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Nov 04, 2004
Mystery of the Cosmic Thunderbolt(7)

In this TPOD series we have offered a new perspective on the origins of an ancient archetype. We have claimed that high-energy plasma discharge configurations seen in the ancient sky gave rise to the worldwide accounts of celestial gods and warriors battling in the heavens. The centerpiece of this theme is the cosmic thunderbolt.

We have further suggested that, in connection with the "myth of the hero," a huge misunderstanding has occurred. The misunderstanding arose through the natural evolution of storytelling, as accounts of a celestial warrior were gradually localized to become part of tribal and regional lore. By this process the warrior emerged as a fabled ancestor of each tribe telling the story. A thousand mythic versions of the warrior-figure were transported from the sky to different locations on earth, as each tribe claimed the humanized hero as its own, a model for the "greatest of all warriors".

In the course of this evolution, the cosmic thunderbolt was displaced by its own symbols, particularly those that could still make sense after the warrior-god had been reduced to human dimensions. Originally the divine weapon was a bolt of cosmic fire, a spiraling serpent, a whirlwind, a comet and much more, each symbol pointing to vital attributes of the archetype or original form. Later, the ancestral hero would carry the bolt as his arrow, sword, spear, or club by which, the stories said, he defeated chaos monsters in primeval times.

(The reader may ask, If the cosmic thunderbolt was a plasma discharge configuration, what event or human experience inspired the archetype of the warrior-hero himself? We do not intend to leave this question unanswered in this series.)

We have already noted the heroic model of the Greek Heracles, the Roman Hercules (image on the left in the picture above). But what of hero's far-famed "club"?  As we clarify the ancient themes, the logic of the thunderbolt as mace, club, or hammer should become clear to readers. The picture above includes a chalk image of the Celtic god Dagda from Cerne Abbas, England, brandishing his club.

The mysteries of the thunderbolt find colorful illustration in the popular Germanic warrior-hero, Thor, whose name is given to a day of the week-- Donnerstag, the day of Thunder, our Thursday. The image of Thor (right) is complemented by two versions (among many) of his "hammer". Thor was the victor over giants, dragons, and a host of dark or destructive powers.

Legends say it was Thor who vanquished the terrible serpent or dragon Midgard or Jormungand ("wolf-serpent"), seen thrashing about in the sky while the world reeled under the catastrophe of Ragnarok, the rain of fire and gravel. In confronting the monster, Thor hurled his great stone hammer or mallet fashioned by dwarves. The power of the blow was sufficient to send Midgard plummeting into the sea. This hammer - Mjöllnir (Crusher) - was the thunderbolt.

Often the god and his weapon are, in fact, indistinguishable, and this will become an important clue. Scholars have long recognized the inseparable identity of Thor and his weapon. An earlier warrior figure was the Babylonian god Nergal, whom the magical texts honored as the "lion-headed mace".

Also of interest here is the Hindu vajra, the "illustrious thunderbolt" of the warrior Indra, an essential attribute of the god. The Rig Veda invokes it as (among other things) a "whizzing club", In view of Heracles' acknowledged links to both Thor and Indra, it would make no sense to ignore the implied possibility--that Heracles’ giant-slaying club is simply a Greek variant of the lightning weapon carried by so many heroes around the world.

Indeed, the lightning hammer or club (to which we could add the lightning-axe) is not limited to a particular region of the world. Even the Dinka of Sudan honored a great ancestor-god Deng, whose club was the thunderbolt, and the same can be said of the Aztec Tlaloc, the Maya Chac and numerous other warriors of world mythology.

The worldwide theme of the lightning-club is one among dozens of clues, all leading to a radical conclusion. The cosmic thunderbolt harks back to ancient events with far broader implications than the natural fear of lightning. Lightning presents neither the form nor the conceptual image of a club. Yet the archetype shows the coherence that is the trademark of universal experience.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane,   Walter Radtke, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

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