The ancient Jewish religion, from its origin, favored the oblation of blood, the animal sacrifice to God. A lamb, a goat, a heifer or a dove could do the trick. The Egyptologist Jan Assmann argues that the sacrifice of sheep or cattle was conceived by Moses as a way of affirming the symbolism of a « counter-religion », in order to stand out as far as possible from the ancient Egyptian religion. In fact, the ancient Egyptian religion considered the Bull (Serapis) as a divine avatar, which it was obviously a “sacrilege” to sacrifice. Taking the exact opposite side by choosing the sacrifice of blood was an effective way of cutting all bridges with the past.
Much further to the East, in the Indus basin, and long before the time of Abraham or Moses, the even older religion of the Veda excluded any animal sacrifice. On the contrary, the Cow was (and still is) sacred. This is why only the milk of the cow was sacrificed, not its blood.
The Cow was considered as a divine symbol, because it represented the cosmic cycle of life. And milk embedded its essence.
The sunlight floods the earth, makes the grass grow, which feeds the cow, which produces the milk. In the final analysis, this milk comes from cosmic, solar forces. It is then used in the sacrifice in the form of « clarified butter ». Sôma is composed of this liquid, flammable butter and other psychotropic vegetable juices. By burning in the sacred fire, the butter from the cosmos returns to its origin, in the form of flame, smoke and odor, and embodies the homage paid to the universal Divinity.
The 9th Mandala of the Rig Veda is dedicated to this Vedic worship of the Sôma. It contains hymns and prayers to the Divine Sôma:
« You who flows very gently, perfectly liquid, light up, O Sôma, you who has been poured out as a libation to the Burning One ». (Hymn I,1)
“Burning” or “Ardent” is one of the Names of the Divine.
The Sôma flows to regale Heaven, it flows for « comfort » and for the « voice » (« abhi vajam uta çravah« ). The Sôma is divine. The sacrifice of Sôma is an image of the union of the divine with the divine through the divine: « O Sôma, unite with you through you. »
The sacrifice of the Sôma is a metaphor of life, which is transmitted incessantly, constantly diverse, eternally mobile.
« The daughter of the sun lights the Sôma, which comes out of the fleece and flows around what remains constant and what develops.”
The « daughter of the sun » is a figure of the sacred fire. The « fleece » is the envelope of skin that was used to preserve the Sôma. What is « constant » and what « develops » are metaphors of the sacred fire, or a figure of the sacrifice itself, an image of the link between the Divinity and mankind.
The Sacred Fire is also divine. It is a God, who manifests the sacrifice and transcends it. It flies towards the woods of the pyre, before rising ever higher, towards the sky.
« This undead God flies, like a bird, to the woods to sit down. « (Rig Veda, 9th Mandala, Hymn III, 1)
« This God, who is on fire, becomes a chariot, becomes a gift; he manifests himself by crackling. « (Ibid. III,5)
The liquid Sôma is given to the Sôma that catches fire. Having become a flame, it gives itself to the Fire.
The Veda sees libation, the liquid Sôma, as a « sea ». This sea in flames « crackles », and the Fire « neighs like a horse ». The Fire gallops towards the divine, always further, always higher.
« By going forward, this has reached the heights of the two Brilliant Ones, and the Rajas which is at the very top. « (Ibid. XXII, 5).
The « Two Brillant » and the « Rajas » are other Names of God.
« This flows into Heaven, liberated, through darkness, lit with generous oblations. This God poured out for the Gods, by a previous generation, of gold, flows into that which enflames it. » (Ibid. III,8-9).
The marriage of somatic liquor and burning fire represents a divine union of the divine with itself.
« O you two, the Ardent and the Sôma, you are the masters of the sun, the masters of the cows; powerful, you make the crackling [the thoughts] grow ». (Ibid. XIX, 2)
The meanings of words shimmer. The images split up. The flames are also « voices ». Their « crackling » represents the movement of thought, which is synonymous with them.
« O Fire, set in motion by thought [the crackle], you who crackle in the womb (yoni), you penetrate the wind by means of the Dharma (the Law) ». (Ibid. XXV,2)
Erotic metaphor ? No more and no less than some images of the Song of Songs.
They are rather figures of thought referring to a philosophical, or even theological system. In the Veda, Fire, Thought, Word, Cry, Wind, Law are of the same essence.
But the yoni also puts us on the trail of Vedic mysticism. The yoni, the womb, is the name given to the stone crucible that receives the burning liquor. The yoni, by its position in the sacrifice, is the very cradle of the divine.
A Vedic Divine, born of a yoni bathed in divine liquor and set ablaze with divine flames.
« This God shines from above, in the yoni, He, the Eternal, the Destroyer, the Delight of the Gods » (Ibid. XXVIII, 3).
God is the Highest and He is also in the yoni, He is eternal and destructive, He is gold and light, He is sweet and tasty.
« They push you, you Gold, whose flavour is very sweet, into the waters, through the stones, – O Light, libation of Fire. « (Ibid. XXX, 5).
Light born from light. God born of the true God.
These images, these metaphors, appeared more than a thousand years before Abraham, and more than two thousand years before Christianity.
Nothing really new under the sun..