The shining Twin Yima, Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir

The shining Twin Yima, Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir

Yima is a primordial twin and a hero king of the Ice Age in the Avesta. The very name Yima means “twin” and is related to Latin Gemini. The twofold nature of Yima is well attested in the Avesta. Yima’s account has parallels in both Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir. However, the Avestan Yima has preserved all the elements of the primordial twin being of the Proto-Indo-European cosmological mythology.

In the Avestan book of Vendidad or Vî-daæv-dátá (chap. 2), Ahûra Mazdá originally offered Yima the task of carrying his daæná (wisdom to see, vision, insight, Compare with Greek idein) into the world.

But Yima refuses to be a wise wizard and the prophet of Ahûra Mazdá.

Instead, Ahûra Mazdá offers Yima to be the furtherer of life (fráðaya gaæthá,) increaser of living beings (vareðaya gaæthá,) steward, guardian (haretar) and ruler king (aiwya-khshtar) of the living. Yima accepts to be a steward and leader of life.

Yima promises that, as long as he is in command, there will be no excesses of heat and cold, no sickness or death. Ahûra Mazdá then gives Yima two tools, a golden trumpet (aštrá) and a golden flute (suwrá.)

Then the earth becomes overpopulated and full of beasts, people and fires of industry. Yima expands the earth thrice by the help of his magical musical instruments.

After the third enlargement of the earth, a council of god-beings and mortal men is called. Yima is warned of a harsh devastating winter and impending ice age. In order that life shall not perish, Ahûra Mazdá counsels Yima how to build a VAR (an underground vault or hidden fortress) in which to keep samples of all creatures of Ahûra Mazdá alive during the devastating winter.

(Avestan VAR is related to Swedish vall, Danish val “defensive fortification, Wall.”)

Ahûra Mazdá also explained to Yima about two kinds of lights in the VAR or the underground fortification: those self-acting, lightning on their own (khᵛaðáta, probably the eternal lights, cf. Y. 1.16), and those with a physical cause (stiðáta).

Yima then brought pairs of all living things into the VAR, excluding those with bodily defects, and, every forty winters, two children would be born from a human couple.

The Karšipta bird brought the daæná (wisdom to see, vision, insight) of Ahûrá Mazdá into the underground Var or underground fortress.

According to Mînög khrad (61.15), the walled fortification or VAR was underground in Airán-vîž (cradle of the Aryans), beneath towering Mountains. It contained all things in the world of the living (Bundahišn 32.7).

The VAR has another purpose, toward the end of the millennium of Ušîdar, the first of Zarathûshtrá’s three eschatological sons, when men and beasts are decimated by another terrible winter of the sorcerer Malkūs, the world is repopulated again from the VAR (Bdh. 33.1, Dādestān ī dēnīg 36.80-81; Dk. 7.1.24, 7.9.3-4; Mēnōy ī xrad 26.24; Pahlavi Rivāyat 48.17; Zand ī Wahman Yasn9.14).

However Yima later falls due to his hubris and his callous disregard for animal life. As we seen before, Yima accepted to be the steward and guardian of the world of the living and be a hero king; yet he failed.

In the poetic gathas, Yima is mentioned once in Yasna 32.8: “Among the sinners, Yima the son of Vî.vañg.hûšö, has been renowned //to delight us mortal men, he forswear God and taught the slaughtering of the cow// May I be apart from this in your future decision/verdict.”

The Middle Iranian or Pahlavi commentary maintains that Yima taught people to sacrifice the cow and eat meat.

The Pahlavi commentary of the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.8 of the poetic gathas is in exact line with ancient Indo-European and Norse mythologies.

Proto-Indo-European cosmogenic myth is centered on the dismemberment of a cow/bovine—and the creation of the universe out of its various elements”. Further examples cited include the climactic ending of the Old Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge where a bull is dissected that makes up the Irish geography.

Yima’s sin in Yasna 32.8, 2nd rhymed verse line is exactly that: mašyeñg či-khshnûšö ahmákéñg gáûš bagá khᵛáremnö.

The Pahlavi commentary says: ké-šö mardömán čášîd kü amágán göšt pad bazišn khvareed “who taught people: eat the meat and distribute it to ours” In the Varštmánsr commentary on this strophe in the Dēnkard, Avestan či-khshnûšö is understood as being related to the verb “satisfy (with gifts), make favorable” and the passage as being about how Yima satisfied mortal men by giving them bloody sacrifices and meat to eat (Dk. 9.32.12; cf. Pahlavi. Yasna 9.1).

