Dying and rising god
The Ceramic Neolithic Halafian culture (6500–4500 BC) 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.
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.
The Halaf period was succeeded by the Halaf-Ubaid Transitional period (~5500 – 5200 cal. BCE) and then by the Ubaid period (~5200 – 4000 cal. BCE).
Ubaid culture originated in the south, but still has clear connections to earlier cultures in the region of middle Iraq. In South Mesopotamia the period is the earliest known period on the alluvium although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the alluvium. In the south it has a very long duration between about 6500 and 3800 BC when it is replaced by the Uruk period.
The Ubaid period as a whole, based upon the analysis of grave goods, was one of increasingly polarised social stratification and decreasing egalitarianism. Bogucki describes this as a phase of “Trans-egalitarian” competitive households, in which some fall behind as a result of downward social mobility.
Morton Fried and Elman Service have hypothesized that Ubaid culture saw the rise of an elite class of hereditary chieftains, perhaps heads of kin groups linked in some way to the administration of the temple shrines and their granaries, responsible for mediating intra-group conflict and maintaining social order.
It would seem that various collective methods, perhaps instances of what Thorkild Jacobsen called primitive democracy, in which disputes were previously resolved through a council of one’s peers, were no longer sufficient for the needs of the local community.
The appearance of the Ubaid folk has sometimes been linked to the so-called Sumerian problem, related to the origins of Sumerian civilisation. But whatever the ethnic origins of this group this culture saw for the first time a clear tripartite social division between intensive subsistence peasant farmers with crops and animals coming from the north, tent-dwelling nomadic pastoralists dependent upon their herds, and hunter-fisher folk of the Arabian littoral, living in reed huts.
Stein and Özbal describe the Near East oikumene that resulted from Ubaid expansion, contrasting it to the colonial expansionism of the later Uruk period.
“A contextual analysis comparing different regions shows that the Ubaid expansion took place largely through the peaceful spread of an ideology, leading to the formation of numerous new indigenous identities that appropriated and transformed superficial elements of Ubaid material culture into locally distinct expressions.”
The Ubaid 1 period, sometimes called Eridu (5300–4700 BC), is a phase limited to the extreme south of Iraq on what was then the shores of the Persian Gulf. It shows clear connection to the Samarra culture to the north.
This period 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.
The Ubaid 2 period (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 centralized coordination of labor in Mesopotamia.
The Ubaid 3 and 4 period (4500–4000 BC), sometimes called Ubaid I and Ubaid II, saw a period of intense and rapid urbanisation with the Ubaid culture spread into northern Mesopotamia replacing (after a hiatus) the Halaf culture.
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 and succeeded by the Late Chalcolithic period.
Shulaveri-Shomu culture is a Late Neolithic/Eneolithic culture that existed on the territory of present-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and the Armenian Highlands. The culture is dated to mid-6th or early-5th millennia BC and is thought to be one of the earliest known Neolithic cultures.
The Shulaveri-Shomu culture begins after the 8.2 kiloyear event which was a sudden decrease in global temperatures starting ca. 6200 BC and which lasted for about two to four centuries.
Shulaveri culture predates the Kura-Araxes culture and surrounding areas, which is assigned to the period of ca. 4000 – 2200 BC, and had close relation with the middle Bronze Age culture called Trialeti culture (ca. 3000 – 1500 BC). Sioni culture of Eastern Georgia possibly represents a transition from the Shulaveri to the Kura-Arax cultural complex.
In around ca. 6000–4200 B.C the Shulaveri-Shomu and other Neolithic/Chalcolithic cultures of the Southern Caucasus use local obsidian for tools, raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and grow crops, including grapes.
Many of the characteristic traits of the Shulaverian material culture (circular mudbrick architecture, pottery decorated by plastic design, anthropomorphic female figurines, obsidian industry with an emphasis on production of long prismatic blades) are believed to have their origin in the Near Eastern Neolithic (Hassuna, Halaf).
Evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the second half of the 4th millennium BC, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia (Sumerian civilization), the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe, so that the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle is still unsolved.
The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC, which has traditionally been regarded as the date of its end, but it may have disappeared as early as 2600 or 2700 BC.
The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain; thence it spread northward in Caucasus by 3000 BC (but never reaching Colchis), and during the next millennium it proceeded westward to the Erzurum plain, southwest to Cilicia, and to the southeast into an area below the Urmia basin and Lake Van, and finally down to the borders of present day Syria.
The economy was based on farming and livestock-raising (especially of cattle and sheep). They grew grain and various orchard crops, and are known to have used implements to make flour. They raised cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and in its later phases, horses.
There is evidence of trade with Mesopotamia, as well as Asia Minor. It is, however, considered above all to be indigenous to the Caucasus, and its major variants characterized (according to Caucasus historian Amjad Jaimoukha) later major cultures in the region.
It may have given rise to the later Khirbet Kerak ware culture found in Syria and Canaan after the fall of the Akkadian Empire. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.
They are also remarkable for the production of wheeled vehicles (wagons and carts), which were sometimes included in burial kurgans. Their metal goods were widely distributed, recorded in the Volga, Dnieper and Don-Donets systems in the north, into Syria and Palestine in the south, and west into Anatolia.
Hurrian and Urartian elements are quite probable, as are Northeast Caucasian ones. Some authors subsume Hurrians and Urartians under Northeast Caucasian as well as part of the Alarodian theory.
The presence of Kartvelian languages was also highly probable. Influences of Semitic languages and Indo-European languages are also highly possible, though the presence of the languages on the lands of the Kura–Araxes culture is more controversial.
The Maykop culture (also spelled Maikop), ca. 3700 BC-3000 BC, was a major Bronze Age archaeological culture in the Western Caucasus region of Southern Russia.
It extends along the area from the Taman Peninsula at the Kerch Strait to near the modern border of Dagestan and southwards to the Kura River. The culture takes its name from a royal burial found in Maykop kurgan in the Kuban River valley.
In the south it borders the approximately contemporaneous Kura-Araxes culture (3500-2200 BC), which extends into eastern Anatolia and apparently influenced it. To the north is the Yamna culture, including the Novotitorovka culture (3300—2700), which it overlaps in territorial extent. It is contemporaneous with the late Uruk period in Mesopotamia.
The Kuban River is navigable for much of its length and provides an easy water-passage via the Sea of Azov to the territory of the Yamna culture, along the Don and Donets River systems. The Maykop culture was thus well-situated to exploit the trading possibilities with the central Ukraine area.
New data revealed the similarity of artifacts from the Maykop culture with those found recently in the course of excavations of the ancient city of Tell Khazneh in northern Syria, the construction of which dates back to 4000 BC.
The Leyla-Tepe culture is a culture of archaeological interest from the Chalcolithic era. Its population was distributed on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus (modern Azerbaijan, Agdam District), from 4350 until 4000 B.C. Similar amphora burials in the South Caucasus are found in the Western Georgian Jar-Burial Culture.
The culture has also been linked to the north Ubaid period monuments, in particular, with the settlements in the Eastern Anatolia Region. The settlement is of a typical Western-Asian variety, with the dwellings packed closely together and made of mud bricks with smoke outlets.
It has been suggested that the Leyla-Tepe were the founders of the Maykop culture. An expedition to Syria by the Russian Academy of Sciences revealed the similarity of the Maykop and Leyla-Tepe artifacts with those found recently while excavating the ancient city of Tel Khazneh I, from the 4th millennium BC.
In 2010, nearly 200 Bronze Age sites were reported stretching over 60 miles between the Kuban and Nalchik rivers, at an altitude of between 4,620 feet and 7,920 feet. They were all “visibly constructed according to the same architectural plan, with an oval courtyard in the center, and connected by roads.”
The origins of Maykop are still uncertain, but archeologists have linked it to contemporary Chalcolithic cultures in the Armenian Highland. Archeology also shows a clear diffusion of bronze working and kurgan-type burials from the Maykop culture to the Pontic Steppe, where the Yamna culture developed soon afterwards (from 3500 BCE).
Kurgan (a.k.a. tumulus) burials would become a dominant feature of ancient Indo-European societies and were widely used by the Celts, Romans, Germanic tribes, and Scythians, among others.
Ubaid artifacts spread also all along the Arabian littoral, showing the growth of a trading system that stretched from the Mediterranean coast through to Oman.
The archaeological record shows that Arabian Bifacial/Ubaid period came to an abrupt end in eastern Arabia and the Oman peninsula at 3800 BC, just after the phase of lake lowering and onset of dune reactivation. At this time, increased aridity led to an end in semi-desert nomadism, and there is no evidence of human presence in the area for approximately 1000 years, the so-called “Dark Millennium”.
This might be due to the 5.9 kiloyear event, one of the most intense aridification events during the Holocene Epoch, at the end of the Older Peron. It occurred around 3900 BC (5,900 years BP), ending the Neolithic Subpluvial and probably initiated the most recent desiccation of the Sahara desert.
Thus, it also triggered worldwide migration to river valleys, such as from central North Africa to the Nile valley, which eventually led to the emergence of the first complex, highly organized, state-level societies in the 4th millennium BC. It is associated with the last round of the Sahara pump theory.
In the Middle East the 5.9 kiloyear event contributed to the abrupt end of the Ubaid period. It was associated with an abandonment of unwalled villages and the rapid growth of hierarchically structured walled cities, and in the Jemdet Nasr period, with the first book-keeping scripts.
The death-rebirth-deity and the vegetation deity
Dying and rising god
In comparative mythology, the related motifs of a dying god and of a dying-and-rising god (also known as a death-rebirth-deity) have appeared in diverse cultures.
In the more commonly accepted motif of a dying god, the deity goes away and does not return. The less than widely accepted motif of a dying-and-rising god refers to a deity which returns, is resurrected or is reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense.
Beginning in the 19th century, a number of gods who would fit these motifs were proposed. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Tammuz, Ra, Osiris, Jesus, and Dionysus. Female examples include Inanna/Ishtar, Persephone, and Bari.
The methods of death can be diverse, the Norse Baldr is killed by a holly dart from his mischievous/evil step-uncle Loki and the Aztec Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent) sets himself on fire after over-drinking. Some gods who die are also seen as either returning or bringing about life in some other form, in many cases associated with a vegetation deity related to a staple.
The very existence of the category “dying-and-rising-god” was debated throughout the 20th century, and the soundness of the category was widely questioned, given that many of the proposed gods did not return in a permanent sense as the same deity.
By the end of the 20th century, scholarly consensus had formed against the reasoning used to suggest the category, and it was generally considered inappropriate from a historical perspective.
A vegetation deity is a nature deity whose disappearance and reappearance, or life, death and rebirth, embodies the growth cycle of plants. In nature worship, the deity can be a god or goddess with the ability to regenerate itself. A vegetation deity is often a fertility deity.
