Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The City of Harran

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 14, 2019

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“House of One”

Harran, ancient Carrhae, situated 44 km southeast of Şanlıurfa near the Syrian border, was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia whose site is near the modern village of Altınbaşak. The location is in the Harran district of Şanlıurfa Province.

A few kilometers from the village of Altınbaşak are the archaeological remains of ancient Harran, a major commercial, cultural, and religious center first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age III (3rd millennium BCE) period.

Harran is famous for its traditional “beehive” adobe houses, constructed entirely without wood. The design of these makes them cool inside, suiting the climatic needs of the region, and is thought to have been unchanged for at least 3,000 years.

Some were still in use as dwellings until the 1980s. However, those remaining today are strictly tourist exhibits, while most of Harran’s population lives in a newly built small village about 2 kilometres away from the main site.

At the historical site, the ruins of the city walls and fortifications are still in place, with one city gate standing, along with some other structures. Excavations of a nearby 4th century BCE burial mound continue under archaeologist Nurettin Yardımcı.

The grand Mosque of Harran is the oldest mosque built in Anatolia as a part of the Islamic architecture. Also known as the Paradise Mosque, this monument was built by the last Ummayad caliph Mervan II between the years 744–750.

The grand Mosque, which has remained standing up until today, with its 33.30 m tall minaret, fountain, mihrab, and eastern wall, has gone through several restoration processes”.

The demographics of the village today are made up mostly of ethnic Arabs. It is believed that the ancestors of the villagers were settled here during the 18th century by the Ottoman Empire. The women of the village often have tattoos and are dressed in traditional Bedouin clothes. There are some Assyrian villages in the general area.

By the late 1980s, the large plain of Harran had fallen into disuse as the streams of Cüllab and Deysan, its original water supply, had dried up. However, the plain is now irrigated by the recent Southeastern Anatolia Project, allowing cotton and rice to be grown in the area once again.

In religion

The moon god

The city was the chief home of the Mesopotamian moon god Sin, under the Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians/Chaldeans and even into Roman times.

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: 𒂗𒍪 EN.ZU, pronounced Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: 𒀭𒋀𒆠 DŠEŠ.KI, DNANNA) was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.

Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with the Semitic Sīn. An important Sumerian text (“Enlil and Ninlil”) tells of the descent of Enlil and Ninlil, pregnant with Nanna/Sin, into the underworld.

There, three “substitutions” are given to allow the ascent of Nanna/Sin. The story shows some similarities to the text known as “The Descent of Inanna”.

The Semitic moon god Su’en/Sin is in origin a separate deity from Sumerian Nanna, but from the Akkadian Empire period the two undergo syncretization and are identified.

Sin had a beard made of lapis lazuli and rode on a winged bull. On cylinder seals, he is represented as an old man with a flowing beard and the crescent symbol.

The bull was one of his symbols, through his father, Enlil, “Bull of Heaven”, along with the crescent and the tripod (which may be a lamp-stand).

In the astral-theological system he is represented by the number 30 and the moon. This number probably refers to the average number of days (correctly around 29.53) in a lunar month, as measured between successive new moons.

During the period in which Ur exercised supremacy over the Euphrates valley (between 2600 and 2400 BC), Sīn was considered the supreme god. It was then that he was designated as “father of the gods”, “head of the gods” or “creator of all things”.

Sīn was also called “He whose heart can not be read” and was told that “he could see farther than all the gods”. It is said that every new moon, the gods gather together from him to make predictions about the future.

He is commonly designated as En-zu, which means “lord of wisdom”. The “wisdom” personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor.

The original meaning of the name Nanna is unknown. The earliest spelling found in Ur and Uruk is DLAK-32.NA (where NA is to be understood as a phonetic complement).

The name of Ur, spelled (cuneiform: 𒋀𒀕𒆠) LAK-32.UNUGKI=URIM2KI, is itself derived from the theonym, and means “the abode (UNUG) of Nanna (LAK-32)”. He was also the father of Ishkur.

The pre-classical sign LAK-32 later collapses with ŠEŠ (the ideogram for “brother”), and the classical Sumerian spelling is DŠEŠ.KI, with the phonetic reading na-an-na.

The technical term for the crescent moon could also refer to the deity, (cuneiform: 𒀭𒌓𒊬 DU4.SAKAR). Later, the name is spelled logographically as DNANNA.

The occasional Assyrian spelling of DNANNA-ar DSu’en-e is due to association with Akkadian na-an-na-ru “illuminator, lamp”, an epitheton of the moon god.

The name of the Assyrian moon god Su’en/Sîn is usually spelled as DEN.ZU, or {h⁴8im)5 simply with the numeral 30, (cuneiform: 𒀭𒌍 DXXX).

His wife was Ningal (𒀭𒊩𒌆𒃲 DNIN.GAL; «Great Lady / Queen»), a goddess of reeds in the Sumerian mythology, who bore him Utu/Shamash (“Sun”) and Inanna/Ishtar (the goddess of the planet Venus), and in some texts, Ishkur.

Ningal was daughter of Enki and Ningikurga. She is chiefly recognised at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia.

The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.

The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sīn’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north.

Nanna’s chief sanctuary at Ur was named E-gish-shir-gal, “house of the great light” (cuneiform: 𒂍𒄑𒋓𒃲 e2-giš-šir-gal).

It was at Ur that the role of the En-Priestess developed. This was an extremely powerful role held by a princess, most notably Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon of Akkad, and was the primary cult role associated with the cult of Nanna/Sin.

Sin also had a sanctuary at the city of Harran, named E-hul-hul, “house of joys” (cuneiform: 𒂍𒄾𒄾 e2-ḫul2-ḫul2).

The cult of the moon-god spread to other centers, so that temples to him are found in all the large cities of Babylonia and Assyria.

A sanctuary for Sin with Syriac inscriptions invoking his name dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE was found at Sumatar Harabesi in the Tektek Mountains, not far from Harran and Edessa.

Sin’s temple in Harran was rebuilt by several kings, among them the Assyrian Assur-bani-pal (7th century BCE) and the Neo-Babylonian Nabonidus (6th century BCE). Herodian (iv. 13, 7) mentions the town as possessing in his day a temple of the moon.


Sin was also the name of the pre-Islamic god of the moon and riches worshipped in Hadhramaut in South Arabia. The name is of ancient origin, and is retained in the name of the Hadhramaut Governorate of Yemen.

The people of Hadhramaut are called Hadhrami. They formerly spoke Hadramautic, but now predominantly speak Hadhrami Arabic.

The Hadhrami are referred to as Chatramotitai in ancient Greek texts. Hadhramautic texts come later than Sabaean ones, and some Sabaean texts from Hadhramaut are known

Greek, Latin, Sabaean and Hadhramautic texts preserve the names of a large number of kings of Hadhramaut, but there is as yet no definitive chronology of their reigns.

Their capital was Shabwa in the northwest corner of the kingdom, along the Incense Route. Eratosthenes called it a metropolis. It was an important cult centre as well.

At first the religion was South Arabian polytheism, distinguished the worship of the Babylonian moon god Sin. By the sixth century the monotheistic cult of Raḥmān was followed in the local temple.

The political history of Hadhramaut is not easy to piece together. Numerous wars involving Hadhramaut are referenced in Sabaean texts.

From their own inscriptions, the Hadhrami are known to have fortified Libna against Himyar and to have fortified Mwyt (Ḥiṣn al-Ghurāb) against the Aksumites in the period following the death of Dhū Nuwās (525/7).

The kingdom ceased to exist by the end of the third century AD, having been annexed by the Himyarite Kingdom. Hadhramaut continued to be used in the full titulature of the kings of Sabaʾ and Dhu Raydān (Himyar)

Early Islamic authors believed the nomadic Kinda tribe that founded a kingdom in central Arabia were originally from Hadhramaut, although distinct from the settled Hadhrami population.

Khirbet Kerak

“Khirbet Kerak ware” is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant (including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit).

Khirbet Kerak (Arabic: Khirbet al-Karak, «the ruin of the fortress») or Beth Yerah (Hebrew: «House of the Moon (god)») is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.

The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC – 2000 BC) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c. 1000 AD).

Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian Culture, the Kura–Araxes culture, a civilization that existed from about 4000 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end; in some locations it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.

The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC. It gave rise to the later Khirbet Kerak-ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire.

The name of the culture is derived from the Kura and Araxes river valleys. Kura–Araxes culture is sometimes known as Shengavitian, Karaz (Erzurum), Pulur, and Yanik Tepe (Iranian Azerbaijan, near Lake Urmia) cultures.

Beth Yerah means “House of the Moon (god)”.[10] Though it is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible or other Bronze or Iron Age sources, the name may preserve, at least in part, the Canaanite toponym of Ablm-bt-Yrh, “the city/fort (qrt) of his-majesty Yarih”.

As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BCE Epic of Aqhat, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.

The name Bet Yerah has generally been accepted and applied to the site of Khirbet Kerak, though the evidence for its being located there is circumstantial.

Yarikh (also written as Jerah, Jarah, or Jorah) is a moon god in Canaanite religion whose epithets are “illuminator of the heavens”‘, “illuminator of the myriads of stars” and “lord of the sickle”.

The latter epithet may come from the appearance of the crescent moon. Yarikh was recognized as the provider of nightly dew, and married to the goddess Nikkal, his moisture causing her orchards to bloom in the desert.

The city of Jericho was a center of his worship, and its name may derive from the name Yarikh, or from the Cannanite word for moon, Yareaẖ. It seems to have Hurrian roots and may be connected with Kušuḫ, the Hurrian moon god.

Nikkal, Ugaritic 𐎐𐎋𐎍 nkl, full name Nikkal-wa-Ib, is a goddess of Ugarit/Canaan and later of Phoenicia. She is a goddess of orchards, whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful” and derives from Akkadian / West Semitic “´Ilat ´Inbi” meaning “Goddess of Fruit”.

De Moor translates Ugaritic 𐎛𐎁 “ib” as “blossom” which survives in biblical Hebrew as אֵב (Strongs Concordance 3) and cites Canticles 6:11 as a survival of this usage.

She is daughter of Khirkhibi, the Summer’s King, and is married to the moon god Yarikh, who gave her necklaces of lapis-lazuli. Their marriage is lyrically described in the Ugaritic text “Nikkal and the Kathirat”.

She may have been feted in late summer when tree fruits had been finally harvested. Her Sumerian equivalent is the goddess Ningal, the mother of Inanna and Ereshkigal.

The oldest incomplete annotated piece of ancient music is a Hurrian song, a hymn in Ugaritic cuneiform syllabic writing which was dedicated to Nikkal.

This was published upon its discovery in Ugarit by Emmanuel Laroche, first in 1955 and then more fully in 1968, and has been the focus of many subsequent studies in palaeomusicology by, amongst others, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, who gave it the title of “The Hymn to Nikkal” .


Hadad (Ugaritic: 𐎅𐎄 Haddu), Adad, Haddad (Akkadian: 𒀭𒅎) or Iškur (Sumerian) was the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions. Adad and Iškur are usually written with the logogram 𒀭𒅎 dIM – the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. Hadad was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods.

The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

Haddad was attested in Ebla as “Hadda” in c. 2500 BCE. From the Levant, Hadad was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites, where he became known as the Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) god Adad.

Dyēus or Dyēus Phter (Proto-Indo-European: *dyḗws ph₂tḗr, also *Dyḗus Ph2tḗr, *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, or Dyēus Pətḗr, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology.

Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in Proto-Indo-European society. Rooted in the related but distinct Indo-European word *deiwos is the Latin word for deity, deus. The Latin word is also continued in English “divine” and “deity”.

Although some of the more iconic reflexes of Dyeus are storm deities, such as Zeus and Jupiter, this is thought to be a late development exclusive to Mediterranean traditions, probably derived from syncretism with Canaanite deities and Perkwunos.

The deity’s original domain was over the daylight sky, and indeed reflexes emphasise this connection to light: Istanu (Tiyaz) is a solar deity (though this name may actually refer to a female sun goddess).

Helios is often referred to as the “eye of Zeus”, in Romanian paganism the Sun is similarly called “God’s eye” (exact equivalent of Armenian akn tiwakan – “eye of God”) and in Indo-Iranian tradition Surya/Hvare-khshaeta is similarly associated with Ahura Mazda. Even in Roman tradition, Jupiter often is only associated with diurnal lightning at most, while Summanus is a deity responsible for nocturnal lightning or storms as a whole.

In Akkadian, Adad is also known as Rammanu (“Thunderer”) cognate with Aramaic:‎ Raˁmā and Hebrew: Raˁam, which was a byname of Hadad. Rammanu was formerly incorrectly taken by many scholars to be an independent Akkadian god later identified with Hadad.

Though originating in northern Mesopotamia, Adad was identified by the same Sumerogram dIM that designated Iškur in the south. His worship became widespread in Mesopotamia after the First Babylonian dynasty. A text dating from the reign of Ur-Ninurta characterizes Adad/Iškur as both threatening in his stormy rage and generally life-giving and benevolent.

The form Iškur appears in the list of gods found at Shuruppak but was of far less importance, probably partly because storms and rain were scarce in Sumer and agriculture there depended on irrigation instead. The gods Enlil and Ninurta also had storm god features that decreased Iškur’s distinctiveness. He sometimes appears as the assistant or companion of one or the other of the two.

When Enki distributed the destinies, he made Iškur inspector of the cosmos. In one litany, Iškur is proclaimed again and again as “great radiant bull, your name is heaven” and also called son of Anu, lord of Karkara; twin-brother of Enki, lord of abundance, lord who rides the storm, lion of heaven. In other texts Adad/Iškur is sometimes son of the moon god Nanna/Sin by Ningal and brother of Utu/Shamash and Inanna/Ishtar. Iškur is also sometimes described as the son of Enlil.

The bull was portrayed as Adad/Iškur’s sacred animal starting in the Old Babylonian period (the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE). He is identified with the Anatolian storm-god Teshub, whom the Mitannians designated with the same Sumerogram dIM. Occasionally Adad/Iškur is identified with the god Amurru, the god of the Amorites.

Adad/Iškur’s consort (both in early Sumerian and the much later Assyrian texts) was Shala, a goddess of grain, who is also sometimes associated with the god Dagānu. She was also called Gubarra in the earliest texts. The fire god Gibil (named Gerra in Akkadian) is sometimes the son of Iškur and Shala.


Harran was a centre of Assyrian Christianity from early on, and was the first place where purpose-built churches were constructed openly. However, many people of Harran retained their ancient pagan faith during the Christian period, and ancient Mesopotamian/Assyrian gods such as Sin and Ashur were still worshipped for a time.

Carrhae was the seat of a Christian diocese before the First Council of Nicaea of 325, which was attended by its bishop Gerontius. In 361, its bishop Barses was transferred to Edessa, the capital of the Roman province of Osrhoene and therefore the metropolitan see of which the bishopric of Carrhae was a suffragan.

The names of another eleven bishops of Carrhae, including that of Abraham of Carrhae, are known from then down to Theodore Abu Qurrah, bishop of Carrhae from before 787 to after 813, and the writer of many treatises in Syriac and Arabic.

After him, the see passed into the hands of Non-Chalcedonian Jacobite bishops, of whom Michael the Syrian names seventeen who lived between the 8th and the 12th century.

No longer a residential bishopric, Carrhae is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. A titular see in various churches is an episcopal see of a former diocese that no longer functions, sometimes called a “dead diocese”.

The ordinary or hierarch of such a see may be styled a “titular metropolitan” (highest rank), “titular archbishop” (intermediary rank) or “titular bishop” (lowest rank), which normally goes by the status conferred on the titular see.

The term is used to signify a diocese that no longer functionally exists, often because the diocese once flourished but the territory was conquered by Muslims or no longer functions because of a schism.


Harran is, by virtually all scholars, associated with the biblical place Haran (Hebrew: חָרָן, transliterated: Charan). However, very little is known about the pre-mediaeval levels of Harran, especially for the patriarchal times.

Biblical Haran was where Terah, his son Abram (Abraham), his nephew Lot, and Abram’s wife Sarai settled en route to Canaan, coming from Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:26–32).

The region of this Haran is referred to variously as Paddan Aram and Aram Naharaim. Paddan Aram or Padan-aram was an early Aramean kingdom in Mesopotamia.

Aram Naharaim is in Genesis used somewhat interchangeably with the names Paddan Aram and Haran to denote the place where Abraham stayed briefly with his father Terah’s family after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan (Gen. 11:31), and the place from which later patriarchs obtained wives, rather than marry daughters of Canaan.

Paddan Aram in Aramaic means the field of Aram. The name may correspond to the Hebrew “sedeh Aram,” or “field of Aram.” (Rashi to Gen. 25:20; e.g., Hos. 12:13.)

Paddan Aram designates the area of Harran in upper Mesopotamia. “Paddan Aram” and “Haran” may be dialectical variations regarding the same locality as paddanū and harranū are synonyms for “road” or “caravan route” in Akkadian.

Padan-aram or Padan appears in 11 verses in the Hebrew Bible, all in Genesis. Adherents of the documentary hypothesis often attribute most of these verses to the priestly source and the remainder to a later redactor.

The city of Harran, where Abraham and his father Terah settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees, while en route to Canaan, according to the Genesis 11:31, was located in Paddan Aram, that part of Aram Naharaim that lay along the Euphrates.

Abraham’s brother Nahor settled in the area. Abraham’s nephew Bethuel, son of Nahor and Milcah, and father of Laban and Rebecca, lived in Padan-aram.

Abraham sent his steward back there to find a wife among his kinfolk for his son, Isaac. The steward found Rebecca.

Isaac and Rebecca’s son Jacob was sent there to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau. There Jacob worked for Laban, fathered eleven sons and daughter, Dinah, (Gen. 35:22-26; 46:15), and amassed livestock and wealth. (Gen. 31:18.)

From there, Jacob went to Shechem and the Land of Israel, where his twelfth son was born to him. (Gen. 33:18.)

Genesis 27:43 makes Haran the home of Laban and connects it with Isaac and Jacob: it was the home of Isaac’s wife Rebekah, and their son Jacob spent twenty years in Haran working for his uncle Laban (cf. Genesis 31:38&41).


According to an early Arabic work known as Kitab al-Magall or the Book of Rolls (part of Clementine literature), Harran was one of the cities built by Nimrod, when Peleg was 50 years old.

The Syriac Cave of Treasures (c. 350) contains a similar account of Nimrod’s building Harran and the other cities, but places the event when Reu was 50 years old.

The Cave of Treasures adds an ancient legend that not long thereafter, Tammuz was pursued to Harran by his wife’s lover, B’elshemin, and that he (Tammuz) met his fate there when the city was then burnt.

The pagan residents of Harran also maintained the tradition well into the 10th century AD of being the site of Tammuz’ death, and would conduct elaborate mourning rituals for him each year, in the month bearing his name.

The Christian historian Bar Hebraeus (13th century), mentions in his Chronography that Harran had been built by Cainan (the father of Abraham’s ancestor Shelah in some accounts), and had been named for another son of Cainan called Harran.

Early History

The earliest records of Harran come from Ebla tablets (late 3rd millennium BCE). From these, it is known that an early king or mayor of Harran had married an Eblaite princess, Zugalum, who then became “queen of Harran”, and whose name appears in a number of documents.

It appears that Harran remained a part of the regional Eblaite kingdom for some time thereafter. Royal letters from the city of Mari on the middle of the Euphrates, have confirmed that the area around the Balikh river remained occupied in c. the 19th century BCE.

A confederation of semi-nomadic tribes was especially active around the region near Harran at that time. It was an important Mesopotamian trade center as early as 2300 BCE on a road running south to Nineveh in modern Iraq.

In its prime Harran was a major Assyrian city which controlled the point where the road from Damascus joins the highway between Nineveh and Carchemish.

This location gave Harran strategic value from an early date. Because Harran had an abundance of goods that passed through its region, it became a target for raids.

In the 18th century, Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I (1813–1781 BCE) launched an expedition to secure the Harranian trade route. By the 20th century BCE, Harran was established as a merchant outpost of the Assyrian Empire due to its ideal location.

The community, well established before then, was situated along a trade route between the Mediterranean and the plains of the middle Tigris. It lay directly on the road from Antioch eastward to Nisibis and Nineveh. The Tigris could be followed down to the delta to Babylon.

The 4th-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391) said, “From there (Harran) two different royal highways lead to Persia: the one on the left through Neo-Assyrian Adiabene and over the Tigris; the one on the right, through Assyria and across the Euphrates.”

Not only did Harran have easy access to both the Assyrian and Babylonian roads, but also to north road to the Euphrates that provided easy access to Malatiyah and Asia Minor.

After the Suppiluliuma I–Shattiwaza treaty (14th century BCE) between the Hittite Empire and Mitanni, Harran was burned by a Hittite army under Piyashshili in the course of the conquest of Mitanni.

In the 13th century BCE, Assyrian king Adad-Nirari I reported that he conquered the “fortress of Kharani” and annexed it as a province.

It is frequently mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions as early as the time of Tiglath-Pileser I, about 1100 BCE, under the name Harranu (Akkadian harrānu, “road, path; campaign, journey”).

Tiglath-Pileser had a fortress there, and mentioned that he was pleased with the abundance of elephants in the region.

According to Roman authors such as Pliny the Elder, even through the classical period, Harran maintained an important position in the economic life of Assyria. During the first half of the 6th century, BCE Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Harran.

During the fall of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Harran became the stronghold of its last king, Ashur-uballit II, who had retreated from Nineveh when it was sacked by Nabopolassar of Babylon and his Median allies in 612 BCE.

Harran was besieged and conquered by Nabopolassar and Cyaxares in 610 BCE. It was briefly retaken by Ashur-uballit II and his Egyptian allies in 609 BCE, before it finally fell to the Medes and Babylonians in 605 BCE.

The last king of the Neo-Babylonian period, Nabonidus, also originated from Harran as substantiated by evidence from the temple of stele of his mother Adad-Guppi, who is of Assyrian origin.

The city became a bastion for the worship of the moon god Sin during the rule of Nabonidus in 556–539 BCE, much to the consternation of the city of Babylon in the south, where Marduk remained the primary deity.

Harran became part of the Median Empire after the fall of Assyria, and subsequently passed to the Persian Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BCE.

It became part of the Persian province of Athura, the Persian word for Assyria. The city remained in Persian hands until 331 BCE, when the soldiers of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great entered the city.

After the death of Alexander on June 11, 323 BCE, the city was contested by his successors: Perdiccas, Antigonus Monophthalmus, and Eumenes visited the city.

Harran eventually became part of the realm of Seleucus I Nicator, of the Seleucid Empire, and capital of a province called Osrhoene (the Greek rendering of the old name Urhai).

For one and a half centuries the town flourished, and became independent when the Parthian dynasty of Persia occupied Babylonia.

The Parthian and Seleucid kings were both happy with a buffer state, and the dynasty of the Arabian Abgarides, technically a vassal of the Parthian “king of kings”, was to rule Osrhoene for centuries. The main language spoken in Oshroene was Aramaic.

In Roman times, Harran was known as Carrhae, and was the location of the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE, in which the Parthians, commanded by general Surena, defeated a large Roman army under the command of Crassus, who was killed.

Centuries later, the emperor Caracalla was murdered here, probably at the instigation of Macrinus (217).

In the 3rd century the region was a frontier province of the Roman empire, being the location for major wars between Rome and Persia. The emperor Galerius was defeated nearby by the Parthians’ successors, the Sassanid dynasty of Persia, in 296 CE.

The city remained in Roman hands until 609/610 CE, when the Persian general Shahrbaraz completed conquering of Oshroene or Kingdom of Urhay, and sometimes known by the name of its capital city, Edessa (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey).

he city of Harran returned to Roman control after the successful offensive of emperor Heraclius in 620s. A few years later, in AH 19 (640), it was conquered by the Muslim Arab general ‘Iyāḍ b. Ghanm.

The Country of Osroene, Urfa

Osroene was a historical kingdom in Upper Mesopotamia, which was ruled by the Abgarid dynasty of Arab origin. It enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 216, and a Roman province from 216 to 608, from 318 a part of the Diocese of the East.

Osroene, or Edessa, was one of several states that acquired independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire through a dynasty of the nomadic Nabataean Arab tribe from Southern Canaan and North Arabia, the Orrhoei, from 136 BC.

Its name derives from Osroes of Urhay, a Nabataean king, who, in 120 BC, wrested control of the region from the Seleucids in Syria.

Osroene endured for four centuries, with twenty-eight rulers occasionally named “king” on their coins. Most of the kings of Osroene were called Abgar or Manu and settled in urban centers.

Under the Nabataean dynasties, Osroëne became increasingly influenced by Syriac Christianity and was a centre of national reaction against Hellenism.

Osroene was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semiautonomous vassal state, after a period under the rule of the Parthian Empire, incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214.

The independence of the state ended in 216, when it was incorporated into the Roman Empire. By the 5th century, Edessa had become a center of Syriac literature and learning. In 608, the Sasanian emperor, Khosrow II, took Osroëne. In 638, it fell to the Muslims as part of the Muslim conquests.

The Country of Adiabene

Harran was called Hellenopolis (meaning “Greek city”) in the Early Christian period.

It is mentioned, in Movses Khorenatsi’s and Mikayel Chamchian’s History of Armenia, as being under the authority of prince Sanadroug, the sovereignty of which he assigned to Queen Helena of Adiabene.

Adiabene was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Erbil, Iraq). It had a mixed population. It may have had a series of native rulers nominally vassal to the Macedonian, Seleucid and later Armenian (under Tigranes the Great) empires.

Helena of Adiabene (d. ca. 50-56 CE) was a Median queen of Adiabene (modern-day Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan) and Edessa (modern-day Urfa, Turkey) and the wife of Monobaz I, her brother, and Abgarus V.

Helena became a convert to Judaism about the year 30 CE. The names of some of her family members and the fact that she was married to her brother indicate an Iranian, Zoroastrian or Magian origin.

Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided the Jews in their war with Rome.

According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.

King Abgar V

There is an apocryphal legend that Osroene was the first state to have accepted Christianity as state religion, but there is not enough evidence to support that claim.

It was in the region in which the legend of Abgar V originated. Abgar V (died c. AD 40), called Ukkāmā meaning “the Black” (in Syriac and other dialects of Aramaic), was the King of Osroene with his capital at Edessa.

Abgar V is claimed to be one of the first Christian kings in history, having been converted to the faith by Thaddeus of Edessa, one of the seventy disciples.

The church historian Eusebius records that the Edessan archives contained a copy of a correspondence exchanged between Abgar of Edessa and Jesus.

The correspondence consisted of Abgar’s letter and the answer dictated by Jesus. On August 15, 944, the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople received the letter and the Mandylion. Both relics were then moved to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos.

Abgar was described as “king of the Arabs” by Tacitus, a near-contemporary source. According to Movses Khorenatsi, Abgar was an Armenian.

Yet both Robert W. Thomson and Richard G. Hovannisian state Abgar’s Armenian ethnicity was invented by Khorenatsi. Most modern academics present the Abgarid dynasty as an Arab dynasty.

Consequently, Lucas Van Rompay, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, states that, “as far as the ethnic descent of the Abgarid kings is concerned, we cannot ascertain whether they were Arabs(as some of the names may indicate), Aramean, Parthian, or Armenian”.

Abgar’s nephew, King Sanatruk of Armenia, is also chronicled extensively in Armenian writings. He was a member of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia who succeeded Tiridates I of Armenia as King of Armenia at the end of the 1st century. He was also King of Osroene (reigned 91–109), a historic kingdom located in Mesopotamia.

Little or no information is available from either literary or numismatic sources regarding the successor of Tiridates. Through the collation of various Classical and Armenian sources, Sanatruk is assumed to have reigned around the start of the 2nd century.

Certain scholars proposed that Sanatruk succeeded Tiridates between 75 and 110 but this hypothesis for which there is no explicit evidence has been rejected by others.

His merits are praised by Arrian in his Parthica where he is equated with the most illustrious Greeks and Romans. However, Hagiographic tradition blames him for the martyrdom of the Apostle St. Thaddeus in Armenia, as well as his own daughter, St. Sandukht the Virgin.

In 110 the throne of Armenia was held by Axidares, the son of the Parthian monarch of Atropatene, Pacorus II of Parthia who was deposed in 113 by Trajan (Latin: Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae filius Augustus; 18 September 53 – 8 August 117).

Trajan was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared by the Senate optimus princeps (“the best ruler”), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death.

A number of sources have named Sanatruk as one of the leaders of the revolt against Trajan’s occupation by 117. It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene, after fleeing Trajan’s invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty which ruled the area between the lakes Urmia and Van.

Amatuni is an ancient Armenian noble family, known from the 4th century in the canton of Artaz, between lakes Van and Urmia, with its center at Shavarshan (latter-day Maku), and subsequently also at Aragatsotn, west of Lake Sevan, with the residence at Oshakan.


At the beginning of the Islamic period Harran was located in the land of the Mudar tribe (Diyar Mudar), the western part of northern Mesopotamia (Jazira).

Along with ar-Ruha’ (Şanlıurfa) and Raqqa it was one of the main cities in the region. During the reign of the Umayyad caliph Marwan II Harran became the seat of the caliphal government of the Islamic empire stretching from Spain to Central Asia.

It was allegedly the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun who, while passing through Harran on his way to a campaign against the Byzantine Empire, forced the Harranians to convert to one of the “religions of the book”, meaning Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

The Sabians

The pagan people of Harran identified themselves with the Sabians in order to fall under the protection of Islam. Aramaean and Assyrian Christians remained Christian.

The Sabians of Middle Eastern tradition were a religious group mentioned three times in the Quran as a People of the Book, along with the Jews and the Christians. In the hadith, they were described simply as converts to Islam.

Interest in the identity and history of the group increased over time. Discussions and investigations of the Sabians began to appear in later Islamic literature.

The Sabians were identified by early writers with the ancient Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, and with gnostic groups such as the Hermeticists and the Mandaeans. Today, the Mandaeans are still widely identified as Sabians.

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: Mandāʼīyah) is a gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist.

The Mandaeans are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name ‘Mandaean’ is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning “knowledge”, as does Greek gnosis.

Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the Ṣubba (singular: Ṣubbī) or Sabians. The term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi.

In Islam, the “Sabians” (Arabic: al-Ṣābiʾūn) are described several times in the Quran as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called “Christians of Saint John”.

According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area.

However, some scholars take the view that Mandaeanism is older and dates from pre-Christian times.

Sabians were mentioned in the Qur’an, but those were the group of Mandaeans. The Harranians may have identified themselves as Sabians in order to retain their religious beliefs.

During the late 8th and 9th centuries Harran was a centre for translating works of astronomy, philosophy, natural sciences, and medicine from Greek to Syriac by Assyrians, and thence to Arabic, bringing the knowledge of the classical world to the emerging Arabic-speaking civilization in the south.

Baghdad came to this work later than Harran. Many important scholars of natural science, astronomy, and medicine originate from Harran.

In 1032 or 1033 the temple of the Sabians was destroyed and the urban community extinguished by an uprising of the rural ‘Alid-Shiite population and impoverished Muslim militias.

In 1059–60 the temple was rebuilt into a fortified residence by the Numayrid prince Mani ibn Shabib. The Numayrids were an Arab tribe that dominated the Diyar Mudar (western Jazira) during the 11th century and had ruled Harran more or less continuously since 990.

The Zangid ruler Nur al-Din Mahmud transformed the residence into a strong fortress. The Zengid or Zangid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Oghuz Turk origin, which ruled parts of the Levant and Upper Mesopotamia on behalf of the Seljuk Empire.

The Crusades

During the Crusades, on May 7, 1104, a decisive battle was fought in the Balikh River valley, commonly known as the Battle of Harran.

However, according to Matthew of Edessa the actual location of the battle lies two days away from Harran. Albert of Aachen and Fulcher of Chartres locate the battleground in the plain opposite to the city of Raqqa.

During the battle, Baldwin of Bourcq, Count of Edessa, was captured by troops of the Great Seljuq Empire. After his release Baldwin became King of Jerusalem.

Later history

At the end of 12th century Harran served together with Raqqa as a residence of Kurdish Ayyubid princes. The Ayyubid ruler of the Jazira, Al-Adil I, again strengthened the fortifications of the castle.

In the 1260s the city was completely destroyed and abandoned during the Mongol invasions of Syria. The father of the famous Hanbalite scholar Ibn Taymiyyah was a refugee from Harran, settling in Damascus.

The 13th-century Kurdish historian Abu al-Fida describes the city as being in ruins. The early 14th-century traveler [Jordanus] devotes Chapter 10 of his Mirabilis to “Aran”, which most likely is Harran.

The entire chapter reads: “Here Followeth Concerning the Land of Aran. Concerning Aran I say nothing at all, seeing that there is nothing worth noting.”