The gathic verse refers to the rejection of bloody sacrifice and the orgiastic festivals connected with it. The line is a perfect example of ancient Indo European poetic wordplay where forswearing God (baga) is connected to killing and devouring of the cow/living animal (gáûš) gáûš bagá khᵛáremnö.

Humbach quoted Karl Hoffmann to the effect that khára- beside devouring/eating could be connected with the Germanic words for swear (Ger. Schwur) and means “to forswear.”

We further read in the 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 32.12 of the poetic gathas; “the curse word of Mazdá is upon those who strike at animals with cries of joy.”

Also in the 3rd rhymed verse line of the same Yasna 32.14 we read: “that by striking at the cow/living animal, they hope to invoke the help of the dispeller of death.”

(Dispeller of death and decay or “dûraôsha is an epithet of the sacred mead or haômá.)

In Yasna 9.1-13, the praise-hymn to Haômá, “the sacred wine or mead” tells Zarathûstrá that the births of four stalwarts were gifts given as rewards when their fathers pressed the haômá for the benefit of the world of the living:

Vî.vang.hvant who begot Yima (who made the world free of decay and disease);

Áthwiya (Persian Ábtin,) who begot Thraætaôna (Perisan Freydoun, the first physician);

Thritá who begot Keresh-aspa (Persian Garsh-ásp);

Finally Pôurûš-aspa who begot Zarathûstra.

Also in Yasna 9, there is allusion to dismemberment of the cow and belonging of each of its part to a divine being.

This dismemberment of the cow and bloody sacrifice accompanied by drinking of mead is what the Aryan prophet strongly denounces.

It is the stain and pollution of bloody sacrifice that Zarathûshtrá wants to remove from the mead or sacred wine in 2nd rhymed verse line of Yasna 48.10 of his poetic gathas.

The tale of Yima is that of highest technological advance and yet fall due to callous disregard for nature and animal life.

Yet what is celebrated is the ideal or prototype of Yima, his fra-vaši. In Fravardin yašt, Yima’s fra-vaši or ideal wish is invoked against natural plagues opposite of the perfect conditions during Yima’s rule (Yt. 13.130:ainišti “lack of obtaining one’s wishes” daævö.karštá “dragged forth by the diabolic forces.

In book 7 of the Dēnkard, a part of Yima’s speech to the daæv or diabolic forces wherein, Yima declares to the diabolic forces that Zarathustra will give them back the non-desire, frustration of wishes (a-khvāhišnīh) they made (cf. Yt. 13.130).

Yima will be one of the immortals at the end of time. For out of failure and evil can come out godhood, light and goodness.


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5 Responses to The shining Twin Yima, Vedic Yama and Old Norse Ymir

  1. zaneta garratt says:

    a very interesting enlightening article

  2. Courtesy of Didier Calin

    PIE *mélit, G *mlités
    Ht. milit, L m(a)litti; Pal. malitanna- ‘containing honey’; Luw. malli(t); HierLuw. malirima- ‘honey-sweet’; Ir. melítion ‘a kind of Scythian drink’; Gr. méli G mélitos, blíttein ‘to gather honey’, mélissa ‘bee’; Arm. mełr, G mełow; Alb. mjaltë, bletë ‘honey-bee’; Lt. mel, G mellis; OIr. mil; W mêl; Br. mel; Goth. miliþ; E mildew.
    ■ HONEY and DIVINE TWINS – PIE *mélit (later replaced by *médhu in some languages) (Hittite, Vedic, Latvian) (Biezais 1976, Calin 96-2012) (►■ BEES and DIVINE TWINS ► BEE)
    ○ Ht. 91/d i 7 “honey of the Sun-god’s offsprings (dUTU-as DUMUMEŠ-as /mil/it)” (with dUTU-us ← Sīus)
    ○ In. a.o. RV 1.15.11a áśvinā píbatam mádhu “drink honey O Aśvins!”, RV 4.45.3 “drink of the honey with (your) honey-drinking mouths (mádhvaḥ… madhupébhiḥ), O Aśvins (aśvinā) and harness your dear chariot for honey (mádhune), you vitalize the pathway with honey (mádhunā), you bring the hide that contains honey (mádhumantam)”, RV 4.43.5c “they sprinkle your ( = Aśvins) honey/mead with honey, O honeyed ones (mádhvā mādhvī mádhu)!”
    ○ Lv. LD 19658 Dieva dēli … medū rokas mērcēdami “Dievs’ sons who soak their hands in honey”
    + LD 29201 “Ūsiņš (Ūziņš) gave a hive full of honey (medus)”

