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Daemons Are ForeverContacts and Exchanges in the Eurasian Pandemonium$
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David Gordon White

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226692401

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226715063.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

Perilous Fountains

Perilous Fountains

Chapter:
(p.164) 6 Perilous Fountains
Source:
Daemons Are Forever
Author(s):

David Gordon White

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226715063.003.0006

Five medieval Sanskrit-language accounts of a fabulous technique for extracting mercury from the “wells” in which it naturally resides are shown to be remarkably similar to accounts preserved in Chinese and Syriac alchemical works, as well as to a rich body of Western medieval literature bringing together the human trespasser of a lucus, the dæmon of that lucus, and one or more horses. In every case, when the (equestrian) trespasser violates the dæmon’s sacred precincts, the dæmon, embodied as an igneous, caustic or superheated fluid possessed of free will, pursues him (or her), often resulting in the trespasser’s disfigurement or death, the flooding of the surrounding region, or the dæmon’s neutralization through channels or catchment basins. These narratives draw upon a far more ancient Indo-European mythic complex involving a deity named the “Descendant of the Waters” (Apām Napāt, in Vedic and Avestan) as attested in Sanskrit, Old Iranian, Roman, Irish, and ancient Greek sources. All of these witnesses attest to a body of archaic lore relative to geothermal phenomena: living waters, sulfur springs, petroleum and “naphtha” springs, mud volcanoes, and earthquakes.

Keywords:   Indian alchemy, Chinese alchemy, Avesta, lucus, horses, mercury, Apām Napāt, geothermal phenomena, Indo-European mythology, Indic mythology

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