Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The snake and the serpopard

Posted by Fredsvenn on July 29, 2014

 

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Naga

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Narmer Palette, Egypt

Jiroft

Tepe Giyan

About serpentine Deities of resurrection, about mainly

Nin-ĝišzida, the ‘Lady of the Good Tree’ literally translated, using evocative imagery from Indian Naga cults which still are the exact same as their Sumerian and Elamite cousins of former times, about their power over seven headed serpents and dragons…about time.

The serpopard

The serpopard is a term applied by some modern researchers to what is described as a mythical animal known from Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian depictions. This term is not used in any original texts, and is an interpretation made only recently.

The “serpopard” has been defined as a cross between a serpent and leopard and is supposed to feature the body of the latter, and a long neck and head representing the former.

The image generally is classified as a feline, and with close inspection resembles an unusually long-necked lioness. It bears the characteristic tuft of the species at the end of the tail, there are no spots, the round-eared head most closely resembles the lioness rather than a serpent, because serpents do not have ears, and there are no typical serpent features such as scales, tongue, or head shape.

The image is featured specifically on decorated cosmetic palettes from the Pre-Dynastic Period of Egypt, and more extensively, as design motifs on cylinder seals in the Protoliterate Period of Mesopotamia (circa 3500-3000 BCE). Depictions of fantastic animals also are known from Elam and Mesopotamia, as well as many other cultures.

Similar images of such mythical animals are known from other contemporaneous cultures, and there are other examples of late-predynastic objects (including other palettes and knife handles) which borrow similar elements from Mesopotamian iconography.

Ningishzida

In Mesopotamia, the use of these “serpent-necked lions” and other animals and animal hybrids are thought to be “manifestations of the chthonic aspect of the god of natural vitality, who is manifest in all life breaking forth from the earth”. He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head.

Ningishzida (Sumerian: nin-g̃iš-zid-da), a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld, is the earliest known symbol of snakes twining (some say copulation) around an axial rod. It predates the Caduceus of Hermes, the Rod of Asclepius and the staff of Moses by more than a millennium. One Greek myth of origin of the caduceus is part of the story of Tiresias, who found two snakes copulating and killed the female with his staff.

Lagash had a temple dedicated to Ningishzida, and Gudea, patesi of Lagash in the 21st century BC (short chronology), was one of his devotees. In the Louvre, there is a famous green steatite vase carved for king Gudea of Lagash, dedicated by its inscription: “To the god Ningiszida, his god Gudea, Ensi (governor) of Lagash, for the prolongation of his life, has dedicated this”. Ningishzida was one of the ancestors of Gilgamesh.

In some texts Ningishzida is said to be female, which means “Nin” would then refer to Lady, which is mostly how the word is used by the Sumerians. His title is that of ‘Nin’, a feminine determinative and generally translated as ‘Lady’. Despite this Nin-ĝišzida is generally translated as ‘Lord of the Good Tree’ (which would be ‘En’).

In Sumerian mythology, Ningishzida appears in Adapa’s myth as one of the two guardians of Anu’s celestial palace, alongside Tammuz or Dumuzi (Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), Sumerian: Dumu, “child, son” + Zi(d), “faithful, true”).

Tammuz was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Locations associated in antiquity with the site of his death include both Harran and Byblos, among others.

In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.

The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort. The Aramaic name “Tammuz” seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid. The later standard Sumerian form, Dumu-zid, in turn became Dumuzi in Akkadian. Tamuzi also is Dumuzid or Dumuzi.

Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.

Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year .

His wife is Azimua, one of the eight deities born to relieve the illness of Enki, and also Geshtinanna/Ngeshtin-ana, a minor goddess in Sumerian mythology, the so-called “heavenly grape-vine”, while his sister is Amashilama.

Geshtinanna is the daughter of Enki and Ninhursag and the sister of Dumuzi. In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’.

Her hair is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”, possibly a reference to the site of her temple, the E-Kur (House of mountain deeps) at Eridu. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).

According to legend her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.

Some of the names above were once associated with independent goddesses (such as Ninmah and Ninmenna), who later became identified and merged with Ninhursag, and myths exist in which the name Ninhursag is not mentioned.

As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife). She had many epithets including shassuru or ‘womb goddess’, tabsut ili ‘midwife of the gods’, ‘mother of all children’ and ‘mother of the gods’. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.

