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Soma - By Vassiliki

                                     SOMA, WINE AND GOD’S SACRIFICE
The author of this article is Vassiliki J.Deroukaki

                        For ancient Greeks, the wine was considered as the blood of vineyard. The vineyard was symbolizing the ancient God Dionysus and the wine his blood. Later, the vineyard symbolized Jesus Christ. As Jesus said: “I am the vineyard, the veritable” (John, 15,1). In the following manner, the red sweet wine transubstantiates Jesus’s blood in the Christian Holly Eucharist. In ancient Greek sacraments, as the Eleusinian ones in Attica and the Kaberian ones in Samo-thrace, the red sweet wine was drinkable, as representing the blood of sacrificed Dionysus, offering to the initiates the experience of the mystical communion with him.
                        The Greek word for blood is aima, with the archaic type, saima. In ancient Germanic   blood is “seim”. The Sanskrit word soma, as I analyze thereafter, derives from the same etymological root, carrying the same meaning: The blood of the sacrificed Purusa. The ritual drinking of soma   is mentioned in Rig Veda, as granting to the initiates the experience of mystical communion with the sacrificed God.  For example, in RV, 8,96,21:

“As soon as Indra with his thunderbolt pervaded Vrtra,
 The offered as sacrificial food son, germinated.
 He, who is announced to the waters (or to the virgin), 
He, who is offered as universal food to humans,
 So, by drinking soma during the sacrificial rite, we get in companionship with him”.

                        The inner meaning of this rite in ancient Greek mysteries and later in Christian Eucharist, is  the “sacred marriage”. It gradually fulfills the mystic marriage of humans with God in a perspective of a collective communion with him or collective incorporation in his universal body. This incorporation even in the Dionysian cult is regarded as including the whole creation, since Dionysus had the qualities of the re-generator of beings and nature and the bestower of indestructibility. The same concept governs the Vedic sacrifice. The Christian sacrifice has the meaning of promoting the salvation to the entire world. In this rite the red sweet wine mystically transubstantiates the holly blood of the sacrificed God, which is Jesus Christ. The participation in this sacred meal after the appropriate preparation, promotes the experience of inner resurrection in a sacred marriage with him. In RV, 10,85,9, Soma is characterized as bridegroom too. 
                         The sacrament of God's sacrifice gets constituted after his resurrection.  This fact carries   as semeiology,   the daily rising of the sun or the annual journey of the sun from autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox. In this speculation, the sacrament accomplishes the regeneration. As we read in Rig Veda 18, 21,c-d:
“You, the dead one, this community really eats, while you, as sacrificer, promote the unveiling of the auspicious day”.

                      This passage reminds the three sacrificial characteristics of Jesus Christ: “The giver, the offered, and the acceptor”. Jesus also associates the sacramental drink to the divine kingdom:   “I say to you that I will not drink the progeny of vine before the kingdom of God will come” (Lk.22,18).  The Vedic soma is also considered as the drink of Gods.

                        In Rig Veda, soma is regarded to derive from wild plants, which grow on the mountains. In ancient Greece, Dionysus was first associated with the wild vineyards, which were found on the mountains. Later, he was associated with the cultivated ones. In Vedas, the soma fruit is    described to have either red or yellow color, as grapes. According to Diodorus, India was said to have an abundant vine-crop produced spontaneously, without any cultivation. It was stated that the Indian Dionysus had discovered the use of wine and the culture of the vine, whence he derived the name Lenaios, which means Lord of the Wine-press 1. This name seems to be relative to the Sanskrit verb,  linAti (to press).

                          Soma is associated to the moon. The explanation could be the following: When the grapes    get pressed, a dim, sweetish juice comes out, the mustos. The juice gets a self-fermentation that transforms it to a transparent, sweet intoxicating fluid, red as blood, the wine. An anthropological reference of that fact, we find in the following passage of Plutarch: “The sun gives to the man the divine fire, which is the logic or Logos (Skt. Loc). The moon gives to the man the soul (Grk.Psyche). And the earth gives to him the physical body. After death, the souls are wondering in the area underneath the moon until they rise up to it. There, they get filtered and refined, taking off, step by step any heavy matter or impurity they include. Finally, being purified, they  get regenerated. In this situation, the logic (Logos) sovereigns to the souls and brings them to the sun” 2. This could be the archetypal meaning of wine or soma pressure process.