The deity typically undergoes dismemberment, scattering, and reintegration, as narrated in a myth or reenacted by a religious ritual. The cyclical pattern is given theological significance on themes such as immortality, resurrection, and reincarnation.
Vegetation myths have structural resemblances to certain creation myths in which parts of a primordial being’s body generate aspects of the cosmos, such as the Norse myth of Ymir.
In mythography of the 19th and early 20th century, as for example in The Golden Bough of J.G. Frazer, the figure is related to the “corn spirit,” “corn” in this sense meaning grain in general.
That triviality is giving the concept its tendency to turn into a meaningless generality, as Walter Friedrich Otto remarked of trying to use a “name as futile and yet pretentious as ‘Vegetation deity’.”
In the Mesopotamian tradition, during the journey of Inanna or Ishtar to the underworld, the earth becomes sterile, and neither humans nor animals are able to procreate. After confronting Ereshkigal, her sister and ruler of the underworld, Inanna is killed, but an emissary from the gods administers potions to restore her to life.
She is allowed to return to the upper world only if someone else will take her place. Her husband, the vegetation god Dumuzi, agrees to spend half the year in the underworld, during which time vegetation dies off. His return causes regrowth.
In ancient Egyptian religion the cultural achievements of Osiris among the peoples of the earth provokes the envy of his brother Set, who kills and dismembers him. Osiris’s wife Isis makes a journey to gather his fourteen scattered body parts.
In some versions, she buries each part where she finds it, causing the desert to put forth vegetation. In other versions, she reassembles his body and resurrects him, and he then becomes the ruler of the afterlife.
In European folklore, a woman’s fertility has an influence on farming. Vegetation goddess figurines from the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture have a lozenge and dot pattern that represents a sown field and female fertility.
Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and 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.
Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis) was an originally Anatolian mother goddess.
Cybele may have evolved from an Anatolian Mother Goddess of a type found at the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region), dated to the 6th millennium BCE. This corpulent, fertile and pregnant Mother Goddess appears to be giving birth on her throne, which has two feline-headed hand rests.
She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.
In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.
Some city-states, notably Athens, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following.
Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a transgender or eunuch mendicant priesthood. Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine Phrygian castrate shepherd-consort Attis, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele is associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions.
In Rome, Cybele was known as Magna Mater (“Great Mother”). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle recommended her conscription as a key religious component in Rome’s second war against Carthage. Roman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas.
With Rome’s eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele’s cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. The meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods were topics of debate and dispute in Greek and Roman literature, and remain so in modern scholarship.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele.
Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat.
Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna, however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG2) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).
These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, but the view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.
She might be related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.
After Telepinu disappears, his father, the Storm-god Teshub, complains to Hannahannah. She then sends him out to search for his son, and when he gives up, she dispatches a bee, charging it to find Telepinu. The bee does that, and then purifies and strengthens him by stinging his hands and feet and wiping his eyes and feet with wax.
She also recommends to the Storm-god that he should pay the Sea-god the bride-price for the Sea-god’s daughter, so she can wed Telipinu.
After Inara consulted with Hannahannah, she gave her a man and land. Soon after, Inara is missing and when Hannahannah is informed thereof by the Storm-god’s bee, she apparently begins a search with the help of her female attendant.
Apparently like Demeter, Hannahanna disappears for a while in a fit of anger and while she is gone, cattle and sheep are stifled and mothers, both human and animal take no account of their children.
After her anger is banished to the Dark Earth, she returns rejoicing, and mothers care once again for their kin. Another means of banishing her anger was through burning brushwood and allowing the vapor to enter her body. Either in this or another text she appears to consult with the Sun god and the War god, but much of the text is missing.
In the Parables of Jesus and the Parable of the Sower “the sower soweth the word” were the seed is the word of God. Parable of the Mustard Seed and Parable of the Growing Seed explain the Kingdom of God where growth is due to God, not man, and follows its own timetable.
In the Gospel of John 12:24, the Death and resurrection of Jesus is compared to a kernel that falls in the ground and dies, and then produces many seeds. In many Christian traditions, Easter sunrise service or Resurrection Service is held in God’s Acre where the bodies of the dead are “sown as seed.” The sowing of seeds also refers to scattering of people away from their ancestral homeland.
Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.
Aratta is described as follows in Sumerian literature. It is a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
Later, Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van, was an Iron Age kingdom centred on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands. Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Armenian (Hurro-Urartian) speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region. That a distinction should be made between the geographical and the political entity was already pointed out by König (1955).
The landscape corresponds to the mountainous plateau between Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus mountains, later known as the Armenian Highlands. The kingdom rose to power in the mid-9th century BC, but was conquered by Media in the early 6th century BC. The heirs of Urartu are the Armenians and their successive kingdoms.
“Urartu” is cognate with the Biblical “Ararat,” Akkadian “Urashtu,” and Armenian “Ayrarat.” The name used by the local population as a toponym was Biainili (or Biaineli), which forms the root of the Armenian “Van”, hence the names “Kingdom of Van (Bianili)” or “Vannic Kingdom.”
Scholars such as Carl Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after their god Khaldi, one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). His shrine was at Ardini (likely from Armenian Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”), also known as Musasir (Akkadian for Exit of the serpent/snake).
Shivini or Artinis (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”, and it persists in Armenian names to this day) was a solar god in the mythology of the Urartu. He is the third god in a triad with Khaldi and Theispas and is cognate with the triad in Hinduism called Shivam.
Khaldi was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bow and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as ‘the house of weapons’.
Of all the gods of Ararat (Urartu) pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to him. His wife was the goddess Arubani, the Urartian’s goddess of fertility and art. He is portrayed as a man with or without a beard, standing on a lion.
Bagmashtu (also known as Bagparti, Bagvarti, Bagbartu) is an Araratian (Urartian) goddess, and the consort or wife of Khaldi. Although throughout most of Urartu Arubani is known as Khaldi’s wife, at the excavation of Musasir references to “Khaldi and his wife, Bagmashtu” were found inscribed on some of the items.
It is assumed that when Urartu expanded its territories to include the area Musasir, local gods was incorporated and a new pantheon was created for that region. The locality and addition of Bagmashtu are supported by the fact that her name is of Armenian origin.
Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology. Its brightest stars are Rigel (Beta Orionis) and Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis), a blue-white and a red supergiant.
Orion’s Belt or The Belt of Orion is an asterism within the constellation. It consists of the three bright stars Zeta (Alnitak), Epsilon (Alnilam), and Delta (Mintaka).
The earliest depiction that has been linked to the constellation of Orion is a prehistoric (Aurignacian) mammoth ivory carving found in a cave in the Ach valley in Germany in 1979.
Archaeologists have estimated it to have been fashioned approximately 32,000 to 38,000 years ago. The distinctive pattern of Orion has been recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths have been associated with it. It has also been used as a symbol in the modern world.
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”).
In ancient Aram, the constellation was known as Nephîlā′, the Nephilim may have been Orion’s descendants. The Nephilim were offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” before the Deluge according to Genesis 6:4; the name is also used in reference to giants who inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan according to Numbers 13:33. A similar biblical Hebrew word with different vowel-sounds is used in Ezekiel 32:27 to refer to dead Philistine warriors.
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)
In medieval Muslim astronomy, Orion was known as al-jabbar, “the giant”. Orion’s sixth brightest star, Saiph, is named from the Arabic, saif al-jabbar, meaning “sword of the giant”.
The Rig Veda refers to the Orion Constellation as Mriga (The Deer). It is said that two bright stars in the front and two bright stars in the rear are the hunting dogs, the one comparatively less bright star in the middle and ahead of two front dogs is the hunter and the three aligned bright stars that are in the middle of all the four hunting dogs is the deer and three little aligned but less brighter stars is the baby deer.
The Mriga means Deer, locally known as Harnu in folk parlance. There are many folk songs narrating the Harnu. The Malay called Orion’ Belt Bintang Tiga Beradik (the “Three Brother Star”).
In China, Orion was one of the 28 lunar mansions Sieu (Xiu). It is known as Shen, literally meaning “three”, for the stars of Orion’s Belt. 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.
In old Hungarian tradition, “Orion” is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). In recently rediscovered myths he is called Nimrod (Hungarian “Nimród”), the greatest hunter, father of the twins “Hunor” and “Magor”). 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).
The Finns call the Orion’s belt and the stars below it as Väinämöisen viikate (Väinämöinen’s scythe). Another name for the asterism of Alnilam, Alnitak and Minkata is Väinämöisen vyö’ (Väinämöinen’s Belt) and the stars “hanging” from the belt as Kalevanmiekka (Kaleva’s sword).
In Siberia, the Chukchi people see Orion as a hunter; an arrow he has shot is represented by Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), with the same figure as other Western depictions.
The Seri people of northwestern Mexico call the three stars in the belt of Orion Hapj (a name denoting a hunter) which consists of three stars: Hap (mule deer), Haamoja (pronghorn), and Mojet (bighorn sheep). Hap is in the middle and has been shot by the hunter; its blood has dripped onto Tiburón Island.
The same three stars are known in Spain and most of Latin America as “Las tres Marías” (Spanish for “The Three Marys”). In Puerto Rico, the three stars are known as the “Los Tres Reyes Magos” (Spanish for The three Wise Men).
The Ojibwa (Chippewa) Native Americans call this constellation Kabibona’kan, the Winter Maker, as its presence in the night sky heralds winter.
To the Lakota Native Americans, Tayamnicankhu (Orion’s Belt) is the spine of a bison. The great rectangle of Orion are the bison’s ribs; the Pleiades star cluster in nearby Taurus is the bison’s head; and Sirius in Canis Major, known as Tayamnisinte, is its tail.
Sirius is the brightest star system in the earth’s night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name “Sirius” is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios (“glowing” or “scorcher”).
Sirius is also known colloquially as the “Dog Star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (Greater Dog). The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “dog days” of summer for the ancient Greeks, while to the Polynesians it marked winter and was an important star for navigation around the Pacific Ocean.
The most commonly used proper name of this star comes from the Latin Sīrius, from the Ancient Greek Seirios, “glowing” or “scorcher”), although 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 name’s earliest recorded use dates from the 7th century BC in Hesiod’s poetic work Works and Days. Sirius has over 50 other designations and names attached to it. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s essay Treatise on the Astrolabe, it bears the name Alhabor, and is depicted by a hound’s head. This name is widely used on medieval astrolabes from Western Europe.
In Sanskrit it is known as Mrgavyadha “deer hunter”, or Lubdhaka “hunter”. As Mrgavyadha, the star represents Rudra (Shiva). The star is referred as Makarajyoti in Malayalam and has religious significance to the pilgrim center Sabarimala.
In Scandinavia, the star has been known as Lokabrenna (“burning done by Loki”, or “Loki’s torch”). In the astrology of the Middle Ages, Sirius was a Behenian fixed star, associated with beryl and juniper. Its astrological symbol was listed by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa.
Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. Indeed, it is often colloquially called the “Dog Star” as the brightest star of Canis Major, the “Great Dog” constellation.
It was classically depicted as Orion’s dog. 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 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 whom they had bitten.
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).
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 beautifully depicted as a white horse.
In Chinese astronomy the star is known as the star of the “celestial wolf”. Farther afield, many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines; the Seri and Tohono O’odham of the southwest note the star as a dog that follows mountain sheep, while the Blackfoot called it “Dog-face”.
The Cherokee paired Sirius with Antares as a dog-star guardian of either end of the “Path of Souls”. The Pawnee of Nebraska had several associations; the Wolf (Skidi) tribe knew it as the “Wolf Star”, while other branches knew it as the “Coyote Star”. Further north, the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Strait called it “Moon Dog”.
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). Known as “Tir”, the star was portrayed as the arrow itself in later Persian culture.
Sirius is mentioned in Surah, An-Najm (“The Star”), of the Qur’an, where it is given the name الشِّعْرَى (transliteration: aš-ši‘rā or ash-shira; the leader). The verse is: “That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star).” (An-Najm:49) Ibn Kathir said in his commentary “Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Qatada and Ibn Zayd said about Ash-Shi`ra 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.
The Armenians identified their legendary patriarch and founder Hayk with Orion. Hayk is also the name of the Orion constellation in the Armenian translation of the Bible. Ara the Beautiful,a descended from the Armenian patriarch Hayk, is a legendary Armenian patriarch. In Armenian mythology, Ara was a warrior whose handsomeness drew marriage proposals from queen Semiramis. When Ara rejected Semiramis due to his marriage to Nvard, Semiramis sent soldiers to kill Ara and bring his body to her, where she prayed for his eventual resurrection.
Aralezs (plural: Aralezs or Aralezner, singular: Aralez) are dog-like creatures, or spirits, in Armenian cultural beliefs or in the Armenian mythology, who live in the sky, or on mount Massis (Mount Ararat), according to other imaginations.
They were praised with Ara the Beautiful and Shamiram (Semiramis) in Old Armenia. Armenians believed that Aralezs descended from the sky to lick the wounds of dead heroes so they could relive or resurrect. According to Armenian historians, when Mushegh Mamikonyan died, his relatives placed his corpse on a tower, hoping that Aralezs would lick and revive him.
But before this, a similar event had took place when Aralezs had licked and revived Ara the Beautiful, although, in the Armenian history, is told that the last event was probably a sort of lie, uttered by Shamiram, Ara the Beautiful’s lover, who had killed Ara accidentally during war, and had told Ara’s people that his corpse was placed on mountains, where Aralezs would revive him.
But she had chosen a man who looked like Ara, and had dressed him like Ara, and had lied to the people that this last was alive. Eventually, Ara remained dead, which indicates that Aralezs aren’t and weren’t real.
For ancient Greeks Semiramis (Armenian: Shamiram) was the legendary queen of King Ninus, succeeding him to the throne of Assyria. The legends narrated by Diodorus Siculus, Justin and others from Ctesias of Cnidus describe her and her relationship to King Ninus, himself a mythical king of Assyria, not attested in the Assyrian King List.
The name of Semiramis came to be applied to various monuments in Western Asia and Asia Minor, the origin of which was forgotten or unknown. Nearly every stupendous work of antiquity by the Euphrates or in Iran seems to have ultimately been ascribed to her, even the Behistun Inscription of Darius.
Herodotus ascribes to her the artificial banks that confined the Euphrates and knows her name as borne by a gate of Babylon. However, Diodorus stresses that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built long after Semiramis had reigned and not in her time.
Various places in Assyria and throughout Mesopotamia as a whole, Media, Persia, the Levant, Asia Minor, Arabia, and the Caucasus bore the name of Semiramis, but slightly changed, even in the Middle Ages, and an old name of the city of Van was Shamiramagerd (in Armenian it means created by Semiramis).
A real and historical Shammuramat (the Akkadian and Aramaic form of the name) was the Assyrian queen of Shamshi-Adad V (ruled 824 BC–811 BC), king of Assyria and ruler of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and its regent for five years until her son Adad-nirari III came of age.
The indigenous Assyrians of Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran still use Semiramis as a name for female children.
According to the legend as related by Diodorus, Semiramis was of noble parents, the daughter of the fish-goddess Derketo of Ascalon in Syria and a mortal. Derketo abandoned her at birth and drowned herself. Doves fed the child until Simmas, the royal shepherd, found and raised her.
She then married Onnes or Menones, one of the generals of Ninus. Ninus was so struck by her bravery at the capture of Bactra that he married her, forcing Onnes to commit suicide.
She and Ninus had a son named Ninyas. After King Ninus conquered Asia, including the Bactrians, he was fatally wounded by an arrow. Semiramis then masqueraded as her son and tricked her late husband’s army into following her instructions because they thought these came from their new ruler. After Ninus’s death she reigned as queen regnant for 42 years, conquering much of Asia.
She restored ancient Babylon and protected it with a high brick wall that completely surrounded the city. Then she built several palaces in Persia, including Ecbatana. Diodorus also attributes the Behistun inscription to her, now known to have been done under Darius I of Persia.
She didn’t only reigned Asia effectively but also added Libya and Aethiopia to the empire. She then went to war with king Stabrobates of India, having her artisans create an army of false elephants to deceive the Indians into thinking she had acquired real elephants. This succeeded at first, but then she was wounded in the counterattack and her army again retreated west of the Indus.
Armenian tradition portrays her as a homewrecker and a harlot. These facts are partly to be explained by observing that, according to the legends, in her birth as well as in her disappearance from earth, Semiramis appears as a goddess, the daughter of the fish-goddess Atargatis, and herself connected with the doves of Ishtar or Astartë.
One of the most popular legends in Armenian tradition involves Semiramis and an Armenian king, Ara the Beautiful. In the 20th century, the poet Nairi Zarian retold the story of Ara the Beautiful and Shamiram, in a work considered to be a masterpiece of Armenian literary drama.
According to the legend, Semiramis had heard about the fame of the handsome Armenian king Ara, and she lusted after his image. Semiramis was enamored with Ara’s vigorous physical power and so sought to consummate with him. She asked Ara to marry her, but he refused; upon hearing this, she gathered the armies of Assyria and marched against Armenia.
During the battle, which may have taken place in the Ararat valley, Ara was slain by Semiramis. To avoid continuous warfare with the Armenians, Semiramis, reputed to be a sorceress, took his body and prayed to the gods to raise Ara from the dead. When the Armenians advanced to avenge their leader, she disguised one of her lovers as Ara and spread the rumor that the gods had brought Ara back to life, ending the war. Although many different versions of the legend exist, they agree that Ara never came back to life.
While the achievements of Semiramis are clearly in the realm of mythical Greek historiography, the historical Assyrian queen Shammuramat (Semiramis), wife of Shamshi-Adad V of Assyria, certainly existed. After her husband’s death, she served as regent from 811–806 BC for her son, Adad-nirari III.
Shammuramat would have thus been briefly in control of the vast Neo Assyrian Empire, which 150 years later stretched from the Caucasus Mountains in the north to the Arabian Peninsula in the south, and western Iran in the east to Cyprus in the west.
In Shammuramat’s time, however, Assyria only ruled over parts of neighboring areas in Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor, and Iran. Georges Roux speculated that the later Greek and Indo-Iranian (Persian and Median) flavoured myths surrounding Semiramis stem from successful campaigns she waged against these peoples, and the novelty of a woman ruling such an empire. Some authors allow for the possibility of more than one figure named Semiramis.
Aššur (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: Ātûr) is a remnant city of the last Ashurite Kingdom. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of the river Tigris, north of the confluence with the tributary Little Zab river, in modern-day Iraq.
The city was occupied from the mid-3rd millennium BC (Circa 2600–2500 BC) to the 14th Century AD, when Tamurlane conducted a massacre of its population. Archaeology reveals the site of the city was occupied by the middle of the third millennium BC. This was still the Sumerian period, before the Assyrian kingdom emerged in the 23rd to 21st century BC.
The oldest remains of the city were discovered in the foundations of the Ishtar temple, as well as at the Old Palace. In the following Old Akkadian period, the city was ruled by kings from Akkad. During the “Sumerian Renaissance”, the city was ruled by a Sumerian governor.
The site of Assur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites in danger in 2003, in part due to the conflict in that area, and also due to a proposed dam, that would flood part of the site.
Aššur is the name of the city, of the land ruled by the city, and of its tutelary deity. At a late date it appears in Assyrian literature in the forms An-sar, An-sar (ki), which form was presumably read Assur. The name of the deity is written A-šur or Aš-sùr, and in Neo-assyrian often shortened to Aš.
In the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, the heavens personified collectively were indicated by this term An-sar (also spelled Anshur), which means “sky pivot” or “sky axle” or “host of heaven,” in contradistinction to the earth, his sister Ki-sar, “host of earth.”
They might both represent heaven (an) and earth (ki). Both are the second generation of gods; their parents being the serpents Lahmu and Lahamu and grandparents Tiamat and Abzu. They, in turn, are the parents of An(u), another sky god.
If this name /Anšar/ is derived from */Anśar/, then it may be related to the Egyptian hieroglyphic /NṬR/ (“god”), since hieroglyphic Egyptian /Ṭ/ may be etymological */Ś/.
In view of this fact, it seems highly probable that the late writing An-sar for Assur was a more or less conscious attempt on the part of the Assyrian scribes to identify the peculiarly Assyrian deity Asur with the Creation deity An-sar.
On the other hand, there is an epithet Asir or Ashir (“overseer”) applied to several gods and particularly to the deity Asur, a fact which introduced a third element of confusion into the discussion of the name Assur. It is probable then that there is a triple popular etymology in the various forms of writing the name Assur; viz. A-usar, An-sar and the stem asdru.
Akitu Festival (or Akītum; Sumerian ezen á-ki-tum, akiti-šekinku (á-ki-ti-še-gur10-ku5) “cutting of barley”, akiti-šununum “sowing of barley”, Babylonian akitu, also rêš-šattim “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Babylonian Akitu festival has played a pivotal role in the development of theories of religion, myth and ritual; yet the purpose of the festival remains a point of contention among both historians of religion and Assyriologists.
The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.
Marduk in the myth enacted in the festival is preserved in the so-called Marduk Ordeal Text (KAR 143). In this myth, Marduk appears as a life-death-rebirth deity, reflecting the festival’s agrarian origin based on the cycle of sowing and harvesting. He is imprisoned in the underworld and rises again on the third day.
The obvious parallel to the death and resurrection of Christ celebrated at Christian Easter has been noted at an early time, and elaborated in detail by Heinrich Zimmern in his 1918 editio princeps.
This theme of a dying young (harvest/vegetable) God (common throughout the Middle east)is also reflected in the legends of Tammuz, and is referenced in the Bible as “women weeping for Tammuz” even in the temple of the Hebrew God.
