Parasurama as Perseus: The Vedic Origins of the Perseus Myth

Although Greek mythology had a long list of heroes, many constellationswere named after the Perseus myth. The feats of Hercules fo also relate to the twelve constellations. But Perseus was the great-grandfather of Hercules. In other words, his stories are probably older.

For ancient Greeks, the name Perseus simply meant “Persian”. Apparently, even the Persians were aware of this fact. Xerxes reminded the Greeks on this fact during his negotiations with the Argives.

The Birth of Perseus

Perseus was born in the city of Argos (white city), on the Greek Peloponnese. This city has a rich history of continuous habitation spanning over 7,000 years. The Argives have been renowned since ancient times, and it’s noteworthy that even Alexander the Great hailed from this illustrious dynasty.

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Danae, the mother of Perseus was impregnated by Zeus in the form of the golden rain. The myth does not explicitly state that Danae was a virgin, but the similarities with the Christian story are still obvious.

Acrisius, the grandfather of Perseus, knew of an old prophecy that said that he will die by the hand of his grandson. Therefore, he decided to banish Perseus and Danae from his kingdom. He put them in the wooden chest and sent them down the river. Here again, we see the familiar narrative – the birth of Egyptian Osiris, and later Moses, both found in a basket floating down the river.

The basket (or casket) with Perseus washed ashore on the island of Seriphos. A fishermen Dictys (meaning fishing net) rescued them. Perseus stayed on this island until he reached maturity.

The birth of Perseus as an Astronomical Allegory

The concept of a pure, immaculate birth is a recurring theme in numerous Indo-European star myths, all of which are connected to the Virgo constellation. Virgo has held a prominent position in the night sky during the spring equinox for the past four millennia. As spring symbolizes the commencement of a new seasonal cycle, ancient civilizations perceived it as the birth or rebirth of the Sun.

The connection between Danae and Virgo becomes evident in ancient Greek art as well. Frequently, Danae is depicted with a cup beside her, mirroring the presence of the Crater constellation alongside Virgo.

The fact that Danae was impregnated by the “golden rain” can only be explained by the summer solctice taking place in Virgo. Nine months later, during the spring solstice, a new god is born. The only “problem” with this interpretation is the dating. The summer solsctice took place in Virgo between 6-4th millenia BC!

However, the myth clearly points to this particular star allingment. In this period, when summer solstice was in Virgo, the winter solstice was in Pisces (a fisherman Dyctis), whereas the casket that flows on the river probably designated the Argo Navis constellation – a stellar boat floating down the Milky Way.

Parashurama – the Vedic Perseus

The motif of a child floating down the river in a basket was also popular in ancient India. Krishna himself had the same destiny. But even before Krishna, ancient texts mention other heroes who had a similar fate. Mahabharata for example, speaks of Karna, who was the son of Surya, the Sun. The name Karna means literally “ear of grain”. It is a clear reference to the “ear of grain” that Virgo holds in her hands. Therefore, Karna was the son of Virgo and the Sun.

Karna was conceived when the Sun god Surya came to his mother Pritha in the form of a “golden glow“. After that, he was abandoned. He floated down the river in a basket, until another family rescued him and raised him.

Moreover, Karna’s character is often connected to his teacher. His name was Parashurama. His name is derived from the word “parashu” – meaning “axe”. See here. Does this name sound familiar to that of Perseus?

Parashurama had a celestial cow called Suhrabi, and Taurus lies right next to the Gemini constellation. Now, if we assume that the story of Karna and Parashurama marks the spring equinox in Gemini, which also took place between 6-4th millenia BC, the dating and the meaning of the myth become clear.

Danu – the Vedic Danae

Danae was the mother of Perseus. Her name sounds similar to Danu, a female deity known in ancient Vedic times. Danu was the goddess associated with water, and her name conveyed meanings like “rain, liquid, river.” Interestingly, in modern times, Dewi Danu remains a highly venerated water goddess in Bali. It’s worth noting that the name “Bali” itself is derived from Prince Bali, who was believed to be the child of the goddess Danu.

Statues of the goddess Danu can be found widely across the Indo-Asian region. What’s notable is that Danu’s typical depiction in art closely resembles the posture of the Virgo constellation in European art. Additionally, it’s common for her to be portrayed standing atop a dragon. In Indo-European mythology, the Hydra constellation had a dual interpretation, at times symbolizing a river (hence its association with a water goddess like Danu) and in other instances representing a multi-headed dragon.

Perseus Beheads Medusa – Parashurama Beheads his own Mother

As Perseus grew older, he became a true hero. He slew the Gorgon Medusa, by beheading her. From the neck of Medusa came out Pegasus, the flying horse.

