Thoughts beyond the Novel CCC.5–Mycelia/Fungi

Mycelium, Fungi’s underground infastructure
–Yale University Photo; Science Aid web site)

The biggest threat to the scientific community when it comes to innovative and safe applications of mycelia/fungi is Big Pharma. Though Big Pharma is not the topic of this blog, it must be dealt with because of its business practices, for example, requiring years of Prosac instead of two-three capsules of a specific fungus to cure a chronic illness. It’s just not profitable for Big Pharma to keep one medicated. As you may already know, Big Pharma consists of major multinational pharmaceutical companies that, collectively, remain the most profitable industry in the United States. For an interesting exploration of its history, visit The Side Unseen.

And so we begin with three of the many topics and themes encountered in CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES: in search for longevity, immortality, and higher consciousness. Though briefly alluded to throughout the novel, epidemiologist Leitis poses a theory of how Homo sapiens sapiens became a highly cognitively-aware being. She speculated that, when our species or earlier ones were curious about a fungus outcropping from cattle dung, the species experienced something extraordinary–what felt like out-of-body visions of colors, forms, and patterns. In another instance in the novel, there was a brief encounter by her mother Izobel seeking to understand The Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese Book of Life. C. G. Jung, an early Westerner who attempted to understand the secrets of the East, studied this wisdom literature of the powers of growth latent in the human psyche. Based on a cursory understanding of one of the yoga practices described in the text, it sounds much like Mahamudra Tantra without the drug. This is not to say that Eastern wisdom literature scrubs any historical use of mind-altering fungi/plants. Eastern yogis have and do with great skill.

The widening of our consciousness ought not to proceed at the expense of other kinds of consciousness but ought to take place through the development of those elements of our psyche….

C. G. Jung

Nonetheless, in the prolific mushroom world, there is much diversification. Hypothetically, the golden flower could very well be a mycelium (as in hidden). On a more serious note, the mycelia world is very ancient.

One can say it evolved into the network that digests the debris of matter on the face and under face of the earth. Moreover, one can honestly say that life as we know it is due in large part to mycelia and its fungi–by creating soil, regulating hydrological cycles, and establishing highly beneficial relationships with flora and fauna. In essence, it is the fabric of life that makes our lives sustainable. In fact, the human neural network of our human brain, Vagus nerve, and placenta mimic the mycelia.

Mycelia (aka Fungal Hyphae)

Did you know that 90% of terrestrial plants has a mycorrhizal (symbiotic) relationship with one or more species of fungi?

Fungal hyphae or mycelia seem to have such a sophisticated level of higher consciousness that it seems to know how to also help all living/organic matter on earth. Albeit, as creator, also as destroyer.

So, why would it not also be of benefit to one of its byproducts–us–in medicine? The following illustrates certain fungi cure certain diseases.

a. Agarikon (Fomilopsis officinalis) has anti-viral properties that are of major interest in a time of endemic/pandemic viruses. According to medicinalherbals.net which tracks research studies worldwide states that, in the early 2000’s,”a team of scientists tested 11 species of North American Agarikon mushrooms. Those 11 species contained compounds that were shown to possess highly anti-viral properties, and those compounds are the subject of several scientific studies. Some of those compounds are known to be useful in treating viruses like cowpox, swine flu, bird flu, oral and genital herpes (as mentioned below), and several other viruses. While there are still animal studies and human clinical trials that need to be performed, researchers are already suggesting that ingesting Agarikon may help the body develop a bio-shield against unwanted viruses and bacteria.” The web site also lists studies that Agarikon is medically promising in treating inflammation, cancer, flu, herpes, upset stomach, tuberculosis.

b. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) is also called the “smart mushroom,” for trials have shown that they help support cognitive function, memory, and attention span. There is some limited evidence (more testing is required) that it helps with Alzheimer’s Disease. The polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane seem to protect neurons or make them function better. There are other known benefits as attested by a long tradition of usage of Lion’s Mane in Chinese Medicine.

c. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor; Coriolus versicolor) – The Turkey Tail mushroom has widely been researched to know that it is antioxidant-rich and known for supporting the immune system, gut, and liver. Recent research has shown that it also aid is healing breast and prostate cancers. For this claim, view the documentary film, Fantastic Fungi.

There is much to learn about our magical friends, and we must respect the expertise of those scientists and doctors who are learning and guiding us in their usages. Toxicity cannot be understated when using them oneself.

“Trumpet Flower”

But the golden flower may very well not be a fungus. There are plants that have psychological-altering properties such as non-golden-flowering Cannabis (Cannabaceae whose root system resembles mycelium), Datura, and Brugmansia (“Trumpet flower”), which are used for spiritual or religious experiences. The last two psychedelic flowers can be of a golden hue.

Then there is soma, which is still a mysterious recipe that was used by one of the ancient Scythian tribes known as the Saka Haumavarga, which was a ceremonious drink that gave the warriors strength and also immortality and that can be traced all the way back to the Indus Valley Civilization. (Hauma and soma are synonymous.) In each instance, these entheogenic plants are known to cause the psyche to navigate into territories above the five-sense consciousnesses to understand the “mind of God” – the ultimate realm of mega consciousness. What seems to be the case in all these experiences in wisdom literature is to recogne the abstruse and involute “LIGHT”.

Magical Shitings,” Monoprint by Armida Nagy Rose

Trivia: T/F – Many fungi are shape-shifters.

True: They seem to be designed to defy human efforts at categorization. “The same species, sometimes the same individual, can reproduce two ways: sexually, by mixing genes with a partner of the same species, or asexually, by cloning to produce genetically identical offspring.” For more information, visit “The Name of the Fungus“.

Thoughts beyond the Novel DoD.4—Mother Goddess Anahita

In a remote area of Iraqi Kurdistan, the ancient lost city of Natounia, which was named after the founder of the Adiabene royal dynasty, is presumed to have been found recently. The region belonged to the Parthian empire over 2,000 years ago. Lost to antiquity, a sanctuary-style complex that received heavy rains to produce a waterfall was a monumental stone structure. In addition, there was a staircase carved into the bedrock.

Archeological site in the Zargos Mountains

Based on historical background, researchers believe the waters were the site in which Anahita, a Zoroastrian Iranian goddess, was worshipped as a divinity of “the Waters.”

A principal character of the novel is Nona, who is an art historian by training and who was very interested in waters, having come from an island. One of the settings of the novel, Nona is lecturing at a South Beach museum about numerous goddesses whose attribute was water. Thus, a sharing here of the goddess known as Anahita during the times of antiquity.

Like modern humans, the ancients appreciated the life-giving force of water. Their understanding of the life-saving graces bestowed to them, was limited to understanding how Mother Nature was represented symbolically, at least, for its many resources, especially water to refresh them and their livestock as well as to grow the fields of grains.

The full title of Anahita is Aredevi Sura Anahita, which attributes the virtues of moisture, mightiness, and purity to this Indo-Iranian Mother Goddess. In India, she conflates as the goddess Sarasvati while, in the Near East, she is Ishtar. At any rate, she is known as the mystical river that emerges from Mount Meru into the great sea and as the source of all the waters (anything that is in effect moist). As an example, the following hymnal excerpt to her states, Anahita “who makes the seed of all males pure, who makes the womb of all female pure for bringing forth” (The Zend Avesta, Part II). Her presence in human consciousness can be traced back to as early as 5500 BCE when religious beliefs started to be expressed in stone and bronze in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Goddess Anahita

Parvati, known to be riding tigers or lions and the consort of Shiva, is more likely to be Anahita than Saraswati, but, in truth, they all lumped together into different aspects of one consciousness.

In one of the hymns, Ashura Mazda, the Zoroastrian creator God, pays homage to her and asks her for her help. What is interesting here is that he offers her homa. Historical reference to homa goes back to Indus Valley Civilization, placing Anahita to this area where the ancient river Sarasvati flowed. Moreover, Anahita was invoked even before the founder of the Zoroastrian (Aryan) faith, who was the son of Pourushaspa—the holy Zarathustra.

The lion and horse were two of the chief animals she was associated with and thus was conferred to her, too, the title of Goddess of Sovereignty. She was also known as the Water-Warrior Goddess.

On page 279 of DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE, Nona addresses her undergraduate students, saying, “We all know about Ganga of India having the power to cleanse away bad karma. The Ganges River is named after her….” She may have also been Ganga, the personification of the river Ganges, because the Sarasvati River could have well been dried up during the Rigveda account. Though the Sarasvati River was once a physical river, it was in Vedic times the heavenly river Milky Way was seen as “a road to immortality and heavenly after-life.” The Ganges River also flowed from the same source as the Sarasvati and then became the holiest of the rivers during Vedic times. All waters, after all, belong to Anahita, whatever her name change was at any given time.

Thoughts beyond the Novel DoD.3—Isla OIL Refinery

Once open a time—millions of human years ago to be exact—the remnants of animal and plant debris became oil. Mother Nature during this expanse of time transmuted dead life into black gold, using heat and pressure. To say that it runs modern society and fuels serious political tensions is an understatement. Take, for example, a deal that former President Donald J. Trump mustered up with OPEC+ (consortium of the world’s crude oil producers) in 2020 that jacked up the price of oil production by at least ten percent, causing the price of oil to skyrocket in recent times. There is nothing to brag about certain political tensions fueled by oil (no pun intended), especially when the current President, Joe Biden, is blamed for it. (It is reminiscent of what happened to former President Jimmy Carter who was blamed for something he did not orchestrate either.) Good news, that 2020 deal has expired; and the price of oil is going down, at least temporarily as Saudi Arabia very recently claimed there is no more surplus oil to be pumped!

Isla Refinery, Curaçao

While oil fluctuates in the market place, it also contributes to the production of global air pollution. Curaçao played a key role in contributing to this state of affair, and it has suffered from it. Its contribution to and associated impacts appear as a footnote in DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE, page 19.

It was World War I that introduced Venezuelan to the world market. By1919, the investment and exportation of the oil increased tremendously; and during World War II, the oil, which was refined in Curaçao, was the most secure provider of oil to the United States, helping it and the allies to win World War II over Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Early in its history, Curaçao was a colony of the Dutch; and the Royal Dutch Shell capitalized on its location—about 40 miles north of the coast of Venezuela—to use its natural harbor capability to handle massive barges and tankers (the Schottegat). After  the opening of the Isla Refinery in 1915, Curaçao shipped the oil from the largest oil reserve of the world, Venezuela. (The political and economic strife of the current situation is not the topic of this blog.)

The Isla Refinery located on the Isla Peninsula in the Baal of Asiento, on the southwestern coast of Curaçao, was inaugurated in 1918 by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Petroleum Maatschappij, which later became Shell.

Prior to this international event, Curaçao was a backwater that barely produced enough for its people who struggled to survive. The wealth of the Royal Dutch Shell was spread throughout the Island to  becoming the “rich neighbor to the north” and establishing a local “floating market.”

The presence of Shell is gone, but the effects of its refinery has caused an economic shift to tourism, leaving its citizens to bring back its earlier charm. Still, the refinery has not been totally shut down but for a prominent anti-refining group (Stichting SMOC)[i] fighting for a majority of Curasaos who want it gone; it is big, ugly, and spewing toxins into the air and water wells.