Tikva Frymer-Kensky noted that Pallis (1926) rejected some of the Christological parallels noted by Zimmern, but continued to stress that the death of Marduk, the lamentation over him, his subsequent restoration and the rejoicing over his resurrection is among the Near Eastern templates for the Christ myth.
Yet Frymer-Kensky goes on to say that further analaysis by von Soden shows that this text is not a tale of a dying and resurrecting god, but that it is a manifestly political text relating to the enmity between Assyria and Babylon. The political themes don’t involve anyway that the mythical module of the resurrecting god would be meant as inexistent.
Iranians traditionally celebrate 21 March as Noruz (“New Day”). Kha b-Nissan is the name of the spring festival among the Assyrians. The festival is celebrated on April 1, corresponding to the start of the Assyrian calendar. The Akkadian name Akitu has been re-introduced in Assyrianism, falling on 1 Nisan of the “Assyrian calendar” introduced in the 1950s, corresponding to the 1 April of the Gregorian calendar.
Uraš or Urash, in Sumerian mythology is a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god An (from Sumerian An, “sky, heaven”), a sky-god, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons. She is the mother of the goddess Ninsun and a grandmother of the hero Gilgamesh.
In Sumerian mythology, Ninsun or Ninsuna (“lady wild cow”), also known as Ninsun “Rimat-Ninsun”, the “August cow”, the “Wild Cow of the Enclosure”, and “The Great Queen”, is a goddess, best known as the mother of the legendary hero Gilgamesh. Her parents are the deities Anu and Uras.
By virtue of being the first figure in a triad consisting of An, Enlil, and Enki, Anu came to be regarded as the father and at first, king of the gods. Anu is so prominently associated with the E-anna temple in the city of Uruk (biblical Erech) in southern Babylonia that there are good reasons for believing this place to be the original seat of the Anu cult. If this is correct, then the goddess Inanna/Ishtar of Uruk may at one time have been his consort.
However, Uras may only have been another name for Antum, also known as Antu or Anat, An’s wife. The name Uras even became applied to Anu himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta (Nin Ur: God of War) also was apparently called Uras in later times.
In Akkadian mythology, Antu or Antum is a Babylonian goddess. She was the first consort of Anu. She was a dominant feature of the Babylonian akit festival until as recently as 200 BC. Antu was replaced as consort by Inanna/Ishtar, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu. Her later pre-eminence possibly attributable to identification with the Greek goddess Hera.
Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “great lady under earth”) was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. 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. Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom.
The goddess Inanna/Ishtar refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn “The Descent of Inanna” (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called “The Descent of Ishtar”). Inanna/Ishtar’s trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.
While Inanna/Ishtar is the goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, Ereshkigal is the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year.
Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG2) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).
These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”), accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities.
The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.
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 was sacred to Papshukal and Ninshubur, both minor gods fulfilling the role of ‘messenger to the gods’. Papshukal was closely associated with the figure of a walking bird on Babylonian boundary stones, and on the star map the figure of the Rooster was 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.
Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.” There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.
Also, because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus is not visible across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies are; because its proximity to the sun renders it invisible during the day. Instead, Venus is visible only when it rises in the East before sunrise, or when it sets in the West after sunset.
Because the movements of Venus appear to be discontinuous (it disappears due to its proximity to the sun, for many days at a time, and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather regarded the planet as two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star.
The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity. A cylinder seal from the Jemdet Nasr period expresses the knowledge that both morning and evening stars were the same celestial entity.
The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable.
Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.
Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.
In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.
An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.
Tammuz (Transliterated Hebrew: Tammuz, Tiberian Hebrew: Tammûz; Arabic: Tammūz; Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), Dumu, “child, son” + Zi(d), “faithful, true”, “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.
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.
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.
Today several versions of the Sumerian death of Dumuzi have been recovered, “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld”, “Dumuzi’s dream” and “Dumuzi and the galla”, as well as a tablet separately recounting Dumuzi’s death, mourned by holy Inanna, and his noble sister Geštinanna, and even his dog and the lambs and kids in his fold; Dumuzi himself is weeping at the hard fate in store for him, after he had walked among men, and the cruel galla of the Underworld seize him.
A number of pastoral poems and songs relate the love affair of Inanna and Dumuzid the shepherd. A text recovered in 1963 recounts “The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi” in terms that are tender and frankly erotic.
The month of Tammuz
Tammuz was a month in the Babylonian calendar, named for one of the main Babylonian gods, Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid, “son of life”). Many different calendar systems have since adopted Tammuz to refer to a month in the summer season.
The festival for the deity Tammuz was held throughout the month of Tammuz in midsummer, and celebrated his death and resurrection. The first day of the month of Tammuz was the day of the new moon of the summer solstice. On the second day of the month, there was lamentation over the death of Tammuz, on the 9th, 16th and 17th days torchlit processions, and on the last three days, an image of Tammuz was buried.
Tammuz is also the name for the month of July in the Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, the internationally most widely used civil calendar in Arabic, Syriac and Turkish (“Temmuz”).
Tammuz (Standard Hebraic: Tammuz; Tiberian: Tammûz) is the tenth month of the civil year and the fourth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar. It is a boreal summer month of 29 days, which occurs on the Gregorian calendar around June-July.
The name of the month was adopted from the Assyrian-Babylonian calendar, in which the month was named after one of the main Mesopotamian gods, Tammuz. This is referred to in Ezekiel 8:14. Tammuz is also a month in the modern Assyrian calendar of the ethnic Assyrian Christians.
Tammuz is the month of July in Iraqi Arabic and Levantine Arabic, and references to Tammuz appear in Arabic literature from the 9th to 11th centuries AD.
Dumuzid “the Shepherd”
Dumuzid or Dumuzi, called “the Shepherd”, from Bad-tibira in Sumer, was, according to the Sumerian King List, the fifth predynastic king in the legendary period before the Deluge. The list further states that Dumuzid ruled for 36,000 years.
“Dumuzid the Shepherd” is also the subject of a series of epic poems in Sumerian literature. However, in these tablets he is associated not with Bad-tibira but with Uruk, where a namesake, Dumuzid the Fisherman, was king sometime after the Flood, in between Lugalbanda “the Shepherd” and Gilgamesh.
Later poems and hymns of praise to Dumuzid indicate that he was later considered a deity, a precursor of the Babylonian god Tammuz. In Tablet 6 of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh rebuffs Ishtar (Inanna), reminding her that she had struck Tammuz (Dumuzid), “the lover of [her] youth”, decreeing that he should “keep weeping year after year”.
In a chart of antediluvian generations in Babylonian and Biblical traditions, William Wolfgang Hallo associates Dumuzid with the composite half-man, half-fish counselor or culture hero (Apkallu) An-Enlilda, and suggests an equivalence between Dumuzid and Enoch in the Sethite Genealogy given in Genesis chapter 5.
Dumuzid “the Fisherman”
Dumuzid “the Fisherman”, originally from Kuara in Sumer, was the 3rd king in the 1st Dynasty of Uruk, and Gilgamesh’s predecessor, according to the Sumerian king list.
The king list also states that he singlehandedly captured Enmebaragesi, ruler of Kish, and it claims he ruled in Uruk for 100 years — far fewer than the 1200 years it ascribes his predecessor, Lugalbanda “the Shepherd”.
There may have been some confusion in the early Sumerian compositions between this figure and that of “Dumuzid the Shepherd”, whom they call the king of Uruk, and who appears as a deity (Tammuz) in later works. However, the Sumerian king list says that Dumuzid the Shepherd ruled before the flood, and in Bad-tibira, not Uruk.
Dumuzid the Shepherd
Inanna’s descent to the netherworld: Inanna, after descending to the underworld, is allowed to return, but only with an unwanted entourage of demons, who insist on taking away a notable person in her place.
She dissuades the demons from taking the rulers of Umma and Bad-tibira, who are sitting in dirt and rags. However, when they come to Uruk, they find Dumuzid the Shepherd sitting in palatial opulence, and seize him immediately, taking him into the underworld as Inanna’s substitute.
Dumuzid and Ngeshtin-ana: Inanna gives Dumuzid over to the demons as her substitute; they proceed to violate him, but he escapes to the home of his sister, Ngeshtin-ana (Geshtinanna). The demons pursue Dumuzid there, and eventually find him hiding in the pasture.
Dumuzid and his sister: Fragmentary. Dumuzid’s sister seems to be mourning his death in this tablet.
Dumuzid’s dream: In this account, Dumuzid dreams of his own death and tells Ngeshtin-ana, who tells him it is a sign that he is about to be toppled in an uprising by evil and hungry men (also described as galla, ‘demons’) who are coming to Uruk for the king.
No sooner does she speak this, than men of Adab, Akshak, Uruk, Ur, and Nippur are indeed sighted coming for him with clubs. Dumuzid resolves to hide in the district of Alali, but they finally catch him. He escapes from them and reaches to the district of Kubiresh, but they catch him again.
Escaping again to the house of Old Woman Bilulu, he is again caught, but then escapes once more to his sister’s home. There he is caught a last time, hiding in the pasture, and killed.
Inanna and Bilulu: This describes how Inanna avenges her lover Dumuzid’s death, by killing Old Woman Bilulu.
In ancient Egypt, the stars of Orion were regarded as a god, called Sah. 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.
The god Sopdu was said to be the son of Sah and Sopdet. Sah was syncretized with Osiris, while Sopdet was syncretized with Osiris’ mythological wife, Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, from the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, Sah was one of many gods whose form the dead pharaoh was said to take in the afterlife.
In Egyptian mythology, Sopdet was the deification of Sothis, a star considered by almost all Egyptologists to be Sirius. The name Sopdet means (she who is) sharp in Egyptian, a reference to the brightness of Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky. In art she is depicted as a woman with a five-pointed star upon her head.
Just after Sirius has a heliacal rising in the July sky, the Nile River begins its annual flood, and so the ancient Egyptians connected the two. Consequently Sopdet was identified as a goddess of the fertility of the soil, which was brought to it by the Nile’s flooding. This significance led the Egyptians to base their calendar on the heliacal rising of Sirius.
Sopdet is the consort of Sah, the constellation of Orion, near which Sirius appears, and the god Sopdu was said to be their child. These relationships parallel those of the god Osiris and his family, and Sah was linked with Osiris, Sopdet with Isis, and Sopdu with Horus. She is said in the Pyramid Texts to be the daughter of Osiris.
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.
Sirius, known in ancient Egypt as Sopdet (Greek: Sothis), is recorded in the earliest astronomical records. During the era of the Middle Kingdom, Egyptians based their calendar on the heliacal rising of Sirius, namely the day it becomes visible just before sunrise after moving far enough away from the glare of the Sun. This occurred just before the annual flooding of the Nile and the summer solstice, after a 70-day absence from the skies.