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The human migration – haplogroups

Posted by Fredsvenn on July 15, 2019

Haplogroup CF, also known as CF-P143 and CT(xDE), is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. This paternal lineage is defined by the SNP P143. The clade’s existence and distribution are inferred from the fact that haplogroups descended from CF include most human male lineages in Eurasia, Oceania and The Americas.

Haplogroup CF is an immediate descendant of the Haplogroup CT (CT-M168), and is the sibling of Haplogroup DE (DE-YAP). Men who carry the CT clade have Y chromosomes with the SNP mutation M168, along with P9.1 and M294. These mutations are present in all modern human male lineages except A and B-M60, which are both found almost exclusively in Africa.

The most recent common male line ancestor (TMRCA) of all CT men today probably predated the recent African origin of modern humans, a migration in which some of his descendants participated. He is therefore thought to have lived in Africa before this proposed migration. In keeping with the concept of “Y-chromosomal Adam” given to the patrilineal ancestor of all living humans, CT-M168 has therefore also been referred to in popularized accounts as being the lineage of “Eurasian Adam” or “Out of Africa Adam”.

No male in paragroup CT* has ever been discovered in modern populations. This means that all males carrying this haplogroup are also defined as being in one of the several major branch clades. All known surviving descendant lineages of CT are in one of two major subclades, CF and DE. In turn, DE is divided into an Asia-distributed haplogroup D-M174 and a now predominantly Africa-distributed haplogroup E-M96, while CF is divided into an East Asian, American, and Oceanian haplogroup C-M130 and haplogroup F-M89, which dominates most non-African populations.

Haplogroup CT had been found in various prehistoric human fossils that were analysed for ancient DNA, including specimens associated with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (1/1; 100%), Neolithic Ganj Dareh Iran (1/2 50%), Natufian (2/5; 40%), Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (2/7; ~29%), Alföld Linear Pottery (1/1 at two ALP archaeological sites; 100%), Linearbandkeramik (1/2 at Karsdorf LBK archaeological site; 50%) cultures, and some Upper Paleolithic Europeans (Cioclovina1, Kostenki12, Vestonice13). But whether these, or all of them, belong to paragroup CT* or to its branches, is as yet undetermined.

DE is unique because it is distributed in several geographically distinct clusters. An immediate subclade, haplogroup D, is normally found only in eastern Asia, parts of Central Asia and the Andaman Islands, and the other immediate subclade, haplogroup E, is common in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The age of haplogroup DE is generally estimated between 65,000 and 71,000 years.

Haplogroup CF is the immediate ancestor of both Haplogroup C and Haplogroup F. Haplogroup C is found in ancient populations on every continent except Africa and is the predominant Y-DNA haplogroup among males belonging to many peoples indigenous to East Asia, Central Asia, Siberia, North America and Oceania. The haplogroup is also found at moderate frequencies among certain indigenous populations of Southeast Asia.

Haplogroup F, also known as F-M89, is a very common Y-chromosome haplogroup. The clade and its subclades constitute over 90% of paternal lineages outside of Africa. It is primarily found throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of East Asia.

It is estimated that the SNP M89 appeared 38,700–55,700 years ago, most likely in South Asia. This theory has all but superseded previous research, which suggested that F-M89 first appeared in the Arabian Peninsula, Levant or North Africa, about 43,800–56,800 years ago, and may, therefore, have represented a “second wave” of expansion out of Africa.

The location of this lineage’s first expansion and rise to prevalence appears to have been in the Indian Subcontinent, or somewhere close to it, and most of the descendant subclades and haplogroups appear to have radiated outward from South Asia and/or neighbouring parts of the Middle East and South East Asia.

Some lineages derived from Haplogroup F-M89 appear to have back-migrated into Africa from Southwest Asia, during prehistory. Subclades of F-M89 associated with this hypothetical “Back to Africa” migration include J, R1b, and T.

The vast majority of individual males with F-M89 fall into its direct descendant Haplogroup GHIJK (F1329/M3658/PF2622/YSC0001299). In addition to GHIJK, haplogroup F has three other immediate descendant subclades: F1 (P91/P104), F2 (M427/M428), and F3 (M481). These three, with F* (M89*), constitute the paragroup F(xGHIJK).

GHIJK is the major clade of Haplogroup F (F-M89). This macrohaplogroup and its subclades contain the vast majority of the world’s existing male population. It branches subsequently into two direct descendants: Haplogroup G (M201/PF2957) and Haplogroup HIJK (F929/M578/PF3494/S6397). The other haplotypes of Haplogroup F are F1, F2, and F3.

Like its parent macrohaplogroup GHIJK, Haplogroup HIJK and its subclades comprise the vast majority of the world’s male population. Subclades of GHIJK, under the HIJK lineage, include: H (L901/M2939) and IJK (F-L15). The downstream descendants of Haplogroup IJK include the major haplogroups I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S and T.

IJK in turn splits into IJ (F-L15) and K (M9). The descendants of Haplogroup IJ are haplogroups I and J, while Haplogroup K (which includes most of the world’s male population) is, ultimately, the ancestor of major haplogroups M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, L, and T.

Haplogroup IJ derived populations account for a significant proportion of the pre-modern populations of Europe (especially Scandinavia and the Balkans), Anatolia, the Middle East (especially Arabia, The Caucasus, Levant and Mesopotamia) and coastal North Africa. As a result of mass migrations during the modern era, they are now also significant in The Americas and Australasia.

Haplogroup K or K-M9 is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. A sublineage of haplogroup IJK, K-M9 and its descendant clades represent a geographically widespread and diverse haplogroup. The lineages have long been found among males on every continent.

Y-DNA haplogroup K-M9 is an old lineage that arose approximately 47,000-50,000 years ago, probably in South Asia or West Asia. Basal K* is exceptionally rare and under-researched; while it has been reported at very low frequencies on many continents it is not always clear if the examples concerned have been screened for subclades. Confirmed examples of K-M9* now appear to be most common amongst some populations in Island South East Asia and Melanesia.

The direct descendants of K-M9 are Haplogroup K2 (formerly KxLT; K-M526) and Haplogroup LT (L298 = P326). Primary descendants of haplogroup LT are L (M20), also known as K1a, and T (M184), also known as K1b. The descendants of haplogroup K2 include K2a (detected in paleolithic specimens Oase1 and Ust’-Ishim), the subclades of which include the major haplogroups N and O, and; K2b – the ancestor of haplogroups M, P, Q, R, S.

Haplogroup K2a (M2308, Z4842) is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. Its sole primary descendant is haplogroup K-M2313. A secondary subclade, Haplogroup NO, which is a primary subclade of K-M2313, includes a majority of males now living in all parts of East Asia, Northern Eurasia and South East Asia.

Basal K2a-M2308* has been found only in the remains of two Upper Paleolithic individuals, known as “Ust’-Ishim man and “Oase-1”, from Siberia and the Balkans respectively. K-M2313* has been documented in two living individuals, who have ethnic ties to South Asia and South East Asia respectively: a Telugu from India and an ethnic Malay from Singapore. In addition, K-Y28299, which appears to be a primary branch of K-M2313, has been found in three living individuals from India. NO-M214* has not been identified in living individuals or remains.

Haplogroup K2b (P331), also known as MPS, is a human y-chromosome haplogroup that is thought to be less than 3,000 years younger than K, and less than 10,000 years younger than F, meaning it probably is around 50,000 years old. The basal paragroup K2b* has not been identified among living males or ancient remains.

K2b1 (P397/P399) known previously as Haplogroup MS, and Haplogroup P (P-P295), also known as K2b2, are the only primary clades of K2b. The estimated dates for the branching of K, K2, K2b and P point to a rapid diversification within K2, into K2a and K2b , followed by K2b1 and P (also known as K2b2), that likely occurred in Southeast Asia. This was followed by the relatively rapid westward expansion of P1 – the immediate ancestor of both Haplogroups Q and R.

K2b1, its subclades and P*, are virtually restricted geographically to South East Asia and Oceania whereas, in a striking contrast, P1 (P-M45), also known as K2b2a, and its primary subclades Q and R that now make up the most frequent haplogroup in Europe, the Americas, and Central Asia and South Asia.

Defined by the SNPs M45 and PF5962, P1 is a primary branch (subclade) of P* (P-P295; K2b2). The only primary subclades of P1 are Haplogroup Q (Q-M242) and Haplogroup R (R-M207). These haplogroups now comprise most of the male lineages among Native Americans, Europeans, Central Asia and South Asia, among other parts of the world.

P1 (M45) likely originated in East Asia or Southeast Asia, even though basal P1* (P1xQ,R) is now most common among individuals in Eastern Siberia and Central Asia. Both P* and its precursor, K2b, reach their highest rates among members of the Aeta (or Agta) people of Luzon in the Philippines, and; Luzon is also the only location where P*, P1 and haplogroup P2 (P-B253; K2b2b), the only other primary subclade of P*, have been found together.

However, a 2018 study found basal P1* in two individuals dated to the Upper Paleolithic (~31,630 cal BP) from a Yana river archaeological site, a river in Sakha in Russia, located between the Lena to the west and the Indigirka to the east. It is possible that many cases of P-M45* in Central Asia, South Asia and/or West Asia are unresolved members of less-researched subclades of Haplogroups R2 and Q.

Haplogroup Q, or Q-M242, is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. It has one primary subclade, Haplogroup Q1 (L232/S432), which includes numerous subclades that have been sampled and identified in males among modern populations.

Q-M242 is believed to have arisen around the Altai Mountains area (or South Central Siberia), approximately 17,000 to 31,700 years ago. It is the predominant Y-DNA haplogroup among Native Americans and several peoples of Central Asia and Northern Siberia. It is also the predominant Y-DNA of the Akha tribe in northern Thailand and the Dayak people of Indonesia.

Haplogroup R, or R-M207, is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. It is both numerous and widespread amongst modern populations. Some descendant subclades have been found since pre-history in Europe, Central Asia and South Asia. Others have long been present, at lower levels, in parts of West Asia and Africa. Some authorities have also suggested, more controversially, that R-M207 has long been present among Native Americans in North America – a theory that has not yet been widely accepted.

Haplogroup R* Y-DNA (xR1,R2) was found in 24,000-year-old remains from Mal’ta, an archaeological culture of the Upper Paleolithic (c. 24,000 to 15,000 BP) on the upper Angara River in the area west of Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk Oblast, Siberia, Russian Federation. In 2013, R-M207 was found in one out of 132 males from the Kyrgyz people of East Kyrgyzstan.

R-M173, also known as R1, has been common throughout Europe and South Asia since pre-history. It has many branches. Males carrying R-M173 in modern populations appear to comprise two subclades: R1a and R1b, which are found mainly in populations native to Eurasia (except East and Southeast Asia).

Haplogroup R2 is defined by the presence of the marker M479. The paragroup for the R-M479 lineage is found predominantly in South Asia, although deep-rooted examples have also been found among Portuguese, Spanish, Tatar (Bashkortostan, Russia), and Ossetian (Caucasus) populations.

R2 has been concentrated geographically in South Asia and Central Asia since prehistory. It appears to reach its highest levels among the Burusho people in North Pakistan. However, it also appears to be present at low levels in the Caucasus, Iran, Anatolia and Europe.

Haplogroup R1a, or haplogroup R-M420, is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup which is distributed in a large region in Eurasia, extending from Scandinavia and Central Europe to southern Siberia and South Asia. While R1a originated ca. 22,000 to 25,000 years ago, its subclade M417 (R1a1a1) diversified ca. 5,800 years ago.

The distribution of M417-subclades R1a-Z282 (including R1a-Z280) in Central and Eastern Europe and R1a-Z93 in Asia suggests that R1a1a diversified within the Eurasian Steppes or the Middle East and Caucasus region. The place of origin of these subclades plays a role in the debate about the origins of Proto-Indo-Europeans.

Haplogroup R1b (R-M343 is a human Y-chromosome haplogroup. It is the most frequently occurring paternal lineage in Western Europe, as well as some parts of Russia (e.g. the Bashkir minority) and Central Africa (e.g. Chad and Cameroon). The clade is also present at lower frequencies throughout Eastern Europe, Western Asia, as well as parts of North Africa and Central Asia. R1b also reaches high frequencies in the Americas and Australasia, due largely to immigration from Western Europe.

R1b has two primary branches: R1b1a-L754 and R1b1b-PH155. R1b1a1a2-M269, which predominates in Western Europe, and R1b1a2-V88, which is common in Central Africa, are both subclades of R1b-L754. R1b1b-PH155 is so rare and widely dispersed that it is difficult to draw any conclusions about its origins. It has been found in Bahrain, Bhutan, Ladakh, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Western China. According to autosomal DNA studies the majority of modern R1b and R1a would have expanded from the Caspian Sea along with the Indo-European languages.

It is the second most common haplogroup in Indigenous peoples of the Americas following haplogroup Q-M242, especially in the Algonquian peoples of Canada and the United States. The reasons for high levels of R-M173 among Native Americans are a matter of controversy as some scholars claim that this is partly or wholly the result of colonial-era immigration from Europe, whereas; other authorities point to the greater similarity of many R-M173 subclades found in North America to those found in Siberia, suggesting prehistoric immigration from Asia and/or Beringia.

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China History 1

Posted by Fredsvenn on July 9, 2019

Near East: Neolithic

In the Middle East, cultures identified as Neolithic began appearing in the 10th millennium BC. Early development occurred in the Levant (e.g., Pre-Pottery Neolithic A and Pre-Pottery Neolithic B) and from there spread eastwards and westwards.

The Natufian period or “proto-Neolithic” lasted from 12,500 to 9,500 BC, and is taken to overlap with the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPNA) of 10,200–8800 BC. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas (about 10,000 BC) are thought to have forced people to develop farming.

The Neolithic started in around 10,200 BC in the Levant, arising from the Natufian culture, when pioneering use of wild cereals evolved into early farming. A temple area in southeastern Turkey at Göbekli Tepe, dated to around 9500 BC, may be regarded as the beginning of the period.

The surviving structures not only predate pottery, metallurgy, and the invention of writing or the wheel, but were built before the so-called Neolithic Revolution, that marks the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, around 9000 BC. The construction of Göbekli Tepe implies organization of an advanced order not hitherto associated with Paleolithic, PPNA, or PPNB societies, however.

Recent DNA analysis of modern domesticated wheat compared with wild wheat has shown that its DNA is closest in sequence to wild wheat found on Karaca Dağ 30 km (20 mi) away from the site, suggesting that this is where modern wheat was first domesticated.

By 10,200–8800 BC farming communities had arisen in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Neolithic cultures are also attested in southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia by around 8000 BC.

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6900–6400 BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.

Like the earlier PPNA culture (c. 9500- 8000 BC), the PPNB culture (c. 7600-6000 BC) developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

Near East: Pottery

Around 8000 BC during the Pre-pottery Neolithic period, and before the invention of pottery, several early settlements became experts in crafting beautiful and highly sophisticated containers from stone, using materials such as alabaster or granite, and employing sand to shape and polish.

Artisans used the veins in the material to maximum visual effect. Such object have been found in abundance on the upper Euphrates river, in what is today eastern Syria, especially at the site of Bouqras located around 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Deir ez-Zor in Syria.

Pottery making began in the 7th millennium BC. The earliest history of pottery production in the Fertile Crescent can be divided into four periods, namely: The Hassuna period (7000–6500 BC), the Halaf period (6500–5500 BC), the Ubaid period (5500–4000 BC), and the Uruk period (4000–3100 BC).

By about 5000 BC pottery-making was becoming widespread across the region, and spreading out from it to neighbouring areas. Pyrotechnology was highly developed in this period. During this period, one of the main features of houses is evidenced by a thick layer of white clay plaster floors highly polished and made of lime produced from limestone.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BC at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates). The period is dated to between ca. 7500 – 6000 BC.

Jarmo, a prehistoric archeological site located in modern Iraq on the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, is one of the oldest sites at which pottery has been found, appearing in the most recent levels of excavation, which dates it to the 7th millennium BC.

This pottery is handmade, of simple design and with thick sides, and treated with a vegetable solvent. There are clay figures, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, including figures of pregnant women which are taken to be fertility goddesses, similar to the Mother Goddess of later Neolithic cultures in the same region.

Excavations revealed that Jarmo was an agricultural community dating back to 7090 BC. It was broadly contemporary with such other important Neolithic sites such as Jericho in the southern Levant and Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia.

The earliest forms, which were found at the Hassuna site, were hand formed from slabs, undecorated, unglazed low-fired pots made from reddish-brown clays. Within the next millennium, wares were decorated with elaborate painted designs and natural forms, incising and burnished.

The site of Umm Dabaghiyah in the same area of Iraq, is believed to have the earliest pottery in this region, and is sometimes described as a ‘Proto-Hassuna culture’ site. Other related sites in the area are Sotto, and Kul Tepe (Iraq). Another pre-Hassuna or proto-Hassuna site in Iraq is Tell Maghzaliyah.

More recently, the concept of a very early ‘Pre-Proto-Hassuna’ pottery tradition has been introduced by some scholars. This has been prompted by more recent discoveries of still earlier pottery traditions. Nevertheless, all of these nomenclatures may refer to quite similar types of pottery, depending on some specific geographic region of Upper Mesopotamia.

The Halaf culture is a prehistoric period which lasted between about 6100 BC and 5100 BC. The period is a continuous development out of the earlier Pottery Neolithic and is located primarily in south-eastern Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, although Halaf-influenced material is found throughout Greater Mesopotamia.

The new archaeology demonstrated that Halaf culture was not sudden and was not the result of foreign people, but rather a continuous process of indigenous cultural changes in northern Syria, that spread to the other regions.

The best known, most characteristic pottery of Tell Halaf, called Halaf ware, produced by specialist potters, can be painted, sometimes using more than two colors (called polychrome) with geometric and animal motifs.

Halaf pottery has been found in other parts of northern Mesopotamia, such as at Nineveh and Tepe Gawra, Chagar Bazar and at many sites in Anatolia (Turkey) suggesting that it was widely used in the region.

In the Chalcolithic period in Mesopotamia, Halafian pottery achieved a level of technical competence and sophistication, not seen until the later developments of Greek pottery with Corinthian and Attic ware. The potter’s wheel was invented in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC (Ubaid period) and revolutionised pottery production.

Within the debate concerning the relations between Anatolia, Greece and Southeast Europe,the so called “stamp seals” have often been under discussion. The Halaf culture saw the earliest known appearance of stamp seals in the Near East.

The pottery of Tell Sabi Abyad is somewhat similar to what was found in the other prehistoric sites in Syria and south-eastern Turkey. Yet in Sabi Abyad, the presence of painted pottery is quite unique. It was discovered that around 6700 BC, pottery was already mass-produced.

Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.

Our finds at Tell Sabi Abyad show an initial brief phase in which people experimented with painted pottery. This trend did not continue, however. As far as we can see now, people then gave up painting their pottery for centuries.

Instead, people concentrated on the production of undecorated, coarse wares. It was not until around 6200 BC that people began to add painted decorations again. The question of why the Neolithic inhabitants of Tell Sabi Abyad initially stopped painting their pottery is unanswered for the time being.

Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals. Only around six percent of the pottery found was produced locally.

Significant cultural changes are observed at c. 6200 BC, which seem to be connected to the 8.2 kiloyear event. Nevertheless, the settlement was not abandoned at the time.

The Samarra culture is a Chalcolithic archaeological culture in northern Mesopotamia that is roughly dated to 5500–4800 BCE. It partially overlaps with Hassuna and early Ubaid. Other sites where Samarran material has been found include Tell Shemshara, Tell es-Sawwan and Yarim Tepe.

The culture is primarily known for its finely made pottery decorated with stylized animals, including birds, and geometric designs on dark backgrounds. This widely exported type of pottery, one of the first widespread, relatively uniform pottery styles in the Ancient Near East, was first recognized at Samarra.

At Tell Sabi Abyad and other Late Neolithic sites in Syria, scholars adopt increasingly vague terms such as Samarra “influenced”, Samarra-“related” or even Samarra “impulses”, largely because we do not understand the relationships with the traditional Samarra heartlands.

The term may be extended to include sites in Syria such as Tell Chagar Bazar, Tell Boueid II, Tell Sabi Abyad or Tell Halula, where similar pottery is currently being excavated in Pre-Halaf to Early Halaf Transitional contexts.

At Tell es-Sawwan, evidence of irrigation—including flax—establishes the presence of a prosperous settled culture with a highly organized social structure. The Samarran Culture was the precursor to the Mesopotamian culture of the Ubaid period.

The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. It has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.

Tell el-‘Oueili is a tell, or ancient settlement mound, located in Dhi Qar Governorate, southern Iraq. The excavations have revealed occupation layers predating those of Eridu, making Tell el-‘Oueili the earliest known human settlement in southern Mesopotamia.

The environment of ‘Oueili is characterized by temperatures that can reach more than 50º C in summer and less than 250 mm of annual rainfall, making the area unsuitable for rainfed agriculture. The phase Ubaid 0 was first discovered at this site and was hence provisionally termed ‘Oueili-phase (6500–5400 BC).

Ubaid 1, sometimes called Eridu corresponding to the city Eridu, (5400–4700 BC), is a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq, on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. This phase, showing clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north, saw the establishment of the first permanent settlement south of the 5 inch rainfall isohyet.

These people pioneered the growing of grains in the extreme conditions of aridity, thanks to the high water tables of Southern Iraq. Ubaid 2 (4800–4500 BC), after the type site of the same name, saw the development of extensive canal networks from major settlements. Irrigation agriculture, which seems to have developed first at Choga Mami (4700–4600 BC) and rapidly spread elsewhere, form the first required collective effort and centralised coordination of labour in Mesopotamia.

In North Mesopotamia the period runs only between about 5300 and 4300 BC. It is preceded by the Halaf period and the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (ca. 5500/5400 to 5200/5000 BC) and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.

The Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period is still a complex and rather poorly understood period. At the same time, recent efforts were made to study the gradual change from Halaf style pottery to Ubaid style pottery in various parts of North Mesopotamia.

The Halaf appears to have ended around 5200 cal. BC and the northern Ubaid begins around then. There are several sites that run from the Halaf until the Ubaid. Many Halafians settlements were abandoned, and the remaining ones showed Ubaidian characters.

The new period is named Northern Ubaid to distinguish it from the proper Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia, and two explanations were presented for the transformation.

The first maintain an invasion and a replacement of the Halafians by the Ubaidians, however, there is no hiatus between the Halaf and northern Ubaid which exclude the invasion theory. The most plausible theory is a Halafian adoption of the Ubaid culture, which is supported by most scholars.

The PPNB culture disappeared during the 8.2 kiloyear event, a term that climatologists have adopted for a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6200 BCE, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries.

In the following Munhatta and Yarmukian post-pottery Neolithic cultures that succeeded it, rapid cultural development continues, although PPNB culture continued in the Amuq valley, where it influenced the later development of the Ghassulian culture in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC).

The Ghassulian stage was characterized by small hamlet settlements of mixed farming peoples, who had immigrated from the north and settled in the southern Levant – today’s Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Their pottery was highly elaborate, including footed bowls and horn-shaped drinking goblets, indicating the cultivation of wine.

The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt, also called Naqada I, a culture of prehistoric Upper Egypt which lasted approximately from 4000 to 3500 BC, and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.

Old Europe, or Neolithic Europe, refers to the time between the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods in Europe, roughly from 7000 BCE (the approximate time of the first farming societies in Greece) to ca. 1700 BCE (the beginning of the Bronze Age in Scandinavia)

The duration of the Neolithic varies from place to place: in southeast Europe it is approximately 4000 years (i. e., 7000–3000 BCE); in parts of North-West Europe it is just under 3000 years (ca. 4500–1700 BCE).

China: Neolithic

The Neolithic age in China can be traced back to about 10,000 BC. The first agriculture known in China involves two species of millet, foxtail (Setaria italica) and broomcorn or panic millet (Panicum miliaceum). Several sites report them around that date.

Specialized archaeologists called palaeoethnobotanists, relying on data such as the relative abundance of charred grains found in archaeological sites, hypothesize that the cultivation of millets was of greater prevalence in prehistory than rice, especially in northern China and Korea.

Some of the earliest evidence of millet cultivation in China was found at Cishan culture (6500–5000 BC) in northern China, on the eastern foothills of the Taihang Mountains, where proso millet husk phytoliths and biomolecular components have been identified around 10,300–8,700 years ago in storage pits along with remains of pit-houses, pottery, and stone tools related to millet cultivation.

The Cishan culture was based on the farming of broomcorn millet, the cultivation of which on one site has been dated back 10,000 years. The people at Cishan also began to cultivate foxtail millet around 8700 years ago. However, these early dates have been questioned by some archaeologists due to sampling issues and lack of systematic surveying.

There is also evidence that the Cishan people cultivated barley and, late in their history, a japonica variety of rice. Common artifacts from the Cishan culture include stone grinders, stone sickles and tripod pottery. The sickle blades feature fairly uniform serrations, which made the harvesting of grain easier.

Cord markings, used as decorations on the pottery, was more common compared to neighboring cultures. Also, the Cishan potters created a broader variety of pottery forms such as basins, pot supports, serving stands, and drinking cups.

Since the culture shared many similarities with its southern neighbor, the Peiligang culture, a Neolithic culture in the Yi-Luo river basin (in modern Henan Province, China) that existed from 7000 to 5000 BC, both cultures were sometimes previously referred to together as the Cishan-Peiligang culture or Peiligang-Cishan culture.

The Cishan culture also shared several similarities with its eastern neighbor, the Beixin culture (5300–4100 BC), a Neolithic culture in Shandong, China. However, the contemporary consensus among archaeologists is that the Cishan people were members of a distinct culture that shared many characteristics with its neighbors.

The Beixin culture was the successor of the Houli culture (6500–5500 BC) and precursor of the Dawenkou culture (4100–2600 BC). The Houli culture was a Neolithic culture in Shandong, China. Aside from the type site at Houli, excavations have also taken place at Xihe, Xiaojingshan, Qianbuxia, and Yuezhang.

The millet found at Yuezhuang was predominately broomcorn millet and dated to around 6000 BC, making it one of the earliest sites in China to show evidence of millet cultivation. Rice grains were also found at the site. The carbonized rice was dated to 6010-5700 BC. Footed stone grinding slabs, in a style identical to those found at the Peiligang culture, were discovered at Yuezhang. This similarity is most likely due to technological transfer.

The oldest evidence of noodles in China were made from these two varieties of millet in a 4,000-year-old earthenwear bowl containing well-preserved noodles found at the Lajia archaeological site located in Minhe County, Haidong Prefecture in Northwest China’s Qinghai province in north China.

Lajia is associated with the Qijia culture (2200 BC – 1600 BC), an early Bronze Age culture distributed around the upper Yellow River region of Gansu (centered in Lanzhou) and eastern Qinghai, China. It is regarded as one of the earliest bronze cultures in China.

Qinghai is located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. The Yellow River originates in the southern part of the province, while the Yangtze and Mekong have their sources in the southwestern part. Qinghai is separated by the Riyue Mountain into pastoral and agricultural zones in the west and east.

Prior to Qijia culture, in the same area there existed Majiayao culture (3300 to 2000 BC), a group of neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River region in eastern Gansu, eastern Qinghai and northern Sichuan, China, that was also familiar with metalwork.

The Majiayao culture represents the first time that the upper Yellow River region was widely occupied by agricultural communities and it is famous for its painted pottery, which is regarded as a peak of pottery manufacturing at that time. At the end of the third millennium B.C., Qijia culture succeeded Majiayao culture at sites in three main geographic zones: Eastern Gansu, Middle Gansu, and Western Gansu/Eastern Qinghai.

The earliest evidence of cultivated rice, found by the Yangtze River, is carbon-dated to 8,000 years ago. The Yangtze has played a major role in the history, culture and economy of China. For thousands of years, the river has been used for water, irrigation, sanitation, transportation, industry, boundary-marking and war.

Recent findings in archaeology have considerably pushed back the dates for domestication of chickens, millets, rice, pigs, and other domestic life forms of eastern Asia. Early evidence of milking and stockraising in central Asia is relevant.

Farming gave rise to the Jiahu culture (7000 to 5800 BC). Jiahu was the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River. Most archaeologists consider the site to be one of the earliest examples of the Peiligang culture.

At Damaidi in Ningxia, 3,172 cliff carvings dating to 6000–5000 BC have been discovered, “featuring 8,453 individual characters such as the sun, moon, stars, gods and scenes of hunting or grazing”. These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese.

Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7000 BC, Dadiwan from 5800 BC to 5400 BC, Damaidi around 6000 BC and Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BC. Some scholars have suggested that Jiahu symbols (7th millennium BC) were the earliest Chinese writing system.

Excavation of a Peiligang culture site in Xinzheng county, Henan, found a community that flourished in 5,500 to 4,900 BC, with evidence of agriculture, constructed buildings, pottery, and burial of the dead. With agriculture came increased population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators.

In late Neolithic times, the Yellow River valley began to establish itself as a center of Yangshao culture (5000 BC to 3000 BC), and the first villages were founded; the most archaeologically significant of these was found at Banpo, Xi’an. Later, Yangshao culture was superseded by the Longshan culture, which was also centered on the Yellow River from about 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

Bronze artifacts have been found at the Majiayao culture (3300 to 2000 BC), a group of neolithic communities who lived primarily in the upper Yellow River region in eastern Gansu, eastern Qinghai and northern Sichuan, China.

The Majiayao culture represents the first time that the upper Yellow River region was widely occupied by agricultural communities and it is famous for its painted pottery, which is regarded as a peak of pottery manufacturing at that time.

The Bronze Age is also represented at the Lower Xiajiadian culture (2200–1600 BC), an archaeological culture in Northeast China, found mainly in southeastern Inner Mongolia, northern Hebei and western Liaoning, China. Stone, bone and painted pottery artefacts were discovered at Lower Xiajiadian sites, while gold, lead, lacquer, jade, copper and bronze artefacts are also found.

Sanxingdui (lit: ‘three stars mound’) located in what is now Sichuan province is believed to be the site of a major ancient city, of a previously unknown Bronze Age culture between 2000 and 1200 BC. Chinese archaeologists have identified the Sanxingdui culture to be part of the ancient kingdom of Shu, linking the artifacts found at the site to its early legendary kings.

Shu was based on the Chengdu Plain, in the western Sichuan basin with some extension northeast to the upper Han River valley. To the east was the Ba tribal confederation. Further east down the Han and Yangtze rivers was the State of Chu. To the north over the Qinling Mountains was the State of Qin. To the west and south were tribal peoples of little military power.

There are very few mentions of Shu in the early Chinese historical records until the 4th century BC. Although there are possible references to a “Shu” in Shang Dynasty oracle bones inscriptions that indicate contact between Shu and Shang, it is not clear if the Shu mentioned refer to the kingdom in Sichuan or other different polities elsewhere. This independent Shu state was conquered by the state of Qin in 316 BC.

Ferrous metallurgy begins to appear in the late 6th century in the Yangzi Valley. The Yangtze, or Yangzi, is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises in the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau and flows in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea.

For this reason the term “Iron Age” have been used by convention for the transitional period of c. 500 BC to 100 BC, roughly corresponding to the Warring States period (475-221 BC) of Chinese historiography, an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation.

The Warring States period followed the Spring and Autumn period (771-476 BC), which corresponds roughly to the first half of the Eastern Zhou period, and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimately led to the Qin state’s victory in 221 BC as the first unified Chinese empire, known as the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty of Imperial China, lasting from 221 to 206 BC.

The Zhou dynasty was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty and preceded the Qin dynasty. The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history (790 years). The military control of China by the royal house, surnamed Ji, lasted initially from 1046 until 771 BC.

The Western Zhou (1045-771 BC) began when King Wu of Zhou overthrew the Shang dynasty at the Battle of Muye and ended when the Quanrong nomads sacked its capital Haojing and killed King You of Zhou in 771 BC. The Eastern Zhou (770–256 BC) is divided into two periods: the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States.

An Iron Age culture of the Tibetan Plateau has tentatively been associated with the Zhang Zhung culture (c. 500 BC–625 AD) described in early Tibetan writings. Zhang Zhung culture was an ancient culture and kingdom of western and northwestern Tibet, which pre-dates the culture of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet. It is associated with the Bon religion, which in turn, influenced the philosophies and practices of Tibetan Buddhism.


Pottery may well have been discovered independently in various places, probably by accidentally creating it at the bottom of fires on a clay soil. All the earliest vessel forms were pit fired and made by coiling, which is a simple technology to learn.

The earliest-known ceramic objects are Gravettian figurines such as those discovered at Dolní Věstonice in the modern-day Czech Republic. The Venus of Dolní Věstonice is a Venus figurine, a statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BC (Gravettian industry).