Geshtinanna is involved in the account of Dumuzi trying to escape his fate at the hands of Inanna and Ereshkigal. When Dumuzi died, Geshtinanna lamentated days and nights. In her house he is changed into a gazelle before being caught and transported to the underworld. After her death, she became the goddess of wine and cold seasons. She is a divine poet and interpreter of dreams.

A Sumerian tablet from Nippur reads: She can make the lament for you, my Dumuzid, the lament for you, the lament, the lamentation, reach the desert — she can make it reach the house Arali; she can make it reach Bad-tibira; she can make it reach Dul-šuba; she can make it reach the shepherding country, the sheepfold of Dumuzid “O Dumuzid of the fair-spoken mouth, of the ever kind eyes,” she sobs tearfully, “O you of the fair-spoken mouth, of the ever kind eyes,” she sobs tearfully. “Lad, husband, lord, sweet as the date, […] O Dumuzid!” she sobs, she sobs tearfully.

The Adapa myth refers to the serpent god Ningizzida as a male. In trying to figure why this was so Sumerologists draw a blank and simply consider that this was the case with other male Deities (generally conceived by En-lil within the Underworld) and so perhaps it meant little. However what the ‘Nin’ title indicates is the Underworld origins of such Deities, were the black Underworld is personified as Feminine, they emerge from below and hey presto they are Masculine.

Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga (Parvati). The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death: Shiva.

Since Shiva is called Kāla— the eternal time — the name of Kālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in “time has come”). Hence, Kāli is the Goddess of Time and Change.

Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation of evil forces still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman.

Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess. Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. Shiva lies in the path of Kali, whose foot on Shiva subdues her anger.

The Underworld aspect of Nin-ĝišzida was serpentine, the roots of the good tree that he represented, the sign for tree root, ‘arina’, which consists of two crossed signs for serpent (MUŠ)this understood as a vast underground network and source of power, as in any forest were all is inter-connected at root level, a natural inter-net of sorts.

The cultic centre of Ningišzida was rural Gišbanda (also a chapel in é-anna at Uruk) meaning “Young Tree”,between Ur and Lagaš in southern Sumer, his father was Nin-azu son of Ereskigal [variant tradition, of Enlil/Ninlil] serpentine and born within the Underworld, spouse of Nin-girda a daughter of Enki, and thus Ningišzida had family connection across the Sumerian pantheon divide.

‘O primeval place, deep mountain founded in an artful fashion, shrine, terrifying place lying in a pasture, a dread whose lofty ways none can fathom, Ĝišbanda, neck-stock, meshed net, shackles of the great underworld from which none can escape, your exterior is raised up, prominent like a snare, your interior is where the sun rises, endowed with wide-spreading plenty. Your prince is the prince who stretches out his pure hand, the holy one of heaven, with luxuriant and abundant hair hanging at his back, Nin-ĝišzida.

Ningishzida is sometimes the son of Ninazu and Ningiridda, even though the myth Ningishzidda’s journey to the netherworld suggests he is the son of Ereshkigal. Following an inscription found at Lagash, he was the son of Anu, the heavens.

Nin-ĝišzida was understood as having a child named Damu, in terms of family continuity Nin-azu would infer ‘ knowing the waters’, followed by ‘ of the Good Tree’, and Damu the child,” power in the sap that rises in trees and bushes in the spring.”, there is of course also sexual associations in all of this, were the serpent was a metaphor for a penis often.

The connectivity with En-Ki and the waters of the Abzu of great importance in the generation of the sacred tree, but also the connectivity to En-lil, Lord of the Wind, important in determining this generation as an act of the will, and the particular spiritual qualities of Nin-ĝišzida.

Lord with holy dignity, imbued with great savage awesomeness! My king, Ningiszida, imbued with great savage awesomeness! Hero, falcon preying on the gods, my king — dignified, with sparkling eyes, fully equipped with arrows and quiver, impetuous leopard, murderous, howling dragon.

