Orion worship – part 3 – Nordic Aryans (Ymir,Yama, Gayomart)
One would expect the star lore of the ancient Norse to be at least equally rich as that of the other ancient nations. And certainly, this must be the case, if anything, because this land had spawned the notorious seamen known as Vikings. However, surprisingly little is known of this star lore nowadays. Some say that this is because the original astronomical terms were exchanged for the Greek and Latin ones since the early middle ages. The others claim that the oral tradition (written down only in the late middle ages) does not contain many references to the stars. But is this really the case? Perhaps the Nordic myths are simply not being read with proper understanding?
In Norse mythology, Ymir (read as E-mir, Ya-mir, Yo-mir) was the primordial being, a giant from whose body gods created the universe. He was born from the venom that dripped from the icy rivers called Élivágar and he lived in the grassless void called Ginnungagap. The Poetic Eda of the 13th century gives us a description of that world:
“Of old was the age when Ymir lived;
Sea nor cool waves nor sand there were;
Earth had not been, nor heaven above,
But a yawning gap, and grass nowhere.”
The Prose Edda, written down in the same period, adds that together with Ymir a primeval cow was born. Auðumbla was her name, and her milk fed Ymir. The Giant Ymir then created the first male and female from the pits of his arms. They were called Ask and Embla, the Nordic equivalent of Adam and Eve. The Audumbla cow had also licked down the ice that entrapped Buri, the first god.
Ymir suckles from the cow Auðumbla while she licks Búri from the ice in a painting by Nicolai Abildgaard (1790) inspired by the Prose Edda narrative, Wikipedia commons
The astral symbolics of this myth is so clear that I was able to understand it when I first encountered it many years ago. The great gaping void Ginnungagap is the space, the icy rivers of Élivágar are the Milky way, the Auðumbla cow is the constellation of Taurus, Ymir is Orion, and the couple that was born from his armpits is the constellation of Gemini. Here is an illustration:
There is another dead giveaway that Ymir is Orion – it is from his body that gods fashioned the universe. The same is true for Orpheus, Dionysus, Osiris and many other Indo-European deities that are positively identified as representations of Orion. Eda is describing that event as follows:
“Out of Ymir’s flesh was fashioned the earth,
And the ocean out of his blood;
Of his bones the hills, of his hair the trees,
Of his skull the heavens high.”
“Mithgarth the gods from his eyebrows made,
And set for the sons of men;
And out of his brain the baleful clouds
They made to move on high.”
Also, most of the Indo-European myths see Orion as a guide of the souls of departed. This is because Milky Way was seen as a river or a road trough which the souls are traveling between the realms of the living and dead. The concept of this “road of the souls” was known as Helvegen to the Norse. If it is safe to assume that this “road” was the Milky way, it would mean that this role of Psychopomp (guide of the souls) can be attributed to Ymir, as it is Orion that stands at the “beginning” of the Milky way.
But even though these parallels to me seem quite obvious, this blog is probably the only place where you can read about it at this moment. I cannot say it for sure as I do not speak any of the Scandinavian languages, but my Google search labeled “Orion – Ymir” yielded zero results. (?) I did manage to find that in some local dialects Orion’s belt was known as ”Fiskikarlar” – fishermen, a name obviously totally unrelated to Eda. At the same time, Wikipedia article on Ymir mentions an attempt by scholars to relate him to the god Tuisto – after whom Tuesday is named, and who is obviously (?) related to the planet Mars. What exactly are those “linguistic and mythical grounds” they are talking about here? Beats me.
By way of historical linguistics some scholars have linked Tuisto to the Proto-Germanic theonym *Tiwaz, while other scholars have argued that the name refers to a “two-fold” or hermaphroditic being (compare Old Swedish tvistra, meaning “separate”). The latter etymology has led scholars to a connection to Ymir on both linguistic and mythical grounds.
In any case, this was just an introduction for the more interesting things I am planning to tell you. I was curious about the etymology of the name Ymir, and I realized that there are no officially accepted etymologies out there. This made me do a research of my own and I found something very interesting in the most unexpected place – I found it in India!
Namely, the Vedic god Yama, one of the gods of the earliest Vedic pantheon, was also known as Yamarāja, and Imra! I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to find out that I was not the first to draw the parallel Ymir-Imra, as Wikipedia states:
Yama and Ymir
In a disputable etymology, W. Meid (1992) has linked the names Yama (reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European as *yemos) and the name of the primeval Norse frost giant Ymir, which can be reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *umijaz or *jumijaz, in the latter case possibly deriving from PIE ym̥yos, from the root yem “twin”.