Sherds have been found in China and Japan from a period between 12,000 and perhaps as long as 18,000 years ago. As of 2012, the earliest pottery found anywhere in the world,[40] dating to 20,000 to 19,000 years before the present, was found at Xianrendong Cave in the Jiangxi province of China.

Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16,000 BC, and those found in the Amur River basin in the Russian Far East, dated from 14,000 BC.

The Odai Yamamoto I site, belonging to the Jōmon period, currently has the oldest pottery in Japan. Excavations in 1998 uncovered earthenware fragments which have been dated as early as 14,500 BC.

The term “Jōmon” means “cord-marked” in Japanese. This refers to the markings made on the vessels and figures using sticks with cords during their production. Recent research has elucidated how Jōmon pottery was used by its creators.

It appears that pottery was independently developed in Sub-Saharan Africa during the 10th millennium BC, with findings dating to at least 9,400 BC and in South America during the 10,000s BC.

The Malian finds date to the same period as similar finds from East Asia – the triangle between Siberia, China and Japan – and are associated in both regions to the same climatic changes (at the end of the ice age new grassland develops, enabling hunter-gatherers to expand their habitat), met independently by both cultures with similar developments: the creation of pottery for the storage of wild cereals (pearl millet), and that of small arrowheads for hunting small game typical of grassland.

Alternatively, the creation of pottery in the case of the Incipient Jōmon civilisation could be due to the intensive exploitation of freshwater and marine organisms by late glacial foragers, who started developing ceramic containers for their catch.

In Japan, the Jōmon period has a long history of development of Jōmon Pottery which was characterized by impressions of rope on the surface of the pottery created by pressing rope into the clay before firing.

Glazed Stoneware was being created as early as the 15th century BC in China. A form of Chinese porcelain became a significant Chinese export from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–906) onwards. Korean potters produced porcelain as early as the 14th century AD. Koreans brought the art of porcelain to Japan in the 17th century AD.

In contrast to Europe, the Chinese elite used pottery extensively at table, for religious purposes, and for decoration, and the standards of fine pottery were very high. From the Song dynasty (960–1279) for several centuries elite taste favoured plain-coloured and exquisitely formed pieces; during this period true porcelain was perfected in Ding ware, although it was the only one of the Five Great Kilns of the Song period to use it.

The traditional Chinese category of high-fired wares includes stoneware types such as Ru ware, Longquan celadon, and Guan ware. Painted wares such as Cizhou ware had a lower status, though they were acceptable for making pillows.

The arrival of Chinese blue and white porcelain was probably a product of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) dispersing artists and craftsmen across its large empire. Both the cobalt stains used for the blue colour, and the style of painted decoration, usually based on plant shapes, were initially borrowed from the Islamic world, which the Mongols had also conquered.

At the same time Jingdezhen porcelain, produced in Imperial factories, took the undisputed leading role in production, which it has retained to the present day. The new elaborately painted style was now favoured at court, and gradually more colours were added.

The secret of making such porcelain was sought in the Islamic world and later in Europe when examples were imported from the East. Many attempts were made to imitate it in Italy and France. However it was not produced outside of the Orient until 1709 in Germany.


The current scientific consensus, based on archaeological and linguistic evidence, is that rice was first domesticated in the Yangtze River basin in China. Because the functional allele for nonshattering, the critical indicator of domestication in grains, as well as five other single-nucleotide polymorphisms, is identical in both indica and japonica, Vaughan et al. (2008) determined a single domestication event for O. sativa.

This was supported by a genetic study in 2011 that showed that all forms of Asian rice, both indica and japonica, sprang from a single domestication event that occurred 13,500 to 8,200 years ago in China from the wild rice Oryza rufipogon.

A more recent population genomic study indicates that japonica was domesticated first, and that indica rice arose when japonica arrived in India about ~4,500 years ago and hybridized with an undomesticated proto-indica or wild O. nivara.

There are two most likely centers of domestication for rice as well as the development of the wetland agriculture technology. The first, and most likely, is in the lower Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of the pre-Austronesians (and possibly also the Kra-Dai) and associated with the Kauhuqiao, Hemudu, Majiabang, Songze, Liangzhu, and Maquiao cultures.

It is characterized by typical Austronesian innovations, including stilt houses, jade carving, and boat technologies. Their diet were also supplemented by acorns, water chestnuts, foxnuts, and pig domestication.

The second is in the middle Yangtze River, believed to be the homelands of the early Hmong-Mien-speakers and associated with the Pengtoushan, Nanmuyuan, Liulinxi, Daxi, Qujialing, and Shijiahe cultures.

Both of these regions were heavily populated and had regular trade contacts with each other, as well as with early Austroasiatic speakers to the west, and early Kra-Dai speakers to the south, facilitating the spread of rice cultivation throughout southern China.

Rice was gradually introduced north into early Sino-Tibetan Yangshao and Dawenkou culture millet farmers, either via contact with the Daxi culture or the Majiabang-Hemudu culture.

By around 4000 to 3800 BC, they were a regular secondary crop among southernmost Sino-Tibetan cultures. It didn’t replace millet, largely because of different environment conditions in northern China, but it was cultivated alongside millet in the southern boundaries of the millet-farming regions. Conversely, millet was also introduced into rice-farming regions.

By the late Neolithic (3500 to 2500 BC), population in the rice cultivating centers had increased rapidly, centered around the Qujialing-Shijiahe culture and the Liangzhu culture. There was also evidence of intensive rice cultivation in paddy fields as well as increasingly sophisticated material cultures in these two regions.

The number of settlements among the Yangtze cultures and their sizes increased, leading some archeologists to characterize them as true states, with clearly advanced socio-political structures. However, it is unknown if they had centralized control.

Liangzhu and Shijiahe declined abruptly in the terminal Neolithic (2500 to 2000 BC). With Shijiahe shrinking in size, and Liangzhu disappearing altogether. This is largely believed to be the result of the southward expansion of the early Sino-Tibetan Longshan culture. Fortifications like walls (as well as extensive moats in Liangzhu cities) are common features in settlements during this period, indicating widespread conflict.

This period also coincides with the southward movement of rice-farming cultures to the Lingnan and Fujian regions, as well as the southward migrations of the Austronesian, Kra-Dai, and Austroasiatic-speaking peoples to Mainland Southeast Asia and Island Southeast Asia.

The spread of japonica rice cultivation to Southeast Asia started with the migrations of the Austronesian Dapenkeng culture into Taiwan between 3500 to 2000 BC (5,500 BP to 4,000 BP). The Nanguanli site in Taiwan, dated to ca. 2800 BC, has yielded numerous carbonized remains of both rice and millet in waterlogged conditions, indicating intensive wetland rice cultivation and dryland millet cultivation.

From about 2000 to 1500 BC, the Austronesian expansion began, with settlers from Taiwan moving south to colonize Luzon in the Philippines, bringing rice cultivation technologies with them.

From Luzon, Austronesians rapidly colonized the rest of Island Southeast Asia, moving westwards to Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra; and southwards to Sulawesi and Java. By 500 BC, there is evidence of intensive wetland rice agriculture already established in Java and Bali, especially near very fertile volcanic islands.

However, rice (as well as dogs and pigs) did not survive the first Austronesian voyages into Micronesia due to the sheer distance of ocean they were crossing. These voyagers became the ancestors of the Lapita culture.

By the time they migrated southwards to the Bismarck Archipelago, they had already lost the technology of rice farming, as well as pigs and dogs. However, knowledge of rice cultivation is still evident in the way they adapted the wetland agriculture techniques to taro cultivation.

The Lapita culture in Bismarck reestablished trade connections with other Austronesian branches in Island Southeast Asia. They also came into contact with the non-Austronesian (Papuan) early agriculturists of New Guinea and introduced wetland farming techniques to them.

In turn, they assimilated their range of indigenous cultivated fruits and tubers, as well as reacquiring domesticated dogs and pigs, before spreading further eastward to Island Melanesia and Polynesia.

Rice, along with other Southeast Asian food plants, were also later introduced to Madagascar, the Comoros, and the coast of East Africa by around the 1st millennium AD by Austronesian settlers from the Greater Sunda Islands.

Much later Austronesian voyages from Island Southeast Asia succeeded in bringing rice to Guam during the Latte Period (AD 900 to AD 1700). Guam is the only island in Oceania where rice was grown in pre-colonial times.

Within Mainland Southeast Asia, rice was presumably spread through river trade between the early Hmong-Mien-speakers of the Middle Yangtze basin and the early Kra-Dai-speakers of the Pearl River and Red River basins, as well as the early Austroasiatic-speakers of the Mekong River basin.

Evidence for rice cultivation in these regions, dates to slightly later than the Dapenkeng settlement of Taiwan, at around 3000 BC. Southward migrations of the Austroasiatic and Kra-Dai-speakers introduced it into Mainland Southeast Asia.

The earliest evidence of rice cultivation in Mainland Southeast Asia come from the Ban Chiang site in northern Thailand (ca. 2000 to 1500 BC); and the An Sơn site in southern Vietnam (ca. 2000 to 1200 BC).

Mainstream archaeological evidence derived from palaeoethnobotanical investigations indicate dry-land rice was introduced to Korea and Japan sometime between 3500 and 1200 BC. The cultivation of rice then occurred on a small scale, fields were impermanent plots, and evidence shows that in some cases domesticated and wild grains were planted together.

The technological, subsistence, and social impact of rice and grain cultivation is not evident in archaeological data until after 1500 BC. For example, intensive wet-paddy rice agriculture was introduced into Korea shortly before or during the Middle Mumun pottery period (circa 850–550 BC) and reached Japan by the final Jōmon or initial Yayoi periods circa 300 BC.

Rice was cultivated in the Indian subcontinent from as early as 5,000 BC. “Several wild cereals, including rice, grew in the Vindhyan Hills, and rice cultivation, at sites such as Chopani-Mando and Mahagara, may have been underway as early as 7,000 BP. Rice appeared in the Belan and Ganges valley regions of northern India as early as 4530 BC and 5440 BC, respectively.

The early domestication process of rice in ancient India was based around the wild species Oryza nivara. This led to the local development of a mix of ‘wetland’ and ‘dryland’ agriculture of local Oryza sativa var. indica rice agriculture, before the truly ‘wetland’ rice Oryza sativa var. japonica, arrived around 2000 BC.

Rice was cultivated in the Indus Valley civilization (3rd millennium BC). Agricultural activity during the second millennium BC included rice cultivation in the Kashmir and Harrappan regions. Mixed farming was the basis of Indus valley economy.

O. sativa was recovered from a grave at Susa in Iran (dated to the first century AD) at one end of the ancient world, while at the same time rice was grown in the Po valley in Italy. In northern Iran, in Gilan province, many indica rice cultivars including ‘Gerdeh’, ‘Hashemi’, ‘Hasani’, and ‘Gharib’ have been bred by farmers.

A 2012 study, through a map of genome variation in modern wild rice populations, indicated that the domestication of rice probably occurred around the central Pearl River valley region of southern China, in contradiction to archaeological evidence.

However, the study is based on modern distribution maps of wild rice populations which are potentially misleading due to drastic climatic changes that happened during the end of the last glacial period, ca. 12,000 years ago.

Human activity over thousands of years have also removed populations of wild rice from their previous ranges. Based on Chinese texts, there were populations of wild rice along the Yangtze basin in c. AD 1,000 that are now recently extinct.

An older theory, based on one chloroplast and two nuclear gene regions, Londo et al. (2006) had proposed that O. sativa rice was domesticated at least twice—indica in eastern India, Myanmar, and Thailand; and japonica in southern China and Vietnam—though they concede that archaeological and genetic evidence exist for a single domestication of rice in the lowlands of southern China.

In 2003, Korean archaeologists alleged they discovered burnt grains of domesticated rice in Soro-ri, Korea, which dated to 13,000 BC. These antedate the oldest grains in China, which were dated to 10,000 BC, and potentially challenge the mainstream explanation that domesticated rice originated in China. The findings were received by academia with strong skepticism.


Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa. The crop is favored due to its productivity and short growing season under dry, high-temperature conditions.

Millets are indigenous to many parts of the world. Millets may have been consumed by humans for about 7,000 years and potentially had “a pivotal role in the rise of multi-crop agriculture and settled farming societies”.

The different species of millets are not necessarily closely related. All are members of the family Poaceae (the grasses) but can belong to different tribes or even subfamilies. The most widely grown millet is pearl millet, which is an important crop in India and parts of Africa. Finger millet, proso millet, and foxtail millet are also important crop species.

Panicum miliaceum is a grain crop with many common names including proso millet, broomcorn millet, common millet, hog millet, Kashfi millet, red millet, and white millet. Archeological evidence suggests that the crop was first domesticated before 10,000 BC in Northern China. This is seen as the first step of Neolithic age in China.

Panicum miliaceum is a tetraploid species with a base chromosome number of 18, twice the base chromosome number of diploid species within the genome Panicum. The species appears to be an allotetraploid resulting from a wide hybrid between two different diploid ancestors.

One of the two subgenomes within proso millet appears to have come from either Panicum capillare or a close relative of that species. The second subgenome does not show close homology to any known diploid Panicum species; however, it appears that same unknown diploid ancestor also contributed a copy of its genome to a separate allotetraploid species Panicum repens (torpedo grass).

Weedy forms of proso millet are found throughout central Asia, covering a widespread area from the Caspian Sea east to Xinjiang and Mongolia. These may represent the wild progenitor of proso millet or represent feral escapes from domesticated production.

Indeed, in the United States weedy proso millet, representing feral escapes from cultivation, are now common, suggesting current proso millet cultivars retain the potential to de-domesticate, similar to the pattern seen for weedy rice.

The cultivation of common millet as the earliest dry crop in East Asia has been attributed to its resistance to drought, and this has been suggested to have aided its spread. Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica) were important crops beginning in the Early Neolithic of China.

Currently, the earliest archeological evidence for domesticated proso millet and and foxtail millet comes from the Cishan site in semi-arid North East China, where proso millet husk phytoliths and biomolecular components have been identified around 10,300–8,700 years ago in storage pits along with remains of pit-houses, pottery, and stone tools related to millet cultivation.

At Nanzhuangtou, somewhat south of Beijing, is not only early millets but the earliest domestic chickens in the world are found, at 8000 BC. The earliest dog in China is also there, and is even earlier, at 10,000 BC. Very early pigs and dogs are found at nearby sites.

The Nanzhuangtou site got its domesticates during the rise of warm wet weather around 8000 BC.  There and elsewhere, rise and spread of domestication tracks warming and wetting trends, with dramatic improvement of growing conditions.

The oldest evidence of noodles in China were made from these two varieties of millet in a 4,000-year-old earthenwear bowl containing well-preserved noodles found at the Lajia, an archaeological site located in Minhe County, Haidong Prefecture in Northwest China’s Qinghai province in north China. Lajia is associated with the Qijia culture and was discovered by archaeologists in 2000.

Because early varieties of proso millet had such a short life cycle — as little as 45 days from planting to harvest — it is thought that they made it possible for semi-nomadic tribes to first adopt agriculture, forming a bridge between hunter-gatherer focused lifestyles and early agricultural civilizations.

Palaeoethnobotanists have found evidence of the cultivation of millet in the Korean Peninsula dating to the Middle Jeulmun pottery period (around 3500–2000 BCE). Millet continued to be an important element in the intensive, multicropping agriculture of the Mumun pottery period (about 1500–300 BCE) in Korea. Millets and their wild ancestors, such as barnyard grass and panic grass, were also cultivated in Japan during the Jōmon period some time after 4000 BCE.

Asian varieties of millet made their way from China to the Black Sea region of Europe by 5000 BC. Millets are C4 plants, almost everything else in China is C3 (including rice), so where C4 shows up in bone signatures one can be sure that millet is being devoured.  This allows us to find transitions to agriculture in the record, with C4 dominating by 6000 BC.

Several sites in the Yellow River drainage report millets back to 7000 BCE.  Millet agriculture had reached Dadiwan, far out into west China and almost in the Central Asian desert, by 6000 BC. It had also reached Inner Mongolia by this time.

Archaeological evidence for cultivation of domesticated proso millet in east Asia and Europe dates to at least 5,000 BCE in Georgia and Germany (near Leipzig, Hadersleben) by Linear Pottery culture (Early LBK, Neolithikum 5500–4900 BCE), and may represent either an independent domestication of the same wild ancestor, or the spread of the crop from east Asia along trade routes through the arid steppes.

Millet was growing wild in Greece as early as 3000 BCE, and bulk storage containers for millet have been found from the Late Bronze Age in Macedonia and northern Greece. Hesiod describes that “the beards grow round the millet, which men sow in summer.” And millet is listed along with wheat in the 3rd century BCE by Theophrastus in his “Enquiry into Plants”.

Evidence for cultivation in southern Europe and the Near East is comparatively more recent, with the earliest evidence for its cultivation in the Near East a find in the ruins of Nimrud, Iraq dated to about 700 BC.

Cishan culture

The Cishan culture (6500–5000 BC) was a Neolithic culture in northern China, on the eastern foothills of the Taihang Mountains, a Chinese mountain range running down the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau in Shanxi, Henan and Hebei provinces. The name of Shanxi Province, meaning “west of the mountains”, derives from its location west of the Taihang Mountains, as does the name of Shandong Province (east of the mountains).

The Cishan culture was based on the farming of broomcorn millet, the cultivation of which on one site has been dated back 10,000 years. The people at Cishan also began to cultivate foxtail millet around 8700 years ago. However, these early dates have been questioned by some archaeologists due to sampling issues and lack of systematic surveying.

There is also evidence that the Cishan people cultivated barley and, late in their history, a japonica variety of rice. Common artifacts from the Cishan culture include stone grinders, stone sickles and tripod pottery.

The sickle blades feature fairly uniform serrations, which made the harvesting of grain easier. Cord markings, used as decorations on the pottery, was more common compared to neighboring cultures. Also, the Cishan potters created a broader variety of pottery forms such as basins, pot supports, serving stands, and drinking cups.

The type site at Cishan is located in Wu’an, Hebei, China on a low elevation mesa. The site covers an area of around 80,000 m2 (861,113 sq ft). The houses at Cishan were semi-subterranean and round. The site showed evidence of domesticated pigs, dogs and chickens, with pigs providing the primary source of meat.

The Cishan people hunted deer and wild boar. Nuts (Juglans regia and Corylus heterophylla), Celtis bungeana, wild apricots and pears, and various roots and tubers were foraged from the surrounding forests.

Fish was also an important part of the diet at Cishan, specifically carp and herring from the nearby river; fishing nets made from hemp fibers were used. Over 500 subterranean storage pits were discovered at Cishan. These pits were used to store millet. The largest pits were 5 meters deep and capable of storing up to 1,000 kg (2,205 lb) of millet.

Since the culture shared many similarities with its southern neighbor, the Peiligang culture, both cultures were sometimes previously referred to together as the Cishan-Peiligang culture or Peiligang-Cishan culture.

The Cishan culture also shared several similarities with its eastern neighbor, the Beixin culture. However, the contemporary consensus among archaeologists is that the Cishan people were members of a distinct culture that shared many characteristics with its neighbors.

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Orion constellation

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 23, 2019

The constellation of Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and is therefore visible throughout the world. Its brightest stars are the supergiants: The red Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) and the blue-white Rigel (Beta Orionis). It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology. Orion is used as a symbol in the modern world.

The distinctive pattern of Orion is recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths are associated with it. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky yet it has no place in the modern zodiac.

The earliest depiction linked to the constellation is a prehistoric (Aurignacian) mammoth ivory carving found in a cave in the Ach valley in West Germany in 1979. Archaeologists estimate that it was fashioned approximately 32,000 to 38,000 years ago.

Orion’s seven brightest stars form a distinctive hourglass-shaped asterism, or pattern, in the night sky. Four stars – Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Saiph – form a large roughly rectangular shape, in the centre of which lie the three stars of Orion’s Belt – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Orion’s right shoulder is marked by the bright star Betelgeuse, and his left foot by Rigel.

Orion is bordered by Taurus (Latin for “bull”) to the northwest, Eridanus, which is represented as a river, to the southwest, Lepus (Latin for “hare”) to the south, Monoceros to the east, and Gemini (Latin for “twins”) to the northeast.


Gemini lies between Taurus to the west and Cancer to the east, with Auriga and Lynx to the north and Monoceros and Canis Minor to the south. The easiest way to locate the constellation is to find its two brightest stars Castor and Pollux eastward from the familiar “V” shaped asterism of Taurus and the three stars of Orion’s belt.

Gemini is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini.  The Sun resides in the constellation of Gemini from June 20 to July 20 each year and under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between about May 21 and June 21.

Gemini is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri, in Greek mythology. The divine twins are a mytheme of Proto-Indo-European religion. One recurring element in the divine twin theme is that, while identical, one is divine and the other is human.

In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins. The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.


Taurus (Latin for “the Bull”) is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye.

Taurus is today the second astrological sign in the present zodiac. It spans from 30° to 60° of the zodiac. The Sun transits in this sign from approximately April 21 until May 21 in western astrology. It is a Venus-ruled sign, just like Libra.

Taurus was, however, the first sign of the zodiac established among the ancient Mesopotamians, who called it as “The Great Bull of Heaven”, because it was the constellation through which the Sun rose on the vernal equinox in the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries.

At the beginning of the list with MUL.MUL, the Pleiades, corresponds to the situation in the Early to Middle Bronze Age when the Sun at vernal equinox was close to the Pleiades in Taurus (closest in the 23rd century BCE), and not yet in Aries.

Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Cults centered around sacred bulls began to form in Assyria, Egypt, and Crete during The Age of Taurus, or “The Age of Earth, Agriculture, and the Bull”.


Eridanus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is represented as a river. However, according to one theory, the Greek constellation takes its name from the Babylonian constellation known as the Star of Eridu (MUL.NUN.KI).

Eridu was an ancient city in the extreme south of Babylonia; situated in the marshy regions it was held sacred to the god Enki-Ea who ruled the cosmic domain of the Abyss – a mythical conception of the fresh-water reservoir below the Earth’s surface.

The stars that correspond to Eridanus are also depicted as a river in Indian astronomy starting close to the head of Orion just below Auriga. Eridanus is called Srotaswini in Sanskrit, srótas meaning the course of a river or stream.

Specifically, it is depicted as the Ganges on the head of Dakshinamoorthy or Nataraja, a Hindu incarnation of Shiva. Dakshinamoorthy himself is represented by the constellation Orion.


Lepus, immediately south of Orion, is most often represented as a hare being hunted by Orion or, alternatively, by Orion’s hunting dogs: Canis Major (“greater dog”) and Canis Minor (“lesser dog”).

Four stars of this constellation (α, β, γ, δ Lep) form a quadrilateral and are known as Arsh al-Jawzā (“the Throne of Jawzā”) or Kursiyy al-Jawzā’ al-Mu’akhkhar (“the Hindmost Chair of Jawzā’) and al-Nihāl (“the Camels Quenching Their Thirst”) in Arabic.

Jawza’ as a rain asterism forms the center of the larger celestial complex also known as Jawza’, the only fully articulated human figure in the ancient Arabian sky. The name Jawza’ is a feminine derivative of the word that means “middle”.

In the earliest times, the name referred to only the three bright stars that are lined up in the middle of the figure. A trio of very bright blue-white stars that are lined up in a perfectly straight line. Each of the side stars is equidistant from the center one. This grouping is known in modern astronomy as the Belt of Orion.


Monoceros is a faint constellation on the celestial equator. Its name is Greek for unicorn. It is bordered by Orion to the west, Gemini to the north, Canis Major to the south and Hydra to the east. Other bordering constellations include Canis Minor, Lepus and Puppis.

In Western astronomy, Monoceros is a relatively modern constellation, not one of Ptolemy’s 48 in the Almagest. Its first certain appearance was on a globe created by the Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius in 1612 or 1613 and it was later charted by German astronomer Jakob Bartsch as Unicornu on his star chart of 1624.

French astronomer Camille Flammarion, however, believed that a former constellation, Neper (the “Auger”), Ideler’s Bohrer, occupied the area of the sky now home to Monoceros and Microscopium, but this is disputed.

Canis Major and Canis Minor

Both Canis Major (Latin for “greater dog”), a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere, and Canis Minor (Latin for “lesser dog”), a small constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere, are commonly represented as following the constellation of Orion the hunter through the sky. The two dog stars are referred to in the most ancient literature and were venerated by the Babylonians and the Egyptians.

The Milky Way passes through Canis Major and several open clusters lie within its borders, most notably M41. Canis Major contains Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, known as the “dog star”. In ancient Mesopotamia, Sirius, named šukūdu (meaning “arrow”) by the Akkadians and KAK.SI.DI by the Babylonians, was seen as an arrow aiming towards Orion, while the southern stars of Canis Major and a part of Puppis were viewed as a bow, named BAN in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

The Ancient Greeks replaced the bow and arrow depiction with that of a dog. In Greek Mythology, Canis Major represented the dog Laelaps, a gift from Zeus to Europa; or sometimes the hound of Procris, Diana’s nymph; or the one given by Aurora to Cephalus, so famed for its speed that Zeus elevated it to the sky.

It was also considered to represent one of Orion’s hunting dogs, pursuing Lepus the Hare or helping Orion fight Taurus the Bull; and is referred to in this way by Aratos, Homer and Hesiod. The ancient Greeks refer only to one dog, but by Roman times, Canis Minor appears as Orion’s second dog.

The Roman myth refers to Canis Major as Custos Europae, the dog guarding Europa but failing to prevent her abduction by Jupiter in the form of a bull, and as Janitor Lethaeus, “the watchdog”.

In medieval Arab astronomy, the constellation became al-Kalb al-Akbar, “the Greater Dog”, transcribed as Alcheleb Alachbar by 17th century writer Edmund Chilmead. Islamic scholar Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī referred to Orion as Kalb al-Jabbār, “the Dog of the Giant”.

Among the Merazig of Tunisia, shepherds note six constellations that mark the passage of the dry, hot season. One of them, called Merzem, includes the stars of Canis Major and Canis Minor and is the herald of two weeks of hot weather.

Canis Minor contains only two stars brighter than the fourth magnitude, Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris), the brightest object in the constellation of Canis Minor and usually the eighth-brightest star in the night sky, with a magnitude of 0.34, and Gomeisa (Beta Canis Minoris), with a magnitude of 2.9. The ancient Egyptians thought of this constellation as Anubis, the jackal god.

Canis Minor was one of the original 48 constellations formulated by Ptolemy in his second-century Almagest, in which it was defined as a specific pattern (asterism) of stars; Ptolemy identified only two stars and hence no depiction was possible.

The Ancient Greeks called the constellation Procyon, “coming before the dog”, transliterated into Latin as Antecanis, Praecanis, or variations thereof, by Cicero and others. In Greek mythology, Canis Minor was sometimes connected with the Teumessian Fox, a beast turned into stone with its hunter, Laelaps, by Zeus, who placed them in heaven as Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (Teumessian Fox).

Roman writers also appended the descriptors parvus, minor or minusculus (“small” or “lesser”, for its faintness), septentrionalis (“northerly”, for its position in relation to Canis Major), primus (rising “first”) or sinister (rising to the “left”) to its name Canis.

The constellations in Macedonian folklore represented agricultural items and animals, reflecting their village way of life. To them, Procyon and Sirius were Volci “the wolves”, circling hungrily around Orion which depicted a plough with oxen.

The medieval Arabic astronomers maintained the depiction of Canis Minor (al-Kalb al-Asghar in Arabic) as a dog; in his Book of the Fixed Stars, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi included a diagram of the constellation with a canine figure superimposed.

There was one slight difference between the Ptolemaic vision of Canis Minor and the Arabic; al-Sufi claims Mirzam, now assigned to Orion, as part of both Canis Minor—the collar of the dog—and its modern home.

Among the Merazig of Tunisia, shepherds note six constellations that mark the passage of the dry, hot season. One of them, called Merzem, includes the stars of Canis Minor and Canis Major and is the herald of two weeks of hot weather.

Canis Minor was also given the name DAR.LUGAL, its position defined as “the star which stands behind it [Orion]”, in the MUL.APIN; the constellation represents a rooster. This name may have also referred to the constellation Lepus. DAR.LUGAL was also denoted DAR.MUŠEN and DAR.LUGAL.MUŠEN in Babylonia. Canis Minor was then called tarlugallu in Akkadian astronomy.


The Arabic names for both Procyon and Gomeisa alluded to their proximity and resemblance to Sirius, though they were not direct translations of the Greek; Procyon was called ash-Shi’ra ash-Shamiya, the “Syrian Sirius” and Gomeisa was called ash-Shira al-Ghamisa, the Sirius with bleary eyes.

The name Procyon comes from the Ancient Greek Prokyon, meaning “before the dog”, since it precedes the “Dog Star” Sirius as it travels across the sky due to Earth’s rotation. (Although Procyon has a greater right ascension, it also has a more northerly declination, which means it will rise above the horizon earlier than Sirius from most northerly latitudes.)

In Greek mythology, Procyon is associated with Maera, a hound belonging to Erigone, daughter of Icarius of Athens. Eratosthenes accompanied the Little Dog with Orion, while Hyginus linked the constellation with Maera, a dog owned by Icarius of Athens.

Icarius was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and had been taught how to make wine. While travelling, Icarius met some shepherds and gave them wine; they became intoxicated and believed Icarius had poisoned them, so they killed him. Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with Maera to find him.

Maera led her to his grave, and both became so overwhelmed with grief that she hanged herself and Maera leapt off a cliff. On discovering the latter’s death, the dog and Icarius’ daughter Erigone took their lives and all three were placed in the sky – Erigone as Virgo and Icarius as Boötes. As a reward for his faithfulness, the dog was placed along the “banks” of the Milky Way, which the ancients believed to be a heavenly river, where he would never suffer from thirst.

Upon hearing the news, Dionysus was angry and punished Athens with a plague, inflicting insanity on all the unmarried women, who all hanged themselves, imitating Erigone. The plague did not cease until the Athenians introduced honorific rites for Icarius and Erigone. Dionysus placed Icarius, Erigone and Maera in the sky as the constellations Virgo (Erigone), Boötes (Icarius), and the star, Procyon (Maera).

Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second-largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra) and the largest constellation in the zodiac. It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica.

Boötes is a constellation in the northern sky, located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere. The name comes from the Greek Boōtēs (“herdsman” or “plowman”; lit. “ox-driver” from bous “cow”).

In Babylonian mythology, Procyon was known as Nangar (the Carpenter), an aspect of Marduk, involved in constructing and organising the celestial sky. Rarer names are the Latin translation of Procyon, Antecanis, and the Arabic-derived names Al Shira and Elgomaisa. Medieval astrolabes of England and Western Europe used a variant of this, Algomeiza/Algomeyza.

Al Shira derives from aš-ši‘ra aš-šamiyah, “the Syrian sign” (the other sign being Sirius; “Syria” is supposedly a reference to its northern location relative to Sirius); Elgomaisa. derives from al-ghumaisa’ “the bleary-eyed (woman)”, in contrast to “the teary-eyed (woman)”, which is Sirius.

Though strongly associated with the Classical Greek uranographic tradition, Canis Minor originates from ancient Mesopotamia. Procyon and Gomeisa were called MASH.TAB.BA or “twins” in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

The meaning of MASH.TAB.BA evolved as well, becoming the twin deities Lulal and Latarak, who are on the opposite side of the sky from Papsukal, the True Shepherd of Heaven in Babylonian mythology. In the later MUL.APIN, this name was also applied to the pairs of Pi3 and Pi4 Orionis and Zeta and Xi Orionis.


Canis Major contains Sirius (designated α Canis Majoris (Latinized to Alpha Canis Majoris, abbreviated Alpha CMa, α CMa), the brightest star in the night sky. It is known colloquially as the “dog star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (“the Greater Dog”). Canis Major was classically depicted as Orion’s dog.

Its name is derived from the Greek word Seirios (“glowing” or “scorching”). The Greek word itself may have been imported from elsewhere before the Archaic period, one authority suggesting a link with the Egyptian god Osiris.

Sirius is bright because of its proximity to the Solar System. In contrast, the other bright stars of the constellation are stars of great distance and high luminosity. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, Sirius is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius.

Sirius is a binary star consisting of a main-sequence star of spectral type A0 or A1, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, termed Sirius B. The distance between the two varies between 8.2 and 31.5 astronomical units as they orbit every 50 years.

Sirius has over 50 other designations and names attached to it. In Sanskrit it is known as Mrgavyadha “deer hunter”, or Lubdhaka “hunter”. As Mrgavyadha, the star represents Rudra (Shiva). In Scandinavia, the star has been known as Lokabrenna (“burning done by Loki”, or “Loki’s torch”).

Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. Many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines. In Chinese astronomy Sirius is known as the star of the “celestial wolf” in the Mansion of Jǐng.

The brightest star in the night sky, Sirius is recorded in some of the earliest astronomical records. The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “dog days” of summer for the ancient Greeks.

The ancient Greeks observed that the appearance of Sirius heralded the hot and dry summer and feared that it caused plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused. Due to its brightness, Sirius would have been seen to twinkle more in the unsettled weather conditions of early summer.

To Greek observers, this signified certain emanations which caused its malignant influence. Anyone suffering its effects was said to be “star-struck” (astrobólētos). It was described as “burning” or “flaming” in literature.

The season following the star’s reappearance came to be known as the “dog days”. The Ancient Greeks thought that Sirius’s emanations could affect dogs adversely, making them behave abnormally during the “dog days”, the hottest days of the summer.

The inhabitants of the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea would offer sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus to bring cooling breezes and would await the reappearance of the star in summer. If it rose clear, it would portend good fortune; if it was misty or faint then it foretold (or emanated) pestilence. Coins retrieved from the island from the 3rd century BC feature dogs or stars with emanating rays, highlighting Sirius’s importance.

The Romans knew these days as dies caniculares, and the star Sirius was called Canicula, “little dog”. The excessive panting of dogs in hot weather was thought to place them at risk of desiccation and disease. In extreme cases, a foaming dog might have rabies, which could infect and kill humans they had bitten.

The Romans celebrated the heliacal setting of Sirius around April 25, sacrificing a dog, along with incense, wine, and a sheep, to the goddess Robigo so that the star’s emanations would not cause wheat rust on wheat crops that year.

Ptolemy of Alexandria mapped the stars in Books VII and VIII of his Almagest, in which he used Sirius as the location for the globe’s central meridian. He depicted it as one of six red-coloured stars. The other five are class M and K stars, such as Arcturus and Betelgeuse.

Around the year 150 CE, the Greek astronomer of the Roman period, Claudius Ptolemy, described Sirius as reddish, along with five other stars, Betelgeuse, Antares, Aldebaran, Arcturus and Pollux, all of which are of orange or red hue.

Bright stars were important to the ancient Polynesians for navigation between the many islands and atolls of the Pacific Ocean. Sirius marked winter and was an important reference for their navigation around the Pacific Ocean.

They also served as latitude markers; the declination of Sirius matches the latitude of the archipelago of Fiji at 17°S, an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mile) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, and thus passes directly over the islands each night.

Sirius served as the body of a “Great Bird” constellation called Manu, with Canopus, the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina, as the southern wingtip and Procyon, the brightest object in the constellation of Canis Minor, the northern wingtip, which divided the Polynesian night sky into two hemispheres.

Carina is a constellation in the southern sky. Its name is Latin for the keel of a ship, and it was formerly part of the larger constellation of Argo Navis (the ship Argo, the great ship of Jason and the Argonauts who searched for the Golden Fleece) until that constellation was divided into three pieces, the other two being Puppis (the poop deck), and Vela (the sails of the ship).

Just as the appearance of Sirius in the morning sky marked summer in Greece, it marked the onset of winter for the Māori, whose name Takurua described both the star and the season. Its culmination at the winter solstice was marked by celebration in Hawaii, where it was known as Ka’ulua, “Queen of Heaven”.

Many other Polynesian names have been recorded, including Tau-ua in the Marquesas Islands, Rehua in New Zealand, and Ta’urua-fau-papa “Festivity of original high chiefs” and Ta’urua-e-hiti-i-te-tara-te-feiai “Festivity who rises with prayers and religious ceremonies” in Tahiti.

In Iranian mythology, especially in Persian mythology and in Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, Sirius appears as Tishtrya and is revered as the rain-maker divinity (Tishtar of New Persian poetry).

Known as “Tir”, the star was portrayed as the arrow itself in later Persian culture. Beside passages in the sacred texts of the Avesta, the Avestan language Tishtrya followed by the version Tir in Middle and New Persian is also depicted in the Persian epic Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.

Due to the concept of the yazatas, powers which are “worthy of worship”, Tishtrya is a divinity of rain and fertility and an antagonist of apaosha, the demon of drought. In this struggle, Tishtrya is depicted as a white horse.

Several cultures also associated the star with a bow and arrows. The ancient Chinese visualized a large bow and arrow across the southern sky, formed by the constellations of Puppis and Canis Major. In this, the arrow tip is pointed at the wolf Sirius. A similar association is depicted at the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, where the goddess Satet has drawn her arrow at Hathor (Sirius).

Sirius is mentioned in Surah, An-Najm (“The Star”), of the Qur’an, where it is given the name (transliteration: aš-ši‘rā or ash-shira; the leader). Ibn Kathir said in his commentary “that it is the bright star, named Mirzam Al-Jawza’ (Sirius), which a group of Arabs used to worship”. The alternate name Aschere, used by Johann Bayer, is derived from this.

In theosophy, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades transmit the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius. From there is it sent via the Sun to the god of Earth (Sanat Kumara), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays to the human race.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sirius, named šukūdu (meaning “arrow”) by the Akkadian and KAK.SI.DI by the Babylonians, was seen as an arrow aiming towards Orion, while the southern stars of Canis Major and a part of Puppis were viewed as a bow, named BAN in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

In the later compendium of Babylonian astronomy and astrology titled MUL.APIN, Sirius (“the arrow”), was linked with the warrior Ninurta, and the bow with Ishtar, daughter of Enlil. Ninurta was linked to the later deity Marduk, who was said to have slain the ocean goddess Tiamat with a great bow, and worshipped as the principal deity in Babylon.

Astronomers of the eighth and seventh centuries BC identified Ninurta (or Pabilsaĝ) with the constellation Sagittarius. Its name is Latin for the archer, and its symbol is a stylized arrow. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur pulling back a bow. It lies between Scorpius and Ophiuchus to the west and Capricornus and Microscopium to the east.

Alternatively, others identified him with the star Sirius. The constellation of Canis Major, of which Sirius is the most visible star, was known as qaštu, meaning “bow”, after the bow and arrow Ninurta was believed to carry. The Ancient Greeks replaced the bow and arrow depiction with that of a dog.

Egyptian calender and Sirius

Sirius (designated α Canis Majoris (Latinized to Alpha Canis Majoris, abbreviated Alpha CMa, α CMa), is the brightest star in the night sky. Its displacement from the ecliptic causes its heliacal rising to be remarkably regular compared to other stars, with a period of almost exactly 365.25 days holding it constant relative to the solar year. This rising occurs at Cairo on 19 July (Julian), placing it just prior to the summer solstice and the onset of the annual flooding of the Nile during antiquity.

Owing to the flood’s own irregularity, the extreme precision of the star’s return made it important to the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped it as the goddess Sopdet (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt, “Triangle”; Greek: Sō̂this), guarantor of the fertility of their land.

The Egyptian civil calendar was apparently initiated to have its New Year “Mesori” coincide with the appearance of Sirius, although its lack of leap years meant that this congruence only held for four years until its date began to wander backwards through the months.

The Egyptians continued to note the times of Sirius’s annual return, which may have led them to the discovery of the 1460-year Sothic cycle and influenced the development of the Julian and Alexandrian calendars.

During the early period of Egyptian civilization, the heliacal rising of Sirius preceded the usual annual flooding of the Nile. It was therefore apparently used for the solar civil calendar which largely superseded the original lunar calendar in the 3rd millennium BC.

Despite the wandering nature of the Egyptian calendar, the erratic timing of the flood from year to year, and the slow procession of Sirius within the solar year, Sopdet continued to remain central to cultural depictions of the year and to celebrations of Wep Renpet (Wp Rnpt), the Egyptian New Year.

A tablet from the reign of the First-Dynasty pharaoh Djer (c. 3000 BC) was once thought to indicate that the Egyptians had already established a link between the heliacal rising of Sirius and the beginning of their year, but more recent analysis has questioned whether the tablet’s picture refers to Sirius at all.

Similarly, based on the Palermo Stone, Scharff proposed that the Old Kingdom observed a 320-day year but his theory has not become widely accepted. Some evidence suggests the early civil calendar had 360 days, although it might merely reflect the unusual status of the five epagomenal days as days “added on” to the proper year.

The civil calendar was established at some early date in or before the Old Kingdom, with probable evidence of its use early in the reign of Shepseskaf (c. 2510 BC, Dynasty IV) and certain attestation during the reign of Neferirkare (mid-25th century BC, Dynasty V). It was probably based upon astronomical observations of Sirius whose reappearance in the sky closely corresponded to the average onset of the Nile flood through the 5th and 4th millennium BC.

A recent development is the discovery that the 30-day month of the Mesopotamian calendar dates as late as the Jemdet Nasr Period (late 4th-millennium BC), a time Egyptian culture was borrowing various objects and cultural features from the Fertile Crescent, leaving open the possibility that the main features of the calendar were borrowed in one direction or the other as well.

The civil year comprised exactly 365 days, divided into 12 months of 30 days each and an intercalary month of five days, were celebrated as the birthdays of the gods Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

The regular months were grouped into Egypt’s three seasons, which gave them their original names, and divided into three 10-day periods known as decans or decades. In later sources, these were distinguished as “first”, “middle”, and “last”.

It has been suggested that during the Nineteenth Dynasty and the Twentieth Dynasty the last two days of each decan were usually treated as a kind of weekend for the royal craftsmen, with royal artisans free from work.

Dates were typically expressed in a YMD format, with a pharaoh’s regnal year followed by the month followed by the day of the month. For example, the New Year occurred on I Akhet 1.

The importance of the calendar to Egyptian religion is reflected in the use of the title “Lord of Years” (Nb Rnpt) for its various creator gods. Time was also considered an integral aspect of Maat, the cosmic order which opposed chaos, lies, and violence.

The civil calendar was apparently established in a year when Sirius rose on its New Year (I Akhet 1) but, because of its lack of leap years, it began to slowly cycle backwards through the solar year.

Sirius itself, about 40° below the ecliptic, follows a Sothic year almost exactly matching that of the Sun, with its reappearance now occurring at the latitude of Cairo (ancient Heliopolis and Memphis) on 19 July (Julian), only two or three days later than its occurrence in early antiquity.

Following Censorinus and Meyer, the standard understanding was that, four years from the calendar’s inception, Sirius would have no longer reappeared on the Egyptian New Year but on the next day (I Akhet 2); four years later, it would have reappeared on the day after that; and so on through the entire calendar until its rise finally returned to I Akhet 1 1460 years after the calendar’s inception, an event known as “apocatastasis”.

Owing to the event’s extreme regularity, Egyptian recordings of the calendrical date of the rise of Sirius have been used by Egyptologists to fix its calendar and other events dated to it, at least to the level of the four-Egyptian-year periods which share the same date for Sirius’s return, known as “tetraëterides” or “quadrennia”.

For example, an account that Sothis rose on III Peret 1—the 181st day of the year—should show that somewhere 720, 721, 722, or 723 years have passed since the last apocatastasis. Following such a scheme, the record of Sirius rising on II Shemu 1 in 239 BC implies apocatastases on 1319 and 2779 BC ±3 years. Censorinus’s placement of an apocatastasis on 21 July ad 139 permitted the calculation of its predecessors to 1322, 2782, and 4242 BC.

The last is sometimes described as “the first exactly dated year in history” but, since the calendar is attested before Dynasty XVIII and the last date is now known to far predate early Egyptian civilization, it is typically credited to Dynasty II around the middle date.

The classic understanding of the Sothic cycle relies, however, on several potentially erroneous assumptions. Following Scaliger, Censorinus’s date is usually emended to 20 July but ancient authorities give a variety of ‘fixed’ dates for the rise of Sirius. His use of the year 139 seems questionable, as 136 seem to have been the start of the tetraëteris and the later date chosen to flatter the birthday of Censorinus’s patron.

Perfect observation of Sirius’s actual behavior during the cycle—including its minor shift relative to the solar year—would produce a period of 1457 years; observational difficulties produce a further margin of error of about two decades.

Although it is certain the Egyptian day began in the morning, another four years are shifted depending on whether the precise start occurred at the first light of dawn or at sunrise.

It has been noted that there is no recognition in surviving records that Sirius’s minor irregularities sometimes produce a triëteris or penteteris (three- or five-year periods of agreement with an Egyptian date) rather than the usual four-year periods and, given that the expected discrepancy is no more than 8 years in 1460, the cycle may have been applied schematically according to the civil years by Egyptians and the Julian year by the Greeks and Romans.

The occurrence of the apocatastasis in the 2nd millennium BC so close to the great political and sun-based religious reforms of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton also leaves open the possibility that the cycle’s strict application was occasionally subject to political interference. The record and celebration of Sirius’s rising would also vary by several days (equating to decades of the cycle) in eras when the official site of observation was moved from near Cairo.

The return of Sirius to the night sky varies by about a day per degree of latitude, causing it to be seen 8–10 days earlier at Aswan than at Alexandria, a difference which causes Krauss to propose dating much of Egyptian history decades later than the present consensus.


The proper name “Sirius” comes from the Latin Sīrius, from the Ancient Greek (Seirios, “glowing” or “scorcher”). The Greek word itself may have been imported from elsewhere before the Archaic period, one authority suggesting a link with the Egyptian god Osiris.

The Ancient Egyptians associated the stars of Orion with Osiris, the sun-god of rebirth and afterlife, and one of the most important gods of the ancient Egyptians. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother, Seth, then briefly brought back to life by his sister and consort Isis to father the god Horus. Orion was considered the abode of Osiris following his resurrection. Isis dwelt on Sirius.

Egyptians saw Osiris in the Moon, whose phases caused the all-important Nile to rise and fall each month, and in the constellation Orion, whose appearance was connected with the annual flood. As god of the dead, Osiris welcomed the recently deceased to their new world. Osiris was believed to be the lord of the underworld, Duat. He was the first mummy as depicted in the Osiris myth and he personified rebirth and life after death.

Duat has been represented in hieroglyphs as a star-in-circle. The Duat was the region through which the sun god Ra traveled from west to east each night, and it was where he battled Apophis, who embodied the primordial chaos which the sun had to defeat in order to rise each morning and bring order back to the earth. It was also the place where people’s souls went after death for judgement, though that was not the full extent of the afterlife.

Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year. Osiris was widely worshipped until the decline of ancient Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.


Sopdet (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt, Sepedet or Sopdet, “Triangle” or “The Sharp One”), known to the ancient Greeks as Sothis, is the ancient Egyptian name of the star Sirius, which was the basis for the ancient Egyptian calendar, and its personification as an Egyptian goddess.

She was also venerated as a goddess of the fertility brought to the soil by the flooding. During the Old Kingdom, she was an important goddess of the annual flood and a psychopomp guiding deceased pharaohs through the Egyptian underworld.

During the Middle Kingdom, she was primarily a mother and nurse and, by the Ptolemaic period, she was almost entirely subsumed into Isis, while the male Sopdet was conflated with the dog-headed Anubis, the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head.

From the Middle Kingdom, Sopdet sometimes appeared as a god who held up part of Nut (the sky or firmament) with Hathor. As a sky deity, Hathor was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs.

Isis and Osiris were considered Horus’s parents in the Osiris myth as far back as the late Old Kingdom, but the relationship between Horus and Hathor may be older still. If so, Horus only came to be linked with Isis and Osiris as the Osiris myth emerged during the Old Kingdom.

Even after Isis was firmly established as Horus’s mother, Hathor continued to appear in this role, especially when nursing the pharaoh. Images of the Hathor-cow with a child in a papyrus thicket represented her mythological upbringing in a secluded marsh.

Sopdet is the consort of Sah, the personified constellation of Orion near Sirius. Their child Venus was the hawk god Sopdu, “Lord of the East”. As the “bringer of the New Year and the Nile flood”, she was associated with Osiris from an early date and by the Ptolemaic period Sah and Sopdet almost solely appeared in forms conflated with Osiris and Isis.

She was depicted as a woman with a five-pointed star upon her head, usually with a horned hedjet similar to Satis. In the Ptolemaic and Roman period, the European notion of the “Dog Star” caused her to sometimes be represented as a large dog or as a woman riding one sidesaddle.


In ancient Egypt, the stars of Orion were regarded as a god called Sah, known as the “Father of the gods”. Sha was the Egyptian counterpart of the Babylonian “Good Shepherd of Anu” or “Loyal Shepherd of Heaven” (Sumerian: MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, Akkadian: šitaddaru).

Sah was in turn the anthropomorphic representation of a large Egyptian constellation that today is represented by the modern myths of Orion and Lepus constellation (but also borrowing stars from modern Eridanus, Monoceros and Columba constellations).

Because Orion rises before Sirius, the star whose heliacal rising was the basis for the Solar Egyptian calendar, Sah was closely linked with Sopdet, the goddess who personified Sirius, who was his consort.

Sah came to be syncretized with Osiris, while Sopdet is syncretized with Osiris’ mythological wife, Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, from the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, Sah is one of many gods whose form the dead pharaoh is said to take in the afterlife.


Sopdu (also rendered Septu or Sopedu) was a god of the sky and of eastern border regions in ancient Egyptian religion. He is said to be the son of Sah and Sopdet. Khensit was the wife of Sopdu and the daughter of Ra, and was depicted as a uraeus.

As a sky god, Sopdu was connected with the god Sah, the personification of the constellation Orion, and the goddess Sopdet, representing the star Sirius. According to the Pyramid Texts, Horus-Sopdu, a combination of Sopdu and the greater sky god Horus, is the offspring of Osiris-Sah and Isis-Sopdet.

As a god of the east, Sopdu was said to protect Egyptian outposts along the frontiers and to help the pharaoh control those regions’ foreign inhabitants. He was referred to as Lord of the East, and had his greatest cult centre at the easternmost nome of Lower Egypt, which was named Per-Sopdu, meaning place of Sopdu. He also had shrines at Egyptian settlements in the Sinai Peninsula, such as the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim.

“Sopdu” in hieroglyphs Sopdu’s name is composed of the hieroglyph for sharp, a pointed triangle, and the 3rd person plural suffix (a quail); thus a literal translation of his name is sharp ones. He was said, in the Pyramid Texts, to protect the teeth of the deceased pharaoh.

Sopdu was depicted as a falcon sitting on a religious standard, often with a two-feathered crown on his head and a flail over his shoulder. In his border-guarding role he was shown as a Near Eastern warrior, with a shemset girdle and an axe or spear.


Satis (Ancient Egyptian: Sṯt or Sṯı͗t, lit. “Pourer” or “Shooter”), also known by numerous related names, was an Upper Egyptian goddess who, along with Khnum and Anuket, formed part of the Elephantine Triad. Under the interpretatio graeca, she was conflated with Hera and Juno.

A protective deity of Egypt’s southern border with Nubia, she came to personify the former annual flooding of the Nile and to serve as a war, hunting, and fertility goddess. The exact pronunciation of Egyptian is often uncertain since vowels were not recorded until a very late period. In transcription, the goddess’s name also appears as Setis, Sati, Setet, Satet, Satit, and Sathit.

Derived from sṯ, meaning “eject”, “shoot”, “pour”, or “throw”, her name can be variously translated as “She who Shoots” or “She who Pours” depending on which of her roles is being emphasized. She was also known by epithets, such as “Mistress of Elephantine” and “She Who Runs Like an Arrow”, thought to refer to the flowing river current.

She was sometimes conflated with Isis and Sopdet, goddess of the bright star Sirius, which the Egyptians connected with the onset of the Nile flooding. She was particularly associated with the upper reaches of the Nile, which the Egyptians sometimes considered to have its source near Aswan.

A goddess of the Upper Egyptians, her cult is first attested on jars beneath the Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Dynasty III). She appears in the Pyramid Texts (Dynasty VI) purifying a deceased pharaoh’s body with four jars of water from Elephantine.

Her principal center of worship was at Abu (Elephantine), an island near Aswan on the southern edge of Egypt. Her temple there occupied an early predynastic site shown by Wells to be aligned with the star Sirius. Other centers include Swenet (Aswan proper) and Setet (Sehel Island nearby).

Myths As a war goddess, Satis protected Egypt’s southern Nubian frontier by killing the enemies of the pharaoh with her sharp arrows. As a fertility goddess, she was thought to grant the wishes of those who sought love. She seems to have originally been paired with the Theban god Montu but later replaced Heket as the consort of Khnum, guardian of the source of the Nile.

By Khnum, her child was Anuket, goddess of the Nile. After Khnum was conflated with Ra, she sometimes became an Eye of Ra in place of Hathor. Together Khnum, Anuket, and Satis formed the Elephantine Triad.

Representation Satis was usually pictured as a woman in a sheath dress wearing the hedjet, the conical crown of Upper Egypt, with antelope horns. She is sometimes depicted with bow and arrows; holding an ankh or scepter; or offering jars of purifying water. She also appears in the form of an antelope. Her symbols were the arrow and the running river.


In Greco-Roman Egypt, the male Sopdet was conflated with the dog-headed Anubis, the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists have identified Anubis’s sacred animal as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf.

“Anubis” is a Greek rendering of this god’s Egyptian name. Before the Greeks arrived in Egypt, around the 7th century BC, the god was known as Anpu or Inpu. The root of the name in ancient Egyptian language means “a royal child.”

Inpu has a root to “inp,” which means “to decay.” The positions that he had were also reflected in the titles he held such as “He Who Is upon His Mountain,” “Ruler of the Nine Bows,” “The Dog who Swallows Millions,” “Master of Secrets,” “Lord of the Sacred Land,” “Foremost of the Westerners,” “Foremost of the Divine Booth” and “He Who Is in the Place of Embalming.”

Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC) he was replaced by Osiris in his role as lord of the underworld.

One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.

Anubis was depicted in black, a color that symbolized regeneration, life, the soil of the Nile River, and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. Anubis’ female counterpart is Anput. His daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.


Anubis is associated with Wepwawet (also called Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois), another Egyptian god portrayed with a dog’s head or in canine form, but with grey or white fur. Historians assume that the two figures were eventually combined. His name means opener of the ways and he is often depicted as a wolf standing at the prow of a solar-boat.

In late Egyptian mythology Wepwawet was originally a war deity, whose cult centre was Asyut in Upper Egypt (Lycopolis in the Greco-Roman period). Wepwawet originally was seen as a wolf deity, thus the Greek name of Lycopolis, meaning city of wolves.

It is likely the case that Wepwawet was originally just a symbol of the pharaoh, seeking to associate with wolf-like attributes, that later became deified as a mascot to accompany the pharaoh. Likewise, Wepwawet was said to accompany the pharaoh on hunts, in which capacity he was titled (one with) sharp arrow more powerful than the gods alone.

Over time, the connection to war, and thus to death, led to Wepwawet also being seen as one who opened the ways to, and through, Duat (Ancient Egyptian: dwꜣt, Egyptological pronunciation “do-aht”, also appearing as Tuat, Tuaut or Akert, Amenthes, Amenti, or Neter-khertet), the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology, for the spirits of the dead.

Through this, and the similarity of the jackal to the wolf, Wepwawet became associated with Anubis, a deity that was worshiped in Asyut, eventually being considered his son. Seen as a jackal, he also was said to be Set’s son. Consequently, Wepwawet often is confused with Anubis. This deity appears in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.

In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. He was depicted dressed as a soldier, as well as carrying other military equipment—a mace and a bow.

For what generally is considered to be lauding purposes of the pharaohs, a later myth briefly was circulated claiming that Wepwawet was born at the sanctuary of Wadjet, the sacred site for the oldest goddess of Lower Egypt that is located in the heart of Lower Egypt. Consequently, Wepwawet, who had hitherto been the standard of Upper Egypt alone, formed an integral part of royal rituals, symbolizing the unification of Egypt.

In later pyramid texts, Wepwawet is called “Ra” who has gone up from the horizon, perhaps as the “opener” of the sky. In the later Egyptian funerary context, Wepwawet assists at the Opening of the mouth ceremony and guides the deceased into the netherworld.

The Giza pyramids

The Orion theory by Robert Bauval first published in 1989 propose that the Giza pyramids were a physical representation of the three stars that make up Orion’s belt. Although aspects of the original theory were heavily refuted, the main tenet of the theory still holds true.

In addition to the ground-plan of the pyramids themselves being identified with Orion, the ‘Star chambers’ have also been shown to have a correlation with Orion, Sirius and the Pole stars of the day.

The theory has been contentious since its outset. Ed Krupp (Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles) and Anthony Fairall (astronomy professor at the University of Cape Town) have both criticised the astronomical observations which underpin the theory and even suggested that in order to make the facts fit the map of the pyramids had to be inverted.

However, Archie Roy (Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Glasgow University) and Percy Seymour (astronomer and astrophysicist at Plymouth University) have defended the theory and noted that the visual correlation is striking when the pyramids of Giza are viewed from the north.

Furthermore, there is some support for it in the fact that the Pyramid Texts (which date to the fifth dynasty but were most likely formed from earlier religious concepts) make frequent references to the connection between the the resurrection of the king and Sahu (The earliest Egyptian representation of Orion).

The ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ at Teotihuacán has the same base dimensions as the Great pyramid of Giza, but is is exactly half the height. It appears as if both cultures incorporated Pi into their dimensions.

Triple Circles/ Henges in the UK

England is home to examples of numerous double circles, as well as several ‘Triple-circles’ such as ‘The Hurlers’, Merrivale, Stanton Drew,, Avebury, Thornborough and Grey Wethers, to name but a few. Their exact purpose is still only to be guessed at, but a geometric and/or astronomic association is predicted.

An example of a ‘Triple RSC’ can be found at Loanhead of Daviot, in Scotland, where three Neolithic recumbent circles were once aligned. The circle in Daviot churchyard was removed in 1820, and all that remains of New Craig is the recumbent, its flankers and a few odd stones now built into a field wall.

The theme of triple-aligned circles is also common to Henges, such as the Priddy circles, and Thornborough. The largest triple Henge in Britain is at the Thornborough complex. It also shows a slight ‘dog-leg’, and work by Prof. Clive Ruggles, who postulated that there were demonstrable alignments between the Henges and the astronomical features of Orion was later supported by the research of the eminent archaeologist, Dr. Harding, senior lecturer at Newcastle University.

He demonstrated the similarity of the placing of the three great Henges on the landscape and the three stars of Orion’s Belt. In addition, archaeological work at Thornborough suggested that Orion was significant prior to the construction of the three Henges. The first major monument on the site was built around 3,500BC. This was a 1.2km long Cursus, aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion. This also meant the eastern end aligned to the midsummer solstice.

At around 3000 BC, when the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed, they appear to have been deliberately laid out to mirror Orion’s Belt. Not only this, but their southern entrances framed the rising of the bright star, Sirius, which in turn meant their axis aligned on the midwinter solstice.

A similar layout has been shown to exist at the Hurlers stone circle, which was orientated towards Orion on the summer solstice. The Hurlers have been dated at c. 1,500 BC, while the Henges at Thornborough are dated at around 3,500 BC, suggesting a continuous form of Orion worship existed in the UK for around 2,000 years. A recent dig has uncovered a ‘crystal (quartz) avenue running between the circles.


Orion’s current name derives from Greek mythology, in which Orion was a gigantic, supernaturally strong hunter of ancient times, born to Euryale, a Gorgon, and Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

In ancient Greek mythology, Orion was a giant hunter. He features in numerous legends, many of which give contradictory accounts of his life and exploits. Every version agrees, however, that after his death he became a constellation in the night sky.

In most accounts, Orion was either the son of Hyreius, king of Boeotia, or of the deities Dionysus and Demeter. A few myths state that his mother was Gaia, the earth goddess; elsewhere his parents are said to have been either Poseidon and Euryale or Hyrieus and the nymph Clonia.

One myth attributed Orion’s origin to a bull hide: childless Hyrieus asked for an heir by sacrificing a bull to Zeus, Hermes, and Poseidon; they urinated on the hide, and Orion was born from it.

The outline of the group of stars named for him appears to show the hunter wearing a lion’s skin, carrying a club, and accompanied by two hunting dogs. Like most of Poseidon’s children, Orion was a man of gigantic proportions. He also was quite the hunter, and the constellation that bears his name forms the shape of a great hunter in a defensive pose against Taurus, the bull.

One myth recounts Gaia’s rage at Orion, who dared to say that he would kill every animal on the planet. The angry goddess tried to dispatch Orion with a scorpion. This is given as the reason that the constellations of Scorpius and Orion are never in the sky at the same time.

However, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, revived Orion with an antidote. This is said to be the reason that the constellation of Ophiuchus stands midway between the Scorpion and the Hunter in the sky. The constellation is mentioned in Horace’s Odes (Ode 3.27.18), Homer’s Odyssey (Book 5, line 283) and Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid (Book 1, line 535).

While a young man Orion walked to Chios over the Aegean, and Oenopion (“wine drinker”, “wine-rich” or “wine face”), who was a legendary ruler of Chios and son of the Cretan princess Ariadne by Dionysus, welcomed him with a banquet.

Orion fell in love with Merope, a mortal princess in Greek mythology, who was the daughter of Oenopion and Helike. Orion sought to marry Merope and he remained in the king’s service for some time attempting to win his favor, but Oenopion dragged his feet in arranging the marriage.

Impatient, Orion assaulted Merope. In revenge, Oenopion stabbed out Orion’s eyes, and then threw him off the island. He got Orion drunk, and when the giant fell asleep, Oenopion put his eyes out and threw him out towards the sea.

Orion wandered around blind until he bumped into Hephaestus, who, taking pity on the blind Orion and gave him his servant Cedalion or Kedalion as a guide. Orion took up Cedalion and set the youth upon his shoulders for a guide to the East, where the rising sun, the rays of Helios, restored his sight.

One traditional etymology of Cedalion is from kēdeuein “to take charge, to care for”. Another traditional interpretation is “phallos”, from a different sense of the same verb: “to marry” (said of the groom). According to one tradition, he was Hephaestus’s tutor, with whom Hera fostered her son on Naxos to teach him smithcraft.

He has been compared to the Cabeiri, to Chiron (“hand”), who was held to be the superlative centaur amongst his brethren, as he was called as the “wisest and justest of all the centaurs”, and to Prometheus, who is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind and also seen as the author of the human arts and sciences generally.

Once again a while man and extremely angry, Orion set out to kill Oenopion, but the Chians had built the king an underground fortress, and Orion couldn’t find him. (Other sources say it was an iron fortress, built by Hephaestus, who had foreseen this and built Oenopion an underground chamber to keep him safe.)

Unable to find the king of Chios, Orion gave up, and instead went with the rosy-fingered, saffron-robed and golden-throned goddess Eos (“dawn”), a Titaness and the goddess of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the Oceanus and goes up to Olympus to announce the light to the immortals. Eos, had fallen in love with him. She took him to Delos, where he served her sexually.

Eos fell in love several times. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, it was the jealous Aphrodite who cursed her to be perpetually in love and have an unsatisfiable sexual desire because once had Eos lain with Aphrodite’s sweetheart Ares, the god of war. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion, and Cleitus.

As a young man Orion courted Merope, one of the Pleiades, seven nymphs who were companions of the Greek goddess Artemis (the others were Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Sterope, and Taygete). Merope rejected his advances.

In one story, she married a mortal, Sisyphus, king of Corinth. According to another version, Merope became betrothed to Orion, but her father—Oenopion, king of Chios, an island in the Aegean Sea—kept postponing the date of the wedding.

Eventually Orion lost patience and raped Merope; Oenopion blinded him in revenge. Orion then wandered helplessly until the god Hephaestus took pity on him and sent his own attendant, Kedalion, to help the blinded man.

Sitting on top of Orion’s shoulders, Kedalion guided him to the abode of Helios, the sun god, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. When Eos saw Orion she was moved to tears—they became the glistening morning dew—and immediately restored his sight.

On seeing his savior, Orion fell in love with her, but this angered the gods, who ordered Artemis, goddess of hunting, to slay the man with her arrows. Before he died, however, Orion repaid his debt to Hephaestus by building a subterranean temple in his honor in Sicily. He also built walls around the island’s coast to protect it from the sea.

The Heavenly Shepherd

Orion was listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD. However, it was recorded by the Babylonians as early as 686 BCE in the astronomical tablets MUL.APIN as SIPA.ZI.AN.NA or Sibzianna (“The true shepherd of Anu” or “the Loyal Shepherd of Heaven”).

The earliest story concerning Orion was recorded by the Sumerians. It represented their hero Gilgamesh, whose exploits were immortalised in the first surviving piece of heroic literature called the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia that is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature.

The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh (Sumerian for “Gilgamesh”), king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC). These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian.

While records point to Gilgamesh being a historical king who ruled over the Sumerian city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia sometime between 2700 and 2500 BC, the mythology describes Gilgamesh as a demigod possessing superhuman strength whose great accomplishments assured his divine status amongst his subjects.

