Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Avestan Haecat.aspa-, Rigveda 4.43, and the Myth of the Divine Twins

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

Avestan Haecat.aspa-, Rigveda 4.43, and the Myth of the Divine Twins

Article excerpt

To the memory of my teacher Leonard Herzenberg (1934-2012)

Avestan Haecat.aspa-, known from later Zoroastrian tradition as the name of an ancestor of Zara[theta]ustra, (1) is twice attested in the Gathas. In Y. 46 the singer addresses several characters of the Gathic world by name, beginning with Zara[theta]ustra himself and continuing in stanza 15 with haecat.aspa spitamanho (voc. pl.), apparently a branch of Zara[theta]ustra's own clan. Bartholomae interpreted the form as a genitival formation 'descendants of H.', derived from the name of that individual through accent shift. (2) but it seems likelier that haecat.aspa here is simply the plural of the ancestor's name used to designate the entire family. (3) In addition, in Y. 53.3 we learn that Zara[theta]ustra's daughter Pourucista had a propatronymic haecat.aspana. (4) On the basis of this evidence a personal name *haicat-acua- can be safely posited. (5)

The first member of this compound is clearly derived from the root of Avestan hinca-, Vedic sinca 'pour out'. (6) This verb is used with different kinds of liquids and substances, including semen and urine; accordingly, Haecat.aspa- has been translated as 'having studhorses' (Justi (7)) or as 'having horses that urinate' (Humbach, followed by Mayrhofer). (8) Both of these translations fail to convince. Humbach's reference to Yt. 5.120 for a myth about the urine of the heavenly steeds does not support his argument, because the critical form misti which he, following Geldner, (9) translated as 'with urine' is extremely unclear: the context and etymology allow a plethora of other possibilities, including 'with seed', 'by care', 'always', or 'together'. (10) The alleged Vedic parallel cited by Humbach also fails, if RV 10.96.1 ghrtam na yo haribhis caru secate means "[soma] which flows like lovely butter in golden [drops]," (11) and not "[soma], like lovely butter, which is gushed out by the golden [steeds]." (12)

In my opinion, the translation of Haecat.aspa- to be preferred is 'having horses that splash'. (13) Importantly, the first member of the compound is synchronically associated with the middle stem: (14) even though *[haeca-.sup.te] is not attested in Avestan, its absence is likely to be fortuitous, since such a stem is the expected cognate of Vedic [seca-.sup.te]. (15) The translation of the compound should therefore be 'having horses that besprinkle/bathe themselves' (bahuvrihi) and not 'sprinkling/bathing the horses'. (16)

But what is such a name actually supposed to mean? It looks like a reference to a mythological narrative of some sort. The first step towards a solution was made by Kellens, who noted in passing that both members of *haicat-acua- corresponded exactly to the Vedic phrase sincad asvan (RV 4.43.6). (17) Kellens did not attempt to build on this important observation, and this Vedic parallel has been overlooked by nearly all later scholarship. (18) It behooves us therefore to examine the context in which sincad avail, is attested.

RV 4.43 is a hymn to the Asvins. In it we learn first that Surya had chosen the chariot of the divine twins (2cd: ratham ... yam sur yasya duhitavrnita), that this chariot comes from the sea (5ab: rathah ... a yat samudrad abhi variate vam), and finally (in stanza 6) that the Asvins obtained Surya on a trip during which their horses were bathed in the water:

sindhur ha vam rasdya sincad asvan
ghrna vdyo arusasah pari gman
tad u su vam ajiram ceti yanam
yena pati bhavathah suriyayah
Sindhu sprinkled your horses together with Rasa; (19)
the red birds (viz. horses--A. N.) have escaped the heat. (20)
This rapid vehicle of yours has just appeared splendid,
through which you become the masters of Surya.

There is no consensus among the commentators regarding this passage. Bergaigne thought that divan here is a metaphor for streams poured forth by both Sindhu and Rasa. (21) Pirart saw here a "mythe autrement inconnu" of Sindhu consecrating the horses for the Asvins. …

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