Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Afro-Asiatic vs Aryan Religion: The Horse as Example


Horses paraded at the Hindu Machad Mamagam Festival held in February.

India was at the crossroads of the ancient world, connected to the Middle East and Africa by ancient water systems controlled by Afro-Asiatic rulers during the Holocene Wet period (c. 12,000 years ago). The oldest layer of civilization in India is that of the Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (2500-2000 B.C.) which show Sudanese (Sudra-Dravidian) influence. So it appears that the oldest layer of Hindu belief and practice is Afro-Asiatic, or Austroasiatic, as proposed by geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. (Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca (1994). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691087504.)

This would explain why the oldest Vedic texts reveal many points of contact with the Afro-Asiatic binary distinctions, belief in a fixed order in creation, a reverence for the divinely-established boundaries between heaven and earth, between male and female, and between humans and other animals.

In the earliest Vedic texts we find warnings about transgressing these boundaries. These warn against actions and words that insult the gods, against homosexuality, and against sexual relations with animals.

Later Hinduism reflects the different worldview of the Indo-Europeans who entered from the north and subdued the Sudroid (Afro-Asiatic) peoples who lived there. Today the Sudroid peoples are regarded as an inferior class/caste in India.

How different are the Afro-Asiatic and Aryan worldviews? Very different, as illustrated by the example of the horse.

The Horse in Afro-Asiatic Religion
The earliest breeding of horses appears to have taken place in the area that is today eastern Sudan along the Upper Nile. The horse was bred and trained as a royal mount well before 800 B.C. Robert Merkot reports that the people of Sheba were famous for the horses they breed and that those horses were exported widely throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion.[1]  The world's oldest saddles are from Nubia and the Upper Nile region.

When the Kushite (Sudanese) ruler, Piye, conquered the palace city of King Nimlot, he discovered that the royal horses had been neglected and he was extremely angry about it. It is recorded that “His majesty went to the stable of the horses, and the quarter of the foals. When he saw that they had been left to hunger he said: As Re loves me … that my horses were made to hunger pains me more than any other crime you committed in your recklessness...” Piye reigned over eastern Sudan and Egypt from 752-721 B.C.

The horse while regarded as noble, was never deified in Afro-Asiatic religion. Sexual relations with a horse (or any animal) was an unthinkable violation of the boundaries set by God in creation. Not so in Hinduism after the Aryan invasion.

The Horse in Aryan Hinduism
In ancient times Hindu priests sacrificed horses. The Ashvamedha was offered only by kings seeking to gain strength or to expand their territories. The basis for selection of the horse that was to be sacrificed was the Krittika, the Pleiades, on his forehead. After the horse was sacrificed, the carcass was cut into sections and the priests burned the sections on outdoor altars.

There was a fertility ceremony attached to horse sacrifice. If the King also wasn’t to insure that his wives gave him many sons, he paid the priests to perform an elaborate year-long ritual. A fine horse was selected at the beginning of the year and allowed to wander freely while guarded by royal soldiers. Everywhere the horse wandered was claimed to be under the King’s jurisdiction. If the horse entered the territory of another ruler, that ruler had to submit or engage in combat. During the year the horse was not allowed to mate and at the end of the year it was returned to the city where it was sacrificed in a 3-day ceremony.

The royal fertility ritual called Asvamedha yajna involved the king’s principal wife in a nightlong copulation with the dead horse. The priests and all royal wives and their four hundred attendants spent the night insulting each other. The insults go something like these:

To the wives the insulter says: “Lift up her thighs… she is like…” (insulting remark)

The attendants shout back to the insulter: “Your penis is like a…” (insulting remark)

The story is told that Rama’s mother and co-mothers performed the ceremony to guarantee the birth of sons to King Dasaratha. All three of the king’s wives were united with the carcass, but his principal wife, Kausalya, spent the entire night with the dead horse regarding this as her sacred duty. The account speaks of 300 beasts being sacrificed, including snakes and birds, in addition of Dasaratha’s “jewel of a horse” which was cut by his principal wife with 3 knives. The ceremony was costly as it involved paying a year’s salary to priests (Brahmans), the invoker (hotr), the chief priest (adhvarya) and the singer/cantor (udgatr).[2] There is a similar ritual known among the ancient Celts, only in reverse. In the ceremony of enthronement, the king ritually coupled with a mare that was then sacrificed and cooked, being then eaten in a communal meal. The horse fertility ritual comes from the Indo-European-Aryan worldview and is contrary to the older Afro-Asiatic layer which maintains strict distinction between human and animal.

It appear that there was a parting of ways theologically and it may be represented by different names of God.


Az or Yahweh

The Asvamedha yajna gives the name As (or Az) for God. The name appears in ancient Akkadian texts. A 7th-century text says that Sargon city on the bank of the Euphrates was called Azu-piranu, meaning temple or house of Az. O-piru means house of the Sun. Azu is also a variant of the African name for God - Asa. Azu-piranu is equivalent of the Hebrew word Beth-el, but there appears to have been distinct conceptions of God.

Variants of this name for God include: Azu in Akkadian, Asa in Chadic, Asha in Kushitic, and Ashai in Hebrew.  A Jerusalem priest named Am-ashai is mentioned in Neh. 11:13.