Tourism at Willemstad

Dr. Erin Pulster was one of the first anti-refinery researchers. In 2015, Dr. Pulster obtained her Ph.D. (Environmental Chemistry, University of South Florida) with her thesis,Assessment of Public Health Risks Associated with Petrochemical Emissions Surrounding an Oil Refinery,” in which she dealt with the widely known pollutants sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM) and polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAHs). This thesis was held under embargo until September 2016.

Finally, the Curacao government decided to definitely close down its lucarative oil refinery, forcing 6.000 employees and their families to find their livelihood somewhere else in 2018.

The Cosmos Chronicle reported, too, that “The Isla Refinery was operated by PdVSA from Venezuela, but the Dutch diplomats did their best to cut off all relations with neighboring Caracas, Venezuela, to close down the oil refinery.”

But that is not the end of shutting it down entirely and cleaning its shocking environmental damage. Its emissions were one of the most polluting in the entire world for many years. Even a local court decision, declaring the level of emissions “unlawful,” did not bring about any swift changes. As a result, the people living in the vicinity of the refinery were exposed to more than damaging emissions on a daily basis. The air may be cleaner now, but a lot of repairing is still to be done. The COVID pandemic also precipitated its early closing. Update on its closing.

Indigenous People of the Orinoco

As a sidebar, it was the first Indigenous People of Venezuela who were aware of the  black gold (hydrocarbons), which they used for medicinal and illumination purposes. They collected this oil from small creeks. They impregnated blankets near the seepages and then wrong the oil out. They also used asphalt made from oil for caulking their canoes and impregnating the sails of their boats.


[i] E.g., the Schoon Milieu op Curaçao (Clean Environment on Curaçao) Foundation

Thoughts beyond the Novel CCC.4–The Copper Mystique

Harappan Bronze Woman Wearing Bangles
(c. 2600 BCE) “The Dancing Girl”

Do you know what is nanomesh? Before answering this question, let’s take a trip to a very ancient time when copper played an important role in advancing civilizations as we know it today; and, of course a plug for CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES about copper.

All of us have come to know about the Bronze Age? Right? Briefly, this article will deal with the Indus Valley Civilization associated with the names Harappa and Mohengo-daro and their smelting copper/bronze. The spread of the use of copper and its technologies were worldwide during the Bronze Age. Though this period of time is referred to as the Bronze Age, it was mainly copper that made it possible, not to slight the importance of the role of tin.

Why copper? Copper is essential to make bronze, which is an alloy that consists primarily of copper. To make the alloy, bronze consists, generally, of 88 percent copper and 12-12.5 percent tin. Other metals and non-metals can be used such as arsenic or silicon. These metal/non-metals have useful properties such as strength, ductility, and machinability. However, since 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally recognized other useful properties of copper that have come to the fore because of the pandemic pathogen COVID-19. EPA named it the first solid anti-microbial material in 2021!

The author digresses here a bit to talk about how copper played a role in the writing of CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES in 2018-2019. One of the principal characters, Dr. Drew Hopkins Carr, who was a member of a multi-governmental Rapid Response Team went to the Vatican to study and to eradicate a serious pathogen, knew about Israeli nanomesh. In actuality, the Israelis knew about the hygienic properties of copper for centuries. Being a patented medical design engineer, Dr. Hopkins Carr kept his attention on copper for newer and improved applications since he was living in Panama toward the end of the novel. Enough said. (There is a personal story behind the copper mines of Panama that will remain under the hood.)

Back to some ancient history regarding copper. There was a transitional period from the Neolithic and the Bronze Ages known as the Chalcolithic period when copper predominated in metalworking technology and, in effect, ruled the world. It advanced both beauty and functionality, but also warfare. Stone was the earlier technology before copper. The time period for Chalcolithic age was c. 5000-2000 BCE when metal is known to have been used. It is also called the Copper-Stone Age since there was a prevalence of stone carvings. In fact, copper artifacts start to appear in East Asia since c. 5000 BCE., The settlements belonging to the Chalcolithic Phase extended from the Chhota Nagpur plateau (eastern India, south of Nepal) to the Gangetic basin. The Ganges Basin (Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna) covers the area of Tibet, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. 

The Greater Indus Valley Civilization, Early Ancient India

No one will ever know how and when tin was “accidentally” used in copper to harden an artifact. Nonetheless, in Asia, ancient tin mines have been discovered in East Kazakhstan (c. 2000 BCE) and in West Central Iran near Deh Hosein. The latter is a huge copper/tin/gold deposit whose workings have also been dated to c. 2500 BCE.

Ancient history is being rewritten as a result of better funding for archeological expeditions, deeper archeological diggings, and the drying up of sea and river beds to reveal ancient settlements. For example, scientists from IIT-Kharagpur and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have uncovered evidence that the Indus Valley Civilization is at least 8,000 years old (not 5,500 BCE). In other words, the civilization took root well before the Egyptian (c.7000-3000 BCE) and Mesopotamian (c. 6500-3100 BCE) civilizations. There is also evidence that copper and later bronze were exported from this civilization by sea!

Late Harappan (.\ 2010-1750 BCE)

Though copper objects, dated at c. 5000 BCE, of the Yangshao Culture were found in Jiangzhai, China, and the oldest copper mining site in Israel’s Negev, the Timna Valley, dating around c. 6,000-5,000 BCE, which was part of the Kingdom of Elam, there is something to consider about the latter site. If the Indus Valley merchants did set sail with their copper/bronze, they likely sailed the Arabian Sea up into the Gulf of Oman into the Persian Gulf to coastal Elam to trade their wares for other resources.

In recent times, over 1,400 Indus Valley Civilization sites have been discovered, of which 925 sites are in India and 475 sites in Pakistan, while some sites in Afghanistan are believed to be trading colonies. It is very likely, then, that the dawning of civilization began in the Indus Valley.

In recent times, over 1,400 Indus Valley Civilization sites have been discovered, of which 925 sites are in India and 475 sites in Pakistan, while some sites in Afghanistan are believed to be trading colonies. It is very likely, then, that the dawning of civilization began in the Indus Valley.

Kingdom of Elam and its Proximity to Ur – Sumeria

Welcome, copper nanomesh. It is now at the R&D stage before innovation. Copper nanomesh can be worn as protection against all pathogens (including bacteria and viruses)! Here comes the future of wearable copper garments. Currently, there are masks and protective clothing for scientists (HAZ-MAT suits) who fight epidemics/pandemics of pathogens. The ancient knowledge has come to the fore of the antimicrobial properties of copper—the oldest known medical text, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, details how copper was used to purify water, dress wounds, and treat venereal disease!

At least there is one sure thing that we know about how copper works is that its ions can puncture the outer shell of a virus, damaging its DNA/RNA strands. Nanomesh is copper fibers spun into random orientations and then flattened to a size 20 times thinner than an average strand of human hair to become wearable.

A Three-Faced Deity, Representing the
Three Types of Consciousness, Offering Effigy
of the Bronze Age, Indus Valley;
Another Topic Altogether

There was a time when hospitals used copper as anti-pathogenic agent, and a lot of homes had copper (i.e., bronze) doorknobs until aluminum became the preferred material because it was more abundant and cheaper to manufacture. It is never a bad idea to know what the ancient ones knew, because we keep learning from them still.

For the published document of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), visit “Antimicrobial second skin using copper nanomesh“.

One thing we do know for certain: We do not know how all of this will shake out in our future.

Thoughts beyond the Novel CCC.3 – Human Trafficking

One of the characters in Choir of Cloistered Canaries was a victim of human trafficking and slavery, a minor subplot. However, the novel lays out how a victim can understand early on the signs of how the perpetrator sets out to victimize someone. During this period of early captivity, hopefully, the victim can escape. However, all too often, the taking is all too sudden.

In the novel, the victim was rescued via an international sting by collaborating law enforcement. She was young and smart enough to make something of herself. Not all “modern slaves” are that lucky.

There is a non-profit organization, The Freedom Project, that seeks to raise awareness to how freedom is stolen and that defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.” In raising awareness, the organization states on their web site (thefreedomproject.org) the following:

Human trafficking & slavery is probably the biggest injustice issue in today’s world. It affects over 45 million people globally in over 167 countries. It is a global system of inequality and hidden truths of which no one is blameless. We all have a role and responsibility to bring this issue out of darkness into the light. To bring freedom, hope and a brighter future to victims and vulnerable communities. Will you join us in this fight for what’s right – in the fight for freedom?

Did you know that, under the Obama Administration, January was designated as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month”? To learn more about this initiative, visit republicaworld.com. President Biden issued in December 2021 a proclamation to raise awareness of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. According to 2021 Federal statistics, the highest rate of human trafficking per capita in the United States are California, Florida, and Texas. But such activities are happening elsewhere in the United States; for example, convictions have occurred in Ohio and Georgia in recent times. As for Florida, three men were convicted for child enticement and human trafficking crimes in April 2022.

According to UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the crime of human trafficking consists of three core elements: The act, the means, the purpose. Physical and sexual abuse, blackmail, emotional manipulation, and the removal of official documents are used by traffickers to control their victims. Exploitation can take place in a victim’s home country, during the migration or in a foreign country. Some are lured with the promise of becoming models. In many cases, victims are forced to work in factories, on construction sites or in the agricultural sector without pay or with an inadequate salary, living in fear of violence and often in inhumane conditions.

The organized networks or individuals behind these lucrative crimes take advantage of people who are vulnerable, desperate or simply seeking a better life,” notes UNODC.  Among those trafficked, women or teenage girls is one of the most vulnerable groups which are forced into prostitution and other sex-related activities. 

Please become aware and get involved to end this blight on human beings by human beings. To adopt The Freedom Project motto, “end slavery one life at a time.”

Thoughts beyond the Novel: CCC.2, Pan-American Beef Stew

Why Pan-American Stew? Why not? As a starter, there are many notable stews from around the world. They number at approximately 179 stews. So why not add another that draws from the fruits of Latin America and from export trade?

The Pan-American stew uses three prominent food sources of the Americas—namely, sweet potato, beef. and cayenne pepper. For good measure, let us throw in some mushroom stock (a food source known to improve the digestive system and enhance one’s immune system) instead of beef stock. Common stews are Mulligan/Burgoo (United States), Chili  con carne (southern Texas), Brunswick (southern United States) Ropa Vieja (Cuba); but not so well known are Booyah (midwestern United States), Seco (Equador), Sancocho (Puerto Rico), and Fricot (Acadian Canada) to name a few.

This recipe is prepared in an electric pressure cooker, the Instant Pot, and is easy to prepare.

Ingredients

1.5 pounds of chuck roast beef (boneless, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch chunks)

¾ teaspoon ionized sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper (freshly ground is preferred)

2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil

1 pound mushrooms, optional (any mushroom or mixed or your favorite, cut into chunky sizes)

1-2 medium onions (chopped)

1 medium jalapeno (seeded and chopped) or one small serrano pepper[i]

1 tablespoon paprika or smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon oregano

3-5 cloves of minced garlic

1 cup red wine (unused/leftover wine)

3 cups of mushroom stock

1 pound of sweet potatoes (cut into 1-inch chunks)

2-3 carrots (peeled and cut angled-sliced rondelle)

2 tablespoons of unbleached, all-purpose flour

Instructions

1a.  Beef, salt and pepper: In advance by at least an hour, season the beef with the salt and pepper.

1b. Using a  6–quart Instant Pot, press the Sauté tab. When “hot” appears on the display, swirl in the oil.

