. He is an untiring guardian over all of creation, which would fall into the hands of demons if he did not exist. But, during the course of centuries and millennia, many of his sacred teachings were distorted and evil crept more and more into belief and life. Then Sraosha revealed himself to a just man, Spitama Zarathustra. Sraosha, who first showed us "the true path of happiness in terrestrial life and spiritual life," came to him and gave him knowledge of Ahuramazda's ways and gave him eloquence and sent him power to appear as a prophet and the restorer of the original religion (Yasna 43).26
From the above, the reader ought to have gathered that the entire cycle of Heimdall's myths is rediscovered in the myths of Agni-Sraosha with the sole exception of the myth regarding Heimdall's death in the battle of Ragnarök — the ruin of the gods in such a battle is a purely Germanic thought. Essentially all that is told of the latter returns in a surprisingly faithful way in the Nordic narratives of the former. During the centuries that passed after the Proto-Indo- European era, and still by the time that Christianity conquered the Asa-doctrine, the Teutons had forgotten nothing of importance about the age-old doctrine's "white," "just," "humanitarian," "wise," and "handsome" religious-teacher and culture-bringer of ancient times. And, to this day, the same god, who Völuspá's seer has in mind when she urges: "Listen all holy kin, higher and lower sons of Heimdall!" is praised by the Parsi priests under the name Srush (Sraosha), and by the Brahmans under the name Agni-Kâma. The Zoroastrian teachings are nothing other than a restoration of the old Heimdall religion.
…..(please follow the link below for the full text with footnotes)
Excerpt from Viktor Rydberg’s“Investigations into Germanic Mythology”, Vol. II Part 1: Indo-European Mythology
Translated by William P. Reaves © 2010 All Rights Reserved
25. Agni-Heimdall, the Culture-Bringer.