[INDOLOGY] Death's Footprint

George Thompson gthomgt at gmail.com
Thu Jan 7 17:06:12 UTC 2016

Dear List,

Two additional notes on mr̥tyóḥ padám:

First, thanks to the kindness of Hartmut Buescher, I now have access to a
pdf of my "Pursuit of Hidden Track" paper, and will try to attach it here.

Second, the Thieme paper on Ambrosia is also available in *Indogermaische
Dichtersprache* edited by R.Schmitt for the Wege der Forschung Series, Band
CLXV, 1968.  I have been re-reading it.  This is how Thieme translates
amrta [accent on second syllable] [neuter]: "Leben, Lebenskraft [nicht
"Unsterblichkeit"], heisst also eigentlich "Lebenskraft enthaltend" [p.
114].  Thieme demonstrates that the term amrta, like ambrosia, belongs to
the old IE Dichtersprache.

With best wishes,


On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 2:46 PM, George Thompson <gthomgt at gmail.com> wrote:

>  Dear Jarrod, Dipak, and all,
> In 1995 I published [in IIJ 38, pp.1-30] a paper entitled "The Pursuit of
> Hidden Tracks in Vedic."  In it I discuss RV 10.18.2 briefly.
> Unfortunately I do not have a pdf of this.  Buy I can quote what I said
> there:
> "Similarly metonymic is the expressive magic used in an apotropaic
> practice attested in a funeral hymn, RV 10.18.  In st..2 the relatives of
> the deceased are required to "erase the footprints of death" [I leave out
> all Skt text to save time], as they leave the funeral pyre to return to
> everyday life.  The hope is expressed in st. 3 that death will thereby not
> follow them as they return home, to dancing and laughter....  {T]hese
> relatives are afraid that the deceased's spirit will not be satisfied with
> his leave-taking, that he will trouble his family unless he is adequately
> appeased, that death may thus pursue the living.  Among other
> precautions... the ritual of erasing the footprints is a means pf
> preventing death's pursuit....
> What interested me back then about the term pada is its wide semantic
> range.  This also attracted Renou's attention in his 1958 monograph *Etudes
> sur le vocabulaire du Rgveda*.  To give a sense of what I was thinking
> then, I wrote a version of it for *Semiotica: Journal of the Intl.
> Association for Semiotic Studies.*  The ediitor-in-chief at the time was
> Thomas Sebeok, whose work I was introduced to b Frits Staal.  The title of
> that paper was ""From 'footstep' to 'word' in Sanskrit."
> In both papers I suggested that the Vedic rsis, absorbed as they were in
> their riddling, esoteric brahmodyas, were highly sensitive to signs of all
> sorts [not just footprints but also words] and to the inferences that we
> draw from them.   In both papers I conclude that not only were the Vedic
> rsis sophisticated proto-linguists [as Frits has argued], but that they
> also had a science which I called "Vedic semiotics."
> Well, I was more exuberant then than I am now.
> Maybe this is of some interest to you all.
> Best wishes,
> George
> On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 12:16 PM, Dipak Bhattacharya <dipak.d2004 at gmail.com
> > wrote:
>> *pada* may mean ‘place, station’.
>> There is a discussion on pāda/pada by Renou. Unfortunately I cannot go
>> into the details immediately. But I remember that it occurred either in the
>> Introduction Générale AiG I 1957 or in ‘Notes sur la version “Paippalāda”
>> de l’Atharvaveda’ *Journal Asiatique* 1964, 421-450. I may give further
>> information later.
>> Best
>> DB
>> On Wed, Jan 6, 2016 at 10:05 PM, Jarrod Whitaker <whitakjl at wfu.edu>
>> wrote:
>>> Colleagues:
>>> Has anyone written on the phrase mr̥tyóḥ padám (mr.tyo'h. pada'm) in the
>>> RV and AV (or later texts)? My cursory search has come up short.
>>> Does death leave a footprint behind (possessive or subjective genitive)?
>>> Or are the footprints left by the living for death to follow (objective
>>> genitive)? The latter seems to be the reasonable conclusion, but it's not
>>> evident in the genitive phrase. The phrase appears in the RV's funeral hymn
>>> (10.18.2), where the living wipe out "death's footprint" when they return
>>> home, which suggests they erase their own trail so death can't follow
>>> them,  but in stanza 1 death is banished along his own
>>> faraway/distant/remote path (which is different to the gods), which
>>> suggests that death does follow (and leave?) his own footprints or trail.
>>> Perhaps it's some kind of "plenary" genitive indicating both
>>> possibilities...
>>> Happy New Year!
>>> JW
>>> Jarrod Whitaker, Ph.D.
>>> Associate Professor,
>>> Graduate Program Director,
>>> Department for the Study of Religions.
>>> Faculty, Department of Women's,
>>> Gender and Sexuality Studies.
>>> Wake Forest University
>>> P.O. Box 7212
>>> Winston-Salem, NC 27109
>>> whitakjl at wfu.edu
>>> p 336.758.4162
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