It is such qualities that have given Nin-ĝišzida a particular reputation, however there is a marked difference between the serpentine Underworld associations of the roots and those of the firm and upright tree above ground, this as the staff of rule that when thrown to the ground is as a wriggling serpent, held above ground that of weighty, fair, upright and absolute judgement..Ningiszida, your mouth is that of a snake with a great tongue, a magician…anyone who went against could expect a bite from the vengeful serpent Goddess Nin-Ki, hence serpents associated with boundary stones and contracts.

It is such qualities that have given Nin-ĝišzida a particular reputation, however there is a marked difference between the serpentine Underworld associations of the roots and those of the firm and upright tree above ground, this as the staff of rule that when thrown to the ground is as a wriggling serpent, held above ground that of weighty, fair, upright and absolute judgement.. Ningiszida, your mouth is that of a snake with a great tongue, a magician…anyone who went against could expect a bite from the vengeful serpent Goddess Nin-Ki, hence serpents associated with boundary stones and contracts.

Shepherd, you understand how to keep a check on the black-headed. The sheep and lambs come to seek you out, and you understand how to wield the sceptre over the goats and kids, into the distant future. Ningiszida, you understand how to wield the sceptre, into the distant future

In such judgement he could be expected to be impartial.

You should not say to Ningishzida: “Let me live!”…Sumerian Proverb

These qualities are also strongly evidenced in the serpent cult of Ištar-ān which was located in the border region between Sumer and Elam, Ištar-ān as Venus-Morning star an epitaph of Nin-ĝišzida as seen in his descent into the Underworld narrative, were his sister asks to sail with him on the Dragon boat into the Underworld, were the skipper of the Dragon boat (Hydra constellation) is Nin-Sirsir, ‘the slithering one’;

My young man Damu, let me sail away with you, brother let me sail away with you. Ištar-ān of the bright visage, let me sail away with you,… Nin-ĝišzida , let me sail away with you

It can of course not be denied that Ninazu and Ningišzida are Sumerian gods, but the evidence suggests that their ophidian traits were developed under the influence of transtigridian religious ideas. In fact, as has been repeatedly shown, a religious interest in snakes in these regions goes back deep into prehistory and through the ages remains quite visible in the iconography of Elam and the Iranian mountains.

Of course dragons emerging from the Underworld is something people naturally worry about, but Nin-ĝišzida in the context of Sumerian religion was understood as harnessing those mighty forces of nature toward generative purpose and countering evil aspects through establishment of order.

Ištaran

Ištaran (also Gusilim) was the local god of the city of Der, a Sumerian city-state at the site of modern Tell Aqar near al-Badra in Iraq’s Wasit Governorate. It was east of the Tigris River on the border between Sumer and Elam. Its name was possibly Durum.

His cult flourished from the Early Dynastic III Period until the Middle Babylonian Period, after which his name is no longer attested in the personal names of individuals.

Although his three main traits are that of a dying god, an arbitrator and judge, and a chthonic snake god, he is also related with the sky: he is Venus (Ištar-ān) and one of his names is An-gal/Anû rabû “Great An.” He appears with the lower body of a winding snake.

Ištar-ān had a most unfortunate end in his sacrificial aspect, in that he was taken to the Temple precinct of his sister Istar and had all of the blood beaten out of him to nourish the Underworld, whilst she watched and lamented.

The cult of Nin-ĝišzida then either derived from or assimilated that of Ištar-ān, but the relationship is interesting as to why the Sumerians needed two Gods of resurrection, and generally kept them seperate despite similarities.

In some ways Dumuzid is a victim of fate which he tries to avoid, his roots are not in the Underworld, as a son of En-ki he is an unwilling victim within the greater scheme of things, with Nin-ĝišzida it is simply his will and nature to emerge from the depths like a dragon…”When your great word comes to the earth, you are indeed a great mušhuššu.”

The beast and symbol of Ištaran, as frequently represented on kudurrus, is a snake (presumably representing Nirah, “Little snake”, a minor male chthonic deity, the snake god who acted as Ištaran’s minister and who carried the title The radiant god and The son of the house of Der”). He appears with the lower body of a winding snake.

Ištaran is a male deity associated with justice. This role can be inferred from his assertion of the borders of Umma and Lagaš, while Gudea (ca. 2144-2124 BCE), the ruler of Girsu, said of himself, “I justly decide the lawsuits of my city like Ištaran”.