The Sakās (Sarki) of the Behistun inscription [3] of Darius I (521-486 B.C.) were made up of four tribes, the foremost of which were the Asii.[4]


Related reading:  7000 BC Horse Burial Linked to Sheba


NOTES

1. See Morkot’s book The Black Pharaohs. Sheba was an ancestor of Abraham, according to Genesis 10:28.

2. Goldman, Robert P. The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India. Balakanda (vol.1). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-06561-6, pp. 151-152.

3. I have visited the site of this inscription. It appears in these images and scripts that the binary worldview of the Horites later morphed into the dualism that characterizes Zorastrianism. Ahura Mazda is likely a variant of Hor-Az or Hormazd. Ahura Mazda's dualistic counterpart is Angra Mainyu, the creator of evil.

4. Hans Loescher provides an excellent presentation of the Asii-led confederation that penetrated China.


7 comments:

Dharmashaiva said...

Jainism and Buddhism are two examples of non-Vedic/non-Aryan traditions in India (with Jainism being much older than Buddhism). It is believed that Jainism, with its central teaching of "ahimsa" (or "non-violence") influenced the Vedic tradition to reject animal sacrifice. And the Buddha was also stridently anti-animal sacrifice.

Interestingly, if you look at some ancient statues of the Buddha, his hair looks very 'African'-esque.

Ron said...

It seems to me that if the Afro-Asiatic worldview underlies the Indo-European-Aryan world view in India, then the reverse may be true in Europe, where pre-Christian Indo-European culture underlies Christian culture, surviving in folk festivals, superstitions, etc.

I would very much appreciate you providing further examples that contrast these two worldviews.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Dharmashaiva, I believe that Jainism and Buddhism have strongly influenced Vedic tradition toward ahimsa. The thread in Hinduism that is reflected in the Machad Mamagad Festival is the Purva Mimamsa School which holds to the authority of the Vedas. This school formulated the rules of interpretation of the Vedic texts. Its adherents believe that one must have unquestionable faith in the Vedas and perform the yajñas, or fire-sacrifices, regularly. I find points of contact between this thread and the ancietn Afro-Asiatic.

Yes, I've noted that some statues of the Buddha looks somewhat African.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Ron, another example would be the contrast between the Afro-Asiatic priesthood and the Indo-European shaman. These offices serve a similar functions in their communities but they hold very different worldviews. Underlying shamanism is the belief that there are powerful spirits who cause imbalance and disharmony in the world (animism). The shaman’s role is to determine which spirits are at work in a given situation and to find ways to appease the spirits. This is discerned through traces. The solution may or may not involve animal sacrifice. Underlying the priesthood is belief in a single supreme Spirit to whom humans must give an accounting, especially for the shedding of blood. In this view, one Great Spirit (God) holds the world in balance and it is human actions that cause disharmony. The vast assortment of ancient laws governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, and cleansing rituals clarifies the role of the priest as one who offers animal sacrifice according to sacred law.

Arimathean said...

"The earliest breeding of horses appears to have taken place in the area that is today eastern Sudan along the Upper Nile. The horse was bred and trained as a royal mount well before 800 B.C."

Actually, horse breeding began in Asia in the fourth millennium BC. But horses were originally used only for pulling wagons, chariots, etc. It took a long time to breed horses whose backs were strong enough to carry a man. For this reason, when the Persians first introduced cavalry without chariots, the rider was mounted above the horse's rear legs rather than in the middle of its back. Perhaps the Upper Nile was where riding horses as we know them today were first bred.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Actually the Kushites used wild donkeys as pack animals between 6500 and 4000 BC. The wild donkey was native to the Red Sea Hills and the arid Ethiopian highlands. Kushites used both camels and donkeys as beasts of burden. These enabled the transport of cargo across the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, Pakistan and beyond. As Roger Blench has noted, "The spread of the donkey across Africa was linked with the proliferation of long distance caravans."

The region of Sheba in southern Arabia was famous for breeding horses. The high-spirited, high-stamina Arabian horse is one of the oldest breeds, dating back 4,500 years. They were valued for breeding across the ancient Middle East and among Japheth’s Magyar descendants. Today Arabian bloodlines are found in almost every modern breed of riding horse.

The world's oldest saddles are from Nubia and the Upper Nile region. Also, there is the ancient Farshut Road or the “Road of Horses" that departs Thebes north of the Valley of the Kings, crosses the high plateau between Mount Antef and Mount Roma and descends near the Wadi el-Hol. This "highway" was possibly established by King Menes who was the first to unite into a single empire the regions of the Upper and Lower Nile. Menes was called Ahauiti and Mount Tjauti was likely named for him. His territory was called Tjenu. The earliest evidence of Tjenu as a ruled territory dates to 4000 B.C. Royal scribes and messengers would have traveled this route on horses.

Horses were used by Africans, Arabians and Aryans, but Menes or Auiti appears to have been the owner of the horse highway because the royal name Auti is found in Aria and Arachosia, which corresponds to the Aryan land of Har-Auti.

DDeden said...

The earliest known horse domestication occurred at Botai Village site, Khazakstan.

My Chaldean former boss in San Diego, Aziz, was actually named Azu.