Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Churning of the Milky Ocean

In China, the legendary emperor Fu Hsi is said to have founded the phoenix clan of the Dong Yi people of Shandong.

Fu Hsi is credited with having introduced many new things including the I Ching divination system. The I Ching may have been derived from the early oracle bone divination that used shells from sacrificed turtles. Shen-Shung Ling believed that turtle sacrifice in ancient China was of Austronesian origin and it has continued in Austronesia until modern times.

Chinese legend also states that Fu Hsi introduced the art of chicken raising and chicken egg-laying. According to research by Akshino Fumihito, the chicken was domesticated in Southeast Asia from the red junglefowl. Fumihito, by the way, is the brother of crown prince Naruhito of Japan. In Shinto, the national religion of that country, the chicken is considered sacred to the sun goddess Amaterasu, the ancestress of the imperial family.

The churning of the Milky Ocean was an epic event that sent ash and lahar into the sea, in this case the South China Sea, turning it into a milky color.

Note in the earlier quote from the Mahabharata, that the volcanic debris was thought to have qualities of an "elixir." Indeed, among the products of the oceanic churning is said to be a jar filled with amrita the elixir of immortality. We will return to this motif later.

The Milky Ocean story involves two opposing forces -- the Devas and the Danavas. We will see that many scattered myths also involve a divine war in circumstances that are also surprisingly similar.

For example, Nu Gua, the wife of Fu Hsi is said to have mended the sky after a battle between the Fire God and the Water God. The war resulted in a great cataclysm of fire and water that caused the collapse of a massive mountain. Again, this sounds very similar to a volcanic eruption.

Volcanoes tend to draw clouds during an eruption and create their own storm systems.

In far-off Greece we again encounter what may be allusion to a volcanic eruption. According to Hesiod, the Golden Race lived during the Golden Age when the seven Titans headed by Cronus ruled over heaven and earth.

Hesiod says that when Zeus and the gods overthrew the Titans the forests were set ablaze and the oceans "boiled and seethed."

According to Homer, Zeus "had also thrust great Cronos down beneath earth and the restless sea," to Tartaros. In the Iliad, Hera sometimes travels "to visit Oceanus at the far end of the earth, from whom the gods are sprung." In Greek legend, when volcanoes erupt they reveal the Giants or Titans imprisoned by Zeus below.

As we go on, the various motifs in the Greek myths including those concerning the underworld will turn up again in different cultures. These are part of the great body of myths that Oppenheimer has suggested are linked directly with the great migrations from Southeast Asia.

The churning of the ocean occurs not only from the volcanic eruptions but from the resulting sea migrations of people. These people carry various cultural items that are said to be the products of the churning including the jar of amrita, the conch shell trumpet and the archery bow known as sarnga.

For more information on the geographc location of the Milky Ocean, see the following article:

A new look at Vedic India

Paul Kekai Manansala