[disinfo ed.’s note: Excerpted from The E.T. Chronicles: What Myths and Legends Tell Us About Human Origins by Rita Louise PhD and Wayne Laliberte MS.]
The biggest mystery associated with the gods is why they came here in the first place. There are a variety of theories as to why an advanced civilization would come to the Earth. The one that often surfaces is that there were problems on their home world such as overpopulation, pollution, or a shortage of natural resources. These issues could have caused a group of explorers to leave their planet and seek out new life and new civilizations. It could be that their home world was destroyed and a lucky few managed to escape. Perhaps the Galactic Federation of Planets needed to create a way station between heaven (Asgard) and hell (Hel). It does seem apparent from ancient sources that the subjugation of humankind was not their goal. Whew . . . that is a relief.
The truth is we really fall short on the why side of things. One thing we do have is some insight into the activities of the gods when they first came to the Earth during the Second World. Their actions, as you will see, make them look anything but holy or God-like. Our story continues . . .
We know from mythology that a great flood covered the Earth. Land reclamation has yet to happen. Water from the flood, according to Hindu tradition, took away many of their precious things, and one of the most precious things lost by the gods was something called amrita.
What is amrita? It was the drink of the gods, the elixir of life, the nectar of immortality. Amrita is a Sanskrit word meaning immortality or “without death.” Ambrosia is the Greek name for this divine blend. The consumption of this magical potion was reserved for divine beings—the gods. Mortals such as Heracles, who was provided ambrosia, gained immortality from it. Gilgamesh, in the Babylonian epic bearing his name, tied heavy stones to his feet so that he would be taken down into the depths of the water to reclaim a plant called The Old Man Becomes a Young Man which, when eaten, bestowed youth.
Indian tradition suggests that during this time the different races of gods banded together into two separate alliances—the devas and the asuras. The word deva originally meant “celestial or shining one.” They are described as the “good gods.” The asuras, on the other hand, are portrayed as being evil, power- seeking, sinful, and materialistic. The devas are traditionally depicted as looking like us, while the asuras are shown in the form of snakes, demons, and monsters. A truce was called in the wake of the flood, and these two groups reluctantly joined forces in order to recover their precious amrita from the watery depths. It is from our watery world that the plot thickens.
In the legend of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk we learn that the devas were losing their power and started to feel threatened by the might of the asuras. War inevitably broke out between the two groups. The devas feared that the asuras would win and take control of the entire world. They prayed to the god Vishnu for guidance. Vishnu suggested that the gods (the devas) per- form the ceremony known today as the Churning of the Ocean. This would enable them to obtain their beloved amrita and help to restore their power. Despite this sage advice, the devas realized that they were not strong enough to perform the ceremony by themselves. They enlisted the help of the asuras under the pre- text that they would mutually share the amrita.
The story goes on to tell us that they took Mount Mandara and used it as a rod to churn the ocean. The devas and asuras were unable to find a rope big enough to go around the mountain, so they enlisted the help of King of the Nagas (the serpent king), Vasuki. Vasuki was wound around the mountain with the devas in the east and the asuras in the west. Each side pulled on the snake, alternately causing the mountain to rotate. The churning caused Mount Mandara to sink into the ocean. Vishnu, in his second incarnation on Earth, magically appeared as Kurma the tortoise. Kurma went to the bottom of the ocean, and Mount Mandara was placed on his back. Churning operations continued.
The devas and asuras churned the ocean for a thousand years. Suddenly, a deadly poison called halahala emerged, some say from the ocean, others say from Vasuki himself. The poison threatened to suffocate both the devas and asuras. Only the god Shiva could save them from this potential disaster. Shiva, trident in hand, arrived on the scene in the nick of time. He drank the noxious poison and rescued the devas and asuras from their likely demise.
The gods continued churning the milky ocean even longer, then out of the ocean sprang a number of gifts. They included Sura (the goddess and creator of wine), the apsaras (the heavenly nymphs), Kaustubha (the most valuable jewel in the world), Uchchaihshravas (a seven-headed flying horse), Parijaat (the wish-granting tree), Kamadhenu (the first cow and mother of all other cows), and Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune and wealth). The final gift to emerge was Dhanvantari, the heavenly physician, with a pot containing their precious amrita. We will be coming back to this story as we continue our journey through time.
The Rig Veda refers to amrita as soma as well, but as we will explore, amrita and soma may be two different substances. Greek texts distinguish two different foods of the gods: ambrosia and nectar. Ambrosia is described as something that is eaten, while nectar is a beverage that is drunk.
Soma, or soma ras (juice of soma), is well described in the Rig Veda. The word soma comes from the root word “su” and suggests the concept of pressing or pounding. Soma is touted for its ability to allow the gods to rise above all obstacles and overcome their fears. It is said to bring about hallucinations and feelings of ecstasy to those who drink it. It can also help to create a bridge between the mortal world and the worlds of the gods. Soma is associated with the moon and is said to help promote inspiration and the creative process. The Rig Veda calls soma the “master poet.”
Its prominence in Indian society even elevated this substance to god status, placing soma in a position higher than Indra him- self. Texts indicate that soma is created when the stalks of the soma plant are pounded between two rocks. The golden-hued liquid that is released by the stalks is filtered through wool and collected. The juice is then mixed with other ingredients including water, milk, and barley and is said to taste similar to honey.
The identity of the plant used in making soma is a mystery. In his book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Robert Gordon Wasson speculates that it was made from juices of the psychoactive mushroom Amanita muscaria. Consumption of this mushroom can create feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, as well as feelings of increased strength and stamina.