In his myth, however, Ymir is not a twin, and only shares with Yama the characteristics of being primeval and mortal.
Well, sure, Ymir is not a twin, even though we just saw that scholars used this specific claim to relate him to Tiwaz… but he IS credited for creating twins from his armpits. We also saw how Gemini constellation really can be seen as if it is spawning out of the armpit of Orion. Moreover, if Ymir IS Orion, then he is also the guardian of the dead, just like Osiris and Dionysus were, and of course, like Vedic Yama was. On top of that, both Yama and Ymir were seen as the primordial beings.
Besides, Yama has some clear parallels with Orion. He has two dogs with four legs and wide nostrils guarding the road to his abode (hellhounds) and he is also depicted at times as riding a buffalo. Again, we see clear astronomical images – “buffalo” is Taurus, while the two dogs are Canis Minor and Canis Major constellations, the faithful hounds of Orion the hunter.
As we see, there is so much more than the name that connects Yama and Ymir. To me at least, the connection is obvious, as it is obvious that the word “Gemini” comes from the same Indo-European corpus, since this is what “Yama” means in Sanskrit.
I also believe that I can explain historically how this idea traveled from India to Scandinavia. But first we need to know that Yama was also mentioned in the Avesta, the ancient holy scripture of Zoroastrians. Whether the idea had followed the path Iran-India or India-Iran is difficult to say, but what is certain is that this whole region was once inhabited by the people known as Aryans. Moreover, Zoroastrian creation myth begins like this – The first beings that supreme deity Ahura Mazda created were Gayōmart, the living mortal, and a primordial bull Gavaevodata. Does it sound familiar?
Now, we can also use astronomy to date these myths. In my article ASTRONOMY WAS PRACTICED FOR MORE THAN 40000 YEARS – A DEFINITE PROOF I explained this in more detail, but here is a quick run trough the facts: We are currently living in the age of Pisces, as this is the constellation in which the Sun rises on the spring equinox. However, from roughly 2000BC to our era, the Sun was rising in Aries. From 4000-2000BC it was in Taurus, and from 6000-4000BC it was in Gemini.
It is clear that these myths, centered around the bull can be dated to a period between 4000-2000BC. They also include some of the layers of the previous star lore, when Sun was in Gemini, and when the creation of the world began with the divine twins instead of the primordial bull. Perhaps the original layers of Yama myth are also taken from there, and quite amazingly, we may still be using the original name of this constellation.
Star lore of two consecutive ages is usually mixed up like this. In the more recent history – Moses, whose arrival marks the Aries era, talks about the Golden calf (Taurus) while Christianity (Pisces) included many symbols and saints of the Aries era.
But since one of our main characters is the bull, our timeframe for this story is 4000-2000BC. I believe that the later date is of more importance, as this is the time when the Saraswati river dried out, and the great civilizations of that region had disappeared. On this blog there are many articles that suggest a migration towards the Mediterranean, where they would be known under the collective name of “sea peoples”.
By following this logic I will make another bold assumption, and that is that even the name of the great Homer, who had probably lived at the end of 2nd millennium BC, was in fact a Greek version of Yomir – meaning Orion (or a twin), as its Greek etymology is unknown. Also, Hesiod’s Chaos is nothing else but the Ginnungagap of the Norse, while it is well known that the bull was a central figure of the Orphic rites of the Thracians.
But according to the myth, Orpheus had later established a Dionysian cult, in whom the central animal was the ram (Aries), and since our Norse myth revolves around the bull, we must assume that it belongs to the oral tradition of a tribe that had migrated to Scandinavia before 2000BC. I am well aware that my theories may sound very exaggerated to some, but how else to explain all the other similarities between the Norse and the Vedic religion?
To name a few: Why is the most important group of Nordic gods known as Æsir, and why that sound like Osiris (Orion), whose name comes from the Sanskrit Asura, (hence also Assyria) meaning the exact same thing? Or why the name of goddess Frigg’s (Freya, Friya) means “love” or “beloved one” while in Sanskrit priyā means “dear woman”? Or why there is no known etymology of the word “Scandinavia”, while in India Skanda is the god of war, an appropriate name for the land ruled by the Aryan warrior cast?
Can we really attribute all these similarities to mere coincidences or banalize them to a common Indo-European heritage, without explaining from where and when this heritage came? Or maybe the genius of our ancestors really encoded their history in the everlasting language of the stars, a language so easy to comprehend if only we were willing to listen carefully the verses that they sang for us.