In 2334 BC, the Sumerian city-states of Mesopotamia were conquered by the Akkadian ruler Sargon, with the new empire they created eventually passing into the hands of the Babylonians after being conquered by Hammurabi in 1787 BC.

Amongst Gilgamesh’s many great deeds was ordering the city walls of Uruk to be built, and wrestling with the wild man, Enkidu “Enki’s creation”), formerly misread as Eabani, representing the natural world, who was sent by the gods to humble him. Enkidu was formed from clay and water by Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance.


Following a fierce battle, Gilgamesh and Enkidu became great friends, and enjoyed many adventures together, including killing Gugalanna (“the Bull of Heaven”), who had been unleashed by the supreme god Anu to kill Gilgamesh after an appeal by his daughter the goddess Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar) whose affections Gilgamesh had spurned.

The Sumerians subsequently honored the struggle by depicting Gilgamesh in the celestial heavens as the constellation of URU AN-NA (“the light of heaven”) fighting a bull, GUD AN-NA (“the Bull of Heaven”). The Light of Heaven represents the constellation we know today as Orion, and the Bull of Heaven represents the constellation now called Taurus.

Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC.

In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”. As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”.

In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare. One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.

In the Old Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. Enkidu tears off the bull’s hind part and hurls the quarters into the sky where they become the stars we know as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation.


Gilgamesh was the Sumerian equivalent of Heracles, a Greek hero and god, who was equivalent of the Roman divine hero Hercules. One of the labours of Heracles was to catch the Cretan bull, which would fit the Orion–Taurus conflict in the sky.

Amongst the attributes ascribed to the constellation of URU AN-NA was a bow in Gilgamesh’s left hand, an axe in his right, and a sword hanging from his belt. The axe has become a club and the bow has become the skin of the Nemean lion. Thus Orion is also being associated here with Heracles.

Heracles (“Glory/Pride of Hera”), born Alcaeus (Alkaios) Alcides (Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene (Latin: Alcumena means “strong in wrath”), the wife of Amphitryon (usually interpreted as “harassing either side”).

He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae, and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves.

The Romans adapted the Greek hero’s iconography and myths for their literature and art under the name Hercules. In later Western art and literature and in popular culture, Hercules is more commonly used than Heracles as the name of the hero.

The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.

In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. Hercules was a multifaceted figure with contradictory characteristics, which enabled later artists and writers to pick and choose how to represent him.

Heracles was a great-grandson and half-brother (as they are both sired by the god Zeus) of Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae, an archaeological site near Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece, and of the Perseid dynasty.

Perseus beheaded the Gorgon Medusa for Polydectes and saved Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. He was the son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë, as well as the half-brother and great-grandfather of Heracles.

Perses was left in Aethiopia and was believed to have been an ancestor of the Persians. Classical Greek myths assert that Mycenae was founded by Perseus, grandson of king Acrisius of Argos, son of Acrisius’s daughter, Danaë and the god Zeus.

Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. The most prominent site was Mycenae, in the Argolid, after which the culture of this era is named.

Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace-centered states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax. The feminine form is anassa, “queen” (from wánassa, itself from *wánakt-ja).

The Mycenaean Greeks introduced several innovations in the fields of engineering, architecture and military infrastructure, while trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the Mycenaean economy. Their syllabic script, the Linear B, offers the first written records of the Greek language and their religion already included several deities that can also be found in the Olympic Pantheon.

Constellation Hercules

In the sky, Orion is depicted facing the snorting charge of neighbouring Taurus the Bull, yet the myth of Orion makes no reference to such a combat. However, the constellation can be traced back to the Sumerians, who saw in it their great hero Gilgamesh fighting the Bull of Heaven.

It might seem that Orion is Heracles in another guise. Ptolemy described him with club and lion’s pelt, both familiar attributes of Heracles, and he is shown this way on old star maps. Yet despite these parallels, no mythologist hints at a connection between this constellation and Heracles, which is consigned to a much more obscure area of sky.

Hercules is a constellation named after Hercules, the Roman mythological hero adapted from the Greek hero Heracles. It is the second largest of the modern constellations. It is bordered by Draco to the north; Boötes, Corona Borealis, and Serpens Caput to the east; Ophiuchus to the south; Aquila to the southwest; and Sagitta, Vulpecula, and Lyra to the west.

The traditional visualization imagines α Herculis as Hercules’s head; its name, Rasalgethi, literally means “head of the kneeling one”. Hercules’s left hand then points toward Lyra from his shoulder (δ Herculis), and β Herculis, or Kornephoros (“club-bearer”) forms his other shoulder.

His narrow waist is formed by ε Herculis and ζ Herculis. Finally, his left leg (with θ Herculis as the knee and ι Herculis the foot) is stepping on Draco’s head, the dragon/snake who Hercules has vanquished and perpetually gloats over for eternities.

Ninshubur – Papshukal

Around 1000 BC, Babylonian astronomers then compiled the MUL.APIM, a comprehensive star and constellation catalogue in which the constellation of Orion was called MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, meaning the “True Shepherd of Anu”, referring to the Sumerian attendant deity Ninshubur, who served as a messenger to Anu, the god of the sky, and supreme ruler of heaven.

Ninshubur was also a personal attendant to the goddess Ishtar (Sumerian: Inanna), the Queen of Heaven, who had earlier been rejected by Gilgamesh, but later Mesopotamian traditions would subsequently assimilate Ninshubur with the Akkadian messenger god Papshukal to become a herald to the general pantheon of gods.

Ninshubur (also known as Ninshubar, Nincubura or Ninšubur) was the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology. Her name means “Queen of the East” in ancient Sumerian.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. Subartu was apparently a polity in Upper Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris, located in what is now known as the Armenian Highlands, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper.

Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians. Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC.

Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani to the name Armenia. Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Armenians.

Ninshubur accompanied Inanna as a vassal and friend throughout Inanna’s many exploits. She helped Inanna fight Enki’s demons after Inanna’s theft of the sacred me. Later, when Inanna became trapped in the Underworld, it was Ninshubur who pleaded with Enki for her mistress’s release.

In Sumerian mythology, a me (Akkadian: paršu) is one of the decrees of the gods that is foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.

In the Sumerian myth of “Inanna and Enki,” Ninshubur is described as the one who rescues Inanna from the monsters that Enki has sent after her. In this myth, Ninshubur plays a similar role to Isimud, who acts as Enki’s messenger to Inanna.

Inanna’s descent to the Underworld In the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent into the Netherworld, Ninshubur is described as the one who pleads with all the gods in an effort to persuade them to rescue Inanna from the Netherworld.

In Sumerian mythology, Ninshubur is portrayed as “unshakably loyal” in her devotion to her mistress. In addition to being a source of great wisdom and knowledge, Ninshubur was also a warrior goddess. She was the guardian and messenger of the god An. She is said to have walked in front of An wherever he went, a position traditionally reserved for a bodyguard.

In older sources, Ninshubur herself is usually referred to as a male god as well; more recent sources have recognized this portrayal as erroneous. The gender of a sukkal always matches the gender of the deity it serves. Thus, Enki’s sukkal Isimud is male, but Ninshubur is female. In her primary aspect as the sukkal to Inanna, Ninshubur was female, but, when she served as the sukkal to An, he was male.

In the Babylonian star map, the constellation depicted Ninshubu (Papshukal) as a shepherd with his left foot forward, and a staff in his extended left hand. Traditionally, the deity was symbolized as the figure of a walking bird, and behind and below the messenger god was imagined a Rooster, with both separate constellations representing Papshukal in his bird and human forms.

The Babylonian star catalogues of the Late Bronze Age name Orion MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “True Shepherd of Anu” – Anu being the chief god of the heavenly realms. The Babylonian constellation is sacred to Papshukal and Ninshubur, both minor gods fulfilling the role of ‘messenger to the gods’.

Papshukal is closely associated with the figure of a walking bird on Babylonian boundary stones, and on the star map the figure of the Rooster is located below and behind the figure of the True Shepherd—both constellations represent the herald of the gods, in his bird and human forms respectively.

Ninurta and Nergal

In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta, an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, scribes, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer.

In artistic representations, Ninurta is shown as a warrior, carrying a bow and arrow and clutching Sharur, his magic talking mace. He sometimes has a set of wings, raised upright, ready to attack. In Babylonian art, he is often shown standing on the back of or riding a beast with the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion.

On kudurrus from the Kassite Period (c. 1600 — c. 1155 BC), a plough is captioned as a symbol of Ninĝirsu. The plough also appears in Neo-Assyrian art, possibly as a symbol of Ninurta. A perched bird is also used as a symbol of Ninurta during the Neo-Assyrian Period.

According to the Talmudists, the emblem of Nergal was a cockerel or rooster and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.

As god of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld.

In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person.

Nergal’s fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Lugal-banda (Nergal as the fighting-cock), Sharrapu (“the burner”, a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti or Seven.


In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was syncretized with the male messenger deity Papsukkal, who the Akkadians associated with a lamassu, an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.

Lamassu represent the zodiacs, parent-stars, or constellations. They are depicted as protective deities because they encompass all life within them. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is where the lammasu iconography originates, they are depicted as physical deities as well,

Although lamassu had a different iconography and portrayal in the culture of Sumer, the terms “lamassu”, “alad”, and “shedu” evolved throughout the Assyro-Akkadian culture from the Sumerian culture to denote the Assyrian-winged-man-bull symbol and statues during the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Akkadians associated the god Papsukkal with a lamassu and the god Išum with shedu, which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu. Ishum is a minor god in Akkadian mythology, the brother of Shamash and an attendant of Erra, the god of mayhem and pestilence who is responsible for periods of political confusion.

Ishum may have been a god of fire and, according to texts, led the gods in war as a herald but was nonetheless generally regarded as benevolent. He developed from the Sumerian figure of Endursaga, the herald god who leads the pantheon, particularly in times of conflict in the Sumerian mythology.

The trickster

Much like Iris or Hermes in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods. Hermes is the god of trade, heraldry, merchants, commerce, roads, thieves, trickery, sports, travelers, and athletes; the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, the daughter of Atlas and Pleione the Oceanid, and the oldest of the seven Pleiades.

Hermes was the emissary and messenger of the gods. Hermes was also “the divine trickster” and “the god of boundaries and the transgression of boundaries, … the patron of herdsmen, thieves, graves, and heralds.” He is described as moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, and was the conductor of souls into the afterlife.

His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster, the tortoise, satchel or pouch, winged sandals, and winged cap. His main symbol is the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus, which appears in a form of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff with carvings of the other gods.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, who developed many similar characteristics such as being the patron of commerce. Mercury is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon.

Mercury appears in his earliest forms to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.

Turms is portrayed as a messenger of the gods, particularly Tinia, although he is also thought to be ‘at the service’ (ministerium) of other deities. Tinia was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology.

He was the husband of Thalna, a divine figure usually regarded as a goddess of childbirth, or Uni, the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia, and the father of Hercle. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology.

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, also known as Odin, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, victory, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. Óðr or Óð, sometimes anglicized as Odr or Od (Old Norse for the “Divine Madness, frantic, furious, vehement, eager”, as a noun “mind, feeling” and also “song, poetry” or “the frenzied one”) is a figure associated with the major goddess Freyja.

The rooster

The Batak of Sumatra marked their New Year with the first new moon after the sinking of Orion’s Belt below the horizon, at which point Betelgeuse remained “like the tail of a rooster”. According to the Talmudists, the emblem of the Sumerian god Nergal was a cockerel and his name means a “dunghill cock”.

Based on these historical descriptions, we know that Nergal was said to be worshipped in the form of a Cock (Rooster), or a man with the head of a Cock. But he is also found depicted as a “Man-Lion” with the body of a man and head of a lion. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.

GAL is the Sumerian cuneiform for “great”. In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (DEREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology.

In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Lady of the Great Earth”.

In ancient Sumerian mythology, Ereshkigal is the queen of the Underworld. She is the older sister of the goddess, Inanna. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld.

The Gala (Sumerian: gala, Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.

The ancient Mesopotamian underworld was often known in Sumerian as Kur, Irkalla, Kukku, Arali, or Kigal and in Akkadian as Erṣetu, although it had many names in both languages. In Sumerian and ancient Mesopotamian religion, gallûs (also called gallas; Akkadian gallû; Sumerian were great demons or devils of the ancient Mesopotamian Underworld.

The English word cock or rooster in Latin is gallus or gallinaceous which refers to a “rooster or cockerel” (male chicken) and the term gallīna is used for a “hen” (female chicken). A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.


Orion was known to Hittites as Aqhat, a handsome and famous hunter. The battle goddess Anat fell in love with Aqhat, but when Aqhat rejected her and refused to lend her his bow, she sent another man to steal it.

This chap bungled the job, and wound up killing Aqhat and dropping the bow into the sea. This is said to explain the astronomical fact that Orion and the Bow (an older version of the constellation) drops below the horizon for two months every spring.


Hayk the Great, also known as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the “head of family” or patriarch, is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. The Armenians identified him with Orion. Hayk is also the name of the Orion constellation in the Armenian translation of the Bible.

Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi, was one of the three chief deities of Urartu. He was a warrior god to whom the kings of Urartu would pray for victories in battle. Ḫaldi was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion.

His principle shrine was at Ardini (Muṣaṣir). The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields hung from the walls and were sometimes known as “the house of weapons”.

He was the primary god of the most prominent group of Urartian tribes, which eventually evolved into the Armenian nation. Some sources claim that the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenians, Hayk, is derived from Ḫaldi,


The term Amurru in Akkadian and Sumerian texts refers to both the Amorites (Sumerian MAR.TU; Akkadian Amurrūm or Tidnum; Egyptian Amar; Hebrew ʼĔmōrī), an ancient Semitic-speaking people from Syria, and to their principal deity, sometimes called Ilu Amurru (DMAR.TU).

Amurru is sometimes described as a ‘shepherd’ or as a storm god, and as a son of the sky-god Anu. He is sometimes called bêlu šadī or bêl šadê, ‘lord of the mountain’; dúr-hur-sag-gá sikil-a-ke, ‘He who dwells on the pure mountain’; and kur-za-gan ti-[la], ‘who inhabits the shining mountain’.

Amurru also has storm-god features. Like Adad, Amurru bears the epithet ramān ‘thunderer’, and he is even called bāriqu ‘hurler of the thunderbolt’ and Adad ša a-bu-be ‘Adad of the deluge’. Yet his iconography is distinct from that of Adad, and he sometimes appears alongside Adad with a baton of power or throwstick, while Adad bears a conventional thunderbolt.


In ancient Aram, the constellation was known as Nephîlā′, the Nephilim are said to be Orion’s descendants. The Nephilim were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” before the Deluge, according to Genesis 6:1-4.

A similar or identical biblical Hebrew term, read as “Nephilim” by some scholars, or as the word “fallen” by others, appears in Ezekiel 32:27. The word is loosely translated as giants in some Bibles and left untranslated in others. The “sons of God” have been interpreted as fallen angels in some traditional Jewish explanations.

It has been proposed that the tale of the Nephilim, alluded to in Genesis 6 is based on some of the negative aspects of the Apkallu tradition. The apkallu in Sumerian mythology were seven legendary culture heroes from before the Flood, of human descent, but possessing extraordinary wisdom from the gods, and one of the seven apkallu, Adapa, was therefore called “son of Ea” the Babylonian god, despite his human origin.


The Bible mentions Orion three times, naming it “Kesil” (literally – fool). Though, this name perhaps is etymologically connected with “Kislev”, the name for the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar (i.e. November–December), which, in turn, may derive from the Hebrew root K-S-L as in the words “kesel, kisla” (hope, positiveness), i.e. hope for winter rains.: Job 9:9 (“He is the maker of the Bear and Orion”), Job 38:31 (“Can you loosen Orion’s belt?”), and Amos 5:8 (“He who made the Pleiades and Orion”).

The Bible names some half-dozen star groups, but authorities differ widely as to their identity. In a striking passage, the Prophet Amos glorifies the Creator as “Him that made Kimah and Kesil”, rendered in the Vulgate as Arcturus and Orion.

Now Kimah certainly does not mean Arcturus. The word, which occurs twice in the Book of Job (9:9; 38:31), is treated in the Septuagint version as equivalent to the Pleiades. This, also, is the meaning given to it in the Talmud and throughout Syrian literature.

This is supported by etymological evidences, the Hebrew term being obviously related to the Arabic root kum (accumulate), and the Assyrian kamu (to bind); while the “chains of Kimah”, referred to in the sacred text, not inaptly figure the coercive power imparting unity to a multiple object.

The associated constellation Kesil is doubtless no other than Orion. Yet, in the first of the passages in Job where it figures, the Septuagint gives Herper; in the second, the Vulgate quite irrelevantly inserts Arcturus; Karstens Niebuhr (1733–1815) understood Kesil to mean Sirius; Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) held that it indicated Canopus.

Now kesil signifies in Hebrew “impious”, adjectives expressive of the stupid criminality which belongs to the legendary character of giants; and the stars of Orion irresistibly suggest a huge figure striding across the sky. The Arabs accordingly named the constellation Al-gebbar, “the giant”, the Syriac equivalent being Gabbara in old Syriac version of the Bible known as Peshitta.

We may then safely admit that Kimah and Kesil did actually designate the Pleiades and Orion. But further interpretations are considerably more obscure. The Jewish Biblical Commentator Rashi says that Kimah emits cold, and that is what makes winter so cold. However, Kesil emits heat preventing the winter from getting too cold.

The giant

Many ancient cultures referred to Orion as a “the Giant” or “the Mighty”. To the Jews Orion was known as Gibbor, the giant who they considered Nimrod the great hunter, and this Nimrod was bound to the sky for rebellion against Yahweh.

The Arabians know Orion as al Jabbar the giant, although the use of the traditional Arabic name al-Jauzā’ in the name of the star has continued. Orion’s sixth brightest star, Saiph, is named from the Arabic, saif al-jabbar (“sword of the giant”; Arabic “Saif,” for “Sword”).

Other Arabic names recorded include Al Yad al Yamnā (“the Right Hand”), Al Dhira (“the Arm”), and Al Mankib (“the Shoulder”), all appended to “of the giant”, as Mankib al Jauzā’. The 17th-century English translator Edmund Chilmead gave it the name Ied Algeuze (“Orion’s Hand”).

The designation Al Jauzah, which was a term used to describe a black sheep with a white spot in the middle of its body. The left leg of Orion, known to us as the star Rigel, was known as Rijl Jauzah al Yusrāʽ. The right shoulder of Orion, known to us as Betelgeuse, was known as Ibt al Jauzah – “the armpit of the Central One.”

In Egypt the Great Pyramid of Khufu along with the pyramids Khafre and Menkaure were built on a plateau that is called today the Giza Plateau and is known in Arabic as Al Jizah.  Somehow the Arabs that named this area Al Jizah knew what this sacred plateau represented, as Al Jizah easily correlates with Al Jauzah.

There is a popular theory about the three pyramids representing Orion’s belt, made most famous by author Robert Bauval in his book “The Orion Mystery”. This has been disputed by leading Egyptologists most likely because it didn’t dawn on them first.


Algebra (from Arabic “al-jabr”, literally meaning “reunion of broken parts” or “reintegrate, reunite, consolidate” ) is one of the broad parts of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and analysis. In its most general form, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols; it is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics.

The term comes from the title of the famous treatise on equations (“Kitab al-Jabr w’al-Muqabala” “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West.

It was written by the Persian mathematician and astronomer Abu Ja’far Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (Persian: Muḥammad Khwārizmī‎, Arabized as al-Khwarizmi with al- and formerly Latinized as Algorithmi; c. 780 – c. 850), who produced works in mathematics, astronomy, and geography under the patronage of the Caliph Al-Ma’mun of the Abbasid Caliphate. Around 820 AD he was appointed as the astronomer and head of the library of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.

The word entered the English language during the fifteenth century, from Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin. It originally referred to the surgical procedure of setting broken or dislocated bones. The word was used to mean “bone-setting”. The mathematical meaning was first recorded in the 1600. The accent shifted 1700 from second syllable to first.

So Algebra comes from the Arabic al Jebr, refers to bone setting, and is etymologically correlative to al Jabbar. Those familiar with the ancient Egyptian story of Osiris and Isis will remember Osiris being hacked to pieces by his brother Set and then re-assembled by the love of his wife Isis. How this all interestingly enough adds up is Osiris is equated many times in the Pyramid texts to Orion.  For example text 820 states “Behold Osiris has come as Orion.”

The action of al Jabbar refers to the setting of broken bones while the thing it refers to is a giant in the sky and that giant is Orion. This is only scratching the surface as what we have just learned branches off in many interesting directions that are well worth following. I’ll just follow one branch for now and that is concerning the stars that make up the constellation of Orion and how they relate back to our friend Osiris.

Mriga (The Deer)

The Rig Veda refers to the Orion Constellation as Mriga (“The Deer”). It is said that the two bright stars in the front and the two bright stars in the rear are “The Hunting Dogs”, the one comparatively less bright star in the middle and the one ahead of two front dogs is “The Hunter”, the three aligned bright stars in the middle of all four hunting dogs is “The Deer” (The Mriga) and the three little aligned but less brighter stars is “The Baby Deer”.

The Mriga (“The Deer”) is locally known as Harnu in folk parlance. There are many folk songs narrating the Harnu. Hindu scriptures describe hunting as an acceptable occupation, as well as a sport of the kingly. Even figures considered godly are described to have engaged in hunting.

In Sanskrit mriga is used in the sense of game animals, deer being the most common. One of the names of the god Shiva is Mrigavyadha, which translates as “the deer hunter” (“mriga” means deer; “vyadha” means hunter).

The word “Mriga”, in many Indian languages including Malayalam, not only stands for deer, but for all animals and animal instincts (Mriga Thrishna). Shiva, as Mrigavyadha, is the one who destroys the animal instincts in human beings.

The Dhamek Stupa is said to mark the spot (“Rishipattana” which can be translated as “where the Rishi arrived”) where the Buddha gave the first sermon to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment, “revealing his Eightfold Path leading to nirvana”.

In several of the ancient sources the site of the first sermon is mentioned to have been at a ″Mriga-dayaa-vanam″ or a sanctuary for animals. The last royal endowment at the site is dated to about 12th c. CE, after which the location of the Mrigadayavanam seems to have been lost even to the devout.

In India, Nataraja (“the lord of dance”; an avatar of Shiva) is seen in the constellation Orion. Nataraja is a depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the cosmic ecstatic dancer. His dance is called Tandavam or Nadanta, depending on the context of the dance.

The sculpture is symbolic of Shiva as the lord of dance and dramatic arts, with its style and proportions made according to Hindu texts on arts. The pose and artwork is described in many Hindu texts such as the Anshumadbhed agama and Uttarakamika agama, the dance relief or idol featured in all major Hindu temples of Shaivism.

The Archer

In old Hungarian tradition, “Orion” is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). The “π” and “o” stars (on upper right) form together the reflex bow or the lifted scythe. In other Hungarian traditions, “Orion’s belt” is known as “Judge’s stick” (Bírópálca).

In recently rediscovered myths, he is called Nimrod (Hungarian “Nimród”), the greatest hunter, father of the twins “Hunor” and “Magor”. According to Simon of Kéza, Hunor and Magor were the sons of Ménrót, a mythical giant, who he partly identified with Nimrod of the Bible (the great-grandson of Noah).

Orion’s Belt

Orion’s Belt or The Belt of Orion is an asterism in the constellation Orion, consisting of the three bright stars Zeta (Alnitak), Epsilon (Alnilam), and Delta (Mintaka). They mark the northern night sky when the Sun is at its lowest point, and were a clear marker for ancient timekeeping.

Alnitak, designation ζ Orionis (Latinised to Zeta Orionis, abbreviated Zeta Ori, ζ Ori) and 50 Orionis (abbreviated 50 Ori), is a triple star system several hundred parsecs from the Sun in the constellation of Orion. Alnitak has been known since antiquity and, as a component of Orion’s belt, has been of widespread cultural significance. The traditional name Alnitak, alternately spelled Al Nitak or Alnitah, is taken from the Arabic an-niṭāq, “the girdle”.

The traditional name  Alnilam, designation ε Orionis, (Latinized to Epsilon Orionis, abbreviated Epsilon Ori, ε Ori) and 46 Orionis (46 Ori), derives from the Arabic al-niẓām ‘arrangement/string (of pearls)’. Related spellings are Alnihan and Alnitam: all three variants are evidently mistakes in transliteration or copy errors, the first perhaps due to confusion with al-nilam ‘sapphire’.

Mintaka, designation Delta Orionis (δ Orionis, abbreviated Delta Ori, δ Ori) and 34 Orionis(34 Ori), is easily visible to the naked eye, one of the brightest stars in the sky, and has been known since antiquity. Mintaka was seen by astrologers as a portent of good fortune.

There are many folk names for the Belt of Orion. English ones include: Jacob’s Rod or Jacob’s Staff, Peter’s Staff, the Golden Yard-arm, The L, or Ell, The Ell and Yard, the Yard-stick, and the Yard-wand, the Ellwand, Our Lady’s Wand, the Magi, the Three Kings, the Three Sisters, the Three Marys, or simply the Three Stars.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the belt was known as Frigg’s Distaff (Friggerock) or Freyja’s distaff. Jacob’s Rod or Jacob’s Staff and Peter’s Staff were European biblical derived terms, as were the Three Magi, the Three Marys or the Three Kings.

The three belt stars were collectively known by many names in many cultures. Arabic terms include Al Nijād ‘the Belt’, Al Nasak ‘the Line’, Al Alkāt ‘the Golden Grains or Nuts’ and, in modern Arabic, Al Mīzān al Ḥaqq ‘the Accurate Scale Beam’.

In Chinese mythology they were known as The Weighing Beam. The belt was also Shēn Xiù (“the Three Stars mansion”): one of the Twenty-eight mansions of the Chinese constellations. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.

In Chinese, Shēn Xiù refers to an asterism consisting of Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka (Orion’s Belt), with Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph and Rigel later added. Consequently, the Chinese name for Alnitak is Shēn Xiù yī (“the First Star of Three Stars”). It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.


The stars start appearing in early January around the time of Epiphany, the Christian holiday commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Child Jesus. Epiphany, also Theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, or Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.

In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide.

Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the east bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.

Frigg’s Distaff

In Scandinavian tradition, “Orion’s belt” was known as Frigg’s Distaff (friggerock) or Freyja’s distaff. In Norse mythology the goddess Frigg spins clouds from her bejewelled distaff in the Norse constellation known as Frigg’s Spinning Wheel (Friggerock, also known as Orion’s belt).

A 12th century depiction of a cloaked but otherwise nude woman riding a large cat appears on a wall in the Schleswig Cathedral in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany. Beside her is similarly a cloaked yet otherwise nude woman riding a distaff. Due to iconographic similarities to the literary record, these figures have been theorized as depictions of Freyja and Frigg respectively.

The Dawn Goddess was associated with weaving, a behaviour sometimes used as a metaphor for the generative properties of sunlight. This characteristic is normally seen in solar goddesses and it might indicate a large amount of syncretism between dawn and solar deities.

The spindle is closely associated with many goddesses, including the Germanic Holda, Norse Frigg and Freya, Egyptian Isis, Greek Artemis and Athena. It is often connected with fate, as the Greek Fates and the Norse Norns work with yarns that represent lives.

Because the spinning wheel was not in common use before the 16th century in Europe, the older stories are certainly referring to hand spinning done on a spindle. Chief among these is the French fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is erroneously shown to prick her hand on some part of a spinning wheel in modern illustrations, rather than a spindle.

A distaff (also called a rock) is a tool used in spinning. It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. It is most commonly used to hold flax, and sometimes wool, but can be used for any type of fiber. Fiber is wrapped around the distaff, and tied in place with a piece of ribbon or string. The word comes from dis in Low German, meaning a bunch of flax, connected with staff.

The term distaff is also used as an adjective to describe the matrilineal branch of a family (e.g., the “distaff side” of a person’s family refers to the person’s mother and her blood relatives). This term developed in the English-speaking communities where a distaff spinning tool was used often to symbolize domestic life.

Orion’s club

Stretching north from Betelgeuse are the stars that make up Orion’s club. Mu Orionis marks the elbow, Nu and Xi mark the handle of the club, and Chi1 and Chi2 mark the end of the club. Just east of Chi1 is the Mira-type variable red giant U Orionis.

Orion’s shield

West from Bellatrix lie six stars all designated Pi Orionis (π1 Ori, π2 Ori, π3 Ori, π4 Ori, π5 Ori and π6 Ori), a group of fairly widely scattered stars in the constellation Orion that constitute the asterism Orion’s Shield or Orion’s Bow.

Orion’s Sword

Descending from the Belt of Orion can be seen a smaller line of three faint stars, an astronomical asterism in the constellation Orion commonly referred to as Orion’s Sword, which contains the Orion Nebula, the Messier 43 nebula, the Running Man Nebula, and the stars Theta Orionis, Iota Orionis, and 42 Orionis, pointing to a southerly direction. Together they are thought to resemble a sword or a scabbard, also known as the hunter’s sword.

M42, also known as the Great Nebula, can be seen as a hazy patch of diffuse light surrounding the group of stars at the lower end of the sword. M42 takes the form of a giant, irregular cloud and shines because of the stars embedded within it. On dark and clear nights the Great Nebula is visible as a faint glowing patch and it is remarkable that its existence was not noted until 1611.

Origins behind Orion’s Sword are based in mostly Greco-Roman tradition, though this group of stars is referenced as a weapon in multiple cultural contexts. In his De Astronomia, Hyginus describes the constellation Orion having three faint stars where the sword is depicted. Cicero and Germanicus, the translators of Aratus’s Phaenomena, expressed it as ensis, Latin for “sword”.

Aratus (c. 315 BC/310 BC – 240) was a Greek didactic poet. His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phenomena (“Appearances”). Although Aratus was somewhat ignorant of Greek astronomy, his poem was very popular in the Greek and Roman world, as is proved by the large number of commentaries and Latin translations, some of which survive.

The first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus, an ancient Greek astronomer, mathematician, scholar, and student of Archytas and Plato. It describes the constellations and other celestial phenomena. The second half is called the Diosemeia (“Forecasts”), and is chiefly about weather lore.

Aratus goes into significant detail about the Orion constellation as well, proclaiming: “Should anyone fail to catch sight of him (Orion) up in the heavens on a clear night, he should not expect to behold anything more splendid when he gazes up at the sky.”

Arabic astronomers also saw this asterism as a sword, calling it Saif al Jabbār, Sword of the Powerful One or Sword of the Giant. Chinese astronomers made the sword a sub-constellation within Shen called Fa.


The astronomical asterism known as Orion’s Sword is not always associated with swords. In the myths of the Namaqua, Orion’s sword was the arrow of the husband of the Pleiades, daughters of the sky god, who was represented by the star Aldebaran, designated α Tauri (Latinized to Alpha Tauri, abbreviated Alpha Tau, α Tau) in the zodiac constellation Taurus.

Aldebaran was originally Nā᾽ir al Dabarān in Arabic (meaning “the bright one of the follower”). al Dabarān then applied to the whole of the lunar mansion containing the Hyades. It is assumed that what it was following is the Pleiades during the nightly motion of the celestial sphere across the sky.

Forming the profile of a Bull’s face is a V or K-shaped asterism of stars. This outline is created by prominent members of the Hyades, the nearest distinct open star cluster after the Ursa Major Moving Group. In this profile, Aldebaran forms the bull’s bloodshot eye, which has been described as “glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion”, a constellation that lies just to the southwest.

When he fired his arrow at three zebras (Orion’s belt) and missed, he was too afraid to retrieve the arrow due to its proximity to a fierce lion, represented by Betelgeuse. Therefore, he sits in the cold, suffering from hunger but too ashamed to return home.


Betelgeuse, designated α Orionis (Latinised to Alpha Orionis, abbreviated Alpha Ori, α Ori), is generally the ninth-brightest star in the night sky and second-brightest in the constellation of Orion (after Rigel). It is one of three stars that make up the Winter Triangle asterism, and it marks the center of the Winter Hexagon.

It is a distinctly reddish, semiregular variable star. At the beginning of January of each year, it can be seen rising in the east just after sunset. Between mid-September to mid-March (best in mid-December), it is visible to virtually every inhabited region of the globe, except in Antarctica at latitudes south of 82°.

Betelgeuse is often mistranslated as “armpit of the central one”. In his 1899 work Star-Names and Their Meanings, American amateur naturalist Richard Hinckley Allen stated the derivation was from the Ibṭ al-Jauzah, which he claimed degenerated into a number of forms including Bed Elgueze, Beit Algueze, Bet El-gueze, Beteigeuze and more, to the forms Betelgeuse, Betelguese, Betelgueze and Betelgeux.