The hieroglyph for Sothis features a star and a triangle. Sothis was identified with the great goddess Isis, who formed a part of a triad with her husband Osiris and their son Horus, while the 70-day period symbolised the passing of Isis and Osiris through the duat (Egyptian underworld).
Hathor/Isis and Osiris
Hathor (Egyptian: ḥwt-ḥr, “mansion of Horus”) is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Greeks identified Hathor with the goddess Aphrodite, while in Roman mythology she corresponds to Venus.
Hathor was worshiped by Royalty and common people alike in whose tombs she is depicted as “Mistress of the West” welcoming the dead into the next life. In other roles she was a goddess of music, dance, foreign lands and fertility who helped women in childbirth, as well as the patron goddess of miners.
The cult of Hathor predates the historic period, and the roots of devotion to her are therefore difficult to trace, though it may be a development of predynastic cults which venerated fertility, and nature in general, represented by cows.
Hathor may be the cow goddess who is depicted from an early date on the Narmer Palette and on a stone urn dating from the 1st dynasty that suggests a role as sky-goddess and a relationship to Horus who, as a sun god, is “housed” in her.
The Ancient Egyptians viewed reality as multi-layered in which deities who merge for various reasons, while retaining divergent attributes and myths, were not seen as contradictory but complementary. In a complicated relationship Hathor is at times the mother, daughter and wife of Ra and, like Isis, is at times described as the mother of Horus, and associated with Bast.
The cult of Osiris promised eternal life to those deemed morally worthy. Originally the justified dead, male or female, became an Osiris but by early Roman times females became identified with Hathor and men with Osiris.
Isis (original Egyptian pronunciation more likely “Aset” or “Iset”) was first worshiped in Ancient Egyptian religion, and later her worship spread throughout the Roman empire and the greater Greco-Roman world. She is still widely worshiped by many pagans today in diverse religious contexts; including a number of distinct pagan religions, the modern Goddess movement, and interfaith organizations such as the Fellowship of Isis.
Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, but she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers.
The Greek name version of Isis is surprisingly close to her original, Egyptian name spelling (namely Aset). Isis’ name was originally written with the signs of a throne seat (Gardiner sign Q1, pronounced “as” or “is”), a bread loaf (Gardiner sign X1, pronounced “t” or “tj”) and with an unpronounced determinative of a sitting woman.
A second version of the original was also written with the throne seat and the bread loaf, but ended with an egg symbol (Gardiner sign H8) which was normally read “set”, but here it was used as a determinative to promote the correct reading. Interestingly, the grammar, spelling and used signs of Isis’ name never changed during time in any way, making it easy to recognize her any time.
However, the symbolic and metaphoric meaning of Isis’ name remains unclear. The throne seat sign in her name might point to a functional role as a goddess of kingship, as the maternal protector of the ruling king. Thus, her name could mean “she of the kings’ throne”.
But all other Egyptian deities have names that point to clear cosmological or nature elemental roles (Râ = the sun; Ma’at = justice and world order), thus the name of Isis shouldn’t be connected to the king himself.
The throne seat symbol might alternatively point to a meaning as “throne-mother of the gods”, making her the highest and most powerful goddess before all other gods. But this in turn would supply a very old existence of Isis, long before her first mentioning during the late Old Kingdom. But this remains unproven.
A third possible meaning might be hidden in the egg-symbol that was also used in Isis’ name. The egg-symbol always represented motherhood, implying a maternal role of Isis. Her name could mean “mother goddess”, pointing to her later, mythological role as the mother of Horus. But this remains problematic, too: the initial mother-goddess of Horus was Hathor, not Isis.
Most Egyptian deities were first worshipped by very local cults, and they retained those local centres of worship even as their popularity spread, so that most major cities and towns in Egypt were known as the home of a particular deity.
However, the origins of the cult of Isis are very uncertain. In fact, Egyptologists such as Maria Münster and Jan Assmann point to the lack of archaeological evidences for a goddess ‘Isis’ before the time of the late Old Kingdom of Egypt.
The first secure references to Isis date back to the 5th dynasty. Her name appears for the first time in the sun temple of king Niuserre and on a statue of an priest named Pepi-Ankh, who worshipped at the very beginning of 6th dynasty and bore the title “high priest of Isis and Hathor”.
Isis is often depicted as the mother of Horus, the falcon-headed deity associated with king and kingship (although in some traditions Horus’s mother was Hathor). Isis is also known as protector of the dead and goddess of children.
The name Isis means “Throne”. Her headdress is a throne. As the personification of the throne, she was an important representation of the pharaoh’s power. The pharaoh was depicted as her child, who sat on the throne she provided.
In the typical form of her myth, Isis was the first daughter of Geb, god of the Earth, and Nut, goddess of the Sky, and she was born on the fourth intercalary day. She married her brother, Osiris (Usiris; also Ausar), and she conceived Horus with him.
Isis was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Set. Using her magical skills, she restored his body to life after having gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set.
This myth became very important during the Greco-Roman period. For example it was believed that the Nile River flooded every year because of the tears of sorrow which Isis wept for Osiris.
Osiris’s death and rebirth was relived each year through rituals. The worship of Isis eventually spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, continuing until the suppression of paganism in the Christian era.
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail.
Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth 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, which means “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”, since the Ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones”. Osiris was considered the brother of Isis, Set, Nephthys, Horus the Elder and father of Horus the younger. Osiris is first attested in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is likely that he was worshipped much earlier; the term Khenti-Amentiu dates to at least the first dynasty, also as a pharaonic title.
Most information available on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, later New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, and much later, in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.
Osiris was considered not only a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. He was described as the “Lord of love”, “He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful” and the “Lord of Silence”.
The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death — as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death, if they incurred the costs of the assimilation rituals.
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 as Lord of the Dead until the suppression of the Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original theonym in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs the name is written Wsjr, as the hieroglyphic writing does not restitute all the vowels, and Egyptologists transliterate the name variously as Asar, Asari, Aser, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare.
Several proposals have been made for the etymology and meaning of the original name Wsjr. John Gwyn Griffiths (1980) proposed a derivation from wser signifying “the powerful”. Moreover, one of the oldest attestations of the god Osiris appears in the mastaba of the deceased Netjer-wser (God Almighty).
David Lorton (1985) proposed that Wsjr is composed by the morphemes set-jret signifying “ritual activity”, Osiris being the one who receives it. Wolfhart Westendorf (1987) proposed an etymology from Waset-jret “she who bears the eye”.
The cult of Osiris (who was a god chiefly of regeneration and rebirth) had a particularly strong interest in the concept of immortality. Plutarch recounts one version of the myth in which Set (Osiris’ brother), along with the Queen of Ethiopia, conspired with 72 accomplices to plot the assassination of Osiris.
Set fooled Osiris into getting into a box, which Set then shut, sealed with lead, and threw into the Nile (sarcophagi were based on the box in this myth). Osiris’ wife, Isis, searched for his remains until she finally found him embedded in a tamarind tree trunk, which was holding up the roof of a palace in Byblos on the Phoenician coast. She managed to remove the coffin and open it, but Osiris was already dead.
In one version of the myth, she used a spell learned from her father and brought him back to life so he could impregnate her. Afterwards he died again and she hid his body in the desert. Months later, she gave birth to Horus. While she raised Horus, Set was hunting one night and came across the body of Osiris.
Enraged, he tore the body into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout the land. Isis gathered up all the parts of the body, less the phallus (which was eaten by a catfish) and bandaged them together for a proper burial. The gods were impressed by the devotion of Isis and resurrected Osiris as the god of the underworld. Because of his death and resurrection, Osiris was associated with the flooding and retreating of the Nile and thus with the crops along the Nile valley.
Diodorus Siculus gives another version of the myth in which Osiris was described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture, then travelled the world with his sister Isis, the satyrs, and the nine muses, before finally returning to Egypt.
Osiris was then murdered by his evil brother Typhon, who was identified with Set. Typhon divided the body into twenty-six pieces, which he distributed amongst his fellow conspirators in order to implicate them in the murder.
Isis and Hercules (Horus) avenged the death of Osiris and slew Typhon. Isis recovered all the parts of Osiris’ body, except the phallus, and secretly buried them. She made replicas of them and distributed them to several locations, which then became centres of Osiris worship.
The popular motif of Isis suckling her son Horus, however, lived on in a Christianized context as the popular image of Mary suckling her infant son Jesus from the fifth century onward.
Hannahannah is identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.
In the Hurrian language Hepa is the most likely pronunciation of the name of the goddess. In modern literature the sound /h/ in cuneiform sometimes is transliterated as kh. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.
The Telepinu Myth is an ancient Hittite myth about Telepinu whose disappearances causes all fertility to fail, both plant and animal. After Telepinu, the Hittite god of farming, disappears, his father, the Storm-god Tarhunt (also called Teshub), complains to Hannahannah.
In order to stop the havoc and devastation, the gods seek Telepinu but fail to find him. She then sends him out to search for his son, and when he gives up, she dispatches a bee, charging it to find Telepinu. The bee does that, and then purifies and strengthens him by stinging his hands and feet and wiping his eyes and feet with wax.
Hannahannah, the mother goddess, sent a bee to find him; when the bee did, stinging Telipinu and smearing wax on him, the god grew angry and began to wreak destruction on the world.
Finally, Kamrusepa, goddess of magic, calmed Telepinu by giving his anger to the Doorkeeper of the Underworld. In other references it is a mortal priest who prays for all of Telepinu’s anger to be sent to bronze containers in the underworld, from which nothing escapes.
She also recommends to the Storm-god that he should pay the Sea-god the bride-price for the Sea-god’s daughter, so she can wed Telipinu.
After Inara, the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt, consulted with Hannahannah, she gave her a man and land. Soon after, Inara is missing and when Hannahannah is informed thereof by the Storm-god’s bee, she apparently begins a search with the help of her female attendant.
Apparently like Demeter, Hannahanna disappears for a while in a fit of anger and while she is gone, cattle and sheep are stifled and mothers, both human and animal take no account of their children.
The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth.
After her anger is banished to the underworld, she returns rejoicing, and mothers care once again for their kin. Another means of banishing her anger was through burning brushwood and allowing the vapor to enter her body. Either in this or another text she appears to consult with the Sun god and the War god, but much of the text is missing.
Hebat is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”; Lydian Kuvava; Greek: Kybele, Kybebe, Kybelis), an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük (in the Konya region) where the statue of a pregnant goddess seated on a lion throne was found in a granary.
She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BCE.
In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.
Cybele may have evolved from an Anatolian Mother Goddess of a type found at Çatalhöyük, dated to the 6th millennium BCE. This corpulent, fertile Mother Goddess appears to be giving birth on her throne, which has two feline-headed hand rests.
Attis was the shepherd consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. He was born of a Virgin on December 25th, crucified and resurrected after three Days. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration.
Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and 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. The pine tree of Attis was seen as a parallel to the cross of Christ.
The celebration of this cycle of death and renewal was one of the major festivals of the metroac cult. Attis therefore represented a promise of reborn life and as such it is not surprising that we find representations of the so-called mourning Attis as a common tomb motif in the ancient world.
The 19th-century identification with the name Atys encountered in Herodotus (i.34-45) as the historical name of the son of Croesus, as “Atys the sun god, slain by the boar’s tusk of winter,” are mistaken.
An Attis cult began around 1250 BC in Dindymon (today’s Murat Dağı of Gediz, Kütahya). He was originally a local semi-deity of Phrygia, associated with the great Phrygian trading city of Pessinos, which lay under the lee of Mount Agdistis. The mountain was personified as a daemon, whom foreigners associated with the Great Mother Cybele.
Julian the Apostate gives an account of the spread of the orgiastic cult of Cybele in his Oratio 5. It spread from Anatolia to Greece and eventually to Rome in Republican times, and the cult of Attis, her reborn eunuch consort, accompanied her.
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, whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion.
Ancient sources tell several different stories about Orion; there are two major versions of his birth and several versions of his death. The most important recorded episodes are his birth somewhere in Boeotia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was blinded by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death by the bow of Artemis or the sting of the giant scorpion which became Scorpio, and his elevation to the heavens.
Most ancient sources omit some of these episodes and several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories and it is impossible to tell whether omissions are simple brevity or represent a real disagreement.
In Homer’s Iliad Orion is described as a constellation and the star Sirius is mentioned as his dog. In the Odyssey, Odysseus sees him hunting in the underworld with a bronze club, a great slayer of animals; he is also mentioned as a constellation, as the lover of the Goddess Dawn, as slain by Artemis, and as the most handsome of the earthborn. In the Works and Days of Hesiod, Orion is also a constellation, one who is rising and setting with the sun is used to reckon the year.
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.
In Norse mythology, the goddess Frigg (Old Norse), Frija (Old High German), Frea (Langobardic), and Frige (Old English) spins clouds from her bejeweled distaff in the Norse constellation known as Frigg’s Spinning Wheel or Frigg’s Distaff (friggerock).
In nearly all sources she is described as the wife of the god Odin. Several place names in what are now Norway and Sweden refer to Frigg, although her name is altogether absent in recorded place names in Denmark.
The English weekday name Friday (etymologically Old English “Frīge’s day”) bears her name. The English weekday name Friday comes from Old English “Frīge’s Day” and is cognate with Old High German frîatac. Both weekday names are result of interpretatio germanica that occurred at or before the 3rd or 4th century CE, glossing the Latin weekday name dies Veneris ‘Day of Venus’.
In Norse mythology, the northernmost branch of Germanic mythology and most extensively attested, Frigg is described as a goddess associated with foreknowledge and wisdom. Frigg is the wife of the major god Odin and dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir
She is famous for her foreknowledge, is associated with the goddesses Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gná, and is ambiguously associated with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity, Jörð (Old Norse “Earth”). The children of Frigg and Odin include the thunder god Thor and the gleaming god Baldr.
Scholars have theorized about her connection to the valkyries, female battlefield choosers of the slain; and her relation to other goddesses and figures in Germanic mythology, including the thrice-burnt and thrice-reborn Gullveig/Heiðr, the goddesses Gefjon, Skaði, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa, Menglöð, and the 1st century CE “Isis” of the Suebi.
Due to significant thematic overlap, scholars have theorized about whether Freyja and the goddess Frigg ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples.
The theonyms Frigg (Old Norse) and Frija (Old High German) are cognate forms—linguistic siblings of the same origin—that descend from a substantivized feminine of Proto-Germanic *frijaz (via Holtzmann’s law). *frijaz descends from the same source (Proto-Indo-European) as the feminine Sanskrit noun priyā and the feminine Avestan noun fryā (both meaning “own, dear, beloved”). In the modern period, a -a suffix is sometimes applied to denote femininity, resulting in the form Frigga.
The connection with and possible earlier identification of the goddess Freyja with Frigg in the Proto-Germanic period is a matter of scholarly debate. Like the name of the group of gods to which Freyja belongs, the Vanir, the name Freyja is not attested outside of Scandinavia. This is in contrast to the name of the goddess Frigg, who is attested as a goddess common among the Germanic peoples, and whose name is reconstructed as Proto-Germanic *Frijjō.
Freyja (Old Norse for “(the) Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, keeps the boar Hildisvíni by her side, possesses a cloak of falcon feathers, and, by her husband Óðr, is the mother of two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi.
Along with her brother Freyr (Old Norse the “Lord”), her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr’s sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the Vanir. Stemming from Old Norse Freyja, modern forms of the name include Freya, Freija, Frejya, Freyia, Frøya, Frøjya, Freia, Freja, and Freiya.
Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Within Fólkvangr is her hall, Sessrúmnir. Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak, is invoked in matters of fertility and love, and is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife.
Freyja’s husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names. Freyja has numerous names, including Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís.
Freyja is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century; in several Sagas of Icelanders; in the short story Sörla þáttr; in the poetry of skalds; and into the modern age in Scandinavian folklore, as well as the name for Friday in many Germanic languages.
After Christianization, mention of Frigg continued to occur in Scandinavian folklore. In modern times, Frigg has appeared in modern popular culture, has been the subject of art, and receives modern veneration in Germanic Neopaganism.
Freyja’s name appears in numerous place names in Scandinavia, with a high concentration in southern Sweden. Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name, but it was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization. Rural Scandinavians continued to acknowledge Freyja as a supernatural figure into the 19th century, and Freyja has inspired various works of art.
Baldr (also Balder, Baldur) is a god of light and purity in Norse mythology. He is the second son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg. He is the god of summer sun, light, and radiance. His twin brother is the blind god of darkness, Hodr. He has numerous brothers, such as Thor and Váli.
According to Gylfaginning, a book of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Baldr’s wife is Nanna and their son is Forseti, god of justice. In Gylfaginning, Snorri relates that Baldr had the greatest ship ever built, named Hringhorni, and that there is no place more beautiful than his hall, Breidablik.
In the 12th century, Danish accounts by Saxo Grammaticus and other Danish Latin chroniclers recorded a euhemerized account of his story. Compiled in Iceland in the 13th century, but based on much older Old Norse poetry, the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda contain numerous references to the death of Baldr as both a great tragedy to the Æsir and a harbinger of Ragnarök.
Baldur once had a nightmare that he would be killed. His mother, Frigg, made all the things on Earth vow not to hurt him. The mistletoe did not vow, however, and Frigg considered it to be so unimportant that she thought nothing of it. Loki found out that the mistletoe had not vowed, and thus made a spear out of mistletoe, and tricked Hohr into killing Baldur with it.
The death of Baldur is believed to be the beginning of Ragnarok. Many gods and goddesses will come to his funeral. His wife Nana also died of sadness. His father, Odin, placed the golden ring Draupnir on Baldur, but he later sent the ring back from Hell. This ring somehow came to Freyr’s hand. After Ragnarok and the death of Odin, Baldur and Hodr came back to Asgard, and they rule in place of their father.
His death is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarök. Baldr will be reborn in the new world, according to Völuspá. After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea. In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again.
In an attempt to bring back Baldr from the dead, the god Hermóðr rides to Hel and, upon receiving the hope of resurrection from the being Hel, Nanna gives Hermóðr gifts to give to the goddess Frigg (a robe of linen), the goddess Fulla (a finger-ring), and others (unspecified).
In Norse mythology, Hel, the realm, shares a name with Hel, the female figure associated with and the guardian of the location formally known as either Hel or Helheim. In late Icelandic sources, varying descriptions of Hel are given and various figures are described as being buried with items that will facilitate their journey to Hel after their death.
The old Old Norse word Hel derives from Proto-Germanic *haljō, which means “one who covers up or hides something”, which itself derives from Proto-Indo-European *kel-, meaning “conceal”. Other words more distantly related include hole, hollow, hall, helmet and cell, all from the aforementioned Indo-European root *kel-.
The etymology of the name of the goddess Nanna is debated. Some scholars have proposed that the name may derive from a babble word, nanna, meaning “mother”. Scholar Jan de Vries connects the name Nanna to the root *nanþ-, leading to “the daring one”.
Scholar John Lindow theorizes that a common noun may have existed in Old Norse, nanna, that roughly meant “woman”. Scholar John McKinnell notes that the “mother” and *nanþ- derivations may not be distinct, commenting that nanna may have once meant “she who empowers”
Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word ἑρμηνεύω (hermeneuō, “translate, interpret”), from hermeneus, “translator, interpreter”, of uncertain etymology (R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek origin).
The technical term hermeneia, “interpretation, explanation” was introduced into philosophy mainly through the title of Aristotle’s work On Interpretation, commonly referred to by its Latin title De Interpretatione.
It is one of the earliest (c. 360 B.C.) extant philosophical works in the Western tradition to deal with the relationship between language and logic in a comprehensive, explicit, and formal way.
The early usage of “hermeneutics” places it within the boundaries of the sacred. A divine message must be received with implicit uncertainty regarding its truth. This ambiguity is an irrationality; it is a sort of madness that is inflicted upon the receiver of the message. Only one who possesses a rational method of interpretation (i.e., a hermeneutic) could determine the truth or falsity of the message.
Folk etymology places its origin with Hermes, the mythological Greek deity who was the ‘messenger of the gods’. Besides being a mediator between the gods and between the gods and men, he led souls to the underworld upon death.
Hermes was also considered to be the inventor of language and speech, an interpreter, a liar, a thief, and a trickster. These multiple roles made Hermes an ideal representative figure for hermeneutics. As Socrates noted, words have the power to reveal or conceal and can deliver messages in an ambiguous way.
The Greek view of language as consisting of signs that could lead to truth or to falsehood was the essence of Hermes, who was said to relish the uneasiness of those who received the messages he delivered.
Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia. He is second youngest of the Olympian gods. His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster and the tortoise, purse or pouch, winged sandals, winged cap, and his main symbol is the herald’s staff, the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus which consisted of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff.
Hermes is a god of transitions and boundaries. He is quick and cunning, and moves freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods, intercessor between mortals and the divine, and conductor of souls into the afterlife. He is protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, thieves, orators and wit, literature and poets, athletics and sports, invention and trade. In some myths he is a trickster, and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction or the sake of humankind.
In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.
The earliest form of the name Hermes is the Mycenaean Greek *e-ma-a2 (e-ma-ha /Ermāhās/), written in the Linear B syllabic script. Most scholars derive “Hermes” from Greek herma, “prop, heap of stones, boundary marker”, from which the word hermai (“boundary markers dedicated to Hermes as a god of travelers”) also derives.
