A taboo

And do not urinate upright facing the sun. (Hes. Op. 727)

The prohibition on urinating towards the sun was also a Pythagorean rule. Pliny (HN 28. 69) attributes it to the Magi. It is paralleled in a number of Indian texts.78 Some of them add as separate injunctions that one must not urinate while standing up, or while walking or on the road (also prohibited by Hesiod, 729).


Dawn, like the sun, has names in many languages that continue an Indo-European prototype. It is based on a verbal root *h2us/*h2eus meaning 'glow (red), flame' (also seen in Latin aurum < *ausom, Old Prussian ausis, 'gold'), extended by a suffix -os- or alternatively -ro-.79 From these come Vedic usasand usri, Avestan usah-, Greek dws, avws, r^s, ┬┐ws, Latin aurora (*aus5s-a), Lithuanian ausra, Old Church Slavonic za ustra 'in the morning', Welsh gwawr, and so on.

Dawn appears as a goddess in several branches of the tradition. As Usas she is the subject of twenty-one hymns in the Rigveda, including some of the most beautiful. As Usa she is honoured in one passage of the Avesta (Gah 5. 5). As Eos she plays a role in Greek poetry and myth. At Rome the personified Aurora is no more than a reflection of Greek literature, but the old Dawn goddess perhaps retained a position in cult under the name of Mater Matuta (see below). In Anglo-Saxon England she lived on as Eostre: her springtime festival gave its name to a month and to the Christian feast of Easter that displaced it.80 As the month and the festival have similar names in Old

78 AV 13. 1. 56; MBh. 12. 186. 23; 13. 107. 28, 41-3; Harivamsa 1. 13; Rm. 2. 69. 15; Laws of Manu 4. 48-52. Hesiod's phrase op6os o/eixeiv, 'urinate upright', has been compared with AV 7. 102. 1 meksyamy md^as tiethan, 'I will urinate standing upright', which contains the same lexical elements and similar syntax. But the conjunction of words is too natural to be claimed as a poetic or ritual formula.

79 Recent discussions: Mayrhofer (1986-2001), i. 236; M. E. Huld in Dexter-Polome (1997), 178; K. T. Witczak, SIGL 2 (1999), 172; M. Nassivera, HS 113 (2000), 64 f.

80 Bede, De temporum ratione 15 Aprilis, Eosturmonath . . . Eosturmonath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit; a cuius nomine nunc paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquae obser-vationis vocabulo gaudia novae solemnitatis vocantes.

High German, Ostarmanoth, Ost(a)run, it has been inferred that the goddess too was once recognized in southern German lands.81 In sixteenth-century Lithuania the personified Ausra was still acknowledged, for hers is the name that must be identified in the statement, 'Ausca dea est radiorum solis vel occumbentis vel supra horizontem ascendentis'.82

The mistress of the Dawn may be detected under a heavier disguise in the British Brigantia, the goddess of the Brigantes, and the Irish saint Brigit, both going back to a Celtic *Briganto < IE *bhrghntih2, 'Great, Lofty'. The corresponding Vedic form, brhato, is several times used as a title of Usas (RV 1. 113. 19, 123. 2; 5. 80. 1, 21. This does not in itself justify an equation, but it becomes significant when we take account of St Brigit's peculiar features. She was born at sunrise on the threshold of the house, her mother having one foot inside, one outside. She was the daughter of the Dagda, the 'Good God', or of Dubthach (Dark) son of Dallbronach (Dark and gloomy). She would only drink milk of a white cow with red ears; reddish cows, as we shall see, are a typical Vedic image of the dawns. She filled the house with a flame that went up to heaven; the neighbours ran to put the fire out, but found that it had vanished. All of this is singularly appropriate to the Dawn goddess.83

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