  3. Courtesy of Didier Calin

    (twin: *yemó-: In. yamá-; Av. yǝma-; derivative Lt. geminus; OIr. emon; Lv. jumis ‘twin fruit’)
    IE *Yemós (derivative *Ym̥(m)iyós) (a.o. Fussman 1977, Boyer 1981, p. 189ff, Puhvel 1987, p. 284-290, Nagy 1990, p. 96, Allen 1991, Lincoln 1991, p. 32-48, Kellens 1993, Calin 96-2012, West 2007, p. 356-359, 376f, Oberlies 2012, p. 82f, 218ff)
    In. Yamá- > Marathi Yama, Nepali Yamarāj, Panjabi Yamrāj, Kashmiri Yĕmarāza (etc.),
    Kati Imrō, Prasun Yumrâ, Ashkun Imrâ, Waigali Yamrâi,
    Av. Yima- > Pahl. Yam/Jam, Pers. Jamšēd,
    Bactrian Iamṣo,
    Lt. Remus,
    OIr. Emain,
    ON Ymir (and, by analogy, Hymir and Gymir),
    Lv. Jumis;
    replaced/represented by Gr. Krónos, Lt. Iānus (and partly Sāturnus).

  4. Courtesy of Didier Calin

    he TWIN-GOD and his TWIN SISTER – IE *Yemós… Yémih/Ym̥(m)olah (Indic, Pahlavi, Nuristani, Latvian + Greek + Norse) (a.o. Cantera 1993, Calin 96-2012, Oberlies 2012, p. 75)
    ○ In. RV 10.10.7a “love for Yama (yamásya) came upon me, Yamī (yamyàm)”, TS, GB 2.4.8a agnír vâva yamá iyáṃ yamî “Yama is Fire, Yamī is this (earth)” (yamaḥ… yamī also PB 11.10.23)
    + GN/TN Yamunā ((mythical) river)
    ○ Pahl. GrBd 35.4 “from Jam and Jamīg (Jam ud Jamīg), who was his sister, was born a pair, a male and a female who became wife and husband” (Jam … Jamīg also 14b1), Bd 27.3 “a pair was from Jam and his sister Jamag (Jam ud Jamag), a male and a female who became husband and wife”
    ○ Lv. LD 28533 “Jumis (Jumīts) beat Jumala (Jumalīti)”, LD 28536 “Jumis (Jumīts) took Jumala (Jumaliņu) for a ride”, Tdz 50245 “Jumis (Jumīts) called Jumala (Jumaliņu)”, Tdz 50246 “Jumis (Jumeits) led his Jumala (Jumaleņu) to a dance” (also LD 28532, 28535)
    + Blt. *Jumalā > Finnish Jumala, Estonian Jumal, Mari Jumo ‘(sky) god/God’)
    + TN Jumara (river)
    → with lexical substitution
    ○ Nuristani: Kati Nirmálī, Prasun Ṣuwê (twin sister of Imrā)
    + ○ Gr. PGM IV 3099-3102 (to Cronus) σὲ καλῶ … ἀρσενόθηλυ “I call you, O hermaphrodite”
    + ○ ON Vafþrúðnismál 33 “under the giant’s ( = Ymir) arm grew together a girl and a boy”

  5. mayamarkov says:

    I suppose that the event mentioned in Yasna 32.8 is related to the Mecone sacrifice described by Greek poet Hesiod in the Theogony. There, the problem is not that an ox is sacrificed, but that its edible parts are given to humans to eat.
    Personally, I think that Prometheus at Mecone did the right thing and so did Yima. Eating meat may be a sin, but it is human to sin after all.
    The Vedas state that Yama “sacrificed his body for the sake of humanity”, but keep diplomatic silence about the details of this self-sacrifice. I guess Yama may have done the same, i.e. giving humans meat to eat, against the will of gods. As we see from the example of Yima, this must have been a suicide mission.

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