The Phoenix derives its name from the Egyptian Benu bird (benu > *benus > *benyx > phoenix) which, in turn, seems to come from Vena (or Venu = Benu). The Vedic imagery is in general too subtle to discuss here in detail, and the interested reader is directed to our works on the subject. However, the passage of the Vedic hymn (RV 10:123) on the Vena is worth quoting in part :
This Vena pushes up those who bear the Sun.
Clouded in light, he spans the upper realm of space
In the union of the Sun and the Waters…
Vena whips the wave high out of the Ocean.
Cloud-born, the back of the beloved emerged
Shining on the crest of the apex of Order.
Wails like women s cries come out of the Womb,
Like those of cows lowing for their calves.
Vena bears himself on golden wings
As he carries his smiling lover up to heaven.
Longing in their hearts for you, they have
Seen you flying to the dome of heaven like a bird,
As the golden-winged messenger of Varuna,
The eagle hastening into the womb of Death.
When the Drop comes out of the Ocean
Towering over the wide expanse like a vulture,
The Sun rejoices with the clear light
That imitates his own, in the upper realm.
What this remarkable hymn is obscurely telling is not really the birth of the Sun from the waters. This is merely an allegory for the real event, which is told in a myriad ways in other hymns, as well as in the vast Indian mythology. The motif is so ample and subtle that it cannot be discussed usefully here. It is the same as that of the decapitation (or castration) of Angiras and of the theft of Soma by the Eagle (RV 4:26-7).
This hymn corresponds to the myth of Prometheus stealing the Fire (Soma) from the gods, in order to bring it to the mortals. It also relates to the myths of the Thunderbird which we encounter in both the Old and the New Worlds. In the New World, Vena is the Thunderbird of the North American Indians, the Condor of the Incas and the Ruda of the Brazilian Indians. In the Old World it is the Syena of the Hindus, the Simorgh of the Persians, the Phoenix of the Greeks, the Benu of the Egyptians, the Fire-bird of the Russians, and the Rokh bird of the Arabian Nights.
In India, the Eagle is Garuda and its many aliases. It carries Indra to heaven, where he steals the Soma from the demons and brings it to the gods. The two barely escape, as the Archer (Krishanu) shoots his unerring arrows at Indra and the Eagle. The event is connected with the Flood, as the Soma-drunken Indra boasts:
I was Manu, and I was the Sun…
I gave the earth to the Aryan.
I gave rains to the mortals as an oblation.
I led forth the roaring floodwaters.
Drunken with Soma, I shattered
The 99 fortresses of Shambara.
Decimating its immense population…
Oh Maruts, this bird shall be
Supreme among all birds…
For, with its mighty wings it has
Brought down to men the drink divine…
Fluttering as it brought down the Soma,
The bird swift as thought shot down from above,
Stretching out in flight, holding the branch,
The bird brought down the Soma from heaven.
In this hymn Indra boasts of having shattered the fortresses (or the dams) of the devils (dashyu) and of having caused the Flood. Soma, the Elixir of Immortality, is also the synonymous with the Flood. A variant motif is the duel of Indra and Vritra, where the death of the giant opposer is also identified with the Flood.
The identification of Pushan with the Fallen Sun dates from the Rig Veda. In hymns 1:42 and 6:55, Pushan is called “Child of the Unharnessing”:
Come, burning Child of the Unharnessing…
Be for us the charioteer of Order (Rita).
Best of charioteers, lord of great wealth…
You are a stream of riches, a heap of gold.
Pushan, who uses goats for horses in his chariot…
The lover of his sister… the brother of Indra.
The “Unharnessing” is the dissolution of the Universe, that is, of Atlantis-Eden. Rita is Cosmic Order, the Vedic counterpart of Dharma. This concept relates to the Wheel-of-the-Law of the Buddhists and has to do with the concept of Cyclic Time and the Yugas (or Eras), as well as with their drastic endings. The unharnessing of the horses takes place at the end of a journey, when the horses are unyoked from the chariot. The idea is that Pushan is the Sinking Sun, who has completed its journey.
In Cosmic terms, the above expression alludes to the end an era, when he, the elder Twin, yields his place to his brother, Indra. Pushan is the lover of his sister Suryâ, the female avatar of the Sun. It seems the two brothers contend for the love of beautiful Suryâ, just as do the Ashvins in another hymn (10:85). In Egyptian terms, the Twins correspond to the two ithyphallic brothers who are charmed by the Dancing Goddess, whom they watch from their ship, as portrayed in the Gerzean vase which we discuss elsewhere.
As this vase dates from about 3,500 BC, and the theme is apparently far older, we can see that the myth of the Vedic Twins (the Ashvins) who dispute the love of Dawn, their sister, is immensely old. How it passed into pre-Dynastic Egypt so early in time is a mystery that only the hypothesis of Atlantis can reasonably explain.
In fact, the Gerzeans seem to have been the proto-Phoenicians who, chased out of Egypt at its unification, went on to found the magnificent civilizations of the Levant. Anyway, the enormous galley ship portrayed in the vase is an unequivocal proof that they were, in contrast to the Egyptians, a seafaring nation like the legendary Atlanteans and their successors, the Minoan Cretans, the Etruscans and the Phoenicians.