1c. Add the beef into the inner stainless-steel pot, a third at a time so that the beef is golden brown on both sides.This method is required so that beef does not end up “stewing in its own juice and so that it has room to evaporate and brown. The browning into a rich, dark color is the secret of developing flavor in the stew. Cook each batch for approximately 5 minutes to achieve the golden browning of the beef. Each batch is transferred to a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

2.  Depending on the size of the cut mushrooms, cook in batches as well, stirring occasionally, until they release their juices and brown. This takes about 10 minutes for each batch. Each batch is to be transferred to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Once all the mushrooms are sautéed, season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour off any extra liquid, if necessary.) Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside as well.

3a. Add enough oil to the inner pot when adding the onions and chili peppers, stirring constantly for approximately 5 minutes until soft.

3b. Add paprika, oregano, and garlic, stirring for about 1 minute.

3c.  Add the cup of red wine, stirring occasionally while craping the brown bits from the bottom of the inner pot.

3d. Add the 3 cups of mushroom broth, stirring, and then adding the browned beef and browned

mushrooms with the accumulated juices.

3e. At this point, season the ingredients to taste with salt and pepper. Optionally, you can add some dashes of cayenne pepper for a spicier flavor.

4a. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam-release handle to “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at high pressure for 25 minutes.

4b.  Allow a 10-minute for the pressure to release naturally. Then turn the steam-release handle to “venting” to release the remaining pressure.

4c. Do not open until the float valve drops back into the lid. When this happens, you know that it is safe to open the lid.

4d.  Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid.

5. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots. (You could add other vegetables that are a tuber or root, but the liquid ratio to the added vegetables could result in a burn event.)

5b. Remove 1 cup of broth of the stew to use for the thickening agent.

5c. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid. Turn the steam release handle to the “sealing” position. Press the Pressure Cook tab and set at 5 minutes.

5d. After the 5 minutes, use the quick pressure release, ensuring that the float valve has dropped back into the lid before removing the lid.

6. Turn Instant Pot off and remove the lid. Turn the cooker off.

7a. Gradually add the 2 tablespoon of flour to the tepid 1 cup of broth of the stew held in reserve, stirring until  smooth. Add the mixture to the stew in the inner pot, stirring constantly. Press the sauté tab and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the stew boils and thickens slightly.

7b. At this point, before serving, season to taste—more salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper?

8. Serve and enjoy with rice, mashed potatoes, salad, or the like.


[i] Caution about chile peppers: Chile oil released by chopping, seeding, or even harvesting hot peppers will cause a burning sensation, especially when applied to the face. Wear kitchen goggles and thick rubber gloves when preparing serranos and be careful not to remove them until all prep has been completed and tools and surfaces washed. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and the rest of your face while in contact with chiles. If you are processing or pureeing the peppers, avoid placing your face over the appliance after opening. Hot chile peppers are used to make pepper spray, and pureeing in a closed environment can create a puff of noxious fumes when first opened.

Beyond the Novel: CCC.1 – “Dust”

There is a beguiling chapter on dust in the fourth edition (1980) of Deserts on the March by Paul B. Sears. It reads as follows:

Droplets

Long before the days of the microscope and the chemical balance, it was understood that dust is the beginning and the end of all things. Dust is always in the air we breathe, an invisible world of tiny, buoyant particles, infinitely rich in is variety, and with laws of its own. While most people think of it as being only minute bits of earth stirred up by strong air currents, it contains a host of living organisms, bacteria, molds, pollen, animals, as well as fragments of material from larger plants and animals. Except perhaps in air newly washed by rains, these particles float about perpetually sustained by gentle drifts in the atmosphere of which the human senses are scarcely aware….

Merriam-Webster defines “dust” as “fine particles of matter (as of earth)” and as “the particles into which something disintegrates”. To raise awareness that dust is more than just something to dismiss as common, one must realize that dust is often dangerous to one’s health.

In chapter three of Choir of Cloistered Canaries, the heroine epidemiologist gave dust a different interpretation as follows:

She watched the tiny dust particles that floated silently through the beams of light as she kicked off the blanket and coverlet. Making more dust particles to dance in the air, the epidemiologist focused on what is actually dust:  airborne particulate matter (PM) and an air pollutant en masse…dead skin from previous guests, other solid particles, and liquid droplets from aerosol sprays that living organisms breathe. What she saw was only what the naked eyes could see; other PM required an electron microscope. One thing was certain—venetian blinds were great collectors of PM missed by an ostrich feather.

Much has been written about PM. Here are a few examples.

Of particular concern is how to limit diesel particulate matter from drifting into nearby neighborhoods as diesel trucks drove other routes—such as neighborhood streets—to avoid the freeway during construction.— oregonlive,com 2 June 2020

Already, data has shown that cities are recording much lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5, and of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by vehicles and power plants.— Amy Woodyatt, CNN, 12 May 2020

Boland is a project system engineer developing the MAIA instrument, the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols that will characterize particulate matter in air pollution.— Ashley Strickland, CNN, 1 May 2020

Another air pollutant of concern is particulate matter, microscopic airborne particles of dust or soot that linger in the air, often from burning fossil fuels.— Dennis Pillion | Dpillion@al.com, al, 26 Apr. 2020

The researchers found that, on a long term basis, an increase in the average concentration of particulate matter of one microgram per cubic meter led to a 15 percent higher death rate from the new coronavirus.— Ula Chrobak, Popular Science, 22 Apr. 2020

One of the biggest reasons for drug recalls is particulate contamination, or invisible matter found in the drug containers.— Lawrence Ganti, Forbes, 18 Jan. 2022

Fine particulate matters of diameters smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) have been identified as the fifth-highest risk factor for global mortality.— Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 12 Jan. 2022

Now, suddenly, the V.A. had swung abruptly to align with the department’s most vocal critics, openly acknowledging that respiratory disease was a likely result of airborne particulate [chemicals] exposure during deployment.— New York Times, 11 Jan. 2022

Coal, which produces sooty, particulate-laden pollution, is responsible for half of those deaths, while natural gas and oil are responsible for the other half.— Tim De Chant, Ars Technica, 16 Dec. 2021

Each dryer would include a wet scrubber, a filtration method to control or reduce particulate emissions.— Keith Matheny, Detroit Free Press, 5 Sep. 2021

But instead of fertilizer being churned into the earth and its phosphorus binding to the soil in a particulate form, the pellets now sit like a crust on top of uncultivated fields.— jsonline.com, 2 Sep. 2021

Particulate matter, unfortunately, is inhaled and can cause serious health problems. It can even get into the bloodstream, not just into the lungs. The finest PM (less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) pose the greatest risks. Nonetheless, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) easily attach to a “dust particle” to cause health problems, especially those that are derived from petroleum. For example, each spritz of perfume contains chemical vapors known as “volatile organic compounds (VOCs).” Once sprayed, the VOCs react with sunlight and other chemicals in the atmosphere to form ozone pollution, according to NOAA, and can damage one’s health.  As defined by the FDA, fragrance is a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Many artificial fragrance ingredients are often derived from petroleum because it is cheaper than natural raw materials.

The environmental issues occur because the chemical vapors react with sunlight to form ozone pollution. They also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form particulates in the air, which can cause damage to people’s lungs.

So here is the punchline to all fragrance toxic:

Artificial fragrances are highly toxic. Fragrances commonly contain phthalates, which are chemicals that help the scents last longer. Health risks for phthalates are startling and include cancer, human reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and respiratory problems.

The blogger’s heartfelt advice is:  First, do no harm to yourself and to others. Then, stop enabling manufacturers’ desire to maximize profits. Stay away from artificial, toxic matter found in household goods, clothing, laundry products, colognes, air fresheners, and the like. Now that “clean” is a marketing term to fool your senses.

For additional information:

https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/category/chemical-free-product-guides/

https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/ehp.7167

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality#Health_Effects

and https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/truth-about-toxic-fragrances/

The twenty-first century phenomenon about dust is more swingeing: microplastic polution. We are now experiensing polymer particles in the blood. The latest research, published in the journal Environmental International, detecte4d such particles, as small as 0.0007 mm, can contain two or three types of plastic. Researches are concerned that these microplastics cause damage to human cells and cause millions of early deaths a year. To reduce contacting/ ingesting, avoid PET plastic used in drinks bottles and avoid packaging food and other products that contain polystyrene!

Thoughts Beyond the Novel: DoD.2

A Delightful Treat from Curaçao

The novel, Daughters of the Dance, mentions several foods from Curaçao.* Now that we are in the midst of winter where, in the panhandle of Florida, there were rare flurries landing on the ground, enjoy the treats that are of Sephardic origin and popular in custom on the island. The most ancient is a recipe of the Curaçao Sephardim, which is also a favorite–the panlevi, a festive accompaniment with “hot chocolate” made with cacao or cocoa powder.** Hot chocolate is a traditional drink at a brit milah, the Jewish religious rite of male circumcision (aka bris).

Since there is no recorded plantation of cacao in Curaçao, the likely plantations from the French St. Lucia and Martinique must have provided the cacao to Curaçao as early as the 1660s, about 28 years after the revolt of the Spanish Netherlands. Although it was Christopher Columbus who was the first European explorer to taste chocolate in Nicaragua in 1502, it was Hernandos Cortes who sent the first shipment of the cacao bean to King Charles V of Spain in 1585. But it was not until 1828 that the Dutchman Casparus van Houten created a machine that makes chocolate as we know it today. It was his son, Coenraad Johannes, who invented the soluble cocoa powder which replaced the greasy, difficult to digest chocolate, which had to be cooked in milk.

The recipe for Panlevi (aka Dutch Caribbean Sponge Cookies) is as follows:

Panlevi

  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour two large baking sheets.
  2. Put the eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and beat together well, either by hand or using an electric handheld mixer.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Fold in the flour and baking powder by hand to make a smooth batter.
  5. Drop tablespoonfuls of the cookie batter onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
  7. Remove from the oven and loosen the cookies from the baking sheets using a palette knife. Turn the oven off, then return the cookies to the oven to crisp up. Once crisp, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. Store the panlevi in an airtight container at room temperature; they should keep for a few days.

Hot chocolate for four servings

  • 14½ oz. evaporated milk
  • 3½ T unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder
  • 4 T granulated sugar (or to taste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg
  1. Place all the ingredients, except the egg, in a saucepan.
  2. Fill the empty evaporated milk can with water and add this to the pan.
  3. Mix well and bring gently to a boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from the heat and cool to drinking temperature.
  5. Beat the egg well.
  6. Add to the cocoa mixture, stirring to combine.
  7. Pour into serving mugs/cups and serve immediately with an extra sprinkle of cocoa powder on top, if you like.
___________________________

* Curaçao? The name Curaçao does not come from the word cacao as some claim. More than likely, it comes from a Portugues word, coraçao, which means “heart .” At a point in the colonized history of the Leeward , the Island was where injured or sick sailors went for R&R, to heal. Earlier in history, however, in his first voyage to Venezuela with Amerigo Vespucci, Alonso de Ojeda visited modern-day Curaçao in 1499 or in early 1500s. As discoverer, he called the island, Isla de los Gigantes (Island of the Giants), since he found the Arawak Indians or Kalingo Caribs to be of tall stature for indigenous people. However, the modern name probably could be another Europeanized version of a lost indigenous word.

**Basically, cacao is the word for the raw product (cacao bean) while cocoa is the name for a processed powder that is manufactured at a higher temperature and is often packaged with the addition of sugar and dairy, making it less acidic than cacao powder. However, both terms tend to be used interchangeably by people in the industry. Both are processed to separate the fatty part known as cocoa butter.

