Bull and cow

Cattle were of high importance to the early Indo-European pastoralists and provided them with a ready point of reference in many aspects of life. Among a man's possessions his cattle stood on a level with his wife (RV 10. 34. 13; Hes. Op. 405). Terms like 'cow', 'bull', 'heifer', were often applied metaphorically to human family members.66 A god or ruler was a 'cowherd', or a herdsman of some other variety (pp. 131 and 421). The cow served as a unit of value.67 Times of day were designated as 'the cow-gathering' (the morning milking: samgatim goh, RV 4. 44. 1; samgave, 5. 76. 3), 'the yoking of oxen' (Old Irish im-buarach), 'the unharnessing of oxen' (govisarga-, Rm. 7. 1523*.1; ovXvros, Il. 16. 779, al.). The measure of a small puddle was 'a cow's hoofprint' (gospadam, MBh. 1. 27. 9; 9. 23. 18; Rm. 6. 77. 11; cf. Hes. Op. 488 f.).

In the Rigveda the reader is struck by the proliferation of bovine imagery. The stars are herds of cattle, Dawn's rays are cows, or steers drawing her car, the rain-clouds are cows, and so on. As for Heaven and Earth, Dyaus and Prthivi, they too are occasionally represented as a bull and cow. 'From the brinded cow and the bull good of seed he (the Sun) milks every day the glistening juice' (RV 1. 160. 3; the hymn is to Dyaus and Prthivi, and they have been mentioned in the same verse as 'the parents'). 'Let the bull Dyaus strengthen you (Indra) the bull' (5. 36. 5). 'When you ride out, Maruts (storm deities), . . . the waters rise, the forests flood; let the red bull Dyaus bellow down' (5. 58. 6). When the rain is called Dyaus' seed (1. 100. 3; 5. 17. 3), it is perhaps in his bovine form that we should think of him. Indra, who has in general appropriated the functions of the storm-god, is praised in bullish terms:

wsasi divo, vrsabhah prthivya, virsa sindhunam, vrsabha stiyanam.

You are the steer of heaven, the bull of earth, the steer of the rivers, the bull of the pools. (RV 6. 44. 21)

The Hittite Storm-god too is represented as a bull.68

66 E. Campanile, JIES 2 (1973), 249-54; id. (1977), 21 f.; (1981), 19 f.; O. Szemerenyi, Acta Iranica 7 (1977), 22. Armenian ordi, ordvo- 'son' comes from *portiyo-, cognate with Greek napris.

67 Cf. Thurneysen (1921), 82; J. Vendryes, RC42 (1925), 391-4; V. M. Apte in R. C. Majumdar (ed.), The Vedic Age (The History and Culture of the Indian People, i, London 1951), 396; Dillon (1975), 121. Vedic satagvin- 'worth 100 cows' corresponds to Homeric ¿Karop oios, cf. Euler (1979), 165.

The passage about Dyaus 'bellowing down' (ava krad) may recall one of the formulaic epithets applied to Zeus: vfii pepeT^s, 'roaring on high' (also once ¿pi pepeT^s). The verb on which this is formed, pepw, has no particular association with bulls. On the other hand, there are several Greek myths in which Zeus takes the form of a bull, or his partner that of a cow.

It is as a bull that he seduces Europa. She appears in the story simply as a girl, but her name, 'the broad of aspect', is appropriate to the Earth-goddess, evpeia x^^v: we have seen that 'the Broad One' (Prthivi, Folde, etc.) is a typical name of hers. Evpmny is used in early poetry as a name for central and northern Greece (Hymn. Ap. 251, 291); from that it developed into the term for the continent of Europe as opposed to Asia.

Then there was Io, who was turned into a cow by Hera, or according to others by Zeus himself. He metamorphosed into a bull and mated with her (Aesch. Supp. 301), in consequence of which she gave birth to Epaphos. Io appears in the myth as a mortal, but she has a close connection with Zeus' regular consort, Hera: she is her priestess. It may be that she was an old goddess whose cult was taken over by Hera. Hera herself has in Homer the strange formulaic epithet ownis, 'cow-faced'.

One of the Latvian songs, recorded in several variants, runs:

Where have they gone, the great rains?

—They have all run into the river.

Where has it gone, this river?

Where have they gone, God's bulls?

—They have gone a long way away.69

In place of Dieva versi another version has melni versi, 'black bulls'. These bulls seem to be the rain-clouds.

Finally, a Russian riddle: dva byka bodutsja, vmeste ne sojdutsja, 'two bulls are butting, they do not come together'. The solution is Sky and Earth.70


The Vedic Dyaus is not explicitly called 'father of gods and men', as Zeus is, but it would have been an appropriate title, as he and Prthivi are the universal

69 LD 2221, quoted by D. Calin (as n. 15); my translation is based on his German version. He draws attention to the verbal parallel between Dieva versi and vfsa divo in RV 6. 44. 21 quoted above. Latvian versis and Vedic vfsan- come from the same root with different stems. The same word is used of Dyaus in RV 5. 36. 5 (also quoted above).

parents. At the same time (as with Zeus) certain individual deities are called his progeny. They are generally gods that have a connection with the sky: Agni, the god of fire; Surya, the Sun; the storm-gods Indra, Parjanya, and the Maruts. But labelling these as children of Dyaus seems to be little more than a casual acknowledgement of their celestial affinities. It is not a distinctive means of identifying them.

It is different in the case of one who is called his child more often than all the rest: Usas, the goddess of the dawn. She is duhitff Divah or Divo duhitio in over thirty places in the Rigveda, and the phrase is uniquely hers.71 She is also duhitio divojioh, 'the daughter born of Dyaus/heaven' (6. 65. 1), and divijffh, 'born in heaven' (7. 75. 1). This goddess will occupy us in the next chapter. Here it is enough to note that she corresponds in name and nature to the Greek Eos, and that while Eos does not appears as a daughter of Zeus—he has become one of the younger gods, and she must clearly have existed before him—one of her most constant Homeric epithets is Sia < *diw-ya, originally 'belonging to Zeus' or 'heavenly'. When we add that in Lithuanian folk-song the (feminine) Sun is addressed as Dievo dukryte,72 it seems reasonable to assign at least to Graeco-Aryan theology, and probably to MIE, the idea that the Dawn-goddess was the daughter of *Dyeus.

In Greek epic AOs dvydT^p, or less often dvyaT-qp Aids, is used of several goddesses, especially the Muse, Athena, and Aphrodite, and also of Helen. In the case of Aphrodite, a deity of oriental provenance who probably did not enter the epic tradition until the Sub-Mycenaean period at earliest, it has been suggested that certain of her attributes, including perhaps Aios dvyixT^p, may have been taken over from Dawn, the existing goddess outstanding for beauty and desirability.73 Helen, as we shall see later, has a more intimate connection with the Dawn-goddess.

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