In the poems praising the Ur III king, Šulgi (2094-2047 BCE), his justice is “comparable to that of Ištaran”, and a song to Nergal praises the god thus: “Like Ištaran … you reach correct judgments”.

There is a suggestion of an ophidian nature of Ištaran. Depictions from the Akkadian period show a snake-like form, an element which may have later split off and become Nirah, Ištaran’s messenger, whose logogram was dMUŠ, or dMUŠ.TUR, ‘snake’ and ‘little snake’ respectively. Further, a Kurigalzu dated brick from Der shows a snake above the inscription, which mentions Dagan.

Although his three main traits are that of a dying god, an arbitrator and judge, and a chthonic snake god, he is also related with the sky: He is Venus (Ištar-ān). Ištaran is often equated with Anu rabû “Great Anu” and in the Babylonian Chronicles relating to Esarhaddon (680-669 BCE) the usual writing for his name is replaced with AN.GAL.

Both these factors place Ištaran high in the pantheon. In the god list, AN = Anum, Ištaran is assigned a vizier Qudmu, a counsellor Rasu, a son Zizanu, and two standing gods Turma and Itur-matiššu. While the god-list AN = Anum does not attest a spouse, Šarrat-Deri, “Queen of Der”, or Deritum, seems to be Ištaran’s wife at the time of Esarhaddon.

Ištaran was the chief deity of Der (Logogram: BAD.AN), Tell al-‘Aqar, near modern Badra, which is on the ancient border between Mesopotamia and Elam. Ištaran’s cult in Der is attested in the Babylonian Chronicle’s references to the time of Esarhaddon, and the cult at Der may have continued into the Seleucid period (312-63 BCE).

A stamped brick of the Kassite king Kurigalzu II (1332-1308 BCE), which was found near Badra, records the renewal of a temple of Ištaran, the é-dim-gal-kal-am-ma, “House, great bond of the land”, and in the Sumerian text The Temple Hymns, Ištaran’s temple is similarly said to be located in Der.

In the Early Dynastic period (2900-2350 BCE) there may have been a cultic installation on the border between Umma and Lagaš because the border between these two regions was said to be fixed “in accordance with the command of Ištaran”.

In Early Dynastic Lagaš and Umma Ištaran is invoked in personal names. This practice continues through the third millennium, e.g., Simat-Ištaran, “Symbol of Ištaran”, the sister of the Ur III king Šu-Suen (2037-2029 BCE). Similar attestations are found until the end of the Kassite Dynasty (1374-1159 BCE).

There are references to this deity’s beautiful face in Sumerian literature, “Ištaran of the bright visage”, while other depictions reflect his snake-like nature.

The reading of the logographic writing KA.DI is now well established as Ištaran, but it was previously misread Gusilim and Sat(a)ran. Ištaran has an Emesal variant Ez(z)eran, and an Akkadian variant Iltaran (Lambert 1976-80a).

Egypt

Similarly to other ancient peoples, the Egyptians are known for their very accurate depictions of the creatures they observed. Their composite creatures, assembled for deities who had become merged in religious concepts, have very recognizable features of the animals originally representing those deities merged.

Lionesses played an important role in the religious concepts of both Upper and Lower Egypt, and are likely to have been designated as animals associated with protection and royalty. Upper and Lower Egypt each worshipped lioness war goddesses as protectors; the intertwined necks of the serpopards may thus represent the unification of the state.

The long necks may be a simple exaggeration, used as a framing feature in an artistic motif, either forming the cosmetic mixing area as in the Narmer Palette, also known as the Great Hierakonpolis Palette or the Palette of Narmer, a significant Egyptian archeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC, containing some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found, or surrounding it as in the Small Palette of Nekhen (Hierakonopolis).

Wadjet

An early depiction of Wadjet (Egyptian wḏyt, “green one”), known to the Greek world as Uto or Buto among other names, is as a cobra entwined around a papyrus stem, beginning in the Predynastic era (prior to 3100 B.C.) and it is thought to be the first image that shows a single snake entwined around a staff symbol – in this case a papyrus reed (refer to first glyph): Wadjet Hieroglyph.

This is a sacred image that appeared repeatedly in the later images and myths of cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, called the caduceus, which may have had separate origins.