The etymology is unknown (probably not an Indo-European word). R. S. P. Beekes rejects the connection with herma and suggests a Pre-Greek origin. “Hermes” may be related to Greek ἑρμηνεύς hermeneus (“interpreter”), reflecting Hermes’s function as divine messenger. The word “hermeneutics”, the study and theory of interpretation, is derived from hermeneus.
Plato offers a Socratic folk-etymology for Hermes’s name, deriving it from the divine messenger’s reliance on eirein (the power of speech). Scholarly speculation that “Hermes” derives from a more primitive form meaning “one cairn” is disputed. In Greek a lucky find is a hermaion.
Homer and Hesiod portrayed Hermes as the author of skilled or deceptive acts, and also as a benefactor of mortals. In the Iliad he was called “the bringer of good luck,” “guide and guardian” and “excellent in all the tricks.” He was a divine ally of the Greeks against the Trojans. However, he did protect Priam when he went to the Greek camp to retrieve the body of his son Hector, and he accompanies them back to Troy.
It is also suggested that Hermes is cognate of the Vedic Sarama, a mythological being referred to as the bitch of the gods, or Deva-shuni (devashunī). She first appears in one of Hinduism’s earliest texts, the Rig Veda, in which she helps the god-king Indra to recover divine cows stolen by the Panis, a class of demons.
Bel (from Akkadian bēlu), signifying “lord” or “master”, is a title rather than a genuine name, applied to various gods in the Mesopotamian religion of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. The feminine form is Belit ‘Lady, Mistress’. Bel is named in the Bible at Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 50:2 and 51:44.
Bêlit is a form of the Akkadian language word beltu or beltum (meaning “lady, mistress”) as used in noun compounds; it appears in titles of goddesses, such as bêlit-ili “lady of the gods”, an Akkadian title of Ninhursag.
The word bêlit appears in Greek form as Beltis (Βελτις), considered to be the name of the wife of the god Bêl, represented in Greek as Belos and in Latin as Belus. Linguistically Bel is an East Semitic form cognate with Northwest Semitic Ba‘al with the same meaning.
Belet-Seri (also spelled Beletseri, Belit-Sheri, Belit-Tseri) in Babylonian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld goddess. The recorder of the dead entering the underworld, she is known as the “Scribe of the Earth”.
It is Belet-seri who keeps the records of human activities so she can advise the queen of the dead, Erishkigal, on their final judgement. Married to Amurru, the God of Nomads, she’s known as ‘Queen of the Desert.’ Beginning in the Old Babylonian Period, Belet-Seri was identified with the goddess Gestinanna.
In Babylonian religion, Belit Ilani was a title described as meaning “mistress of the gods” and the name of the “evening star of desire”. It has been associated with Ninlil and Astarte and has been found inscribed on portraits of a woman blessing a suckling child with her right hand.
Theophilus G. Pinches noted that Belit Ilani or Nnlil or had seven different names (such as Nintud, Ninhursag, Ninmah, etc.) for seven different localities in ancient Sumer.
Early translators of Akkadian believed that the ideogram for the god called in Sumerian Enlil was to be read as Bel in Akkadian. This is now known to be incorrect; but one finds Bel used in referring to Enlil in older translations and discussions.
Bel became especially used of the Babylonian god Marduk and when found in Assyrian and neo-Babylonian personal names or mentioned in inscriptions in a Mesopotamian context it can usually be taken as referring to Marduk and no other god.
Similarly Belit without some disambiguation mostly refers to Bel Marduk’s spouse Sarpanit. However Marduk’s mother, the Sumerian goddess called Ninhursag, Damkina, Ninmah and other names in Sumerian, was often known as Belit-ili ‘Lady of the Gods’ in Akkadian.
Of course other gods called “Lord” could be and sometimes were identified totally or in part with Bel Marduk. The god Malak-bel of Palmyra is an example, though in the later period from which most of our information comes he seems to have become very much a sun god. Similarly Zeus Belus mentioned by Sanchuniathon as born to Cronus/El in Peraea is certainly most unlikely to be Marduk.
I. H. D. Rouse in 1940 wrote an ironic end note to Book 40 of his edition of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca about a very syncretistic hymn sung by Dionysus to Tyrian Heracles, that is, to Ba‘al Melqart whom Dionysus identifies with Belus on the Euphrates (who should be Marduk!) and as a sun god:
… the Greeks were as firmly convinced as many modern Bible-readers that the Semites, or the Orientals generally, worshipped a god called Baal or Bel, the truth of course being that ba’al is a Semitic word for lord or master, and so applies to a multitude of gods. This “Bel,” then, being an important deity, must be the sun, the more so as some of the gods bearing that title may have been really solar.
Baal (NW Semitic)
Baal, also rendered Baʿal, is a North-West Semitic title and honorific meaning “master” or “lord” that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu. A Baalist or Baalite means a worshipper of Baal.
Baal, god worshiped in many ancient Middle Eastern communities, especially among the Canaanites, who apparently considered him a fertility deity and one of the most important gods in the pantheon.
As a Semitic common noun baal (Hebrew baʿal) meant “owner” or “lord,” although it could be used more generally; for example, a baal of wings was a winged creature, and, in the plural, baalim of arrows indicated archers. Yet such fluidity in the use of the term baal did not prevent it from being attached to a god of distinct character.As such, Baal designated the universal god of fertility, and in that capacity his title was Prince, Lord of the Earth. He was also called the Lord of Rain and Dew, the two forms of moisture that were indispensable for fertile soil in Canaan. In Ugaritic and Old Testament Hebrew, Baal’s epithet as the storm god was He Who Rides on the Clouds. In Phoenician he was called Baal Shamen, Lord of the Heavens.
“Baal” may refer to any god and even to human officials. In some texts it is used for Hadad, a god of thunderstorms, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name, Hadad, Ba‛al was commonly used.
Nevertheless, few if any biblical uses of “Baal” refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven; most refer to a variety of local spirit-deities worshiped as cult images, each called baal and regarded in the Hebrew Bible in that context as a false god.
Baʿal (bet-ayin-lamedh) is a Semitic word signifying “The Lord, master, owner (male), keeper, husband”, which became the usual designation of the great weather-god of the Western Semites. Cognates include Standard Hebrew Báʿal, Akkadian Bēl.
In Hebrew, the word ba’al means “husband” or “owner”, and is related to a verb meaning to take possession of, for a man, to consummate a marriage. The word “ba’al” is also used in many Hebrew phrases, denoting both concrete ownership as well as possession of different qualities in one’s personality. The feminine form is Baʿalah, signifying “a mistress: -that has, a mistress”; Arabic baʿalah, a rare word for “wife”.
The words themselves had no exclusively religious connotation; they are honorific titles for heads of households or master craftsmen, but not for royalty. The meaning of “lord” as a member of royalty or nobility is more accurately translated as Adon in biblical Hebrew.
In modern Levantine Arabic, the word báʿal serves as an adjective describing farming that relies only on rainwater as a source of irrigation. Probably it is the last remnant of the sense of Baal the god in the minds of the people of the region. In the Amharic language, the Semitic word for “owner” or “husband, spouse” survives with the spelling bal.
Because more than one god bore the title “Baal” and more than one goddess bore the title “Baalat” or “Baalah,” only the context of a text, the definitive article, or a genetive following the word in construct can denote which particular god, a text is speaking of.
Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology (ch. 11) identifies Old Norse Baldr with the Old High German Baldere (2nd Merseburg Charm, Thuringia), Palter (theonym, Bavaria), Paltar (personal name) and with Old English bealdor, baldor “lord, prince, king” (used always with a genitive plural, as in gumena baldor “lord of men”, wigena baldor “lord of warriors”, et cetera).
Old Norse shows this usage of the word as an honorific in a few cases, as in baldur î brynju (Sæm. 272b) and herbaldr (Sæm. 218b), both epithets of heroes in general.
Grimm traces the etymology of the name to *balþaz, whence Gothic balþs, Old English bald, Old High German pald, all meaning “bold, brave”. But the interpretation of Baldr as “the brave god” may be secondary.
Baltic (cf. Lithuanian baltas, Latvian balts), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰel-, has a word meaning “the white, the good”, and Grimm speculates that the name may originate as a Baltic loan into Proto-Germanic.
In continental Saxon and Anglo-Saxon tradition, the son of Woden is called not Bealdor but Baldag (Sax.) and Bældæg, Beldeg (AS.), which shows association with “day”, possibly with Day personified as a deity which, Grimm points out, would agree with the meaning “shining one, white one, a god” derived from the meaning of Baltic baltas, further adducing Slavic Belobog and German Berhta.
Balts comes from an unattested verb *balt (“to become white”) (of which balts originally was the past participle form; compare. Lithuanian verb bálti, and compare. Latvian 17th-century derived verb baltīt (“to make, paint something white”), later replaced by other verbs, derived from balts: from Proto-Baltic *bal-, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰel-, *bʰol- (“shiny, white”). Cognates include Lithuanian báltas, Sudovian baltas.
In several Indo-European languages, reflexes of the stem *bʰel-, *bʰol- are often found in words relating to water or humid places, probably due to their shiny, reflective surfaces: Illyrian *balta (“marsh, swamp”), Albanian baltë (“mud, sludge, swamp”), Proto-Slavic *bolto (“swamp, lake”) (Old Church Slavonic блато (blato, “lake”), Russian болото (bolóto, “marsh, swamp”) (dialectal “puddle, lake”), Czech bláto (“mud; pl. swamp”), Polish błoto (“mud, swamp”)).
This usage is also attested in Baltic languages, as in, e.g., Old Prussian placename Namuynbalt (swamp). It left also traces in Latvian, in the names of lakes or swamps (Baltenis, Baltiņa purvs), and is a possible source of the word balti (“Balts, Baltic”).
Little is known about pre-Christian Armenian mythology, the oldest source being the legends of Xorenatsi’s “History of Armenia”. Armenian Mithraism influenced Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster or Zarathustra was a Mithraic priest before venturing out into Iran (ancient Persia) to create Zoroastrianism. In Armenia, Mihr or Mher or Mithra was worshiped at least 1000 years before any mention or migration of it into Iran. Zoroaster was born near Lake Urmia in ancient Armenia (today northeastern Iran).
Armenian mythology Mithra and Aramazd were one, born of the Virgin Anahit. Armenian mythology was also influenced by Assyrian traditions, such as Barsamin, but there are also concrete traces of native traditions, such as Hayk or Vahagn and Astghik. According to De Morgan there are signs which indicate that the Armenians were initially nature worshipers and that this faith in time was transformed to the worship of national gods.
Both Vedic Mitra and Avestan Mithra derive from an Indo-Iranian common noun *mitra-, generally reconstructed to have ment “covenant, treaty, agreement, promise.” This meaning is preserved in Avestan miθra, which means “covenant.” In Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan languages, mitra means “friend,” one of the aspects of bonding and alliance.