The star was named Beldengeuze in the Alfonsine Tables, and Italian Jesuit priest and astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli had called it Bectelgeuze or Bedalgeuze. Paul Kunitzsch, Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Munich, refuted Allen’s derivation and instead proposed that the full name is a corruption of the Arabic Yad al-Jauzā’ meaning “the Hand of al-Jauzā'”, i.e., Orion.

European mistransliteration into medieval Latin led to the first character y (with two dots underneath) being misread as a b (with only one dot underneath). During the Renaissance, the star’s name was written as Bait al-Jauzā’ (“house of Orion”) or Baţ al-Jauzā’, incorrectly thought to mean “armpit of Orion” (a true translation of “armpit” would be transliterated as Ibţ).

This led to the modern rendering as Betelgeuse. Other writers have since accepted Kunitzsch’s explanation. The last part of the name, “-elgeuse”, comes from the Arabic al-Jauzā’, a historical Arabic name of the constellation Orion, a feminine name in old Arabian legend, and of uncertain meaning. Because j-w-z, the root of jauzā’, means “middle”, al-Jauzā’ roughly means “the Central One”.

The modern Arabic name for Orion is al-Jabbār (“the Giant”), although the use of al-Jauzā’ in the name of the star has continued. The 17th-century English translator Edmund Chilmead gave it the name Ied Algeuze (“Orion’s Hand”), from Christmannus. Other Arabic names recorded include Al Yad al Yamnā (“the Right Hand”), Al Dhira (“the Arm”), and Al Mankib (“the Shoulder”), all appended to “of the giant”, as Mankib al Jauzā’.

Other names for Betelgeuse included the Persian Bašn “the Arm”, and Coptic Klaria “an Armlet”. Bahu was its Sanskrit name, as part of a Hindu understanding of the constellation as a running antelope or stag.

In traditional Chinese astronomy, the name for Betelgeuse is Shēnxiùsì (the Fourth Star of the constellation of Three Stars) as the Chinese constellation originally referred to the three stars in the girdle of Orion. This constellation was ultimately expanded to ten stars, but the earlier name stuck.

In Japan, the Taira, or Heike, clan adopted Betelgeuse and its red color as its symbol, calling the star Heike-boshi, while the Minamoto, or Genji, clan had chosen Rigel and its white color. The two powerful families fought a legendary war in Japanese history, the stars seen as facing each other off and only kept apart by the Belt.

Other cultures have produced different myths. It has been proposed that the constellation of Orion could have represented the Greek mythological figure Pelops, who had an artificial shoulder of ivory made for him, with Betelgeuse as the shoulder, its color reminiscent of the reddish yellow sheen of ivory.

In Greek mythology, Pelops was king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. His father, Tantalus, also called Atys, was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his eternal punishment in Tartarus, the deepest portion of the Underworld.

Tantalus, through Pelops, was the founder of the House of Atreus (from ἀ-, “no” and τρέω, “tremble”, “fearless”), which was named after his grandson Atreus. Atreus was a king of Mycenae in the Peloponnese, and the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus.

Tantalus was initially known for having been welcomed to Zeus’ table in Olympus, like Ixion. There, he is said to have misbehaved and stolen ambrosia and nectar to bring it back to his people, and revealed the secrets of the gods.

Most famously, Tantalus offered up his son, Pelops, as a sacrifice. He cut Pelops up, boiled him, and served him up in a banquet for the gods. The gods became aware of the gruesome nature of the menu, so they did not touch the offering; only Demeter, distraught by the loss of her daughter, Persephone, absentmindedly ate part of the boy’s shoulder.

Clotho, one of the three Fates, was ordered by Zeus to bring the boy to life again. She collected the parts of the body and boiled them in a sacred cauldron, rebuilding his shoulder with one wrought of ivory made by Hephaestus and presented by Demeter.

The revived Pelops grew to be an extraordinarily handsome youth. The god Poseidon took him to Mount Olympus to teach him to use chariots. Later, Zeus threw Pelops out of Olympus due to his anger at Tantalus. The Greeks of classical times claimed to be horrified by Tantalus’s doings; cannibalism and filicide were atrocities and taboo.

Tantalus’s punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalise), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp.

Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. Over his head towers a threatening stone like the one that Sisyphus is punished to roll up a hill. This fate has cursed him with eternal deprivation of nourishment.

Pelops was venerated at Olympia, where his cult developed into the founding myth of the Olympic Games, the most important expression of unity, not only for the Peloponnesus (“island of Pelops”), but for all Hellenes.

At the sanctuary at Olympia, chthonic night-time libations were offered each time to “dark-faced” Pelops in his sacrificial pit (bothros) before they were offered in the following daylight to the sky-god Zeus.

The red star

Classified as a red supergiant of spectral type M1-2, Betelgeuse is one of the largest stars visible to the naked eye. Due to its distinctive orange-red color, Betelgeuse is easy to spot with the naked eye in the night sky.

With the history of astronomy intimately associated with mythology and astrology before the scientific revolution, the red star, like the planet Mars that derives its name from a Roman war god, has been closely associated with the martial archetype of conquest for millennia, and by extension, the motif of death and rebirth.

A Sanskrit name for Betelgeuse is ārdrā “the moist one”, eponymous of the Ardra lunar mansion in Hindu astrology. The Rigvedic God of storms Rudra, a Rigvedic deity associated with wind or storm and the hunt, presided over the star. This association was linked by 19th-century star enthusiast Richard Hinckley Allen to Orion’s stormy nature.

The Hindu god Shiva shares several features with the Rudra: the theonym Shiva originated as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva (“kind”) being used euphemistically of Rudra, who also carries the epithet Aghora, Abhayankar (“extremely calm [sic] non terrifying”).

Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), and the name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.

The ploughman

The constellations in Macedonian folklore represented agricultural items and animals, reflecting their village way of life. To them, Betelgeuse was Orach “the ploughman”, alongside the rest of Orion which depicted a plough with oxen. The rising of Betelgeuse at around 3 a.m. in late summer and autumn signified the time for village men to go to the fields and plough.

The Big Dipper is one of the most easily recognizable asterisms in the night sky, found in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. It is well-known in many cultures and goes by many names, among them the Plough, the Great Wagon, Saptarishi, and the Saucepan.

The asterism is particularly prominent in the northern sky in the summer, and is one of the first star patterns we learn to identify. It is often confused for the constellation Ursa Major itself and its name used synonymously with the Great Bear. However, it is not itself a constellation, but only the most visible part of Ursa Major.

Boötes is a constellation in the northern sky located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere. The name comes from the Greek Boōtēs, meaning “herdsman” or “plowman” (literally, “ox-driver”; from bous “cow”).

It contains the orange giant Arcturus, designation α Boötis (Latinized to Alpha Boötis, abbreviated Alpha Boo, α Boo), which is the brightest star in the constellation of Boötes, the fourth-brightest in the night sky, and the brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere.

In ancient Babylon, the stars of Boötes were known as SHU.PA. They were apparently depicted as the god Enlil, who was the leader of the Babylonian pantheon and special patron of farmers. Boötes may have been represented by the foreleg constellation in ancient Egypt. According to this interpretation, the constellation depicts the shape of an animal foreleg.

The name Boötes was first used by Homer in his Odyssey as a celestial reference point for navigation, described as “late-setting” or “slow to set”, translated as the “Plowman”. Exactly whom Boötes is supposed to represent in Greek mythology is not clear.

According to one version, he was a son of Demeter, Philomenus, twin brother of Plutus, a plowman who drove the oxen in the constellation Ursa Major. This is corroborated by the constellation’s name, which itself means “ox-driver” or “herdsman.”

The ancient Greeks saw the asterism now called the “Big Dipper” or “Plough” as a cart with oxen. This influenced the name’s etymology, derived from the Greek for “noisy” or “ox-driver”. Another myth associated with Boötes relates that he invented the plow and was memorialized for his ingenuity as a constellation.

Spring Triangle

Together with Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), and Regulus, Arcturus is part of the Spring Triangle asterism and, by extension, also of the Great Diamond along with the star Cor Caroli. This triangle connects the constellations of Boötes, Virgo, and Leo. It is visible rising in the south eastern sky of the northern hemisphere between March and May.

Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), is the brightest object in the constellation of Virgo, while Regulus, designated α Leonis (Latinized to Alpha Leonis, abbreviated Alpha Leo, α Leo), is the brightest object in the constellation of Leo and one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

George Lovi of Sky & Telescope magazine had a slightly different Spring triangle, including the tail of Leo, Denebola, designated Beta Leonis (β Leonis, abbreviated Beta Leo, β Leo), the second brightest star in the zodiac constellation of Leo, instead of Regulus. Denebola is dimmer, but the triangle is more nearly equilateral.


Rigel, designated β Orionis (Latinized to Beta Orionis, abbreviated Beta Ori, β Ori), is generally the seventh-brightest star in the night sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion. Although appearing as a single star to the naked eye Rigel is actually a multiple star system composed of at least four stars: Rigel A, Rigel Ba, Rigel Bb, and Rigel C.

It is a prominent equatorial navigation star, being easily located and readily visible in all the world’s oceans (the exception is the area within 8° of the North Pole). Culminating at midnight on 12 December, and at 9 PM on 24 January, Rigel is visible in winter evenings in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, Rigel is the first bright star of Orion visible as the constellation rises.

In the constellation of Orion, as the mythological Greek huntsman, Rigel represents his knee or (as its name suggests) foot; with the nearby star Beta Eridani marking Orion’s footstool. Rigel is presumably the star known as “Aurvandil’s toe” in Norse mythology. In the Caribbean, Rigel represented the severed leg of the folkloric figure Trois Rois, himself represented by the three stars of Orion’s Belt.

The earliest known recording of the modern name Rigel is in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521. It is derived from the Arabic name Rijl Jauzah al Yusrā (“the left leg (foot) of Jauzah”) (i.e. rijl meaning “leg, foot”), which can be traced to the 10th century. An alternative Arabic name was riǧl al-ǧabbār (“the foot of the great one”), which is the source of the rarely used variant names Algebar or Elgebar.

Winter Hexagon

Rigel is a vertex of the Winter Hexagon or Winter Circle/Oval, an asterism appearing to be in the form of a hexagon with vertices at Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini), Procyon (Canis Minor), and Sirius (Canis Major). It is mostly upon the Northern Hemisphere’s celestial sphere.

On most locations on Earth (except the South Island of New Zealand and the south of Chile and Argentina and further south), this asterism is prominently in the sky from approximately December to March. In the tropics and southern hemisphere, this (then called “summer hexagon”) can be extended with the bright star Canopus in the south.

Winter Triangle

Both Sirius (the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon) and Betelgeuse (Orion’s shoulder) are two of the vortices of the Winter Triangle (also known as the Great Southern Triangle), which show as an equilateral triangle in the night sky.

The Winter Triangle is an approximately equilateral triangle that shares two vertices (Sirius and Procyon) with the Winter Hexagon. The third vertex is Betelgeuse, which lies near the center of the hexagon. These three stars are three of the ten brightest objects, as viewed from Earth, outside the Solar System.

Betelgeuse is also particularly easy to locate, being a shoulder of Orion, which assists stargazers in finding the triangle. Once the triangle is located, the larger hexagon may then be found. Several of the stars in the hexagon may also be found independently of one another by following various lines traced through various stars in Orion.


Bellatrix is one of the four navigational stars in Orion that are used for celestial navigation. It was designated Gamma Orionis by Johann Bayer, but is known colloquially as the “Amazon Star”. It serves as Orion’s left shoulder. It is the third-brightest star in the constellation of Orion, 5° west of the red supergiant Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis).


Saiph, designation Kappa Orionis (κ Orionis, abbreviated Kappa Ori, κ Ori) and 53 Orionis (53 Ori), is the sixth-brightest star in the constellation of Orion. Of the four bright stars that compose Orion’s main quadrangle, it is the star at the south-eastern corner. A northern-hemisphere observer facing south would see it at the lower left of Orion, and a southern-hemisphere observer facing north would see it at the upper right.


Scorpio is the eighth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Scorpius. It is an ancient constellation that pre-dated the Greeks. It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It is a large constellation located in the southern hemisphere near the center of the Milky Way. It contains many bright stars, including Antares.

The Western astrological sign Scorpio differs from the astronomical constellation. Astronomically, the sun is in Scorpius for just six days, from November 23 to November 28. Much of the difference is due to the constellation Ophiuchus, which is used by few astrologers. Scorpius corresponds to the Hindu nakshatras Anuradha, Jyeshtha, and Mula.

The Babylonians called this constellation MUL.GIR.TAB (“Scorpion”), the signs can be literally read as ‘the (creature with) a burning sting’. In some old descriptions the constellation of Libra is treated as the Scorpion’s claws. Libra was known as the Claws of the Scorpion in Babylonian (zibānītu (compare Arabic zubānā)) and in Greek.

The star once designated γ Sco (despite being well within the boundaries of Libra) is today known as σ Lib. Moreover, the entire constellation of Libra was considered to be claws of Scorpius (Chelae Scorpionis). In Ancient Greek times these western-most stars was represented by a set of scales held aloft by Astraea (represented by adjacent Virgo). The division into Libra was formalised during Roman times.

There are several myths which are often associated with Scorpio, which is often associated with Orpheus, from the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the Greco-Roman gods Ares/Mars and sometimes the god Hades/Pluto.

Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deity, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.

The etymology of Ishara is unknown. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath. Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”.

In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh it says: ‘For Ishara the bed is made’ and in Atra-hasis she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon.

In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra. Worship “Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations.

She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars). While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick.

As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites. In this context, she came to be seen as a “goddess of medicine” whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- “to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara”.


Antares, designated α Scorpii (Latinised to Alpha Scorpii, abbreviated Alpha Sco, α Sco), is the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky, and the brightest object in the constellation of Scorpius. The name comes from “Rival of Mars”, so named because of its distinct reddish hue.

Often referred to as “the heart of the scorpion”, Antares is flanked by σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii in the center of the constellation. It is visible all night around May 31 of each year, when the star is at opposition to the Sun. Antares then rises at dusk and sets at dawn as seen at the equator.

For two to three weeks on either side of November 30 Antares is not visible in the night sky, because it is near conjunction with the Sun. This period of invisibility is longer in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere, since the star’s declination is south of the celestial equator.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Antares may have been known as Urbat, Bilu-sha-ziri (“the Lord of the Seed”), Kak-shisa (“the Creator of Prosperity”), Dar Lugal (“The King”), Masu Sar (“the Hero and the King”), and Kakkab Bir (“the Vermilion Star”).

In the Babylonian star catalogues of MUL.APIN, which dates between 1100 and 700 BC, Antares was called GABA GIR.TAB, “the Breast of the Scorpion”. It marked the breast of the Scorpion goddess Ishara.

Later names that translate as “the Heart of Scorpion” include Calbalakrab from the Arabic Qalb al-Άqrab. This had been directly translated from the Ancient Greek Kardia Skorpiū. Cor Scorpii translated above Greek name into Latin.

In ancient Egypt, Antares represented the scorpion goddess Serket (and was the symbol of Isis in the pyramidal ceremonies). It was called tms n hntt “the red one of the prow”. In Persia Antares was known as Satevis, one of the four “royal stars”. In India, it with σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii were Jyeshthā (the eldest or biggest, probably attributing its huge size), one of the nakshatra (Hindu lunar mansions).

The ancient Chinese called Antares was known as Xīnxiù’èr (“Second Star of Mansion Heart”), because it was the second star of the mansion Xin. It was the national star of the Shang Dynasty, and it was sometimes referred to as Huǒxīng (“fiery star”) because of its reddish appearance.

Artemis and Gaia 

The locations of Orion and Scorpius at the opposite ends of the celestial sky, with their corresponding bright red variable stars Betelgeuse and Antares were noted by ancient cultures around the world and were considered significant. They were seen as a pair of scorpions. Scorpion days marked as nights that both constellations could be seen.

Stories of the death of Orion are numerous and conflicting. In Greek mythology, the myths associated with Scorpio almost invariably also contain a reference to Orion. The setting of Orion and rising of Scorpius signify the death of Orion by the scorpion. Astronomical mythographers such as Aratus, Eratosthenes and Hyginus were agreed that a scorpion was involved.

The Batak of Sumatra marked their New Year with the first new moon after the sinking of Orion’s Belt below the horizon, at which point Betelgeuse remained “like the tail of a rooster”. In China they signify brothers and rivals Shen and Shang. One rising and the other falling, shen and shang, two stars in the west and east respectively, never meet.

In some versions, Orion is killed by Artemis, while in others he is killed by a scorpion sent by Gaia. As a virgin, Artemis had interested many gods and men, but only her hunting companion, Orion, won her heart. Orion was Artemis’ hunting companion. In some versions, Orion tries to seduce Opis, one of Artemis’ followers, and she kills him. In a version by Aratus, Orion takes hold of Artemis’ robe and she kills him in self-defense.

In yet another version, Apollo sends the scorpion. According to Hyginus Artemis once loved Orion (in spite of the late source, this version appears to be a rare remnant of her as the pre-Olympian goddess, who took consorts, as Eos did), but was tricked into killing him by her brother Apollo, who was “protective” of his sister’s maidenhood.

In one version, told by Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Orion boasted to goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto, that he was the greatest of hunters and that he would kill every animal on the Earth. He declared to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Leto, her mother, that he could kill any beast on Earth.

Although Artemis was known to be a hunter herself she offered protection to all creatures. Artemis and her mother Leto sent a scorpion to deal with Orion. The Earth shuddered indignantly and from a crack in the ground emerged a scorpion which stung the presumptuous giant to death. The pair battled and the scorpion killed Orion.

However, the contest was apparently a lively one that caught the attention of the king of the gods Zeus, who later raised the scorpion to heaven and afterwards, at the request of Artemis, did the same for Orion to serve as a reminder for mortals to curb their excessive pride.

The outcome was that Orion and the scorpion (the constellation Scorpius) were placed on opposite sides of the sky, so that as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion flees below the western horizon. ‘Wretched Orion still fears being wounded by the poisonous sting of the scorpion’, noted Germanicus Caesar.

There is also a version that Orion was better than the goddess Artemis but said that Artemis was better than he and so Artemis took a liking to Orion. The god Apollo, Artemis’s twin brother, grew angry and sent a scorpion to attack Orion. After Orion was killed, Artemis asked Zeus to put Orion up in the sky. So every winter Orion hunts in the sky, but every summer he flees as the constellation of the scorpion comes.

In another Greek story involving Scorpio without Orion, Phaeton (the mortal male offspring of Helios) went to his father, who had earlier sworn by the River Styx to give Phaeton anything he should ask for. Phaeton wanted to drive his father’s Sun Chariot for a day. Although Helios tried to dissuade his son, Phaeton was adamant.

However, when the day arrived, Phaeton panicked and lost control of the white horses that drew the chariot. First, the Earth grew chill as Phaeton flew too high and encountered the celestial scorpion, its deadly sting raised to strike. Alarmed, he dipped the chariot too close, causing the vegetation to burn.

By accident, Phaeton turned most of Africa into desert and darkened the skin of the Ethiopian nation until it was black. Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot and Phaeton with a lightning bolt to put an end to its rampage and Phaeton plunged into the River Eridanos.


Orion is one of the few constellations to have parallel identities in European and Chinese culture. In China, Orion was known as Sieu or Shen (Xiu; 宿, lit. meaning “three”, for the stars of Orion’s Belt), the hunter and warrior. It was also somehow associated with judicial investigations and punishments.

The opposed locations of Orion and Scorpius, with their corresponding bright red variable stars Betelgeuse and Antares, were noted by ancient cultures around the world. The setting of Orion and rising of Scorpius signify the death of Orion by the scorpion. In China they signify brothers and rivals Shen and Shang.

Shen was at the centre of a great celestial hunting scene, for the full Moon was in this part of the sky during the hunting season, November and December. Being one of the oldest Chinese constellations, Shen gathered many different and conflicting identities down the ages.

Shen featured in an ancient Chinese legend concerning two sons of the Emperor, Shichen and Ebo, who were always fighting. So bad was the antagonism that the Emperor had to banish them both. Shichen was sent away to become responsible for sacrifices to Shen, while Ebo became responsible for sacrifices to the lunar mansion Xin, in present-day Scorpius on the opposite side of the sky from Shen.

This story parallels the Greek legend of Orion and his antagonist the scorpion being placed on opposite sides of the sky to keep them permanently apart.

The Chinese character 參 (pinyin shēn) originally meant the constellation Orion (Chinese: 參宿; pinyin: shēnxiù); its Shang dynasty version, over three millennia old, contains at the top a representation of the three stars of Orion’s belt atop a man’s head (the bottom portion representing the sound of the word was added later).

The Three Stars mansion (simplified Chinese: 参宿; traditional Chinese: 參宿; pinyin: Shēn Xiù) was one of the 28 lunar mansions of the Chinese constellations. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger, sometimes called the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎, Xī Fāng Bái Hǔ), one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. The White Tiger represents the west in terms of direction and the autumn season.

Orion (mythology)

The Hunter

Orion the Giant, the Hunter

Orion the Hunter – King of the Winter Sky

The Ancient Epic of Gilgamesh and the Precession of the Equinox

Orion the Hunter and Heavenly Shepherd

Jawza’, Snow Queen of the Arabs

Orion (Greek mythology)

Orion Constellation Myths of Sumer, Babylon and Egypt

Constellations of Words: Orion


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The god of the sea

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 18, 2019

In Norse mythology, Heimdallr is a god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, is called the shining god and the whitest of the gods, has gold teeth, and is the son of Nine Mothers (who may represent personified waves).

Heimdallr is attested as possessing foreknowledge, keen eyesight and hearing, and keeps watch for invaders and the onset of Ragnarök while drinking fine mead in his dwelling Himinbjörg, located where the burning rainbow bridge Bifröst meets the sky.

Heimdallr is said to be the originator of social classes among humanity and once regained Freyja’s treasured possession Brísingamen while doing battle in the shape of a seal with Loki. Heimdallr and Loki are foretold to kill one another during the events of Ragnarök.

The etymology of the name is obscure, but ‘the one who illuminates the world’ has been proposed. Heimdallr is additionally referred to as Rig, Hallinskiði, Gullintanni, and Vindlér or Vindhlér.

Vindlér (or Vindhlér) translates as either ‘the one protecting against the wind’ or ‘wind-sea’. All three have resulted in numerous theories about the god.

Due to the problematic and enigmatic nature of these attestations, scholars have produced various theories about the nature of the god, including his apparent relation to rams, that he may be a personification of or connected to the world tree Yggdrasil, and potential Indo-European cognates.

In Norse mythology, Ægir (also Aegir) (Old Norse “sea”)is a sea jötunn associated with the ocean. He is also known for being a friend of the gods and hosting elaborate parties for them.

He is listed as a giant. His name has been seen as pre-Norse, derived from an ancient Indo-European root. Ægir’s servants are Fimafeng (killed by Loki) and Eldir.

In Lokasenna, Ægir hosts a party for the gods where he provides the ale brewed in an enormous pot or cauldron provided by Thor and Týr. The story of their obtaining the pot from the giant Hymir is told in Hymiskviða.

According to Fundinn Noregr, Ægir is a son of the giant Fornjótr, the king of “Jotlandi, Kvænlandi and Finnlandi”, and brother of Logi (“fire”) and Kári (“wind”).

Both Hversu Noregr byggðist and Snorri Sturluson in Skáldskaparmál state that Ægir is the same as the sea-giant Hlér, who lives on the Hlésey (“Hlér island”, modern Danish Læsø), and this is borne out by kennings.

Ægir’s wife is the goddess Rán. The goddess is frequently associated with a net, which she uses to capture sea-goers. The Old Norse common noun rán means ‘plundering’ or ‘theft, robbery’.

According to Rudolf Simek, “… Rán is the ruler of the realm of the dead at the bottom of the sea to which people who have drowned go.” Simek says that “while Ægir personifies the sea as a friendly power, Rán embodies the sinister side of the sea, at least in the eyes of the late Viking Age Icelandic seafarers.”

She is mother of the Nine Daughters of Ægir. Each daughter’s name reflects poetic terms for waves. Scholars have theorized that these daughters may be the same figures as the nine mothers of the god Heimdallr, an identification that would mean that Heimdallr was thus born from the waves of the sea.

In Norse mythology, the Nine Mothers of Heimdallr are nine sisters who gave birth to the god Heimdallr. Scholars have debated what being “born of nine mothers” implies and have sought to connect the notion to other European folk motifs.

Ægir is the namesake for the exoplanet previously known as Epsilon Eridani b, formally named Ægir, a proposed and unconfirmed extrasolar planet approximately 10 light-years away orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, in the constellation of Eridanus.

Eridanus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is represented as a river. According to one theory, the Greek constellation takes its name from the Babylonian constellation known as the Star of Eridu (MUL.NUN.KI).

Eridu was an ancient city in the extreme south of Babylonia; situated in the marshy regions it was held sacred to the god Enki-Ea, the god of deep waters, wisdom and magic, who ruled the cosmic domain of the Abyss – a mythical conception of the fresh-water reservoir below the Earth’s surface.

In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu. It has also been suggested that the original non-anthropomorphic divinity at Eridu was not Enki but Abzu.

The emergence of Enki as the divine lover of Ninhursag, and the divine battle between the younger Igigi divinities and Abzu, saw the Abzu, the underground waters of the Aquifer, becoming the place in which the foundations of the temple were built.

The Abzu or Apsu (lit., ab=’water’ zu=’deep’), also called engur, is the name for fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology. Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu.

In this respect, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology it referred to the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above.

Abzu (apsû) is depicted as a deity only in the Babylonian creation epic, the Enûma Elish, taken from the library of Assurbanipal (c 630 BCE) but which is about 500 years older.

In this story, he was a primal being made of fresh water and a lover to another primal deity, Tiamat, who was a creature of salt water. S he is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, and described as the glistening one.

It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a sacred marriage between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations.

In the second Chaoskampf (“struggle against chaos”) depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon, Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

The Enuma Elish begins: “When above the heavens (e-nu-ma e-liš) did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, the first, the begetter, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, she who bore them all; they were still mixing their waters, and no pasture land had yet been formed, nor even a reed marsh.”

This resulted in the birth of the younger gods, who later murder Apsu in order to usurp his lordship of the universe. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.”

Enraged, Tiamat gives birth to the first dragons, filling their bodies with “venom instead of blood”, and made war upon her treacherous children, only to be slain by Marduk, the god of Storms, who then forms the heavens and earth from her corpse.

Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen. This portrayal reflects Enki’s role as the god of water, life, and replenishment.

The main temple to Enki was called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. It was the first temple known to have been built in Southern Iraq.

It has been hypothesized that the original deity of the temple was Abzu, with his attributes later being taken by Enki over time. It is believed that, during the earliest period, Enki had a subordinate position to a goddess (possibly Ninhursag), taking the role of divine consort or high priest, later taking priority.

In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.

Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically dNAMMA = dENGUR) was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology. She is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions.

According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu. Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.

The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos.

Nammu was the Goddess sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.

Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water'”.

The Enki temple had at its entrance a pool of fresh water, and excavation has found numerous carp bones, suggesting collective feasts. Carp are shown in the twin water flows running into the later God Enki, suggesting continuity of these features over a very long period.

These features were found at all subsequent Sumerian temples, suggesting that this temple established the pattern for all subsequent Sumerian temples. “All rules laid down at Eridu were faithfully observed”.

Certain tanks of holy water in Babylonian and Assyrian temple courtyards were also called abzu (apsû). Typical in religious washing, these tanks were similar to Judaism’s mikvot, the washing pools of Islamic mosques, or the baptismal font in Christian churches.

Enki is the Sumerian god of water, knowledge (gestú), mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud). He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity.

He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). Pegasus is a constellation in the northern sky, named after the winged horse Pegasus in Greek mythology.

On the Adda Seal, Enki is depicted with two streams of water flowing into each of his shoulders: one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him are two trees, symbolizing the male and female aspects of nature.

Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god who, according to the later cosmology, came to share the rule of the cosmos with Anu and Enlil. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.

It is hypothesised that the earliest divinity at Eridu was a Goddess, who later emerged as the Earth Goddess Ninhursag (Nin = Lady, Hur = Mountain, Sag = Sacred), with the later growth in Enki as a male divinity the result of a hieros gamos, with a male divinity or functionary of the temple.

The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu, attempted to retrieve these sources of his power but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land.

This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward. The king list gave particularly long reigns to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred and shows how the centre of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country.

Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. According to the Sumerian King List Eridu was the first city in the world. Babylonian texts talk of the foundation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”.

Eridu was long considered the earliest city in southern Mesopotamia and is still today argued to be the oldest city in the world. It appears to be the earliest settlement in the region, founded c. 5400 BC, close to the Persian Gulf near the mouth of the Euphrates River.

Adapa, a man of Eridu, is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim.

Apkallu (Akkadian) and Abgal (Sumerian) are terms found in cuneiform inscriptions that has multiple uses, but usually refers to some form of wisdom; in general it means either “wise”, “expert” or “sage.”

As an epithet, prefix, or adjective it can mean “the wise”; it has been used as an epithet for the gods Ea and Marduk, simply interpreted as “wise one amongst gods” or similar forms. It has also been applied to Enlil, Ninurta, and Adad.

The terms Apkallu (as well as Abgal) is also used as an epithet for kings and gods as a mark of wisdom or knowledge. They are sent by the gods to impart knowledge to people.

In several contexts the Apkallu are seven demi-gods, sometimes described as part man and part fish, associated with human wisdom; these creatures are often referred to in scholarly literature as the Seven Sages.

Representations of ‘apkallu’ were used in apotropaic rituals; in addition to fish-headed ones (similar to descriptions of the seven sages), other human-animal hybrids were used as ‘apkallu’ in this context (generally bird-headed humans).

Additionally, the term is used when referring to human “priests” (also ‘exorcists’, ‘diviners’). However, Mesopotamian human sages also used the term ummianu (ummânù).

In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient’s body and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.

The spread of the ‘seven sage’ legend westwards during the 1st and 2nd millennia has been speculated to have led to the creation of the tale of the Nephilim (Genesis 6:1-4) as recounted in the Old Testament, and may have an echo in the text of the Book of Proverbs (Prov 9:1): “Wisdom built her house. She set out its seven pillars.”

The story of Enoch (“seventh from Adam”) and his ascension to heaven has also been proposed to be a variant or influenced by the seventh apkallu Utuabzu who is also said to have ascended to heaven in the bit meseri.

Adapa was an important figure in Mesopotamian religion. His name would be used to invoke power in exorcism rituals. He also became an archetype for a wise ruler. In that context, his name would be invoked to evoke favorable comparisons.

Potential connections are considered between Adapa and Adam. Possible parallels and connections include similarity in names, including the possible connection of both the same word root; both myths include a test involving the eating of purportedly deadly food; and both are summoned before god to answer for their transgressions.

Neptune was the god of freshwater and the sea in Roman religion. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. Salacia, the goddess of the salt water, was his wife. Salacia would represent the virile force of Neptune.

In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter and Pluto; the brothers presided over the realms of Heaven, the earthly world, and the Underworld.

Neptune was likely associated with fresh water springs before the sea. Like Poseidon, Neptune was worshipped by the Romans also as a god of horses, under the name Neptunus Equester, a patron of horse-racing.

It has been argued that Indo-European people, having no direct knowledge of the sea as they originated from inland areas, reused the theology of a deity originally either chthonic or wielding power over inland freshwaters as the god of the sea.

This feature has been preserved particularly well in the case of Neptune who was definitely a god of springs, lakes and rivers before becoming also a god of the sea, as is testified by the numerous findings of inscriptions mentioning him in the proximity of such locations.

He may find a parallel in Irish god Nechtan, master of the well from which all the rivers of the world flow out and flow back to. Poseidon on the other hand underwent the process of becoming the main god of the sea at a much earlier time, as is shown in the Iliad.

The etymology of Latin Neptunus is unclear and disputed. The ancient grammarian Varro derived the name from nuptus i.e. “covering” (opertio), with a more or less explicit allusion to the nuptiae, “marriage of Heaven and Earth”.

Among modern scholars Paul Kretschmer proposed a derivation from IE *neptu- “moist substance”. Similarly Raymond Bloch supposed it might be an adjectival form in -no from *nuptu-, meaning “he who is moist”.

Georges Dumézil though remarked words deriving root *nep- are not attested in IE languages other than Vedic and Avestan. He proposed an etymology that brings together Neptunus with Vedic and Avestan theonyms Apam Napat, Apam Napá and Old Irish theonym Nechtan, all meaning descendant of the waters.

By using the comparative approach the Indo-Iranian, Avestan and Irish figures would show common features with the Roman historicised legends about Neptune. Dumézil thence proposed to derive the nouns from IE root *nepot-, “descendant, sister’s son”.