Thoughts Beyond the Novel: DoD.1

The character in Daughters of the Dance, Nona, speaks from the beyond on the passing of Thich Nhat Hanh (11 October 1926 – 22 January 2022) who was such an important world voice for peace, mindfulness, and kindness. She recalls hearing his voice about the cosmic dance.

“I broke into the primordial dance that was peaceful, sacred, and infinite,” she said as she recalls hearing his words.

No Death, No Fear

This body is not me. |  I am not limited by this body.  |  I am life without boundaries.  |  I have never been born, and I have never died.  |  Look at the infinite oceans and skies filled with stars, | manifestations from the basis of consciousness.  | Since beginningless time,  I have been free.  |  Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.  |  Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.  |  So laugh with me, hold my hand and,let us say good-bye.  |  Say good-bye to meet again soon.  |  We meet today.  |  We will meet again tomorrow.  |  We will meet at the source every moment.  |  We meet each other in all forms on the myriad paths of life.

Scythian or Saka (Sakae)?

A fallow bay mare (3+ years of age) – used to pull Sakra’s chariot (Photo by Helena Lopes)


“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, 
ourselves, and the world around us.”
  |  Socrates 

This page is dedicated to collecting information that is available on the peoples mentioned in the title. Consequently, it is A WORK IN PROGRESS. By the way, Shakya, like in Shakyamuni, is another name for Saka. One of these days Merriam-Webster must revise its definition of Saka.

Saka  noun

Sa·​ka | \ ˈsäkə \ plural Saka

Definition of Saka: any of various nomadic peoples formerly inhabiting the steppe lands north of the Iranian plateau

Merriam-Webster

When I first started researching and speculating on the Saka tribes in the historical novel, CHOIR OF CLOISTERED CANARIES (pp. 183-192), there was hardly much information on the Saka-Scythians. I did, however, rely on the DNA research that, undoubtedly, led to an explosion of interest in these collective, ethnic people, not to mention archeological findings. The current prevailing research on them is that they originated in the Altai region. The Altai Mountains (where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan converge) have been identified as being the point of origin of a cultural enigma that arose during the Bronze Age around the start of the 2nd millennium BCE if not earlier and led to a rapid and massive migration of peoples from the region into distant parts of Europe and Asia. The reason to believe they likely originated from the Altai region is a cultural commonality: These “Scythians/Saka possessed advanced metal working technology and an unexplained rapid migration. These nomads traveled on horseback (domesticated ca. 4000-3500 BCE) and later, once urbanized, moved about on two-wheeled chariots. In addition, similar patterns of burial sites with similar bronze artifacts (ca. 2300-1700 BCE) have been found across northern Eurasia, including Korea and Japan.

As for the Shakya derivative, there is a lot of ancestral references in Tibetan Buddhist literature, which I wish to explore. The search for the ethnic origin of Siddhartha Gautama (alias Buddha Shakyamuni), whose birth date is controversial, was originally thought to have been born ca. 700 BCE (however, the birthday has been posited based on astrological mapping and historical references—ca. 1887-1807 BCE). (It should be noted that, when the British came up with their timetable of Indian history, they imposed the Biblical interpretation of origin.) This journey into ancient history is only a hobby; it is not an academic venture although academic literature has been digested to understand the existing body on the subject matter.

[The following images are without captions because slideshow software does not accommodate them. Essentially, as you read, they will gain meaning.]

Origins: Geographers and historians claim that, between the Altai Mountains and the Sayan Mountains (north of Altai in Siberia), a civilization existed during the time of the Egyptian pyramids if not earlier. They even call that region as “the cradle of civilization” where humans could survive. It was an area in which the stability of the area made it possible for them to populate to the point that there was possibly a need to migrate. They left behind thousands of petroglyphs, cave paintings, burial mounds, upright man-made stones, steles, and other ancient monuments.

Archaeological materials of Bronze Age, monumental sculptures, and rock paintings show the complexity of the religious beliefs of the tribal entities that inhabited the territory of the Altai Mountains (ca. 6 millennium BCE – 9 century BCE). They allow to see elements of Indo-European mythological tradition, images of shamans, and spirits of patrons. Iconographic images associated with unique motifs related with early Buddhist subjects are found in Tibetan Buddhism as well, which originated on the basis of pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet Bon, also known as Yundrung Bon (“tradition of eternal wisdom”), such as the swastika.

The swastika (“Higher Self Being Good” in literal Sanskrit) appeared in the archaeological record around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley. It also appeared in the Bronze and Iron Age cultures around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In all these cultures, the swastika symbol had a marked position or significance with varying complexity. More than likely, it was the symbol of the revolving sun, infinity, continuing creation, and auspiciousness. For example, in Hinduism, it is the solar symbol of Surya (aka Vishnu). In Buddhism, it represents the whole enlightened mind of the Buddha.  Over time, this ancient symbol became the most common symbol in its varying interpretation throughout the world and found in the art of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Native Americans, Persians, and the like. Swastikas on pottery and other household objects found in China suggest that the swastika traveled with traders and with the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia.

The various clans and tribes inhabiting Altai represent a synthesis of several religions and cultures that developed over time, two of which are reflected in funeral ceremony and the arts during the Scythian period between 8-2 centuries BCE. Scythian/Saka cultures mixed shaman, Zoroastrian, and Buddhist ideas. The symbiosis of Indo-European and shamanic burials are vividly presented in the funeral ceremonies in Altai Pazyryk barrows (burial mounds). Despite high degrees of religious beliefs and differences of that period, the tribes preserved the cult of fire, sun, ancestors as well as elements of magic and witchcraft. In addition, archaeologists have found strands of human hair sewn into skin, nails and various charms at the Pazyryk site. There is also archaeological evidence that confirms the presence of special techniques of ecstasy, ritual fumigation, and the use of the enigmatic ritual drink “soma” in religious practices. No one has yet to come up with the recipe except that milk, opium, and cannabis were in the mix.

Borders over time expanded and contracted. This map illustrates one of many such maps.

Keep in mind that the Scythians/Saka cultures had many similarities, yet not identical. Also keep in mind that the Scythians/Sakae, basically, were a loose federation of semi-nomadic clans and tribes with advanced technologies to boot (e.g., gold, copper, and bronze metallurgy and pastoralism). All Sakae were Scythians, but not all Scythians were Sakae. What was similar was weaponry, horses, bridles for horses, bow and arrows, chariots, jewelry, decorative arts, cattle, and the like. Eventually their cultures were subsumed into other renamed peoples—such as the Cimmerians (Gimirrai), Elamites, Amazons, Massagetae, Thracians, Sarmatians, Parthians, including early Slavs, Balts, and Finnic peoples (as for Vikings, the term really was an occupational designation rather than a people), Amyrigians, Homodotes, Komedes, Kaspians, and the like. They spoke Indo-Iranian languages and dialects rooted in Sanskrit. Eventually, they were referred to as the nomadic eastern or western Scythians of the Eastern or Western Steppes, respectively. As for the semi-nomads that remained in Asia and Asia Minor, they eventually became known as Aryan or Shakya.

Early Saka Tigraxauda/Haumavarga occupation

Nonetheless, Darius I (Darius the Great; TIB. Dareyawes) of the Achaemenid Empire, who reigned from ca. 522-486 BCE, recorded at Mount Behistun in Iran that the Sakae people comprised of four tribes. For Darius I, it was like conquering the last frontiers. He identified the Sakae as follows: (1) Saka haumavarga (the Soma drinkers), (2) Saka tigraxauda (with pointed caps), (3) Saka tayai para draya  (likely from the regions between the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, including the land between its main tributaries—the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya (thus the name Aryan (alias aryas) comes into play), and (4) Saka tyal para Sugdam (beyond Sogdiana). Under Xerxes I (ca. 518-465 BCE), many were employed as troops who helped capture Athens ca. 479 BCE along with others as named in the image below.

Due to the pointy-hat phenomena preserved in ancient sculpture and existing attire throughout history, it is almost safe to say that the Saka tribe described by Darius I is Saka tigraxauda (aka TigraKhaudi, aka Massagetae, etc.), were known for the pointed hats. They were located east of the Caspian Sea. However, all Saka wore “pointed-hats” of varied sorts. One such group was referred to as TigraKakud who wore horned headdress and were the gold miners mining the northern lands (Jammu-Kashmir), but it also is likely that the Saka para Sugdam (Saka beyond Sogdiana) and the Saka para draya and Saka haumavarga are in the mix when identifying the pre-Vedic civilization of Harappa (named after the current locality and aka Sapta Sindhu or Indus Civilization), and finally the Aryan presence (likely the Saka para draya) into the Indian Continent. Nonetheless, most scholars believe that the Saka tigraxauda and the Saka haumavarga were located east of the Caspian Sea, but they do not recognize that those “pointed hats” made it to Tibet. The Saka para Sugdam were likely those who resided in the Tarim Basin (ca. 7th century BCE) in modern-day Xinjiang, China. (They were called Sai in Old Sinitic, and in the Chinese Book of Han, the area was called the “land of the Sai.”) At a later date, after they were driven out of the valleys between two rivers, the Ili and Chu, they continued to occupy the remaining area east of Bactria and Sogdiana known as Sacae, including the Pamir Mountains.

The Achaemenid Empire under the rule of Darius I at its expansive height

Regarding the pointy hats, here is evidence of such people, beginning with Naram-Sin:

Naram-Sin of Akkad

NaramSin of Akkad reigned from 2254-2218  BCE. His headgear was pointy or horned. In addition, he claimed that he was the King of the  Four Quarters and the King of the Universe, a likely reference to the Altai mythology of Mount Meru. He was the first to claim himself ruler over the pantheon of Gods. He reigned from 2254-2218 BCE and conquered territory also included upper Mesopotamia as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Anatolia (Turkey, Syria, Armenia combined), later to be conquered by the Achaemenids.

Nabonidus portrayed on the Harran Stele
Asurbanipal

Nabonidus of Babylonia (ca. 556-539 BCE) was called the King of Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad. He was the last “indigenous” monarch to rule the Second Babylonian Empire (aka Chaldean and Neo-Babylonian Empires). His mother was the daughter of the Assyrian King Assurbanipal (ca. 648). Moreover, the maternal grandfather to Nabonidus’s son was Nebuchadnezzer II.

Nebuchadnezzar II and depiction of the great ziggurat (the Etemenanki) to his left
Persian Empire ca. 500 BCE
Magian (ca. 559-330 BCE)

When Cyrus the Great chose the site of Persepolis (ca. 515 BCE) as his ceremonial capital of his Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550-330 BCE), to celebrate the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, marked by the spring equinox (Aries), many of the bas-relief figures on the entrance walls to the complex were mostly Saka tigraxauda. When his reign ended with the destruction of Persepolis by Alexander the Great whose military campaign moved eastward towards the Indus Valley, there were written encounters of Alexander’s army meeting up with warring Saka tribes of Bactria, Sogdiana, and Arachosia.

