IE Studies 2, Requirement 7
Describe and compare the interaction between king and virgin in two cultures. (100 words for each culture)
King and Virgin in Vedic Culture
In looking at the king and virgin in Vedism, we focus on a divine reflex of the king and virgin, focusing on the interaction between Indra, a warrior god, and Usas, a virginal goddess of the dawn. Usas is described as "ever young, born again and again" (MacDonnell, 47), while Indra is described as a "universal monarch" and his attributes "are chiefly those of physical superiority and of dominion over the physical world." (64) Indra and Usas are intimately connected in Indra's most significant battle, the winning of the waters from Vrtra, where she is said to meet him when he wins the waters (identified as cows), and many times Usas is described as a gatekeeper of those same cows, which she opens the gates for each day. (61) Indra is also said to produce Usas each day, and even fights with her on occasion to draw her out.
King and Virgin in Norse Culture
Enright makes much of the ceremony of mead-offering that builds the warband, discussing how the marriage rite and the induction into the warband are the same basic ritual: in marriage, the virginal queen-to-be provides the king with his drink and is thus married to him; in initiation into the warband, the now-queen provides the necessary link between lord and man (Enright, 86) Also, Sigurð meets Brynhild twice, once while she is lying sleeping in a tower and once after riding through the flames for King Gunnar. In both cases, their nights spent together are chaste, indicating that she is virginal in this myth when she is betrothed to Gunnar. (Byock, 81) Oddly, she ends up with a daughter by Sigurð somehow, and so we have virginity that is tainted even though it was promised.
In both cultures, the king must be a "complete man," meaning that the virgin plays into his generosity and magnanimity. (Phuvel, 265) Indra and Usas are drawn together through the distribution of the waters won to the people, while the queen of the Norse allows for the distribution of mead and mediates the relationship between lord and vassal. It is, in both cases, the releasing of the "liquid" blessings (waters to the folk, mead to the warriors) that are regulated by the women, making them gatekeepers of society and holders of power.
- Byock, Jessie. The Saga of the Volsungs.
- Davidson, HR Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin. 1990
- Enright, Michael J. Lady With a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tene to the Viking Age. Portland, OR: Four Courts Press. 1996
- MacDonnell, A. A. Vedic Mythology.
- Mallory, JP. In Search of the Indo-Europeans.
- Maurer, Walter. Pinacles of India's Past: Selections from the Rgveda.
- Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins. 1987
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