Her image also rears up from the staff of the “flag” poles that are used to indicate deities, as seen in the hieroglyph for uraeus above and for goddess in other places. Wadjet is not to be confused with the Egyptian demon Apep, an evil god in ancient Egyptian religion depicted as a snake/serpent and a dragon, the deification of darkness and chaos (ı͗zft in Egyptian), and thus opponent of light and Ma’at (order/truth), whose existence was believed from the 8th Dynasty (mentioned at Moalla) onwards.

The image of Wadjet, the serpent Goddess of Lower Egypt from the Pre-dynastic period, with the sun disk formed the royal crown, the Uraeus, worn by the rulers of Lower Egypt, and it was the emblem on the crown of the rulers of Lower Egypt. It encircled their heads and the cobra flare and head extended from their foreheads.

Her name means “papyrus-colored one”, as wadj is the ancient Egyptian word for the color green (in reference to the color of the papyrus plant) and the et is an indication of her gender, and is derived from the term for the symbol of her domain, Lower Egypt, the papyrus.

Its hieroglyphs differ from those of the Green Crown (Red Crown) of Lower Egypt only by the determinative, which in the case of the crown was a picture of the Green Crown and, in the case of the goddess, a rearing cobra.

The ancient Egyptian word Wedjat signifies blue and green. It is also the name for the well known Eye of the Moon. Indeed, in later times, she was often depicted simply as a woman with a snake’s head, or as a woman wearing the uraeus. The uraeus originally had been her body alone, which wrapped around or was coiled upon the head of the pharaoh or another deity

She was originally the ancient local goddess of the city of Dep (Buto), which became part of the city that the Egyptians named Per-Wadjet, House of Wadjet, a city that was an important site in the Predynastic era of Ancient Egypt and the cultural developments of the Paleolithic.

As the patron goddess, she was associated with the land and depicted as a snake-headed woman or a snake—usually an Egyptian cobra, a venomous snake common to the region; sometimes she was depicted as a woman with two snake heads and, at other times, a snake with a woman’s head.

As patron and protector, later Wadjet often was shown coiled upon the head of Ra; in order to act as his protection, this image of her became the uraeus symbol used on the royal crowns as well.

An annual festival held in the city celebrated Wadjet. The Going Forth of Wadjet was celebrated on December 25 with chants and songs. An annual festival held in the city celebrated Wadjet on April 21. Other important dates for special worship of her were June 21, the Summer Solstice, and March 14. She also was assigned the fifth hour of the fifth day of the moon.

Buto, Butus, or Butosus, now Tell al-Fara’in (Pharaohs’ Mound) near the city of Desouk, was an ancient city located 95 km east of Alexandria in the Nile Delta of Egypt. The city stood on the Sebennytic arm of the Nile, near its mouth, and on the southern shore of the Butic Lake. Buto originally was two cities, Pe and Dep, which merged into one city that the Egyptians named Per-Wadjet. It is the modern Kem Kasir.

Her oracle was located in her renowned temple in that city, Per-Wadjet, which was dedicated to her worship and gave the city its name. This oracle may have been the source for the oracular tradition that spread to Greece from Egypt.

An interpretation of the Milky Way was that it was the primal snake, Wadjet, the protector of Egypt. In this interpretation she was closely associated with Hathor and other early deities among the various aspects of the great mother goddess, including Mut and Naunet.

The association with Hathor brought her son Horus into association also. Per-Wadjet also contained a sanctuary of Horus, the child of the sun deity who would be interpreted to represent the pharaoh.

The cult of Ra absorbed most of Horus’s traits and included the protective eye of Wadjet that had shown her association with Hathor. She became a sun goddess whose eye later became the eye of Horus or the eye of Ra.

She later became closely associated with the war goddess of Lower Egypt, Bast (Bastet), the fierce goddess depicted as a lioness warrior and protector who acted as another figure symbolic of the nation, consequently becoming Wadjet-Bast. In this role, since Bast was a lioness, Wadjet-Bast was often depicted with a lioness head. Wadjet as Wadjet-Bast, depicted as the body of a woman with a lioness head, wearing the uraeus.

When identified as the protector of Ra, who was also a sun deity associated with heat and fire, she was sometimes said to be able to send fire onto those who might attack, just as the cobra spits poison into the eyes of its enemies. In this role she was called the Lady of Flame.