CHOICE Traces of Saka references in Tibetan Buddhism

The most important holy month for Tibetan Buddhists is Saka Dawa (Saga Dawa), which is dedicated to “making merit.” Thus, it is referred to as the “month of merits.” Dawa means “month” in Tibetan, and “Saka” or “Saga” is the name of a star prominent in the sky during the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar when Saga Dawa is observed. Saka Dawa usually begins in May and ends in June with the new moon. According to American journalist and author, Barbara O’Brien, merit is understood in many ways in Buddhism. We can think of it as the fruits of good karma. In early Buddhist teachings, the three grounds of meritorious action are generosity, morality, and mental culture or meditation. Since the lunar month begins and ends with the new moon, the full moon day that falls in the middle of the month is Saka Dawa Duchen (duchen means “great occasion”). This is the single most holy day, for it commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death (paranirvana) of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Mount Meru: Is it possible that the word “merit” is derived from the word “Meru?” According to Buddhist and Hindu mythology, the abode of the gods and devas where the universe began is known as Meru (Mount Meru) made of copper or gold. Thus, the earthlings seeking favor from the gods/devas behaved appropriately to garnish merit so that their lives would be auspicious. They knew in ancient times that planets and Sun orbited around something, in this case, Mount Meru.

In particular, for Tibetan Buddhists, Mount Meru is considered, metaphorically and allegorically, the center of the universe, much like the Hindu belief that it is the center of the universe. However, for Buddhists, Mount Meru was surrounded by a body of water and that water was encircled by the wind and included 31 different planes of existence residing on the mountain, each one with its own style of life form and worlds (their understanding of the evolutionary process). Mount Meru was considered so high that it touched the heavenly expanse, and the polar star shone (alias Saka) directly above the mountain, giving it a more sacred appearance. In addition, it is said that the River Ganges came to the mountain as one river. Once it hit Mount Meru, the Ganges divided itself into four separate rivers. Also, there are four cities, one for each side of the mount, filled with inhabitants.

Indra/Sakra. This is the period of time when Indra (aka Sakra or Sakka that means “mighty one”) was the one lord of the heavens who lived at the peak of Mount Meru while four other celestial kings lived one of each side of the mountain. The Mount extended to the southern continent, Jambudvipa where Siddhartha Gautama was born and which itself is divided into four continents.

As the chief god of the heavens and of the East, Indra (alias Sakra) is mentioned in the Rigveda, a collection of Vedic hymns (ca.1900–1200 BCE if not older). In the Tibetan text, Vajra Sky, Indra is mentioned as Sakra along with Brahma, Vishnu, and the Wrathful One [Shiva]. An interpretation of these reified godheads is that they are not persons but titles of positions. In this case, the position bestowed upon Indra later on was the “King of the Devas.” They are not reified as having any permanency, for once the zeitgeist (my term) dissolves or dies, the energy is inferred onto another. Numerous Rigveda hymns refer to Indra such as “the friend of mankind who holds the different tribes on earth,” for example.

When it comes to Tibetan Buddhism, Indra wields a powerful weapon, the Vajra, a terrifying light-throwing and destroying  thunderbolt. When depicted with four arms, Indra holds two spears. He and his wife, Shachi, ride a white elephant and are associated with lions. Imagine the stampeding sounds of elephants and the roar of lions. Other epithets assigned to Indra are as a god of war as well as a god of wisdom and magic, including the power to cause heavy rains, the rivers to flow, and beneficial rainfall for agriculture. Indra was known as the King of Svarga (or Svargaloka), which was one of the seven heavenly realms and also which was associated with Anu, Sumerian ruler of the heavenly abode. In Buddhism, Indra is Vajrapani, “Devender and Protector of Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and Who Embodies the Five Wisdom Powers,” and of the modern-day Vasava of Gurajat (mostly agricultural laborers with husbandry).

Varja.| Skilled craftman Tvashtr who made the vajra for Indra and who made many implements such as the axe, chariot, and cup that served soma

In Tibetan Buddhism, the vajra is also the symbol of Vajrayana (“Thunderbolt or Diamond Way”) teachings that implies the experience of enlightenment or bodhi—indestructibility of a diamond, which is harder than other gems or skillful means of spiritual practice. Somewhat similarly, in Hinduism and Jainism, the vajra is considered the most powerful tool, representing spiritual resolve and power.

According to Finnish professor of Indology, Asko Parpola, the Sanskrit vajra and the Avestan (language of Zoroastrian scripture) vazra refer to a weapon of the Godhead, and are possibly from the Proto-Indo-European root *weg’ that means “to be(come) powerful.” It is related to Proto-Finno-Uralic vaśara, “hammer, axe.”  Both the Sanskrit and Finno-Ugric derivatives, however, are likely Proto-Aryan or Proto-IndoAryan. Moreover, it is cognate to the ukonvasara of thunder god Ukko from Finnish mythology, and the mjolnir of thunder god Thor from Norse mythology.

The most famous accomplishment of Indra’s worth to the earthlings was his slaying of the malevolent snake (naga, an asura) named Vritra, the demon of drought. Fitting to the mythology of the time, Indra drank an immense volume of Soma, the drink of immortality, to gain the necessary strength and set off to fight Vritra. Indra stormed Vritra’s fortress and dragged him out. A terrible battle ensued. Finally. Indra destroyed Vritra with his thunderbolt Vajra, cutting Vritra’s belly open and releasing all the water to flow back to the world. Thus, Indra brought back life to the world and was hence named “King of the Gods.” Not only do we have Varuna, sky deity, reduced to a demigod with similar epithets as Indra, Indra is mentioned in hymn 7.86 of the Rigveda and is attributed with the characteristic of  “Satya” (“truth, dharma“). What we see here is a change in etymology of the root word saka, sakya, shakya, sakra, saketa….

TRACES IN THE AVESTA AND RIGVEDA LITERATURE….

Now, let us get a sense of the time period that this is recorded in history and let us look at the linguistic origin of the word “Arya[n]” as well as the word “asura.” Both word are terms related to the Indo-Iranian people and is pre-Zoroastrianism. It should be noted, too, that those who compiled the Rigveda were writing about people who existed also before 12,000 BCE.

Hymn 1 mandala manuscript of the Rigveda

Estimating that the Rigveda could be as old as 1900 BCE, the oldest part of the books are ten Mandalas (“circles”) or “books”. Mandalas 2-7 are the oldest part of the Rigveda, which comprise 38 percent of the entire text. Within the Mandalas are hymns dealing with a particular deity. In this case, Agni (the Fire God) comes first; Indra comes second, consisting of 25 percent of the hymns, etc. The ninth mandala is entirely dedicated to Soma and the Homa ritual (Yajna).

Bas-relief on cylinder seal of Cyprus the Great, depicting Agni as well as Saka warriors

The following is a brief overview of Agni, the fire god in Jainism, Hindusim, and Zoroastrianism. Apparently, Agni is described as a bird-like being that carries fire from the gods to the earthlings who also brings an elixir of immortality (Amrita). Some ancient Indo-European hymns refer to Agni as the “heavenly bird that flies.” He played a role in being the guardian deity of the southeast direction, which aptly portrays the relationship between homa and soma in the Rigveda. Later on, Agni was renamed Azur as the Fire God and son of Ahura Mazda (King of the Gods, the symbol of purity, redemption, and wisdom) in Zoroastrianism.

It is also written that Agni was the first force to bring light into the universe, thus creating night and day as well as personifying the ultimate source of the “creator-maintainer-destroyer” triad  and then the one who ruled the earth, possibly confused with Indra. After all, he was the twin brother of Indra (Agni is ascribed many epithets and synonyms throughout the 1,028 hymns (over 200 hymns or 1/3 of all hymns) in the Rigveda).)

This bird-like being became a standard of Cyrus II of Persia (epithet of Cyrus the Great or the Elder; ca. 600-30 BCE). Nonetheless, fire has been an important element in human culture since the Acheulian culture of the Old Stone Age (ca. 790,000-300,000 years ago). The earliest archeological site is at Jacob’s Ford on the upper Jordan River where a number of bridges were built, using fire.

Ninurta pursues Anzu

Right image of bas-relief: For stealing the Tablet of Destinies, which conferred upon god Enlil supreme authority as ruler of the universe, Anzu is pursued by Ninurta with his thunderbolts.

Anzu, another bird-like entity related to Agni in ancient mythology, is referred to as the “Heavenly Eagle” (Akkadian)); aka Imdugud (“Heavenly Wind”(Sumerian), or Ansuk or Zu). Anzu was also associated with thunderstorms and was later connected to the lion due to the roar of the thunder. Eventually, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythologies, he was personified as the southern winds and thunder clouds and also as a half bird and half man who stole the Tablet of Destinies from Enki (chiefly, the Sumerian god of water and creation) and hid it on a mountaintop. Among other ancient poems, Anzu is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Allegorically, Anzu survives as a griffon in ancient Greek and Roman times. In medieval Christian heraldry, the griffon symbolized divine power and protector of the divine. Associated with Agni, Anzu is also reminiscent of the ancient Greek and Roman griffins and Arimaspians (horse-lover tribes rather than the propaganda term “one-eyed” tribes) who were associated with gold deposits of Central Asia—of the Riphean, Carpathian, and Ural Mountains. (The griffins laid eggs in burrows, which were gold nuggets (thus, somewhat reminiscent of the Aesop’s fable, “The Goose that Laid Golden Eggs”). Historically, the Scythians knew where to find the gold, and they were the miners and artisans of gold. In fact, Enlil was also was one of the Anunnaki (princely offspring of Enki).

Bottom right image shows Enki wearing a cone-shaped hat with horns, representing also the Annunaki, one of them coming out of the gold mine as Anzu awaits to protect the gold (ca. 2300 BCE, Sumeria (ca. 2300 BCE) (A mythology referred to them as Giant Ants.)

Though names of empires and of territories changed throughout the centuries and millennia, one thing was slow to change—the unfashionable peaked headgear and lofty attributes of human consciousness, aspirations, and existential emotions.

Returning to the mythological legend of Indra in “Milk Ocean Churning,” he is portrayed in a primordial battle between forces. There was a period in which there was coexistence among the Indus Valley tribes whereby urban and rural lifestyles were symbiotic. But, perhaps by population pressure, opportunistic power struggles, and/or wanderlust, things changed for Indra. This is when Indra needed to retain his power and kingdom. Nevertheless, his power was supplanted with the rise of Zoroastrianism, causing earthlings to no longer respect Indra’s powers. At this point, the earthlings are experiencing a schism among themselves as to their belief systems. 

As the heterodox legend unfolds of a schism between two Saka factions occupying the Mesopotamian region, Indra turns to Brahma for counsel. Brahma becomes the principal deity for one side (the Vedic deva), and Asura Mazda becomes the other side (Asura founders). Nonetheless, Brahma told Indra to look for Amrita (the elixir of immortality) in the Milk Ocean (the Milky Way). This was an extraordinary undertaking to get help from the other principalities. As the allegorical legend unfolds, the principalities of good (representing the northern sky) and evil (representing the southern sky) came together to use the cosmic mountain Mandara (located next to Meru) as a stirring stick and the serpent Vasuki as a rope. With these two tools, they stirred and churned the Milk Ocean for a long time.

The Milk Ocean became a catastrophic flood that not only submerged animals and plants but also the princely treasured possessions and Amrita. A dangerous poison, kalakuta, came to the surface, which the Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the world from total destruction. . At first animals and plants were drowned in the increasing roar, then milk emerged from the frothed water, which gradually turned into butter through the constant stirring. After a while, a dangerous poison, kalakuta (a death potion such as mercury), came to the surface, which Lord Shiva had to swallow to prevent the destruction of the world. After that, various treasures surfaced from the Milk Ocean (which, with all the churning, produced butter)—such as, to name a few, Indra’s mount, Lakshmi (the first maternal cow), the Parijat (Jasmine) tree, and Dhanvantari, the Ayurveda medicinal doctor, holding the container of the elixir Amrita. (Perhaps this is the conflated Indus-Vedic memory of a great flood at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago.)