                             In Christian Orthodox Eucharist the sacred food is announced by the priest as “Christ's aima and soma”. Soma in Greek means body or corpus and it is a derivative of the word saima. Another derivative is the Greek homa, which means soil. This carries the meaning of the basic constituent of the physical body.  As Christian Eucharist is constituted from wine mixed with bread, in ancient Greek sacrifice the wine was mixed with cereals, which mystically represent the flesh of the sacrificed God. Out of this inner concept the sacrifice is actually bloodless, that means without killing any animal. Since the Vedic soma carries the same meaning, it is obvious that the Vedic sacrifice originally was bloodless. 
                           A variant of the Vedic name soma is sauma. The derivative saumya, is a name of a soma sacrifice and refers to the nature of soma. Literally, it means the blood before it becomes red 3. This word denotes the association between soma and blood in Vedic tradition.
                         In the eastern islands of Greece, a traditional intoxicating drink survives, that is called Souma. It is made by grapes and figs. These are the two holly fruits of Dionysos, which originally have been two nymphs, attendants of him. After their death, Dionysos transformed them to the homo-nymous plants. Those two plants are characterized by Jesus Christ as “good trees” (Math.7,16-18) and he often mentions them in the Gospels. The intoxicating drink Souma, probably derives from the ancient sacraments of Dionysos. This name sounds alike to the Sanskrit word Suma, a name for the moon. An ancient Greek name of fig is aimonion (archaic type: saimonion). This word has also the meaning of red-blood colour, showing the association of fig with blood, just like the grape. But the sap of fig comes out of the stalks, and has white color as milk. The white sap represents the sanctified blood.
                         The fig tree was also sacred in India by Vedic times until buddhistic times, when Buddha got the enlightenment under a fig tree 4.  An epithet of Dionysos is Kradiaios, which means heart. In Vedic mythology an epithet for Indra is Kroda, with the meaning, breast, chest, and bosom.  A name for fig in ancient Greek is Krade.
      We can even see the holly fig pictured in many seals in the Indus Valley excavations.  In one of the seals inside the holly fig tree a human being is figured. According to Asko Parpola it denotes the holiness that the Indians had already given to this tree 5. This image reminds a

 Sanskrit name of the fig tree  is Yaksavasa (The habitation of Yaksa).  And Sukitis, has been a Greek name of Dionysos, that means Lord of the figs. 
      An important Greek name of Dionysos was Iakchos, which seems to be the same name as Yaksa. In Eleusinian mysteries at 19th September there was performed a torch-lights night parade. This day was called Iakchos 6.  In ancient India, the night of the new moon of month Asvina (between September-October), there was a festival with illuminations called Yaksha-ratri. It’s later name is Dipali that means “row of lamps”7. 
     It is apparent that the soma rite derives from a very ancient, powerful and wide spread spiritual and ritual tradition in which India had been one of its holly places by the very prehistoric times. This tradition could be identified as the Dionysian cult. Christian cult seems to have been instituted on the same traditional succession by Jesus Christ. In this data, the already described nature of soma and it's sacred meaning, is a valid direction for further research. 

    1. See .DiodorusSikeliotis, Bk.11. c.63. According to the ancient Greek literature,the sage Dionysos was a different person     
         than the God who was called Dionysos or Eros or Phanes, e.c.t. They often get confused. Plus, there were many sages  
         Dionysi. Even an Indian one according to some authors 
     2. See. Plutarch, Morals-On the apparent face in the orb of the moon.
   3. Monier Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary,Manohar Publishers & Distributors, N.Delhi 2006.
      4. Scientifically the fig is regarded to increase the serotonin in human epiphysis.
       5. See. Asko Parpola, Hid Leg + Fish:Towards Further Understanding of the Indus Script.(electr. Article) 

        6. See: An. D.Stamos, Holly Eleusis,The real History, ed.Kadmos, Thessaloniki, p.290.
        7. See.Gladys M.N.Davis, The Asiatic Dionysos,ed. G.Bell and Sons L.T.D.,London 1914, p.162.

The author of this article is Vassiliki J.Deroukaki
She is a Teatcher of Byzantine Painting. She has a Master Degree in Christian Orthodox Theo-logy. She researches Sanskrit and Vedas as well as science of Religion.
Adress: Vassiliki Deroukaki
              Kapodistriou 29- Halandri 15233
              Athens Greece. 
Teleph.  030-2110100766  
e-mail. vassilikider@hotmail.com