In the Vedic myth, there is a story where Parashurama is asked by his father to demonstrate his obedience by killing his mother. After Parashurama complies and beheads his own mother, his father, grants him a boon. In return, Parashurama requests that his mother be revived, and as a result, she is brought back to life.

Cassiopeia – The Vedic Kasiiapa

After he had slayed Medusa, Perseus saved Andromeda from the sea monster.

Andromeda, the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia in Greek mythology, has her roots in Ethiopia. The Greek term “Ethiopia” translates to “burned face,” which reflects the darker complexion of its inhabitants. Although the precise location of Ethiopia was unclear to many later Greek authors, it was generally associated with Africa. However, some interpretations placed it further to the east, possibly even in the direction of India.

The following illustrates how the Perseus myth influenced the naming of the constellations that we still use to this day.

The name Cassiopeia (Kasiope) does not have a clear Greek etymology. However, it sounds very close to Vedic Kashyapa – who was the husband of goddess Danu. His name simply means “turtle”. Its Avestan version was Kasiiapa.

The name Cepheus is also not Greek. I guess that it could relate to the star Beta Cassiopeiae – called Caph, and meaning “hand”. But my interpretations could only be true if the ancients Greeks mixed up the names of these two constellations. Originally, Cepheus would be the sage Kasiiapa, turtle, and Cassiopeia, looking like a zig-zag watery pattern – his consort Danu. (representing Dewi Danu in the opposite part of the sky from Virgo).

Draco and Cetus – the Vedic Rahu and Keto

Cetus constellation represents the dragon that Perseus slew in order to free Andromeda. Once again, this name sounds very similar to Ketu – a dragon of Vedic astronomy.

The story goes as follows – sage Kashyapa’s daughter married a demon. They had a child called Swarbhanu. Swarbhanu drank the nectar of immortality using trickery. For this reason, god Shiva decapitated him, just like Perseus decapitated Medusa. His head and serpent tail, now immortal, continued to circle the sky, trying to swallow the Moon and Sun, and causing eclipses. These two parts are Rahu and Ketu.

For Hindus, Rahu and Ketu are not planets or constellations, but lunar modes. They relate to the specific moment when the paths of the Moon, Sun, and Earth aline. Moreover, Rahu and Ketu are separated by 180 degrees, just like Draco and Cetus constellations. (!)

The trajectory of Rahu and Ketu is intricate, and it encompasses an 18-year cycle. Over the course of this cycle, they exchange positions, creating a pattern reminiscent of a serpent, or more accurately, a double helix akin to the structure of DNA.

In Hindu art, the decapitated body of Ketu has the same posture as that of Andromeda constellation. It comes out of the fish, just like Andromeda “comes out” of the Pisces. And the name Ketu is almost the same as that of Cetus. The following image illustrates that Andromeda, Pisces and Cetus constellations are indeed connected.

I believe the true significance of the Medusa myth might have been representing the lunar nodes, but because of the complexity of these celestial events, it was likely forgotten even during ancient Greece.

The original Andromeda was probably represented by the Ophiuchus constellation. Ophiuchus depicts a person tied to a pole, tree, or cross in various stellar myths. It stands next to the Draco constellation – a name sounding similar to Vedic Rahu. Shiva beheaded Svarbhānu with a very long weapon, similar to a spear. And indeed, Bootes holds a spear and stands right next to the dragon.

This theme was very popular in antiquity. In Egypt, Horus slays the Apep dragon with a long spear.

In Christianity, St. George slays the dragon, and St. Demetrius stands above the body of a man. This is the same dualism of the lunar nodes that we see in the original, Vedic myth. Ketu represents the body and Rahu represents the head.

A summary of Vedic parallels in the Perseus myth

To clarify all the facts presented so far, here is a small chart:

PERSEUS MYTHVEDIC MYTHCONSTELLATION/STAR
Danae, mother of PerseusDanu, river goddessVirgo
Zeus, as golden rain, father of PerseusSurya, as golden fog, father of Parasurama (and Karna)Sun
PerseusParashurama (and Karna)Perseus
Casket floating in the riverCasket floating in the riverArgo Navis
Perseus beheads MedusaParashurama beheads his own motherAndromeda
Cassiopeia/Cepheus – Ethiopian royal coupleSage Kashyapa, husband of DanuCassiopeia/Cepheus
CetusKetu (offspring of Danu goddess)Cetus
DragonRahu (offspring of Danu goddess)Draco
Perseus (slaying dragon)Bootes
AndromedaOphiuchus

Tracing the source of the Perseus myth

The river Saraswati dried out between the third and second millennia BC. Many ancient civilizations of the area ceased to exist. The best example is the Indus Valley civilization. The river dried out due to climatic changes, and as we know, famine creates wars. For this reason, there were large migrations during the second millennia BC, and they are well documented in the archaeological record.