Move arrow to see full illustrations: The loss of coexistence within a complex, multifaceted, civilized society

Finally, once the Amrita was found, one faction wanted it for themselves; however, Vishnu (sitting on the top of Mandara) intervened by turning into the enchantress, femme fatale Mohini, using the illusion of Maya. Taken by the beautiful appearance of Mohini, they forgot the elixir long enough for Vishnu to make the other faction to regain immortality. From this primordial, episodic event, enmity divided the peaceful existence among the fractioning of the Saka tribes. The prevailing earthling players changed the trinity—Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Eventually, Krishna supplanted Shiva while Ahura Mazda was supreme among the Zoroastrians.

The images of the “Milk Ocean Churning” above illustrate the opposing forces of devas and asuras. Each exchanged roles as power-seeking versus benevolent tribal clans.

The chart below portrays how these events were allegorically portrayed among the Saka descendants of the Indus Valley population who understood valid cognition. It was, and still is, all about the inner exploration of selfhood rather than the material world that is the universe. It appears they knew then that the mind has always governed the material world.

AllegorySymbol
IndraPersonal ego
Goals of good and badPositive and negative forces within our personalities
Integrated good and bad goalsHarmon for self-realization (psychosynthesis into a harmonious whole)
OceanThinking consciousness
Mount MandaraConcentration
Serpent VasukiWishes and desires (e.g., for immortality) and selfishness
Poison KalakutaSuffering and pain (e.g., mental pain and inner turmoil)
MohiniClouded mind with pride and delusional worldly concerns
Shiva swallowing the poisonDeveloping spiritual courage, will, discipline, willingness, simplicity, truthfulness, detachment, compassion, pure love, abstinence….
TreasuresPsychic powers gained through spiritual progress as side effects
Medicinal doctorSpiritual success; true-self realization
Amrita (Soma)Immortality

Of the known four tribes of Saka people, the “Aryan” is most studied but misunderstood. As for the so-called “Aryan race,” it is mythology to identify with an ancient people whose name meant “pure” and “chaste” (i.e., the “Aryan Race of Nazi Adolf Hitler”). There was no widespread ethnic connotation prior to the 19th century CE. The self-designated Aryans saw themselves as a conglomerate of peoples of Saka, Persians, Elamites, and the like who eventually shared a spiritual vision and from which came the Zoroastrian faith that includes current aspects in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This Indo-Iranian group of people split on spiritual grounds.

The “Aryan Invasion Theory” has been discredited in recent times as serving a political racist agenda by certain radical westerners. After all, the self-designated Aryans were among the Saka tribes described by Darius the Great in his Behistun Inscription. When the Saka “Aryans” migrated into India, they did it peacefully, comingling with the society made up of various groups of people similar to them, which was unique. In fact, the only self-identifying “Aryan” (very likely, Saka tayai para draya) were themselves a minority on the Iranian Plateau between ca. 1900-1500 BCE and were in no position to mount an invasion. However, their religion did come into discord with the rise of Zoroastrianism.

It was during the time that the Indus civilization began to decline (ca. 2000-1600 BCE) that Indra is referenced in the Rigveda accounts (ca.1700-1100 BCE). He was known to imbibe soma a lot due to rituals made on his behalf. But when the Vedic culture formed in opposition of the prevailing Indus culture, the powers of deities changed. In the Vedic literature, Indra is a celebrated god but later replaced by Shiva. In the Avestan texts, Indra became a demon. There is no mention in the latter texts that heroic Inda kills the demon Vritra.

The members who composed the Zoroastrian scriptures, the Avesta, which Alexander the Great mostly destroyed during his conquest of Darius III of Persia, called themselves Aryans (Airya and Airyan). In the Rigveda, composed by the other faction, the Vedics, also called the Zoroastrians Arya and Aryan. This shows that the peoples of the Avesta and of the Rigveda were closely related, and they spoke two dialects of the same language. These Sakae groups moved westward before they returned to their previous lands in the East. The Vedic followers applied the “Aryan” designation to themselves as well. After all, in the Rigveda, Indra was attributed the characteristic of “satya” (truth, dharma). The word Aryan become more of an identity of personhood rather than a tribal identity. Ancient Sanskrit scripture writes that the “Aryan people are led by the divine grace” (praja arya jvotiragrah). To deserve such an honorific designation, which meant “noble” and/or “pure,” the person had to work for the equality of all and be dear to everyone.” Moreover, a child born among them was not an Aryan until born in spirituality, around the age of 15 (sort of the equivalence of being born again, new life, or twice born).

Mazda worship supplanted the deva worship of the Indus-Vedic culture. From the Saka Aryan Land, he preached to re-establish the old Mazdayasni faith (aka the Mazdayasni AhuraTkaesha) by seeking change through reason, wisdom, and empowerment of the downtrodden, in other words, a populist.

Asura (left) and Deva (right) Conflict

In the Rigveda, the initial relationship between the asuras and devas was one of coexistence, but gradually become one of competition. Nevertheless, some of the asuras were invited to become devas (i.e., Indra invites Agni and Varuna to become devas (Rigveda 10.124 and verse 5, respectively). Recalling the Milk Ocean, co-existence ended as soon as the amrita was recovered when the devas took possession of it, breaking their promised to share half with the ausras, stealing the asuras’s share and consuming the Amrita that gave the principal devas immortality. In effect, the devas’s belief system overwrote the asuras’s and became exclusive.

Periodically, the Aryan-Indra (deva) worshippers and the Aryan-Mazda (asura) worshippers would win dominance over the other throughout their cultural and religious history until their separation into the nations of India and Iran, respectively.

Though Zoroastrian asura worshippers reckoned themselves more as having a religious origin, their ethnicity was Saka. The adjacent shows how they spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.  Primarily, these Saka were Parsee traders who became established and rich with trade, developing the original Silk Roads. They spread throughout the Near East and Middle East.

The schism between the AryanIndra (deva) worshippers and the AryanMazda (asura) worshippers, the latter managed to drive out the deva worshippers from the upper and lower lands of Aryan lands (to include former Sakastan, Bactria, Hindu-Kush, Sogdiana, Pamir, and other surrounding areas). It led to religious wars in which the deva worshippers prevailed only to have the asura worshippers counterattack. Eventually, the asura worshippers migrated westward into what is Iran (Persia) as recorded in the Avesta and Rigveda. Modern-day Asura worshippers are the Parsee (who fled to India from Muslim persecution in Persia during the 7th–8th centuries). Human nature at work, two behaviors were involved—kings and ruling groups seeking power and religious advisors seeking influence to cause animosity and control. Eventually, the deva worshippers migrated south across the Hindu Kush mountains into the upper Indus valley (former Saka territory).

REVISITING CULTURAL DIFFUSION FROM THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION

There are several speculations as to the original Saka (including SakaAryan lands). As documented in several sources, their historical ancient land had many mountains, valleys, and pastures that supported cattle (domesticated ca. 6000 BCE). The land was rich in waters, deep lakes, and wide rivers while being mountainous with alpine measures and fertile, well-watered vales. It smacks like the ancient Indus Valley, which is now in Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Chandigarh, and Uttarakhand.

The Indus civilization (alias Indus-Sarasvati and Harappan Civilization, including Mohenjo Daro) formed first as an agricultural community ca. 7000 BCE in the valley of the Indus River while some of the nomadic clans remained hostile towards these farmers. By this time, the farmers had domesticated cattle, thus a mixed economy of farming and cattle herding coexisted. As the population grew between 40,000-50,000 strong, the growth began with the first towns that were formed ca. 4000 BCE; the seed cities formed ca. 3700 BCE, reaching their peak period ca. 2000 BCE. By this time, the population is thought to have been five million! However, there is a discrepancy in the dating of their peak period when scientists found evidence at the second largest encampment, Dholavira, in Goa, India, of large, 59-foot-wide walls that were built 5000 years ago (ca. 3000 BCE) to protect against encroaching tsunamis. They dispersed ca. 1600 BCE for any number of reasons, one of them being population pressure. The civilization grew from along the banks of the Indus River to all directions outward. Many sites have been found—for example, near the border of Nepal, in Afghanistan, on the coasts of India, and around Delhi. In fact, this Indus civilization may have predated the Early Dynastic Period ( ca. 3000-2675 BCE) of ancient Egypt.

During this span of time, domestication of animals had become instrumental in their development. The first animals to be domesticated were sheep and goats ca. 8000 BCE, followed by cattle ca. 6000 BCE. Finally, the horse was domesticated ca. 4000 BCE.

Indus script first appeared around 3700 BCE when the first cities appeared in the Indus Valley. When the script became more developed, it was during the period that urbanization reached its peak period (ca. 2600-1900 BCE), which was read from right to left. By ca. 1800 BCE, the script started to disappear. Vedic literature describes its homeland on a long lost river called the Sarasvati, which, according to Vedic descriptions, flowed east of the Indus from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. When the Vedic culture in Northern India took hold, a new script was developed ca. 1600-1500 BCE known as the Brahmi script with similar Semitic adaptations as the Indus Kharosthi language.

Indus Valley Script
Kharosthi language

Reflected on the Indus Valley seals, there was already domestication of the bovine, reindeer, and Indra’s favorite mount, the elephant. There was a high level of artistic sophistication as these squared, stamp seals appeared on pottery, bronze tools, stoneware, bones, shells, ladles, ivory, small tablets made of steatite; and they were made of bronze and copper. Chiefly, made of steatite, these stamp seals were also made out of a smooth glassy-looking material, silver, faience, and calcite. What is particularly unique in the Indus seals is the artistic symmetry of their logo-syllabic script where the script is on the top and the animal is centered immediately below. It should be noted that some of the Indus valley seals show swastikas, a sacred symbol, which are still used in Buddhist, Bon, Jain, and Hindu iconography.  

What characterizes the Saka clans and tribes was their sense of spirituality in that, though they were great traders and conquerors, they were more interested in their relationship in understanding the mysteries of the universe or divinity and achieving such divinity, according to Indologist, Dr. Puneet Gupta (aka expert Dr. Gupta Harappan Code). They labeled things and consequently developed the proto-Sanskrit during the ancient Indus Valley civilization that portrayed astrology/astronomy, medical achievements, balance with their environment, and the like.

With regards to the Sakae’s first migration from the Indus Valley, they migrated around 1700 BCE when the Indus Valley civilization was at its peak. Zoroastrian scripture was developed, in part, by retaining various aspects of Sumerian and Indus Valley religions at different locations and times. For example, in the Avesta, an Aryan (asura-worshipper) was one who who adhered to the path of Light rather than Darkness (e.g., a translation—”the one is the path of Asha (“Truth”); all others are not paths”). When Buddha Shakyamuni spoke about the Four Noble Truths (the aryamarga), he also used the word arya to mean “noble,” (i.e., to be worthy of assent and respect (“exalted”)).

So what became of this expansive civilization after ca. 1800 BCE? According to Vedic texts, the Sarasvati River had dried up by ca. 1900 BCE, causing the surrounding townships-cities to move away. Evidence seems to point to climate change—the drying up of Sarasvati River and her tributaries, the path change of monsoons—and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia when these peoples had their own survival challenges. There is no indication of flooding, and the cities were not completely abandoned.