Poseidon was one of the Twelve Olympians in ancient Greek religion and myth. He was god of the Sea and other waters; of earthquakes; and of horses. He was protector of seafarers, and of many Hellenic cities and colonies.

He carries frequently the title wa-na-ka (wanax) in Linear B inscriptions, as king of the underworld. Anax (from earlier wánax) is an ancient Greek word for “tribal chief, lord, (military) leader”. It is one of the two Greek titles traditionally translated as “king”, the other being basileus.

Homer and Hesiod suggest that Poseidon became lord of the sea following the defeat of his father Kronos, when the world was divided by lot among his three sons; Zeus was given the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon the sea, with the Earth and Mount Olympus belonging to all three.

Given Poseidon’s connection with horses as well as the sea, and the landlocked situation of the likely Indo-European homeland, it has been proposed that Poseidon was originally an aristocratic Indo-European horse-god who was then assimilated to Near Eastern aquatic deities.

This would have happend when the basis of the Greek livelihood shifted from the land to the sea, or a god of fresh waters who was assigned a secondary role as god of the sea, where he overwhelmed the original Aegean sea deities such as Proteus and Nereus.

Conversely, Walter Burkert suggests that the Hellene cult worship of Poseidon as a horse god may be connected to the introduction of the horse and war-chariot from Anatolia to Greece around 1600 BC.

The horse (numina) was related with the liquid element, and with the underworld. Poseidon appears as a beast (horse), which is the river spirit of the underworld, as it usually happens in northern-European folklore, and not unusually in Greece.

In the Odyssey, during the sea-voyage from Troy back home to Ithaca, the Greek hero Odysseus provokes Poseidon’s fury by blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, resulting in Poseidon punishing him with storms, the complete loss of his ship and companions, and a ten-year delay.

Poseidon “Wanax”, is the male companion (paredros) of the goddess of nature. In the relative Minoan myth, Pasiphaë is mating with the white bull, and she bears the hybrid creature Minotaur. The Bull was the old pre-Olympian Poseidon.

The goddess of nature and her paredros survived in the Eleusinian cult, where the following words were uttered : ” Mighty Potnia bore a strong son”.

A common epithet of Poseidon is Enosichthon, “Earth-shaker”, an epithet which is also identified in Linear B. This recalls his later epithets Ennosidas and Ennosigaios indicating the chthonic nature of Poseidon.

The origins of the name “Poseidon” are unclear. One theory breaks it down into an element meaning “husband” or “lord” (Greek πόσις (posis), from PIE *pótis) and another element meaning “earth” (da), Doric for (gē), producing something like lord or spouse of Da, i.e. of the earth; this would link him with Demeter, “Earth-mother”.

Walter Burkert finds that “the second element da- remains hopelessly ambiguous” and finds a “husband of Earth” reading “quite impossible to prove.”

Another theory interprets the second element as related to the word dâwon, “water”; this would make *Posei-dawōn into the master of waters.

There is also the possibility that the word has Pre-Greek origin. At least a few sources deem Poseidon as a “prehellenic” (i.e. Pelasgian) word, considering an Indo-European etymology “quite pointless”.

Poseidon was the second son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. In most accounts he is swallowed by Cronus at birth and is later saved, along with his other brothers and sisters, by Zeus.

However, in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. He was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which she gave to Cronus to devour.

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Posted by Fredsvenn on June 15, 2019


Gemini (Latin for “twins”) lies between Taurus to the west and Cancer to the east, with Auriga and Lynx to the north and Monoceros and Canis Minor to the south. The easiest way to locate the constellation is to find its two brightest stars Castor and Pollux eastward from the familiar “V” shaped asterism of Taurus and the three stars of Orion’s belt.

Gemini is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. The Sun resides in the constellation of Gemini from June 20 to July 20 each year and under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between about May 21 and June 21.

Gemini is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri, in Greek mythology. The divine twins are a mytheme of Proto-Indo-European religion. One recurring element in the divine twin theme is that, while identical, one is divine and the other is human.

Hausos is the reconstructed name for the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn. Derivatives of this goddess, found throughout various Indo-European mythologies. She is thought to have been envisioned as the daughter of Dyeus (literally “sky father” or “shining father”). The epithet “daughter of heaven” remains in nearly all Indo-European mythologies.

Part of a larger pantheon, Dyeus, also known as Dyeus Phter, is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology. It was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in Proto-Indo-European society.

A mother goddess is a goddess who represents, or is a personification of nature, motherhood, fertility, creation, destruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother.

The Dawn Goddess is hypothesised to have been one of the most important deities to the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Due to the dawn heralding the sun and inducing the daily routine, the Dawn Goddess is associated with instilling the cosmic order. She have not only been mixed with those of solar goddesses in some later traditions, but have subsequently expanded and influenced female deities in other mythologies.

The Dawn Goddess was associated with weaving, a behaviour sometimes used as a metaphor for the generative properties of sunlight. This characteristic is normally seen in solar goddesses and it might indicate a large amount of syncretism between dawn and solar deities.

The Dawn Goddess is envisioned as the sister of the Divine Twins. Although the “marriage drama” myth (in which one or both of the Divine Twins compete for the hand of a woman in marriage) is usually linked to the sun goddess rather than the dawn goddess, there is a possible degree of syncretism in this regard.

In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins. The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.

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Babylonian astronomy

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 15, 2019

Babylonian astronomy collated earlier observations and divinations into sets of Babylonian star catalogues, during and after the Kassite rule over Babylonia. These star catalogues, written in cuneiform script, contained lists of constellations, individual stars, and planets. The constellations were probably collected from various other sources.

A connection to the star symbology of Kassite kudurru border stones has also been claimed, but whether such kudurrus really represented constellations and astronomical information aside from the use of the symbols remains unclear.

The first known formal catalogue of star lists are the Three Stars Each texts appearing from about 1200 BC. It mentions stars of Akkad, of Amurru, of Elam and others. Various sources have theorized a Sumerian origin for these Babylonian constellations, but an Elamite origin has also been proposed.

It includes a tripartite division of the heavens: the northern hemisphere belonged to Enlil, the equator belonged to Anu, and the southern hemisphere belonged to Enki. The boundaries were at 17 degrees North and South, so that the Sun spent exactly three consecutive months in each third.

The enumeration of stars in the Three Stars Each catalogues includes 36 stars, three for each month. The determiner glyph for “constellation” or “star” in these lists is MUL (𒀯), originally a pictograph of three stars, as it were a triplet of AN signs; e. g. the Pleiades are referred to as a “star cluster” or “star of stars” in the lists, written as MUL.MUL, or MULMUL (𒀯𒀯).

The second formal compendium of stars in Babylonian astronomy is the MUL.APIN, a pair of Babylonian tablets containing canonical star lists that were compiled around 1000 BC. The list is a direct descendent of the Three Stars Each list, reworked around 1000 BC on the basis of more accurate observations. They include more constellations, including most circumpolar ones, and more of the zodiacal ones.

Among the most ancient constellations are those that marked the four cardinal points of the year in the Middle Bronze Age, i.e. Taurus “The Bull”, from MULGU4.AN.NA (“The Steer of Heaven”), marking vernal equinox, Leo (“The Lion”), from MULUR.GU.LA (“The Lion”), marking summer solstice, Scorpius (“The Scorpion”), from MULGIR.TAB (“The Scorpion”), marking autumn equinox, and Capricornus (“Goat-Horned”), from MULSUḪUR.MAŠ (“The Goat-Fish”), marking winter solstice.

The path of the Moon as given in MUL.APIN consists of 17 or 18 stations. It lists, among others, 17 or 18 constellations in the zodiac, recognizable as the direct predecessors of the 12 sign zodiac. Later catalogues reduce the zodiacal set of constellations to 12, which were borrowed by the Egyptians and the Greeks, still surviving among the modern constellations.

The Babylonian star catalogues entered Greek astronomy in the 4th century BC, via Eudoxus of Cnidus and others. A few of the constellation names in use in modern astronomy can be traced to Babylonian sources via Greek astronomy.


Triangulum is a small constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for “triangle”, derived from its three brightest stars, which form a long and narrow triangle. The white stars Beta and Gamma Trianguli form the base of the triangle and the yellow-white Alpha Trianguli the apex.

It is notable as the first constellation presented on (and giving its name to) the MUL.APIN (𒀯𒀳; “the Plough”), which is the current Triangulum plus Gamma Andromedae, corresponding to the first constellation of the year.

The Plough was the first constellation of the “Way of Enlil” – that is, the northernmost quarter of the Sun’s path, which corresponds to the 45 days on either side of summer solstice. Its first appearance in the pre-dawn sky (heliacal rising) in February marked the time to begin spring ploughing in Mesopotamia.


The path of the Moon as given in MUL.APIN consists of 17 or 18 stations, recognizable as the direct predecessors of the 12 sign zodiac. At the beginning of the list with MUL.MUL, the Pleiades, corresponds to the situation in the Early to Middle Bronze Age when the Sun at vernal equinox was close to the Pleiades in Taurus (closest in the 23rd century BCE), and not yet in Aries.

Taurus (Latin for “the Bull”) is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye.

Taurus is today the second astrological sign in the present zodiac. It spans from 30° to 60° of the zodiac. The Sun transits in this sign from approximately April 21 until May 21 in western astrology. It is a Venus-ruled sign, just like Libra.

It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Taurus was the first sign of the zodiac established among the ancient Mesopotamians, who called it as “The Great Bull of Heaven”, because it was the constellation through which the Sun rose on the vernal equinox at that time.

Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. Cults centered around sacred bulls began to form in Assyria, Egypt, and Crete during The Age of Taurus, or “The Age of Earth, Agriculture, and the Bull”.

The name of the Pleiades comes from Ancient Greek. It probably derives from plein (“to sail”) because of the cluster’s importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea: “the season of navigation began with their heliacal rising”.

However, in mythology the name was used for the Pleiades, seven divine sisters, the name supposedly deriving from that of their mother Pleione and effectively meaning “daughters of Pleione”. In reality, the name of the star cluster almost certainly came first, and Pleione was invented to explain it.

The Hyades were in Greek mythology the five daughters of Atlas and half-sisters to the Pleiades. After the death of their brother, Hyas, the weeping sisters were transformed into a cluster of stars that was afterwards associated with rain.

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The letter S, X and T

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 8, 2019


Samekh or simketh is the fifteenth letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician samek, representing /s/. Samekh in gematria has the value 60. The Arabic alphabet, however, uses a letter based on Phoenician shin to represent /s/;  however, that glyph takes samekh’s place in the traditional Abjadi order of the Arabic alphabet.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek xi (Ξ, ξ). However, its name gave rise to sigma, the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The shape and alphabetic position of sigma is derived from Phoenician shin.

The origin of samekh is unclear. The Phoenician letter may continue a glyph from the Middle Bronze Age alphabets, either based on a hieroglyph for a tent peg / some kind of prop (s’mikhah or t’mikhah, in modern Hebrew means to support), and thus may be derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph djed.


Shin (also spelled Šin (šīn) or Sheen) is the twenty-first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Shin. Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, [ʃ] or [s]. In the Arabic alphabet, shin is at the original (21st) position in Abjadi order. A letter variant shin takes the place of Samekh at 15th position.

To express an etymological /ś/, a number of dialects chose either sin or samek exclusively, where other dialects switch freely between them (often ‘leaning’ more often towards one or the other). In gematria, shin represents the number 300.

Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Sigma (Σ) (which in turn gave Latin S and Cyrillic С), and the letter Sha (Ш ш; italics: Ш ш) in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts. Sha has its earliest origins in Phoenician Shin and is linked closely to Shin’s Greek equivalent: Sigma (Σ, σ, ς). (Note the similar form of the modern Hebrew Shin (ש), which is probably the origin of this letter, deriving from the same Proto-Canaanite source).

The corresponding letter for the /ʃ/ sound in Russian is nearly identical in shape to the Hebrew shin. Given that the Cyrillic script includes borrowed letters from a variety of different alphabets such as Greek and Latin, it is often suggested that the letter sha is directly borrowed from the Hebrew letter shin.

The Proto-Sinaitic glyph, according to William Albright, was based on a “tooth” and with the phonemic value š “corresponds etymologically (in part, at least) to original Semitic ṯ (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite”.

The Phoenician shin letter expressed the continuants of two Proto-Semitic phonemes, and may have been based on a pictogram of a tooth (in modern Hebrew shen). The Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, records that it originally represented a composite bow.

The Arabic letter shin was an acronym for “something” (šayʾ(un) meaning the unknown in algebraic equations. In the transcription into Spanish, the Greek letter chi (χ) was used which was later transcribed into Latin x.

According to some sources, this is the origin of x used for the unknown in the equations. However, according to other sources, there is no historical evidence for this. In Modern Arabic mathematical notation, sīn, i.e. šīn without its dots, often corresponds to Latin x.

Shin, as a prefix, bears the same meaning as the relative pronouns “that”, “which” and “who” in English. In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of “when”. This is a contraction of ka’asher (as, when).

Shin also stands for the word Shaddai, a name for God. Because of this, a kohen (priest) forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing. The letter Shin is often inscribed on the case containing a mezuzah, a scroll of parchment with Biblical text written on it.

The text contained in the mezuzah is the Shema Yisrael prayer, which calls the Israelites to love their God with all their heart, soul and strength. The mezuzah is situated upon all the doorframes in a home or establishment. Sometimes the whole word Shaddai will be written.

The Shema Yisrael prayer also commands the Israelites to write God’s commandments on their hearts (Deut. 6:6); the shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart. In the Sefer Yetzirah the letter Shin is King over Fire, Formed Heaven in the Universe, Hot in the Year, and the Head in the Soul.

A religious significance has been applied to the fact that there are three valleys that comprise the city of Jerusalem’s geography: the Valley of Ben Hinnom, Tyropoeon Valley, and Kidron Valley, and that these valleys converge to also form the shape of the letter shin, and that the Temple in Jerusalem is located where the dagesh (horizontal line) is.

This is seen as a fulfillment of passages such as Deuteronomy 16:2 that instructs Jews to celebrate the Pasach at “the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name” (NIV).

The 13th-century Kabbalistic text Sefer HaTemunah, holds that a single letter of unknown pronunciation, held by some to be the four-pronged shin on one side of the teffilin box, is missing from the current alphabet. The world’s flaws, the book teaches, are related to the absence of this letter, the eventual revelation of which will repair the universe.

According to Judges 12:6, the tribe of Ephraim could not differentiate between Shin and Samekh; when the Gileadites were at war with the Ephraimites, they would ask suspected Ephraimites to say the word shibolet; an Ephraimite would say sibolet and thus be exposed. From this episode we get the English word shibboleth.


The djed (Ancient Egyptian: ḏd 𓊽, Coptic jōt “pillar”)  is one of the more ancient and commonly found symbols in ancient Egyptian religion. It is a pillar-like symbol in Egyptian hieroglyphs representing stability.

It is associated with the creator god Ptah and Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead. It is commonly understood to represent his spine. The djed may originally have been a fertility cult related pillar made from reeds or sheaves or a totem from which sheaves of grain were suspended or grain was piled around.

Seker – Ptah – Osiris

The djed came to be associated with Seker, the falcon god of the Memphite Necropolis, then with Ptah, the Memphite patron god of craftsmen. Ptah was often referred to as “the noble djed”, and carried a scepter that was a combination of the djed symbol and the ankh, the symbol of life.

In the underworld, Seker is strongly linked with two other gods, Ptah, the Creator god and chief god of Memphis, god of craftsmen and architects, and Osiris the god of the dead. In later periods, this connection was expressed as the triple god Ptah-Seker-Osiris.

Ptah is the deity responsible for the creation of the universe by thought and by the word. He is an Egyptian creator god who existed before all other things and, by his will, thought the world into existence. It was first conceived by Thought, and realized by the Word.

Ptah conceives the world by the thought of his heart and gives life through the magic of his Word. That which Ptah commanded was created, with which the constituents of nature, fauna, and flora, are contained.  He also plays a role in the preservation of the world and the permanence of the royal function.

Ptah is generally represented in the guise of a man with green skin, contained in a shroud sticking to the skin, wearing the divine beard, and holding a sceptre combining three powerful symbols of ancient Egyptian religion: The Was sceptre (“power, dominion”), the Ankh (“life”) and the Djed pillar. These three combined symbols indicate the three creative powers of the god: power (was), life (ankh) and stability (djed).

The ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in art to represent the word for “life” and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself. Its use continued through the Coptic Egyptians who adapted it as the crux ansata, a variant form of the Christian cross.

Ptah gradually came to be assimilated into Osiris. By the time of the New Kingdom, the djed was firmly associated with Osiris. Osiris is the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and rebirth in ancient Egyptian religion.

Osiris was at times considered the eldest son of the god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son.

He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning “Foremost of the Westerners”, a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was also sometimes called “king of the living”: ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones”.


Sigma (uppercase Σ, lowercase σ, lowercase in word-final position ς) is the eighteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The shape and alphabetic position of sigma is derived from Phoenician shin 𐤔.

The original name of the letter “sigma” may have been san, but due to the complicated early history of the Greek epichoric alphabets, “san” came to be identified as a separate letter, Ϻ. Herodotus reports that “san” was the name given by the Dorians to the same letter called “sigma” by the Ionians.

The name of sigma, according to one hypothesis, may continue that of Phoenician Samekh, the letter continued by Greek Ξ. Alternatively, the name sigma may have been a Greek innovation that simply meant “hissing”, from the root of sízō, earlier *sig-jō, meaning “I hiss”).

Sigma was adopted in the Old Italic alphabets beginning in the 8th century BC. A simplified three-stroke version, omitting the lowermost stroke, is found already in Western Greek alphabets, and becomes current in classical Etruscan, in Oscan, and also in the earliest Latin epigraphy (early Latin S), such as the Duenos inscription.

The alternation between three and four strokes (occasionally also more than four) is also adopted into the early runic alphabet (early form of the s-rune. Both the Anglo-Saxon runes and the Younger Futhark consistently use the simplified three-stroke version.


San (Ϻ) was an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet. Its shape was similar to modern M, or to a modern Greek Sigma (Σ) turned sideways, and it was used as an alternative to Sigma to denote the sound /s/.

Unlike Sigma, whose position in the alphabet is between Rho and Tau, San appeared between Pi and Qoppa in alphabetic order. In addition to denoting this separate archaic character, the name “San” was also used as an alternative name to denote the standard letter Sigma.

The existence of the two competing letters Sigma and San is traditionally believed to have been due to confusion during the adoption of the Greek alphabet from the Phoenician script, because Phoenician had more sibilant (s-like) sounds than Greek had.

According to one theory, the distribution of the sibilant letters in Greek is due to pair-wise confusion between the sounds and alphabet positions of the four Phoenician sibilant signs: Greek Sigma got its shape and alphabetic position from Phoenician Šin, but its name and sound value from Phoenician Samekh.

Conversely, Greek Xi (Ξ) got its shape and position from Samekh, but its name and sound value from Šin. The same kind of pair-wise exchange happened between Phoenician Zayin and Tsade: Greek Zeta has the shape and position of Zayin but the name and sound value of Tsade, and conversely Greek San has the approximate shape and position of Tsade but may originally have had the sound value of Zayin, i.e. voiced [z]. However, since voiced [z] and voiceless [s] were not distinct phonemes in Greek, Sigma and San came to be used in essentially the same function.

According to a different theory, “San” was indeed the original name of what is now known as Sigma, and as such presents a direct representation of the corresponding name “Shin” in that position. The name of “San” lived on as an alternative (dialectal or archaic) name for “Sigma” even at a time when the letter itself had everywhere been replaced with standard Sigma.

This name was only later also associated with the alternative local letter now known as “San”, whose original name remains unknown. The modern name “Sigma”, in turn, was a transparent Greek innovation that simply meant “hissing”, based on a nominalization of a verb σίζω (sízō, from an earlier stem *sigj-, meaning ‘to hiss’).

Moreover, a modern re-interpretation of the sound values of the sibilants in Proto-Semitic, and thus in Phoenician, can account for the values of the Greek sibilants with less recourse to “confusion”.

Most significant is the reconstruction of Šin as [s] and thus also the source of the sound value of Sigma; in turn, Samekh is reconstructed as the affricate [ts], which is a better match for the plosive-fricative cluster value [kʰs] of Xi.

Whereas in early abecedaria, Sigma and San are typically listed as two separate letters in their separate alphabetic positions, each Greek dialect tended to use either San or Sigma exclusively in practical writing.

Outside Greece, San was borrowed into the Old Italic alphabets (𐌑, transcribed as Ś). It initially retained its M-shape in the archaic Etruscan alphabet, but from the 6th century BC changing its aspect to a shape similar to that of the d-rune D.


Sampi (modern: ϡ; ancient shapes: Ͳ, Ͳ) is an archaic letter of the Greek alphabet. The letter’s original name in antiquity is not known. It has been proposed that sampi was a continuation of the archaic letter san, which was originally shaped like an M and denoted the sound [s] in some other dialects.

It was used as an addition to the classical 24-letter alphabet in some eastern Ionic dialects of ancient Greek in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, to denote some type of a sibilant sound, probably [ss] or [ts], and was abandoned when the sound disappeared from Greek. It later remained in use as a numeral symbol for 900 in the alphabetic (“Milesian”) system of Greek numerals.

Its modern shape, which resembles a π inclining to the right with a longish curved cross-stroke, developed during its use as a numeric symbol in minuscule handwriting of the Byzantine era. Its current name, sampi, originally probably meant “san pi”, i.e. “like a pi”, and is also of medieval origin.


Xi (uppercase Ξ, lowercase ξ; Greek: ξι) is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet. It is pronounced [ksi] in Modern Greek, and generally /zaɪ/ or /saɪ/ in English. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 60. Xi was derived from the Phoenician letter samekh. Xi is not to be confused with the letter chi, which gave its form to the Latin letter X.

Both in classical Ancient Greek and in Modern Greek, the letter Ξ represents the sound [ks]. In some archaic local variants of the Greek alphabet, this letter was missing. Instead, especially in the dialects of most of the Greek mainland and Euboea, the sound [ks] was represented by Χ (which in classical Greek is chi, used for /kʰ/).

Because this variant of the Greek alphabet was used in Italy, the Latin alphabet borrowed Χ rather than Ξ as the Latin letter X. While having no Latin derivative, the Xi was adopted into the early Cyrillic alphabet, as the letter ksi (Ѯ, ѯ).

Letter X

The letter ‘Χ’ ~ ‘Ψ’ for /kʰ/ was a Greek addition to the alphabet, placed after the Semitic letters along with phi ‘Φ’ for /pʰ/, the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet. In Ancient Greek, ‘Χ’ and ‘Ψ’ were among several variants of the same letter, used originally for /kʰ/ and later, in western areas such as Arcadia, as a simplification of the digraph ‘ΧΣ’ for /ks/.

In the end, more conservative eastern forms became the standard of Classical Greek, and thus ‘Χ’ (Chi) stood for /kʰ/ (later /x/; palatalized to [ç] in Modern Greek before front vowels). However, the Etruscans had taken over ‘Χ’ from western Greek, and it therefore stands for /ks/ in Etruscan and Latin. Old Italic X, which derives from Greek Chi, and is the ancestor of modern Latin X.

In Archaic and Classical Greek, it represented an aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive ([pʰ]), which was the origin of its usual romanization as ⟨ph⟩. During the later part of Classical Antiquity, in Koine Greek (final centuries BC), its pronunciation shifted to that of a voiceless labiodental fricative ([f]). The romanization of the Modern Greek phoneme is therefore usually ⟨f⟩.

It may be that phi originated as the letter qoppa and initially represented the sound /kʷʰ/ before shifting to Classical Greek [pʰ]. In traditional Greek numerals, phi has a value of 500 (φʹ) or 500,000 (͵φ). The Cyrillic letter Ef (Ф, ф) descends from phi. As with other Greek letters, lowercase phi is used as a mathematical or scientific symbol. Some uses, such as the golden ratio, require the old-fashioned ‘closed’ glyph.

With its long, ambiguous history and multiple phonemes, the letter X is quite a dark horse. It can mean Christ, like the X in Xmas, stand for a chromosome, and even show up in friendly and amorous correspondence (XOXO). Since its inception, the letter X has struggled to establish its own identity, so it may be no coincidence that X is commonly used to represent the unknown in both language and mathematics.

X is derived from the Phoenician letter samekh. Originally used by the Phoenicians to represent the /s/ consonant (denoting a hard S sound), the Greeks borrowed the samekh around 900 BC and named it Chi.

The ancient Greeks utilized their newly acquired phonological element to simplify the digraph (“a pair of letters representing a single speech sound”) /ks/, which is used most prominently throughout the western regions of Greece.

The Romans later adopted the X sound from the Chalcidian alphabet, a non-Ionic Greek alphabet, and borrowed the Chi symbol, consisting of two diagonally crossed strokes, from the Greek alphabet to denote the letter X as well as to identify the Roman numeral X or “10.” So to sum up: The Romans took the /x/ sound from one alphabet (Chalcidian) and combined it with the Chi symbol from another alphabet (Greek) and thus X was born.


Chi (uppercase Χ, lowercase χ; Greek: χῖ) is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, pronounced /kaɪ/ or /kiː/ in English. Its value in Ancient Greek was an aspirated velar stop /kʰ/ (in the Western Greek alphabet: /ks/). In Koine Greek and later dialects it became a fricative ([x]/[ç]) along with Θ and Φ. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 600.

In ancient times, some local forms of the Greek alphabet used the chi instead of xi to represent the /ks/ sound. This was borrowed into the early Latin language, which led to the use of the letter X for the same sound in Latin, and many modern languages that use the Latin alphabet. Chi was also included in the Cyrillic script as the letter Х, with the phonetic value /x/ or /h/.

In Plato’s Timaeus, it is explained that the two bands that form the soul of the world cross each other like the letter Χ. Chi or X is often used to abbreviate the name Christ, as in the holiday Christmas (Xmas). When fused within a single typespace with the Greek letter Rho, it is called the labarum and used to represent the person of Jesus Christ.


Kha or Ha (Х х; italics: Х х) is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It looks the same as the Latin letter X (X x X x), in both uppercase and lowercase, both roman and italic forms, and was derived from the Greek letter Chi, which also bears a resemblance to both the Latin X and Kha.

The Cyrillic letter Kha was derived from the Greek letter Chi (Χ χ). The name of Kha in the Early Cyrillic alphabet was xěrŭ. Kha is the twenty-third (if Yo is included) letter of the Russian alphabet. It represents the consonant /x/ unless it is before a palatalizing vowel when it represents /xʲ/. In the Cyrillic numeral system, Kha had a value of 600.

Kha is also an alternative transliteration of the letter Ḫāʼ in the Arabic alphabet. This was used in Belarusian Arabic script, corresponding to the above Cyrillic letter. The letter is named ḥāʾ and is the sixth letter of the alphabet. Its shape varies depending on its position in the word.


Ka, in ancient Egyptian religion, with the ba and the akh, a principal aspect of the soul of a human being or of a god. The exact significance of the ka remains a matter of controversy, chiefly for lack of an Egyptian definition. The ka was essentially a person’s double,” it was the life force and at death it was separated from the body.  The usual translation, “double,” is incorrect.

Written by a hieroglyph of uplifted arms, it seemed originally to have designated the protecting divine spirit of a person. The ka survived the death of the body and could reside in a picture or statue of a person.

Understanding conceptual ideas related to ancient Egypt thought can be difficult, and there is little more complex than the ideas surrounding the ka. Yet the ka was a most important concept in ancient Egyptian religion.

Indeed, the name of Egypt itself is probably derived, though Greek, from the ancient name for the capital city, Memphis, which was Hut-ka-Pteh, or “House of the Ka of Ptah”.

The word, ka, was expressed by a hieroglyph depicting two upraised arms, which was usually the symbol of an embrace, the protection of a man by his ka, or a sign of praise, although other interpretations are possible.

The ka hieroglyph sometimes appears on offering tables in place of representations of actual offerings, and in its basic sense of life-power, the sign may appear in apposition with the ankh or some other sign.

Unfortunately, the concept of the ka has no exact analogues in European culture and so it is difficult to identify the ka with more familiar concepts. Hence, there are many interpretations that are frequently ambiguous and often unsatisfactory.

One will frequently see the term translated as “soul” or “spirit”, the ka was much more than that. During very ancient times, the ka may have indicated male potency, and in all periods it is used as a term for the creative and sustaining power of life.


Taw, tav, or taf is the twenty-second and last letter of the Semitic abjads.  In Arabic, it is also gives rise to the derived letter Ṯāʼ. Its original sound value is /t/. The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek tau (Τ), Latin T, and Cyrillic Т.

The sound value of Semitic Taw, Greek alphabet Tαυ (Tau), Old Italic and Latin T has remained fairly constant, representing [t] in each of these; and it has also kept its original basic shape in most of these alphabets.

Taw was originally cruciform in shape. It is believed to be derived from the Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “mark”. In Biblical times, the taw was put on men to distinguish those who lamented sin, although newer versions of the Bible have replaced the ancient term taw with mark (Ezekiel 9:4) or signature (Job 31:35).

T is the 20th letter in the modern English alphabet. It is derived from the Semitic letter taw via the Greek letter tau. Tau (uppercase Τ, lowercase τ; Greek: ταυ [taf]) is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 300.

The symbolism of the cross was connected not only to the letter chi but also to tau. In ancient times, tau was used as a symbol for life or resurrection, whereas the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, theta, was considered the symbol of death.


The Runic letter Gyfu, which may derive from old Italic X. Gyfu is the name for the g-rune ᚷ in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, meaning ‘gift’ or ‘generosity’. The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet is 𐌲 g, called giba. The same rune also appears in the Elder Futhark, with a suggested Proto-Germanic name *gebô ‘gift’.

The rune is directly derived from Latin Χ, the pronunciation of which may have been similar to Germanic g in the 1st century, e.g., Gothic *reihs compared to Latin rex (as opposed to the Etruscan alphabet, where X/𐌗 had a value of [s]).

The gyfu rune is sometimes used as a symbol within modern mysticism, particularly amongst those interested in Celtic mythology. It’s described, for example, in the book The Runic Tarot as a representation of the giving-receiving balance in friendships.

In addition to gyfu, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc has the gār rune ⟨ᚸ⟩, named after a species of medieval spear. It is attested epigraphically on the Ruthwell Cross, and also appears in 11th-century manuscript tradition. Phonetically, gār represents the /g/ sound. It is a modification of the plain gyfu rune ᚷ.

Old English ‘gār’ means ‘spear’, but the name of the rune likely echoes the rune names ger, ear, ior: due to palatalization in Old English, the original g rune (i.e., the Gyfu rune ⟨ᚷ⟩) could express either /j/ or /g/. The ger unambiguously expressed /j/, and the newly introduced gar rune had the purpose of unambiguously expressing /g/.


Jera (also Jeran, Jeraz) is the conventional name of the j-rune ᛃ of the Elder Futhark, from a reconstructed Common Germanic stem *jēra- meaning “harvest, (good) year”.

The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet is Gothic 𐌾, named jēr, also expressing /j/. The Elder Futhark rune gives rise to the Anglo-Frisian runes ᛄ /j/, named gēr and ᛡ /io/, named ior, and to the Younger Futhark ár rune ᛅ, which stood for /a/ as the /j/ phoneme had disappeared in Old Norse.

The reconstructed Common Germanic name *jēran is the origin of English year (Old English ġēar). In contrast to the modern word, it had a meaning of “season” and specifically “harvest”, and hence “plenty, prosperity”.

The Germanic word is cognate with Greek horos (“year”) and hora (“season”), whence hour), Slavonic jarŭ “spring” and with the -or- in Latin hornus “of this year” (from *ho-jōrinus), as well as Avestan yāre “year”, all from a PIE stem *yer-o-.


The Ear ᛠ rune of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc is a late addition to the alphabet. It is, however, still attested from epigraphical evidence, notably the Thames scramasax, and its introduction thus cannot postdate the 9th century. It is transliterated as ea, and the Anglo-Saxon rune poem glosses it as

Jacob Grimm in his 1835 Teutonic Mythology (ch. 9)attached a deeper significance to the name. He interprets the Old English poem as describing “death personified”, connected to the death-bringing god of war, Ares. He notes that the ear rune is simply a Tyr rune with two barbs attached to it and suggests that Tir and Ear, Old High German Zio and Eor, were two names of the same god.

He finds the name in the toponym of Eresburg (*Eresberc) in Westphalia, in Latin Mons martis. Grimm thus suggests that the Germans had adopted the name of Greek Ares as an epithet of their god of war, and Eresberc was literally an Areopagus.