After Lower Egypt had been conquered by Upper Egypt and they were unified, the lioness goddess of Upper Egypt, Sekhmet, was seen as the more powerful of the two warrior goddesses. It was Sekhmet who was seen as the Avenger of Wrongs, and the Scarlet Lady, a reference to blood, as the one with bloodlust. She is depicted with the solar disk and Wadjet, however.

Eventually, Wadjet’s position as patron led to her being identified as the more powerful goddess Mut, whose cult had come to the fore in conjunction with rise of the cult of Amun, and eventually being absorbed into her as the Mut-Wadjet-Bast triad.

When the pairing of deities occurred in later Egyptian myths, since she was linked to the land, after the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt she came to be thought of as the wife of Hapy, a deity of the Nile, which flowed through the land.

Wadjet, as the goddess of Lower Egypt, had a big temple at the ancient Imet (now Tell Nebesha) in the Nile Delta. She was worshipped in the area as the ‘Lady of Imet’. Later she was joined by Min and Horus to form a triad of deities. This was based on an Osiriac model identified elsewhere in Egypt.

Archaeological evidence shows that Upper Egyptian culture replaced the Buto-culture at the delta when Upper and Lower Egypt were unified, and the replacement is considered important evidence for the unification of the two portions of Egypt into one entity.

At that time Wadjet, considered the patron deity of Lower Egypt, joined Nekhbet, who was represented as a white vulture and held the same position as the patron of Upper Egypt, and together they were known as the two ladies who were the patrons of the unified Egypt. The image of Nekhbet joined Wadjet on the Uraeus that would encircle the crown of the pharaohs who ruled the unified Egypt.

Iran

The ancient culture of Bactria along the Amu Darya river (now in Afghanistan), the Margiana culture along the Murghab river (now in Turkmenistan), the proto-Iranian culture in the deserts south of the Caspian all reveal enough strong parallels in ornamentation that some archeologists have grouped them into one of the following appellations: Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex (BMAC), Outer Iranian culture, or proto-Iranian culture.

Whether the shared cultural items and ornamental motifs arrived through exchange or whether they were brought into new areas by immigrants is still being debated by the scholars.

Nāga

Nāga is the Sanskrit and Pāli word for a deity or class of entity or being, taking the form of a very great snake—specifically the king cobra, found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. A female Nāga is a nāgī or nāgiṇī.

In Sanskrit, a nāgá is a cobra, the Indian cobra (Naja naja). A synonym for nāgá is phaṇin. There are several words for “snake” in general, and one of the very commonly used ones is sarpá. Sometimes the word nāgá is also used generically to mean “snake”. The word is cognate with English ‘snake’, Germanic: *snēk-a-, Proto-IE: *(s)nēg-o-.

Nehushtan

Snake cults had been well established in Canaan in the Bronze Age: archaeologists have uncovered serpent cult objects in Bronze Age strata at several pre-Israelite cities in Canaan: two at Megiddo, one at Gezer, one in the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies) of the Area H temple at Hazor, and two at Shechem.

The Nehushtan in the Hebrew Bible was a sacred object in the form of a snake of brass upon a pole. The priestly source of the Torah says that Moses used a ‘fiery serpent’ to cure the Israelites from snakebites. (Numbers 21:4-9)

King Hezekiah (reigned 715/716 – 687 BCE) instituted a religious iconoclastic reform and destroyed “the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did offer to it; and it was called Nehushtan.” (2 Kings 18:4) The tradition of naming it Nehushtan is no older than the time of Hezekiah.

According to Lowell K. Handy, the Nehushtan was originally the symbol of a minor god of snakebite-cure within the Temple. The name of this god is unknown; however, the use of “brazen serpent” is a subtle play on words that are based on the metal that the snake is made of: nachash means “serpent”, while nechoshet means “brass” or “bronze”.

The Serpent of bronze in Numbers 21 is a well known image for Christians because of its use by Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus discussed his destiny with a Jewish teacher named Nicodemus by referencing a passage in Chukat of the Torah.

Jesus gave a direct comparison between the raising up of the Son of Man and the act of the Mosaic serpent being raised up. Charles Spurgeon asserted that in this passage, Jesus was referring to his forthcoming crucifixion, and demonstrating the significance of the cross as spiritual healing from the curse of sin.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life – (John 3:14-15).

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