There are a number of prominent features of the Indus religion—the Great Mother Goddess (Shakti; female sexuality is deeply ingrained in Indus religion and ideology), a Great Male God, and veneration of animals. Also, there are important depictions of the phallus (linga) and vulva (yoni), and the importance of bath and water in religious practice, which are predecessors of the Vedic culture. Also excavated is the “Proto-Shiva” or “Proto-Brahma” (as the great creator) that depicts a male character sitting in a yogic position on a dais and surrounded by animals, including fire altars and swastikas. These provide evidence of Indic ideology that was subsumed by the Vedic culture that followed. The spiritual foundation of the Vedas cannot be divorced from the earliest civilization of the Indus Valley region.

Indra and his Seven Horses

And who were they? Unlike the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, they were not early builders of temples, palaces, or monumental structures, and no names of kings or queens or stele or royal statuary. Before being inhabited, their city planning followed a grid pattern. As an early advanced civilization, houses had flush toilets; a sewer system; air conditioning provided by a wind-catching device attached to roofs, a courtyard with a great public bath. There was early use of irrigation techniques and canals. There were flat-bottomed boats to engage in trade. Originally, the wheel was developed for cattle-drawn carts. By this time, Devanam Indra is riding a chariot led by horses (Ramayana Book 4 Shloka 103 Indra’s Chariot). But more important is the evidence of conformity to a single visions; they standardized bricks, stone cubes, and roads widths. There was no standing army. By the time Cyrus II of Persia invaded India in 530 BCE, the Indus civilization had already fallen. I prefer to say, its ingenious culture had been distributed over a wide area of influence very early.

A parallel civilization was developing at the time of the Indus Valley civilization (alias Harappa) known as the Oxus civilization (alias Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex (BMAC) ca. 2250-1700 BCE; aka Mohenjo-Dare and Allyn-Depe)) with similarities to the proto-urban settlements of the Indus Valley. In fact, many archeological artifacts from BMAC show evidence of trade between the two civilizations. The trading colony ca 2000 BCE, Shortugai, on the Amu Darya (aka Oxus) River illustrates the presence of the Indus Valley civilization, which was a source of lapis lazuli jewelry from the lapis lazuli-copper mines located there and other valuables—seal of a rhinoceros motif and script, clay models of cattle with carts, clay models of horses, pottery of Indus Valley design, and the like. Also found was evidence of farming and irrigation canals from Indus Valley technology. Within this region (aka Transoxiana) between the rivers Amu Darya (aka Oxus) and Syr Darya (aka Jaxartes), there was much migration to the north and to the west from the Indus Valley ca. 3200-2000 BCE. Nonetheless, what became known as Aryan Land (Airyana Vaeja) was established between these two rivers that flowed southeasterly.

SURVIVING SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS: Homa and Soma and the Wind Horse

As mentioned earlier, in the Rig Veda, the entire ninth mandala is dedicated to homa and soma.

Homa, the Fire Ritual: Though Homa was very much a part of the Vedic culture, such fire altars were found in the earlier Indus Valley culture. To this day, the present Zoroastrians, such as the Parsees (Parsis) use fire as a focus of worship.

Although referred to as a “sacrifice ritual,” rooted in the Vedic religion (as yajna), it is more like a “votive ritual” in which the fire is the agent and the offerings are symbolic material to appease the deities. It spread from India to Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia and was adopted by Buddhism and Jainism in ancient times. Even current-day Buddhists in parts of Tibet (referred to as goma), Japan, Siberia, and China; and modern-day Jains make such fire offerings.  Among Buddhists, large-scale ceremonies often include multiple lamas, chanting, the beating of Taiko drums, and the blowing of conch shell (horagai) around a mandala with fire as the ceremonial focus. Homa (TIB. goma) rituals are featured widely in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön that are linked to Buddhas and tantric deities.

Soma, the Ritual Drink: Soma is described as an elixir (attributed in some records as amrita) that turned the skin of the imbiber a yellow gold (as an association to the Sun people) that was personified by a deity of the same name Soma who is associated with the Moon. It was highly praised in one of the Rigveda Mandala hymns. The closest and possibly credible description of the soma drink is derived from the fermented milky sap extracted from the Asclepias acida, a climbing plant which thrives in mountain areas. It was praised as sweet and empowered Indra to be victorious in taking on enemies. Some theories include  hallucinogenic mushrooms, honey, cannabis, blue lotus, milk, saffron, and pomegranate. Soma in Sanskrit literally means “distill, extract, and sprinkle.” It is surmised that it is a drink prepared by pressing the stalks of a plant and offered to Indra for blessings

According to Dr. Srinivasan Kalyanaraman, archeologist-anthropologist at Pune, India, it was noted that Maujavata soma was being traded ca. 4000 BCE by, albeit of Saka origin, were Tocharian speakers (naming themselves as Yuezi (from the north and east of the Caspian steppe)). They had initially migrated out of the Indus Valley to settle in Gandhara. These Saka-Tocharian are thought also to have moved to Mt. Mujavant (in Kyrgystan) and to Xinjiang (currently, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China). They traded in soma sticks (made of pyrite or flint) which could make fire. These sticks were deemed as expensive as gold and was bartered in exchange of animal as well as gold. More than likely, these pyrite products where used in homa ceremonies, thus the name soma sticks. The migration of the Saka-Tocharian was due to trade technology meeting the needs of the religious-spiritual cultures that reached into Xinjiang communities of small towns.

Fire pyre of modern-day Zoroastrianism

According to the alchemical treatise, Rudrayamala Tantra, Dr. Kalyanaraman noted that, to make soma, it ad to be digested hundred times with the juice of plantain leaves and then steeped for three days in oil, clarified butter, and honey after which it was heated strongly in a crucible that yields its golden-hue essence. In some ways, it conflates the pyro-sticks with the ritual drink soma, because part of the alchemical treatise describes the process of smelting gold.

Nonetheless, the homa and soma go together in oblations toward deities. It should be noted, however, that, when deities play a role in spiritual practice, the essence sought is how to realize the true nature of reality. That is the alchemy of immortality to be discussed briefly below.

Vedic soma is equivalent to the Iranian haoma. Thus, the Saka referred to as haoma drinkers are the Saka haumavarga. (It should be noted that modern laboratory analysis of archeological artifacts, the analysis found traces of opium and cannabis in the gold drinking vessels (Turpan, Xinjiang, 6th century BCE).)

Apparently, the Saka haumavarga and Saka tigraxauda of the pointed hats were the keepers of the alchemy of immortality. My take on this mystery is as follows:  These two Saka tribes were “joined at the hips” as keepers (vajra holders) of the secret technology of soma and homa, which was kept hidden in Oddiyana and in Kashmir for some time. It is inferred that ancient Kashmir received its name from Kashyap(a), one of the ancient seven maharishi (sages) mentioned in the Rigveda. Originally, it was known as the “lake of the sage Kashyapa” (“Kashyapa Mir“) in a valley that had to be drained to make it habitable.

Rishi Kashyapa is credited to have composed Mandala IX of the Rigveda, regarding soma and homa that were discussed earlier. As in any alchemical literature, the symbols of letters and words are metaphorical. Even the sound of “Ah,” (“A,” the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet) is the symbol for the “sun.” As for the dharmic technology of soma and homa that has survived to this day, it more than likely originated in Kashmir from Kashyapa with Kundalini yoga (the yoga of awareness) and the Six Yogas of Niguma, a psycho-physical, yogic discipline to attain spiritual emancipations, wisdom, compassion, and enlightened awareness at the time of death to achieve immortality.

Three main chakras in Tummo

Simply summarized, the body is used as a distilling device. In this yogic practice, the body is visualized as an empty vessel or container. The breath of the pranic body is used to light a flame (homa) in the central energy channel where the heat of that flame rises. The flame invigorates soma as an etheric substance that travels upward through the subtle energetic pathways to the top of the head and that eventually causes the dripping drops from the amrita at the top of the head to melt, like the melting of gold. Then the amrita travels downward to, and reside in, the heart chakra. Once at the heart chakra, the amrita transforms into a very subtle consciousness to experience an unbroken stream of bliss or joy flows, giving rise to the the beyond-conceptuality mind. Distorted emotions are self-pacified, and wisdom is induced.

Needless to say, the ritual and liturgical schemas to hold this knowledge intact can be explained emblematically. For example, in Kashyapa’s words as a non-dual meditator, he speaks illustratively: “Undisturbed am I, undisturbed is my soul, undisturbed mine eye, undisturbed mine ear, undisturbed is mine in-breathing, undisturbed mine out-breathing, undisturbed my diffusive breath, undisturbed the whole of me… In close embrace, Indra holds Soma when poured within the jars. And on the purifying sieve, Indra sends forth a voice on high to regions of the sea of air, shaking the vase that drops with mirth. The Tree whose praises never fail yields heavenly milk among our hymns, urging men’s generations on. The Wise One, with the Sage’s stream, the Soma urged to speed, flows on to the dear places of the sky….From Kala [Time] self-made Kasyapa, from Kala Holy Fire was born” (from Atharvaveda and Rigveda).

The Zoroastrian deity of fire, Azar, spoke of the holy fire as a burning and unburning fire and as a visible and invisible fire, referencing the outer visible fire and the inner body heat. Lastly, gold as soma is that gold reflects infrared light that one cannot see but interacts with heat, which interacts with our molecules, making a good heat shield as in tummo (the inner heat yoga) in Buddhist Vajrayana practices.

Reconstruction of a Saka-Scythian horse
Saka-Scythian artifact from Kazakhstan-Berel Kurgan

The Wind Horse: Needless to say, the horse played a major part in the Sakae cultural diffusion from the Indus Valley Civilization. In general, the Scythians brought horsemanship to a new level in the Eurasian steppes, including horsebreeding. Referred to as horselords, they were initially horse-riding nomadic pastoralists and covered an impressive spectrum of workmanship in warfare and of land mass. They bred the horses with robust forelimbs to withstand long winters. Their horsemanship invented new technologies such as the recurved-tip archery bow, protective helmets and clothing, shields, the phalanx formation, fish-scale armor, and the llike. They also had a penchant for cannabis. However, there was a spiritual side to how they saw the swift horse.

In Bon and in Tibetan Buddhism, the horse symbol has significance as a dynamic fundamental principle of life and the cosmos. Basicially, the swift horse was the expression of basic goodness. As such, this self-existing energy of goodness is called the “wind horse” in Shambhala teachings. This “wind” is strong, exuberant, and brilliant that radiates tremendous power in one’s life. This goodness can be harnessed and ridden but never tamed. The Tibetan word for “windhorse” is lungta, whcih carries several levels of significance. However, the popular understanding of the lungta, albeit limiting, is that it conveys “good fortune” or “luck.” As a prayer flag, the wind that the galloping horse makes blows the prayer flags to bestow such blessings to everyone.

The “Windhorse” on Prayer Flags

There is a deeper meaning to the “windhorse” in that the “wind” rides the horse just as the breath is ridden by one’s subtle consciousness. The concept becomes metaphical. The horse is the energy of the vital breath; hence, life itself. The notion of “goodness” is the inseparability of wisdom and compassion as the natural state of the world, its inhabitants, and the entire scope of phenomena that is innately without conflict and replete with basic intelligence such as an awakened mind.

REVISITING SEVERAL KNOWN MIGRATIONS

Several maps have been provided to show how names of peoples and territories changed over time with an eye on the Sakae-Scythians.