Danavas were a Vedic tribe. They considered themselves as offsprings of Danu, which could be another name for the Saraswati river. But regardless of their mythological origins, the fact is that they really existed. Numerous Vedic texts mention them, and many of their names are known. However, Vedas considered them as foreigners, and sometimes they labeled them as Kushanas or Tukharas. Kushans lived in Kashmir, and Kashmir is named after the sage Kashyapa. This is how strong was the myth in this part of the world.

The kingdom of Kush and Kashmir had very close relations with ancient Persia – and as we saw, in the ancient Greek folk myhtology, Perseus meant “Persian”. Danavas probably migrated in all directions, as they left traces as far as Bali. However, a large group probably migrated westwards. Scholars agree that the main rivers of Europe – Don, Dnieper, and Danube, all have the root *danu – river.

We know that the Perseus myth arrived in Greece before Xerxes, or in other words before the 5th century BC. We also know that Greeks related Perseus to Egypt too. Based on this fact, I would guess that the Vedic Danavas are the same as the Denyen – people of the seas in the Egyptian records. They appeared out of nowhere, attacking Egypt in the 14th century BC.

A few centuries later, Homer calls them Danaans (Danaoi). They attack and destroy Troy. The Hebrews know them as Tribe of Dan, a name attested in the Old Testament.

It’s possible that they had an influence on Egyptian mythology during that period, as some concepts, such as the narratives involving Horus and Apep, were not previously present. Additionally, ideas like the story of the floating casket, which was first associated with Osiris and later with Moses, might have been influenced by this cultural exchange. Simultaneously, the story of Moses parting the Red Sea bears resemblance to that of Parushurama using his axe to remove the ocean, creating new land.

And finally, a part of them might have sailed to Ireland, where they are remembered as Tuatha de Danann, and even as far as Denmark.

Vedic astronomy is extremely ancient and very sophisticated. Calculations of the positions of Rahu and Ketu are difficult even for the modern man. It is not surprising that the meaning was quickly distorted, and some of the key points were forgotten. However, the genius of the ancient rishis left us with enough symbols to reconstruct this sacred knowledge.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I am so amazed by your account of Perseus and the Danaans that even half way through I must make some comment. I am astonished to read in your article that In Bali, next door to Australia, they worship the Goddess Danu, exactly so named, the Earth-Mother and Supreme Being of my distant native-Irish ancestors, whom I was taught to revere during my childhood in one of Her last strongholds in Kerry.

    ‘Kerry’, which you will find on maps, in Gaelic ‘ is ‘Ciar-raige’. ‘Raige’ is the same word as the Germanic ‘Reich’ meaning ‘Kingdom’, obviously a very ancient Indo-European word. ‘Ciar’ is the colour of a beetle’s shiny-black wing-case, hence ‘the Kingdom of the Black-haired People’. The Kerry people routinely refer to their county as ‘the Kingdom of Kerry’. And ‘the black-haired people’? More on that later.

    I appreciate that in Bali Danu is the Goddess of water rather than of the planet. Water was worshipped as sacred in the old society, Ireland is still full lof ‘holy wells’ decorated to this day with ribbons and medals so Her Balinese persona is not a significant demotion. I am just flabbergasted to find Her worshipped on opposite sides of the world. I know you have, as yet unread by me, an article on the ties between the Slavic world and ancient India but this goes well beyond that. I have something on that also, but substituting Celts and pre-Celts for Slavs. More in good time.

    There are worlds of human history and cognition to be explored. It will take some time to do so. Single words can be like shards of pottery dropped by a long-gone voyager or a civilisation, to be discovered to general amazement and re-interpretation of history. Archaeologists dig up pot-sherds, you and I dig up ancient words that link distant cultures. A myth can be a temple or a settlement, it cannot be transported like a single word. I feel like an explorer hacking his way through the Guatemalan jungle who has come across the ruins of a Mayan city. Thank you for the information.

  2. I notice that in your diagram of the astronomical constellations there is an insert of Danae in Virgo with what appears to be a shower of gold descending into Her lap. A gentleman admirer named ‘Zeus’ calling?

    • That is correct. The illustration is from a Greek vase and depicts the moment when Zeus came to Danae in the form of the shower of gold. I believe that this is an allegory for the equinox in Virgo. The “shower of gold” are the rays of the Sun.

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