Grimm further notes that in the Bavarian (Marcomannic) area, Tuesday (dies Martis) was known as Ertag, Iertag, Irtag, Eritag, Erchtag, Erichtag as opposed to the Swabian and Swiss (Alemannic) region where the same day is Ziestag as in Anglo-Saxon.

Grimm concludes that Ziu was known by the alternative name Eor, derived from Greek Ares, and also as Saxnot among the Saxons, identified as a god of the sword.


Algiz (also Elhaz) is the name conventionally given to the “z-rune” ᛉ of the Elder Futhark runic alphabet. Its transliteration is z, understood as a phoneme of the Proto-Germanic language, the terminal *z continuing Proto-Indo-European terminal *s.

It is a powerful rune, because it represents the divine might of the universe. The white elk was a symbol to the Norse of divine blessing and protection to those it graced with sight of itself.

It represents the worlds of Asgard (gods of the Aesir), Ljusalfheim (The Light Elves) and Vanaheim (gods of the Vanir), all connecting and sharing energies with our world, Midgard.

The Elder Futhark rune ᛉ is conventionally called Algiz or Elhaz, from the Common Germanic word for “elk”. Manuscript tradition gives its sound value as Latin x, i.e. /ks/, or alternatively as il, or yet again as “l and x”.

It is one of two runes which express a phoneme that does not occur word-initially, and thus could not be named acrophonically, the other being the ŋ-rune Ingwaz ᛜ.

As the terminal *-z phoneme marks the nominative singular suffix of masculine nouns, the rune occurs comparatively frequently in early epigraphy.

Because this specific phoneme was lost at an early time, the Elder Futhark rune underwent changes in the medieval runic alphabets. In the Anglo-Saxon futhorc it retained its shape, but it was given the sound value of Latin x.

This is a secondary development, possibly due to runic manuscript tradition, and there is no known instance of the rune being used in an Old English inscription.

In Proto-Norse and Old Norse, the Germanic *z phoneme developed into an R sound, perhaps realized as a retroflex approximant [ɻ], which is usually transcribed as ʀ.

This sound was written in the Younger Futhark using the Yr rune ᛦ, the Algiz rune turned upside down, from about the 7th century.

This phoneme eventually became indistinguishable from the regular r sound in the later stages of Old Norse, at about the 11th or 12th century.

The shape of the rune may be derived from that a letter expressing /x/ in certain Old Italic alphabets (𐌙),[citation needed] which was in turn derived from the Greek letter Ψ which had the value of /kʰ/ (rather than /ps/) in the Western Greek alphabet.


The Gothic letter enguz derives from Greek Chi 𐌗: Old Italic X, which derives from Greek Chi. This rune represents Ing, the god of the fertility and the creative act. Due to its shape Ingwaz indicate that this potential is interiorized, concentrated and introverted as a seed which possesses in her all the elements to develop a complete and organized life.

Enguz is represented by the very ancient god image Ing, Inguz is a rune of male fertility. The English language participle “-ing” adds to any verb the idea of acton. Do-ing, Be-ing, See-ing, etc. The addition of “ing” represents action in the actual process of activity (rather than an object). Thus, even common elements within our most common language use “ing” to infer the process of creation.

Old Norse Yngvi, Old High German Inguin and Old English Ingƿine are names that relate to a theonym which appears to have been the older name for the god Freyr (Old Norse: Lord), sometimes anglicized as Frey.

Freyr is a widely attested god associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and pictured as a phallic fertility god in Norse mythology. Freyr, sometimes referred to as Yngvi-Freyr, was especially associated with Sweden and seen as an ancestor of the Swedish royal house.

Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz was the legendary ancestor of the Ingaevones, or more accurately Ingvaeones, and is also the reconstructed name of the Elder Futhark rune ᛜ and Anglo-Saxon rune ᛝ, representing ŋ.

Old Norse Yngvi as well as Old High German Inguin and Old English Ingƿine are all derived from the Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz. Tacitus asserts their descent from the three sons of Mannus or *Mannaz, the Proto-Germanic ‘first man’, of whom *Ingwaz may have been one.

The Ingvaeones, who occupied a territory roughly equivalent to modern Denmark, Frisia and the Low Countries at the turn of the millennium, were mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Natural Histories as one of “five Germanic tribes”.

Frisia (West Frisian: Fryslân, Dutch and German: Friesland) is a coastal region along the southeastern corner of the North Sea in what today is mostly a large part of the Netherlands, including modern Friesland and smaller parts of northern Germany.

Frisia is the traditional homeland of the Frisians, Germanic people who speak Frisian languages, which together with Anglic languages (English and Scots) form the Anglo-Frisian language group.


Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune of the Elder Futhark, ᚨ. The name is based on Proto-Germanic *ansuz, denoting a deity belonging to the principal pantheon in Germanic paganism. The ansuz rune, ᚫ, was named after the Æsir.

The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a, like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph (or alef or alif), the first letter of the Semitic abjads. The Phoenician variant gave rise to the Greek Alpha (Α), being re-interpreted to express not the glottal consonant but the accompanying vowel, and hence the Latin A and Cyrillic А.

These letters are believed to have derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head. The name aleph is derived from the West Semitic word for “ox”, and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on an Egyptian hieroglyph, which depicts an ox’s head.

The Egyptian “vulture” hieroglyph, by convention pronounced [a]) is also referred to as aleph, on grounds that it has traditionally been taken to represent a glottal stop, although some recent suggestions tend towards an alveolar approximant ([ɹ]) sound instead.

In the Norwegian rune poem, óss is given a meaning of “estuary” while in the Anglo-Saxon one, ōs ᚩ takes the Latin meaning of “mouth”. Since the name of Gothic a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz “god”, or *ahsam “ear (of wheat)”.

Development in Anglo-Saxon runes The Anglo-Saxon futhorc split the Elder Futhark a rune into three independent runes due to the development of the vowel system in Anglo-Frisian. These three runes are ōs ᚩ (transliterated o), ac “oak” ᚪ (transliterated a), and æsc ᚫ “ash” (transliterated æ).

The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune (ᛅ), which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār). Jera (also Jeran, Jeraz) is the conventional name of the j-rune ᛃ of the Elder Futhark, from a reconstructed Common Germanic stem *jēra- meaning “harvest, (good) year”.

The Younger Futhark corresponding to the Elder Futhark ansuz rune is ᚬ, called óss. It is transliterated as ą. This represented the phoneme /ɑ̃/, and sometimes /æ/ (also written ᛅ) and /o/ (also written ᚢ). The variant grapheme ᚯ became independent as representing the phoneme /ø/ during the 11th to 14th centuries.

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Theotokos: Venus

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 1, 2019

Bilderesultat for "Mother, Daughter and Spouse of God"

“Mother, Daughter and Spouse of God”

The Queen (the sun goddess) and Daughter (the dawn goddess) of Heaven – Mary, mother of Jesus, also called the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene – the mother, consort and daughter of god. Frigg / Freyja – Odin / Odr – and Nanna – Balder.


Theotokos is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara (approximately “parent (fem.) of God”), are “Mother of God” or “God-bearer”. The title of Mother of God (Latin Mater Dei) is most often used in English, largely due to the lack of a satisfactory equivalent of the Greek τόκος / Latin genetrix. 

The title has been in use since the 3rd century, in the Syriac tradition (romanized: Yoldath Aloho) in the Liturgy of Mari and Addai (3rd century) and the Liturgy of St James (4th century). The Council of Ephesus in AD 431 decreed that Mary is the Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one divine person with two natures (divine and human) intimately and hypostatically united.

Theotokos is also used as the term for an Eastern icon, or type of icon, of the Mother with Child (typically called a Madonna in western tradition). Besides Christ, the basis of all iconography, no other subject has been more depicted than Mary.


“Seated goddess with a child” is tiny pendant was probably intended to be worn round the neck as an amulet from Central Anatolia ca. 14th–13th century BC. The figure, cast in gold using the lost-wax process, is of a seated goddess in a long gown, with large oval eyes and a thin mouth with creases at the sides.

She is wearing simple, looped earrings and a necklace. Her disk-like headdress probably represents the sun, which would lead to the conclusion that this may be the sun goddess, Arinna, a major Hittite divinity.

A loop for suspension protrudes from the back of the headdress. On her lap the goddess holds a naked child, cast separately of solid gold and then attached. The chair on which they are seated is backless and has lion paws.

Arinna is the chief goddess and wife of the weather god Tarḫunna in Hittite mythology. She protected the Hittite kingdom and was called the “Queen of all lands.” Her cult centre was the sacred city of Arinna.

In addition to the Sun goddess of Arinna, the Hittites also worshipped the Sun goddess of the Earth and the Sun god of Heaven, the second-most worshipped solar deity of the Hittites, after the Sun goddess of Arinna, while the Luwians originally worshipped the old Proto-Indo-European Sun god Tiwas.


Isis was a major goddess in ancient Egyptian religion whose worship spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Isis was first mentioned in the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BCE) as one of the main characters of the Osiris myth, in which she resurrects her slain husband, the divine king Osiris, and produces and protects his heir, Horus.

She was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife as she had helped Osiris, and she was considered the divine mother of the pharaoh, who was likened to Horus. Her maternal aid was invoked in healing spells to benefit ordinary people. She was usually portrayed in art as a human woman wearing a throne-like hieroglyph on her head.

During the New Kingdom (c. 1550–1070 BCE), as she took on traits that originally belonged to Hathor, the preeminent goddess of earlier times, Isis came to be portrayed wearing Hathor’s headdress: a sun disk between the horns of a cow.

Isis’s similarities to Mary, mother of Jesus, have also been scrutinized. They have been subject to controversy between Protestant Christians and the Catholic Church, as many Protestants have argued that Catholic veneration of Mary is a remnant of paganism.

It is pointed out that the two had several spheres of influence in common, such as agriculture and the protection of sailors. Mary’s title “Mother of God” has been compared to Isis’s epithet “mother of the god”, and Mary’s “queen of heaven” to Isis’s “queen of heaven”.

Images of Isis with Horus in her lap are often suggested as an influence on the iconography of Mary, particularly images of the Nursing Madonna, as images of nursing women were rare in the ancient Mediterranean world outside Egypt.

The latest images of Isis nursing Horus date to the fourth century CE, while the earliest images of Mary nursing Jesus date to the seventh century CE. These early Egyptian images of Mary nursing Jesus were meant to emphasize his divinity, much as images of nursing goddesses did in ancient Egyptian iconography.

It is suggested that similarities between Christianity and the mystery cults were not produced by simple borrowing of ideas but by their common background:  the Greco-Roman culture in which they all developed.

“Mother of God”

Theologically, the term “Mother of God” (and its variants) should not be taken to imply that Mary is the source of the existence of the divine person of Jesus, who existed with the Father from all eternity, or of her Son’s divinity.

Within the Orthodox and Catholic tradition, Mother of God has not been understood, nor been intended to be understood, as referring to Mary as Mother of God from eternity — that is, as Mother of God the Father — but only with reference to the birth of Jesus, that is, the Incarnation. To make it explicit, it is sometimes translated Mother of God Incarnate. (cf. the topic of Christology, and the titles of God the Son and Son of man).

The Nicene-Costantinopolitan Creed of 381 affirmed the Christian faith on “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons)”, that “came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and was made man”.

Since that time, the expression “Mother of God” referred to the Dyophysite doctrine of the hypostatic union, about the uniqueness with the twofold nature of Jesus Christ God, which is both human and divine (nature distincted, but not separable nor mixed). Since that time, Jesus was affirmed as true Man and true God from all eternity.


The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.

Dingir (usually transliterated DIĜIR) is a Sumerian word for “god.” The cuneiform sign by itself was originally an ideogram for the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”); its use was then extended to a logogram for the word diĝir (“god” or goddess) and the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon An, and a phonogram for the syllable /an/.

Akkadian took over all these uses and added to them a logographic reading for the native ilum and from that a syllabic reading of /il/. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.

Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna.


Dyēus or Dyēus Phter is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in Proto-Indo-European society.

This deity is not directly attested; rather, scholars have reconstructed this deity from the languages and cultures of later Indo-European peoples such as the Greeks, Latins, and Indo-Aryans. As the pantheons of the individual mythologies related to Proto-Indo-European religion evolved, attributes of Dyeus seem to have been redistributed to other deities.

According to this scholarly reconstruction, Dyeus was known as Dyḗus Ph2tḗr, literally “sky father” or “shining father”, as reflected in Latin Iūpiter, Diēspiter, possibly Dis Pater and deus pater, Greek Zeus Pater, Vedic Dyáuṣ Pitṛ́.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Dyeus remained the chief god; however, in Vedic mythology, the etymological continuant of Dyeus became a very abstract god, and his original attributes and dominance over other gods appear to have been transferred to gods such as Agni or Indra.


Tinia (also Tin, Tinh, Tins or Tina) was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. He was the husband of Thalna or Uni and the father of Hercle.


Tiān is one of the oldest Chinese terms for heaven and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang dynasty (17–11th centuries BCE), the Chinese referred to their supreme god as Shàngdì (“Lord on High”) or Dì (“Lord”). During the following Zhou dynasty, Tiān became synonymous with this figure. Heaven worship was, before the 20th century, an orthodox state religion of China.


Anu or An is the divine personification of the sky, supreme God, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers, and he is described in one text as the one “who contains the entire universe”.

He is identified with the north ecliptic pole centered in the constellation Draco and, along with his sons Enlil and Enki, constitutes the highest divine triad personifying the three bands of constellations of the vault of the sky.

By the time of the earliest written records, he was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil, but, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning “Heavenly power”.

Anu’s primary role in myths is as the ancestor of the Anunnaki, the major deities of Sumerian religion. His consort in the earliest Sumerian texts is the goddess Uraš, but she is later the goddess Ki (Gaya) and, in Akkadian texts, the goddess Antu, whose name is a feminine form of Anu. 

Inanna: Queen of Heaven

Anu’s primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, but, by the Akkadian Period (c. 2334 – 2154 BC), his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.

Queen of Heaven was a title given to a number of ancient sky goddesses worshipped throughout the ancient Mediterranean and Near East during ancient times. Goddesses known to have been referred to by the title include Inanna, Anat, Isis, Astarte, and possibly Asherah (by the prophet Jeremiah).

In Greco-Roman times Hera, and her Roman aspect Juno bore this title. Forms and content of worship varied. In modern times, the title “Queen of Heaven” is still used by contemporary pagans to refer to the Great Goddess, while Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglican Christians now apply the ancient title to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar.

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis.

Inanna was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star.

Her husband was the god Dumuzid (later known as Tammuz) and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal).

Dumuzid, later known by the alternate form Tammuz, is an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with shepherds, who was also the primary consort of the goddess Inanna (later known as Ishtar). In Sumerian mythology, Dumuzid’s sister was Geshtinanna, the goddess of vegetation.

In the Sumerian King List, Dumuzid is listed as an antediluvian king of the city of Bad-tibira and also an early king of the city of Uruk. In the Sumerian poem Inanna Prefers the Farmer, Dumuzid competes against the farmer Enkimdu for Inanna’s hand in marriage.

In Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, Dumuzid fails to mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

Sirtur (also known as Dittur, Duttur or Sirtir) is a goddess of sheep, and is known from inscriptions and passing comments in texts. She became syncretised with the goddess, Ninsun. She was the mother of Dumuzid.

It has been suggested that she is symbolized by the ewe, according to Kimbell curators. Although sacred lambs are also associated with the mother goddess, Ninhursag, also known as Damgalnuna or Ninmah.

Ninhursag was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains. Sometimes her hair is depicted in an omega shape and at times she wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders.

The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. The symbol appears on very early imagery from Ancient Egypt. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.

In the Sumerian poem The Return of Dumuzid, which begins where The Dream of Dumuzid ends, Geshtinanna laments continually for days and nights over Dumuzid’s death, joined by Inanna, who has apparently experienced a change of heart, and Sirtur, Dumuzid’s mother.

The three goddesses mourn continually until a fly reveals to Inanna the location of her husband. Together, Inanna and Geshtinanna go to the place where the fly has told them they will find Dumuzid.

They find him there and Inanna decrees that, from that point onwards, Dumuzid will spend half of the year with her sister Ereshkigal in the Underworld and the other half of the year in Heaven with her, while Geshtinanna takes his place in the Underworld.

Dumuzid was associated with fertility and vegetation and the hot, dry summers of Mesopotamia were believed to be caused by Dumuzid’s yearly death. During the month in midsummer bearing his name, people all across Mesopotamia would engage in public, ritual mourning for him.

During the late twentieth century, scholars widely thought that, during the Sumerian Akitu festival, kings may have established their legitimacy by taking on the role of Dumuzid and engaging in ritualized sexual intercourse with the high priestess of Inanna as part of a sacred marriage ceremony.

The cult of Ishtar and Tammuz continued to thrive until the eleventh century AD and survived in parts of Mesopotamia as late as the eighteenth century.

In some Sumerian poems, Dumuzid is referred to as “my Damu”, which means “my son”. This name is usually applied to him in his role as the personification of the power that causes the sap to rise in trees and plants.

Damu is the name most closely associated with Dumuzid’s return in autumn after the dry season has ended. This aspect of his cult emphasized the fear and exhaustion of the community after surviving the devastating summer.

During the sixth century AD, some early Christians in the Middle East borrowed elements from poems of Ishtar mourning over the death of Tammuz into their own retellings of the Virgin Mary mourning over the death of her son Jesus.

The Syrian writers Jacob of Serugh and Romanos the Melodist both wrote laments in which the Virgin Mary describes her compassion for her son at the foot of the cross in deeply personal terms closely resembling Ishtar’s laments over the death of Tammuz.

Tammuz is the month of July in Iraqi Arabic and Levantine Arabic (see Arabic names of calendar months), as well as in the Assyrian calendar and Jewish calendar, and references to Tammuz appear in Arabic literature from the 9th to 11th centuries AD.

Pices – Aries

Inanna in her aspect as Anunītu was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Pisces is a constellation of the zodiac. Its name is the Latin plural for fish. It lies between Aquarius to the west and Aries to the east. The ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect within this constellation and in Virgo.

The vernal equinox is currently located in Pisces, due south of ω Psc, and, due to precession, slowly drifting below the western fish towards Aquarius.

Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Šinunutu “the great swallow” in current western Pisces, and Anunitum the “Lady of the Heaven”, at the place of the northern fish.

In the first-millennium BC texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, “the fish cord or ribbon”).

Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros, who escaped from the monster Typhon by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish. In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope.

Aries is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It is located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram, and its symbol is representing a ram’s horns.

Although Aries came to represent specifically the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece of Ancient Greek mythology, it has represented a ram since late Babylonian times. Before that, the stars of Aries formed a farmhand. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.


Utu, later worshipped by East Semitic peoples as Shamash, is the ancient Mesopotamian god of the sun, justice, morality, and truth, and the twin brother of the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.

He was believed to ride through the heavens in his sun chariot and see all things that happened in the day. He was the enforcer of divine justice and was thought to aid those in distress.

According to Sumerian mythology, he helped protect Dumuzid when the galla demons tried to drag him to the Underworld and he appeared to the hero Ziusudra after the Great Flood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, he helps Gilgamesh defeat the ogre Humbaba.

In the Sumerian King List, one of the early kings of Uruk is described as “the son of Utu” and Utu seems to have served as a special protector to several of that city’s later kings.

Utu’s main symbol was the solar disc, a circle with four points in each of the cardinal directions and four wavy, diagonal lines emanating from the circle between each point. This symbol represented the light, warmth, and power of the sun.

The Sumerians believed that, as he rode through heaven, Utu saw everything that happened in the world. On his way through the Underworld, Utu was believed to pass through the garden of the sun-god, which contained trees that bore precious gems as fruit.

The authors of the Hebrew Bible generally attempt to portray the sun in a non-anthropomorphic manner, sometimes using it as a symbol of Yahweh’s power. The Hebrew word for “sun”, šapaš or šemeš, is often substituted for euphemisms, such as the word or, meaning “light”.

These authors appear to have made a conscious effort to avoid implications of sun worship, even of a Yahwistic variety, at all costs. However, the Woman of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation, may directly allude to ancient Near Eastern sun goddesses.


Utu’s wife was the goddess Sherida, later known in Akkadian as Aya. Sherida was a goddess of beauty, fertility, and sexual love, possibly because light was seen as inherently beautiful, or because of the sun’s role in promoting agricultural fertility.

Sherida is one of the oldest Mesopotamian gods, attested in inscriptions from pre-Sargonic times, her name (as “Aya”) was a popular personal name during the Ur III period (21st-20th century BCE), making her among the oldest Semitic deities known in the region.

As the Sumerian pantheon formalized, Utu became the primary sun god, and Sherida was syncretized into a subordinate role as an aspect of the sun alongside other less powerful solar deities (c.f. Ninurta) and took on the role of Utu’s consort.

When the Semitic Akkadians moved into Mesopotamia, their pantheon became syncretized to the Sumerian. Inanna to Ishtar, Nanna to Sin, Utu to Shamash, etc. The minor Mesopotamian sun goddess Aya became syncretized into Sherida during this process.

Aya is Akkadian for “dawn”, and by the Akkadian period she was firmly associated with the rising sun and with sexual love and youth. The Babylonians sometimes referred to her as kallatu (the bride), and as such she was known as the wife of Shamash.


Asherah in ancient Semitic religion, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ašratu(m), and in Hittite as Aserdu(s) or Asertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʼAṯirat (Athirat).

Asherah is identified as the queen consort of the Sumerian god Anu, and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons, as well as Yahweh, the god of Israel and Judah. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon.

Despite her association with Yahweh in extra-biblical sources, Deuteronomy 12 has Yahweh commanding the destruction of her shrines so as to maintain purity of his worship. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “Queen of Heaven” in Jeremiah 7:16-18 and Jeremiah 44:17-19, 25.

The name Dione, which like ‘Elat means “Goddess”, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (‘Elat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit.

Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel. Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel.

It was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among the Jews.

There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings: Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh (2 Kings 23:14). Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected one such statue (2 Kings 21:7).

Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century BC combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and several inscriptions.

The inscriptions found refer not only to Yahweh but to El and Baal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.”

It has been suggested that the Israelites might have considered Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy.

In another inscription called “Yahweh and his Asherah”, there appears a cow feeding its calf. If Asherah is to be associated with Hathor/Qudshu, it can then be assumed that it is the cow that is being referred to as Asherah.

The many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel known as Pillar-Base Figurines support the view that in Israelite folk religion of the monarchal period, Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven, for whose festival the Hebrews baked small cakes.

The word Asherah is translated in Greek as alsos, grove, or alse, groves, or occasionally by dendra, trees; Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood.

The KJV Bible uses grove or groves with the consequent loss of Asherah’s name and knowledge of her existence to English language readers of the Bible over some 400 years).

The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew Bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1K 14:23; 2K 17:10) and is made of wood by human beings (1K 14:15, 2K 16:3-4).

Trees described as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles, and willows.

Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as “the mother of all living” in Genesis through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat.

Asherah poles

Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible. However, it was prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code which commanded “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God”.


An Irminsul (Old Saxon ‘great pillar’) was a sacred pillar-like object attested as playing an important role in the Germanic paganism of the Saxons. Medieval sources describe how an Irminsul was destroyed by Charlemagne during the Saxon Wars.

Sacred trees and sacred groves were widely venerated by the Germanic peoples (including Donar’s Oak), and the oldest chronicle describing an Irminsul refers to it as a tree trunk erected in the open air.


A lingam (lit. “sign, symbol or mark”), sometimes referred to as linga or Shiva linga, is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Hindu deity Shiva in Shaivism. It is a votary symbol revered in temples, smaller shrines, or as self-manifested natural objects. It is a religious symbol in Hinduism representing Shiva as the generative power, all of existence, all creativity and fertility at every cosmic level.

The lingam is often represented within a lipped, disc-shaped platform that is an emblem of goddess Shakti and this is called the yoni. Together they symbolize the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, and “the totality of all existence”.

Lingayats wear a lingam inside a necklace, called Ishtalinga. Lingam is additionally found in Sanskrit texts with the meaning of “evidence, proof” of God and God’s existence. 

Lingam iconography found at archaeological sites of the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia includes simple cylinders set inside a yoni, rounded pillars with carvings such as of one or more mukha (faces), and anatomically realistic representations of a phallus such as at Gudimallam.

Aphrodite – Adonis 

The cult of Dumuzid was later spread to the Levant and to Greece, where he became known under the West Semitic name Adonis, the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite in Greek mythology. In Ovid’s first-century AD telling of the myth, he was conceived after Aphrodite cursed his mother Myrrha to lust after her own father, King Cinyras of Cyprus.

Myrrha had sex with her father in complete darkness for nine nights, but he discovered her identity and chased her with a sword. The gods transformed her into a myrrh tree and, in the form of a tree, she gave birth to Adonis.

Aphrodite found the infant and gave him to be raised by Persephone, the queen of the Underworld. Adonis grew into an astonishingly handsome young man, causing Aphrodite and Persephone to feud over him.

Zeus eventually decreeing that Adonis would spend one third of the year in the Underworld with Persephone, one third of the year with Aphrodite, and the final third of the year with whomever he chose. Adonis chose to spend his final third of the year with Aphrodite.

The Greek name Adonis is derived from the Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning “lord”. This word is related to Adonai, one of the titles used to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day.

Cybele – Attis

Cybele (perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess. She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its national deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BC.

She may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations dated to the 6th millennium BC and identified by some as a mother goddess.

In Greece, as in Phrygia, she was a “Mistress of animals” (Potnia Therōn), with her mastery of the natural world expressed by the lions that flank her, sit in her lap or draw her chariot. She was readily assimilated to the Minoan-Greek earth-mother Rhea, “Mother of the gods”, whose raucous, ecstatic rites she may have acquired.


Rhea or Rheia is a character in Greek mythology, the Titaness daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus as well as sister and wife to Cronus. In early traditions, she is known as “the mother of gods” and therefore is strongly associated with Gaia and Cybele, who have similar functions.

The classical Greeks saw her as the mother of the Olympian gods and goddesses, but not as an Olympian goddess in her own right. The Romans identified her with Magna Mater (their form of Cybele), and the Goddess Ops.

Uranus (meaning “sky” or “heaven”) was the primal Greek god personifying the sky and one of the Greek primordial deities. Uranus is associated with the Roman god Caelus.

In Ancient Greek literature, Uranus or Father Sky was the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Uranus was conceived by Gaia alone, but other sources cite Aether as his father.

Uranus and Gaia were the parents of the first generation of Titans, and the ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult addressed directly to Uranus survived into Classical times.

Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Elemental Earth, Sky, and Styx might be joined, however, in a solemn invocation in Homeric epic.

As an exemplar of devoted motherhood, Cybele was partly assimilated to the grain-goddess Demeter, whose torchlight procession recalled her search for her lost daughter, Persephone.

Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, a Phrygian god of vegetation. In his self-mutilation, death and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.


Ishara is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. Ishara is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deity, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon. From the Hurrian pantheon, Ishara entered the Hittite pantheon.

Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath.

She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars). She was invoked to heal the sick.

In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.

Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”.


Hausos is the reconstructed name for the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn. She is thought to have been envisioned as the daughter of Dyeus. The epithet “daughter of heaven” remains in nearly all Indo-European mythologies.

Derivatives of this goddess, found throughout various Indo-European mythologies, include the Greek goddess Eos, the Roman goddess Aurōra, the Vedic goddess Uṣás, and the (West) Germanic goddess *Austrǭ (Old English Ēostre, Old High German *Ōstara).

The Dawn Goddess is hypothesised to have been one of the most important deities to the Proto-Indo-Europeans, due to the consistency of her characterisation as well as the relevance of Ushas in the Rig Veda.

Her attributes have not only been mixed with those of solar goddesses in some later traditions, but have subsequently expanded and influenced female deities in other mythologies.

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T / D (S) – Dingir, Dyeus, Tian, Shen

Posted by Fredsvenn on May 22, 2019

Dingir (𒀭, usually transliterated DIĜIR) is a Sumerian word for “god.” Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna.

The cuneiform sign by itself was originally an ideogram for the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”); its use was then extended to a logogram for the word diĝir (“god” or goddess) and the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon An, and a phonogram for the syllable /an/. Akkadian took over all these uses and added to them a logographic reading for the native ilum and from that a syllabic reading of /il/. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.

The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.

Dyēus or Dyēus Phter (Proto-Indo-European: *dyḗws ph₂tḗr, also *Dyḗus Ph2tḗr, *Dyḗus Pḥatḗr, or Dyēus Pətḗr, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in Proto-Indo-European society.

Tiān (天) is one of the oldest Chinese terms for heaven and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang dynasty (17–11th centuries BCE), the Chinese referred to their supreme god as Shàngdì (上帝, “Lord on High”) or Dì (帝,”Lord”). During the following Zhou dynasty, Tiān became synonymous with this figure. Heaven worship was, before the 20th century, an orthodox state religion of China.

In Taoism and Confucianism, Tiān (the celestial aspect of the cosmos, often translated as “Heaven”) is mentioned in relationship to its complementary aspect of Dì (地, often translated as “Earth”). These two aspects of Daoist cosmology are representative of the dualistic nature of Taoism.

They are thought to maintain the two poles of the Three Realms (三界) of reality, with the middle realm occupied by Humanity (人, Rén), and the lower world occupied by demons (魔, Mó) as false gods or idols and ghosts (鬼, Guǐ) as disembodied souls, spirits of the deceased of faint shadowy semblance to only reveal an image not clearly substantial.

Shen (神) is the Chinese word for “god”, “deity”, “spirit” or theos. This single Chinese term expresses a range of similar, yet differing, meanings. The first meaning may refer to spirits or gods that are intimately involved in the affairs of the world. Spirits generate entities like rivers, mountains, thunder and stars.

A second meaning of shen refers to the human spirit or psyche; it is the basic power or agency within humans that accounts for life, and in order to further life to its fullest potential the spirit must be grown and cultivated. A third understanding of shen describes an entity as spiritual in the sense of inspiring awe or wonder because it combines categories usually kept separate, or it cannot be comprehended through normal concepts.

Shen plays a central role in Christian translational disputes over Chinese terms for God. Among the early Chinese “god; God” names, shangdi 上帝 or di was the Shang term, tian 天 was the Zhou term, and shen was a later usage (see Feng Yu-Lan 1952:22–6, 30–1). Modern terms for “God” include shangdi, zhu 主, tianzhu 天主 (esp. Catholics), and shen 神 (esp. Protestants).

A starting point for an understanding of shen is the meeting place of Heaven and Earth, which is mankind. Heaven is the origin of the spiritual aspect of humanity and provides ongoing spiritual influences, while Earth is the origin of the physical aspect of humankind. The ongoing harmonious interaction of Heaven and Earth in man is essential to maintaining life. In Chinese religious tradition, balancing yin and yang is important to provide organization of life and prevent harm to body and spirit.

The Chinese language has many compounds of shen. For instance, it is compounded with tian 天 “sky; heaven; nature; god” in tianshen 天神 “celestial spirits; heavenly gods; deities; (Buddhism) deva”, with shan 山 “mountain” in shanshen 山神 “mountain spirit”, and hua 話 “speech; talk; saying; story” in shenhua 神話 “mythology; myth; fairy tale”. Several shen “spirit; god” compounds use names for other supernatural beings, for example, ling 靈 “spirit; soul” in shenling 神靈 “gods; spirits, various deities”, qi 祇 “earth spirit” in shenqi 神祇 “celestial and terrestrial spirits”, xian 仙 “Xian (Taoism), transcendent” in shenxian 神仙 “spirits and immortals; divine immortal”, guai 怪 “spirit; devil; monster” in shenguai 神怪 “spirits and demons; gods and spirits”, and gui 鬼 “ghost, goblin; demon, devil” in guishen 鬼神 “ghosts and spirits; supernatural beings”.

The earliest discovered character form for shen suggests two components. The right side of the character gives the basic meaning and pronunciation, as well as providing a graphic representation of flashing lightning from the clouds. This visual displays ancient people’s belief that lightning was the manifestation of god. The left side displays a modified character shi which pertains to ritual ceremonies, worship, or prayer. This concept originally referred to stone table used for offering ceremonial sacrifices to the gods.

The earliest written forms of shen 神 “spirit; god” occur in Zhou dynasty bronzeware script and Qin dynasty seal script characters (compare the variants shown on the “Chinese etymology” link below). Although 神 has not been identified in Shang dynasty oracle bone script records, the phonetic shen 申 has.

Paleographers interpret the Oracle script of 申 as a pictograph of a “lightning bolt”. This was graphically differentiated between dian 電 “lightning; electricity” with the “cloud radical” and shen 神 with the “worship radical”, semantically suggesting both “lightning” and “spirits” coming down from the heavens.

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