Bas-relief from Yazilikaya found in Hittite territory (Anatolia, Corum
Province of Turkey (Anatolian people

from ca. 1700-1200 BCE)

Basically, the Indo-Scythians were a branch of Sakae who originated from southern Siberia into ancient Bactria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Gandara, and the current territories of Kashmir, Punjab, Gujaret, Mahanashtra, and Rajasthan well into fourth century CE. More aptly, a genetics map shows best how the Sakae’s DNA Haplogroup R1a migrated over time. Current archeological discoveries consider the traditional lands of the Sakae to form parts of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Modeern-day Map of Haplogroup R1 Distribution

At some point prior to 3000 BCE, a groups of Indo-Iranian (alias IndoAryans) migrated southwestward to the southern region of ancient Persia (near the ancient city of Susa). In time, the regional became known as Ariana and Iran. Some scholars claim they came from the Ural Mountains of Russia while others postulate that they migrated from the Aral Sea and the Syra Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, likely places were there would be settlement supported by recent archeological sites. As Aryan lands or as a nation, they were called Airyana Vaeja or Airyanam Darhyunan in the Avesta; in the Rigveda, they were called Arya Varta. However, those boundaries shifted as noted on several of the maps posted.

Aryavarta literally means “abode of the Aryas,” the area of the Indian subcontinent settled by various “Aryan” tribes and where Aryan religion and rituals predominated. The boundaries of Āryāvarta changed over time, characterized by the influence of Brahmanical ideology after post-Vedic times. The Manu Smriti defined the area as “the tract between the Himalaya and the Vindhya ranges, from the eastern (Bay of Bengal) to the Western Sea (Arabian Sea).” The Vasistha Dharma Sutra (oldest of the sutras ca. 500–300 BCE) locates the Āryāvarta to the east of the disappearance of the Sarasvati River in the desert, to the west of the Kālakavana, to the north of the Pariyatra (aka Sanapada) Mountains and the Vindhya Range, and to the south of the Himalayas.

At some point in time, the Saka tayai para draya moved eastward from the Caspian Sea and the Saka beyond Sugdam from the Pamir Mountains moved into the northern region of the Indian Continent, bringing cultural changes that transpired after their exodus from the Indus Valley. They joined with the remnants of the Saka populations from the Indus Valley of yore who retained the traditional spiritual values, which have survived in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. In fact, the Sanatan Dharma followers recognize that Sanatan Dharma is an alias for Arya Dharma.

About a thousand years after the diaspora of people from the Indus Valley Civilization (ca. 1600 BCE), the Vedic period of SakaAryans took hold in the northern subcontinent of India. With that came a change of the pantheon of deities: The main Indus deities were Indra (aka Sakra), Brahma, and Vishnu; under the Vedic influence, of the top 33 deities were Indra, Agni, and Soma, which changed to Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra, etc. At one time it was Mitra, Varuna, and Aryaman, etc., retaining both devas and asuras. For example, during the 1400 century BCE, the favored asuras were Varuna, Mitra, and Mazda and the favored devas were Indra and Nasatyas. Somewhere in these transformations, Shiva, God of Waters, swam into the picture while Shakti (Goddess protector of villages, ca. 9000-8000 BCE) was dominant during the Indus Valley Civilization and somewhat present among modern-day adherents. Nonetheless, these newcomers into the subcontinent retained the pluralistic structure of the Indus Valley Civilization.

Early Vedic (proper left); Late Vedic (proper right) Periods – ca. 1500-500 BCE

The first time one of the Saka tribes was written about in Indian literature was during the reign of King Sagara of the Ikshvaku Solar Dynasty of the Kshatriyas. King Sagara was a descendant of progenitor Rama lineage who took back his country from the invading Haihayas and Talajanghas. On the advice of the family priest Vasishtha, he released them from captivity. Among the captives were the Saka (Parādas, Viṣṇupurāṇa) who had to shave half of their head, distinguishing them from the others. They were all called Mleechas (non-Vedic) and driven out into uninhabitable terrains such as mountains and deserts.

Another well-known, recorded king of the Saka is King Maues (alias Moga, ca. 98-57 BCE) who gained power in Gandhara and gradually extended his rule over northern India by conquering key cities such as Taxila.  (Taxila had great influence on Hindu culture and the Sanskrit language and founded by Rama of the Sun Dynasty (Early Harappan period ca 2900 BCE).) In so doing, he established the Saka hegemony by conquering Indo-Greek territories once formally established by Alexander the Great, extending control up to modern-day Mathura, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Other Saka kings ruled thereafter.

Much of King Maues’s legacy survived via coinage. Maues struck some coins incorporating Buddhist symbolism, such as the lion, a symbol of Buddhism since the time of the Mauryan king Ashoka the Great of the Gonandiya Dynasty of the Kashmir region and who was also a descendant of the Rama Sun Dynasty . The symbolism of the lion had also been adopted by the Buddhist Indo-Greek King Menander II. Maues, therefore, probably supported Buddhism whether sincerely or for political motives is unclear. His coins also included a variety of other religious symbols such as the bull of Shiva, indicating wide religious tolerance. (The symbol of the lion represents royalty, stateliness, and bravery.)

Sakestān (“the land of the Saka“) is a historical and geographical in present-day Eastern Iran (modern Sistan/Baluchestan provinces) and southern Afghanistan (modern Nimruz, Helmand, Kandahar) was formed ca. 3000 BCE. Old Perisian text referred to this land as Zranka (“wetland”) and the territory as Zaranka. But, there was another name for the Saka tyaiy para draya; it was Ariya in Old Persian or Arya in Persian or Indian in the Rigveda. It had connotation such as “pure,” “chaste,” and “honorable” to this day.

Based on the Bhagavata Purana that was compiled during Siddhartha Gautama’s time (ca. 1887-1807 BCE), the Solar dynasty or the Ikshvaku (aka Aikṣvākaaka, Suryavamsa, or “Descendants of the Sun,” was a paternal lineage that reigned from ca. 3138-1634 BCE. Siddhartha Gautama was from that lineage, and Surya is symbolized by the sun. Later on, Surya was transmutted to Vishnu.

(As a sidebar, it appears that the Moon dynasty (aka Soma Vamsha) was established by the maternal lineage of the “Descendants of the Sun.”)

King Suddhodana was also a descendant of Rama (reference to the ancient Indus Valley civilization known also as the Rama Empire), the 138th king in the Solar Dynasty of one of the Sakyan tribes, who ruled over Kapilavatthu, and was Siddhartha’s father. Siddhartha and his son Rahula abdicated from belonging to the Indian caste of Kshatriya, comprising of rulers and warrior aristocracy.They were descendants from the warrior lineage Mahasammata (of the “solar race”). They underwent extensive military training, probably from Taxila, to become experts in archery, swordsmanship, and hand-to-hand combat. We know that Siddhartha had to prove his skills in archery, horse riding, and swordsmanship in a tournament before he could marry Yasodhara.

As an aside, the Sanskrit word Sakadāgāmi means “sainthood,” and many later kings of the Indian subcontinent claimed to be of Suryavanshi descent.

During the Kosala Kingdom, King Okkaka of the Solar dynasty had sons who reigned Saketa (“a place where God resides”), established the Shakya capital Kapilavastu, and formed the state Sakya Ganarajya, according to a Mahavastu Buddhist text.

The Shakya (aka SakyaSākiya, SakkaŚākya) inhabited an area in Greater Magadha, situated at present-day southern Nepal and northern India, near the Himalaya, and formed the independent oligarchic republican state of Sakya Ganarajya. Both geographically and culturally, the Shakya embraced Buddhism and Jainism, which were, under the laws of Manu, considered non-Vedic and non-Aryan regardless of the fact that the divinities, concepts of enlightenment, and mythical stories were similar to the Vedas. The Sakyans were criticized because “they do not honor, respect, esteem, revere, or pay homage to Brahmans.” Needless to say, the Brahmans (priests as the most upper class of the Vedic caste system) opposed Buddha Shakyamuni, a former kshatriyan who was allowed under the Vedic law to study the Vedic scriptures but not teach them.

When the Saka Aryans first came to India, there was no caste system, which evolved during the the Rigvedic Age, the Later Vedic age, and the age of the Sutras or Upanishads. However, these early Saka Aryans had class divisions for economic and social organization; and unlike the caste system, the class divisions were not hereditary.

A lesser known ancient history is that of the Sakae of the Elamite Empire (ca. 3200-539 BCE), the remains of which correspond to the modern-day provinces of Ilam and Khuzestan in southern Iran (including parts of modern-day southern Iraq) along the Persian Gulf. During their proto-Elamite Period (ca. 2700 BCE), they were already uniquely-accomplished artisans and traders with the Indus Valley Civilization. The Babylonians referred to these people as the “House of Khumri” or “Gimirri” (part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (perhaps the reason why the story of Job was retained in the Book of Genesis)). The “House of Khumri” was named after the Israelite King Omri (ca. 8th century BCE). According to linguists, “Khumri”, “Omri”, and “Gimirri” are phonetically similar. In Persian and Elam, they were Saka. The Gimirri (aka Cimmerians, Beth-Khumirii of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of Israel).

Upper end of Black Obelisk (left image) and Israelite King Jehu bows before Shalmaneser III (right image)

In recalling the Behistun Stone of Darius I, the Behistun inscriptions were written in three languages—Babylonian, Elam, and Persian. The Babylonian word “Gimirii” meant “Saka” while Saka remained the Elam and Persian names for the same people. There is also the Black Obelisk in which the conquests of Assyrian King Salmaneser III record the names of two Israelite kings—Ahab (871-851 BCE) who was defeated and Jehu (842-814 BCE) who willingly yielded to Assyrian rule. In the 8th century annals of both King Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II, the northern Israelite tribes are mentioned as the “Khumri.”

By the 6th century BCE, the Gemirii, as the Israelites of Elam called themselves, moved in large number to the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, settling the areas of Phrygia and Uratu (modern-day Armenia). The Greeks called them Germirians or Trerans (a Cimmerian tribe). For more information, click here. See below a video on the Elamites and check out the following minutes into the video: 7:41, 11:50, 19:20, 20:06, 21:22, and 22:04 for some commonality of Scythian-Sakae pointed hats.

Current Distribution of R1a DNA Haplogroup

Another name for Sakae are the modern Jats. It can be said that all Jats are Sakae. Several researchers have written books on the Jats, namely, E. Pococke, India in Greece, tracing the migrations from India to north western countries, and Hukum Singh Panwar, The Jats: Their Origin, antiquity and Migrations (1993). Revisiting the genetic distribution of Haplogroup R1a, one can locate the Jats. For more information, see link.

The following are entymological derivatives of “Sakae”:

Saka or Shaka or Shakya in Sanskrit | Sakka in Pali | Sakka or Sakya or Sakha in Prakrita | Saki, or Sikki or Siki in Sumarian | Sakae or Sakai in Latin | Scyth or Skyth or Scooth or Scuthoi in Greek | Saxon (Sakason) in English | Sakka or Sakkan or Sakknah in Arabic | Saka or Caka or Sacoe or Saku in Persian | Sse or Sce or Se or Su or Sai or Sek or Saiwang in Chinese | Sok in central Asiatic languages | Skol or Sokol or Skolot in Scythian | Ashkuzai or Ashkuz or Ashkenaz or Sukuz in Assyrian | Anunnaki in Hebrew

One can almost say that the cradle of civilization was the Indus Valley Civilization and not Mesopotamia, apparently.