*Mitra (Proto-Indo-Iranian, nominative *Mitras) was an important Indo-Iranian divinity. Following the prehistoric cultural split of Indo-Aryan and Iranian cultures, names descended from *mitra were used for the following religious entities:
- Mitra (Vedic) (Sanskrit Mitrá-, Mitráḥ), a deity who appears frequently in the ancient Sanskrit text of the Rigveda
- Mithra (Avestan Miθra-, Miθrō), a yazata mentioned in the Zoroastrian sacred scripture of the Avesta, whose New Persian equivalent is Mīhr / Mehr
- Maitreya, a bodhisattva who in the Buddhist tradition is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure Dharma
- Mithras, the principal figure of the Greco-Roman religion of Mithraism.
The first extant record of Indo-Aryan Mitra, in the form mi-it-ra-, is in the inscribed peace treaty of c. 1400 BC between Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni in the area southeast of Lake Van in Asia Minor. There Mitra appears together with four other Indo-Aryan divinities as witnesses and keepers of the pact. R. D. Barnett has argued that the royal seal of King Saussatar of Mitanni from c. 1450 BC. depicts a tauroctonous Mithras. Royal names incorporating Mithra’s (e.g., “Mithradates”) appear in the dynasties of Parthia, Armenia, and in Anatolia, in Pontus and Cappadocia.
Mitanni (Hittite cuneiform Mi-ta-an-ni; also Mittani Mi-it-ta-ni) or Hanigalbat (Assyrian Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) or Naharin in ancient Egyptian texts was a Hurrian-speaking state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia from ca. 1500 BC–1300 BC.
The Mitanni kingdom was referred to as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni by the Egyptians, the Hurri by the Hittites, and the Hanigalbat by the Assyrians. The different names seem to have referred to the same kingdom and were used interchangeably, according to Michael C. Astour.
Hittite annals mention a people called Hurri (Ḫu-ur-ri), located in northeastern Syria. A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurri”, or “Hurrians”.
The Assyro-Akkadian version of the text renders “Hurri” as Hanigalbat. Tushratta, who styles himself “king of Mitanni” in his Akkadian Amarna letters, refers to his kingdom as Hanigalbat.
Egyptian sources call Mitanni “nhrn”, which is usually pronounced as Naharin/Naharina from the Assyro-Akkadian word for “river”, cf. Aram-Naharaim.
Pharaoh Thutmose III of Egypt mention in the 33rd year of his reign (1446 BC) as the people of Ermenen, and says in their land “heaven rests upon its four pillars”. The name is connected to the Indo-European root Ar- meaning “assemble/create” which is vastly used in names of or regarding the Sun, light, or fire, found in Ararat, Aryan, Arta etc.
The princess of the Armenian Kingdom of Mitanni (who became known as Nefertiti, or “the beautiful has come” in Egyptian), introduced her native Armenian Mithraic religion to Egypt which under her husband Akhenaton (who was also of Mitannian ancestry) became known as Atenism or Atonism (after the main deity Aten or Aton represented by the symbol of the Sun Disk) in the unified kingdom of Egypt.
Asha (aša) is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism.”
The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’. The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “lie.”
Asha Vahishta is closely associated with fire. Fire is “grandly conceived as a force informing all the other Amesha Spentas, giving them warmth and the spark of life.”
Aratta is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list.
Aratta is described as follows in Sumerian literature. It is a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inana, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk, but is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.
Ma is a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land. There seems to be some loss in records as to the transition, but the same name Ma appears again later, also tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain) the first dragon god.
In Sumerian mythology, Kur is considered the first ever dragon, and usually referred to the Zagros mountains to the east of Sumer. The cuneiform for “kur” was written ideographically with the cuneiform sign which was a pictograph of a mountain. It can also mean “foreign land”.
The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records.
In Sumerian mythology me or parşu, is one of the decrees of the gods 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.
The Mannaeans (country name usually Mannea; Akkadian: Mannai, possibly Biblical Minni) were an ancient people who lived in the territory of present-day northwestern Iran south of lake Urmia.
Their kingdom was situated east and south of the Lake Urmia, roughly centered around the Urmia plain in this part of what’s today are named as “Azerbaijan region of Iran”. Excavations that began in 1956 succeeded in uncovering the fortified city of Hasanlu, once thought to be a potential Mannaean site. More recently, the site of Qalaichi (possibly ancient Izirtu/Zirta) has been linked to the Mannaeans based on a stela with this toponym found at the site.
After suffering several defeats at the hands of both Scythians and Assyrians, the remnants of the Mannaean populace were absorbed by an Iranian people known as the Matieni and the area became known as Matiene. It was then annexed by the Medes in about 609 BC.
The name Matiene is believed to be related to Mitanni which was founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing the Hurrian population. The name Matiene was applied also to the neighboring Lake Matianus (Lake Urmia) located immediately to the east of the Matieni people.
The Mannaeans, who probably spoke a Hurro-Urartian language, were subdued by the Scytho-Kimmerians during the seventh and eighth centuries BC. Matiene was ultimately conquered by the Medes in about 609 BCE.
Minni is also a Biblical name of the region, appearing in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 51:27) alongside Ararat and Ashchenaz, probably the same as the Minnai of Assyrian inscriptions, corresponding to the Mannai. Armenia is interpreted by some as Minni, that is, “the mountainous region of the Minni”.
The name Mitanni is first found in the “memoirs” of the Syrian wars (ca. 1480 BC) of the official astronomer and clockmaker Amememhet, who returned from the “foreign country called Me-ta-ni” at the time of Thutmose I.
The expedition to the Naharina announced by Thutmosis I at the beginning of his reign may have actually taken place during the long previous reign of Amenhotep I Helck believes that this was the expedition mentioned by Amenhotep II.
The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain. A treatise on the training of chariot horses by Kikkuli contains a number of Indo-Aryan glosses. Kammenhuber (1968) suggested that this vocabulary was derived from the still undivided Indo-Iranian language, but Mayrhofer (1974) has shown that specifically Indo-Aryan features are present.
The common people’s language, the Hurrian language, is neither Indo-European nor Semitic. Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. It had been held that nothing more can be deduced from current evidence.
A Hurrian passage in the Amarna letters – usually composed in Akkadian, the lingua franca of the day – indicates that the royal family of Mitanni was by then speaking Hurrian as well.
There is a deity Mithra mentioned on monuments in the ancient Armenian kingdom of Commagene of the Hellenistic period. According to the archaeologist Maarten Vermaseren, 1st century BC evidence from Commagene demonstrates the “reverence paid to Mithras” but does not refer to “the mysteries”.
Little is known of the region of Commagene prior to the beginning of the 2nd century BC. However, it seems that, from what little evidence remains, Commagene formed part of a larger state that also included the Kingdom of Sophene.
The later kings of Commagene claimed to be descended from the Orontid Dynasty and would therefore have been related to the family that founded the Kingdom of Armenia.
Kummanni (Hittite: Kummiya) was the name of the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna. Its location is uncertain, but is believed to be near the classical settlement of Comana in Cappadocia.
Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.” The city persisted into the Early Iron Age, and appears as Kumme in Assyrian records. It was located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia.
Kumme was still considered a holy city in Assyrian times, both in Assyria and in Urartu. Adad-nirari II, after re-conquering the city, made sacrifices to “Adad of Kumme.” The three chief deities in the Urartian pantheon were “the god of Ardini, the god of Kumenu, and the god of Tushpa.”
In the colossal statuary erected by King Antiochus I (69–34 BC) at Mount Nemrut, Mithras is shown beardless, wearing a Phrygian cap, and was originally seated on a throne alongside other deities and the king himself. On the back of the thrones there is an inscription in Greek, which includes the name Apollo Mithras Helios in the genitive case.
The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 9th century BC, and became the rulers of a large empire under the Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BC. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in Fars.
The chronological placement of this event is uncertain. This is due to his suggested, but still debated identification, with the monarch known as “Kuras of Parsumas”, first mentioned c. 652 BC.
Parsua (earlier Parsuash, Parsumash) was an ancient land located near Lake Urmia between Zamua (formerly: Lullubi, a group of tribes during the 3rd millennium BC, from a region known as Lulubum, now the Sharazor plain of the Zagros Mountains of modern Iran) and Ellipi, in central Zagros to the southwest of Sanandaj, northwestern Iran. The name Parsua is from an old Iranian word *Parsava and it is presumed to mean border or borderland.
Parsua was distinct from Persis, another region to the southeast, now known as Fars province in Iran. Persian and Greek sources, including the Old Persian texts at Behistun, states that Teispes (675-640 BCE.), the son of Achaemenes, the eponymous ancestor of the Achaemenid Dynasty, led a migration of Persians from Parsua to Persis, formerly the Elamite state of Anshan (modern Tall-i Malyan) in the province of Fars in the Zagros mountains, southwestern Iran.
Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup) was the Hurrian god of sky and storm. Theispas (also known as Teisheba or Teišeba) of Kumenu was the Araratian (Urartian) weather-god, notably the god of storms and thunder. He was also sometimes the god of war. He formed part of a triad along with Khaldi and Shivini. The ancient Araratian cities of Teyseba and Teishebaini were named after Theispas.
After being freed from Median supremacy he expanded his small kingdom, an Elamite vassal state. Teispes’ great-grandson Cyrus conquered the Medes and established the Persian Empire.
There is evidence that Cyrus I, or Cyrus I of Anshan, king of Anshan in Persia from c. 600 to 580 BC or, according to others, from c. 652 to 600 BC., and Ariaramnes were both his sons. Cyrus I is the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, whereas Ariaramnes is great grandfather of Darius the Great. Teispes’ sons reportedly divided the kingdom among them after his death. Cyrus reigned as king of Anshan while his brother Ariaramnes was king of Parsa.
Anshan, one of the early capitals of Elam, from the 3rd millennium BC., was captured by Teispes (675–640 BC), who styled himself “King of the city of Anshan”, and fell under Persian Achaemenid rule.
For another century during the period of Elamite decline, Anshan was a minor kingdom, until the Achaemenids in the 6th century BC embarked on a series of conquests from Anshan, which became the nucleus of the Persian Empire. The most famous conqueror who rose from Anshan was Cyrus the Great.
In Zoroastrianism, Mithra is a member of the trinity of ahuras, protectors of asha/arta, “truth” or “[that which is] right”. Mithra’s standard appellation is “of wide pastures” suggesting omnipresence.
Mithra is “truth-speaking, … with a thousand ears, … with ten thousand eyes, high, with full knowledge, strong, sleepless, and ever awake” (Yasht 10.7). As preserver of covenants, Mithra is also protector and keeper of all aspects of interpersonal relationships, such as friendship and love.
Related to his position as protector of truth, Mithra is a judge (ratu), ensuring that individuals who break promises or are not righteous (artavan) are not admitted to paradise. As also in Indo-Iranian tradition Mithra is associated with the divinity of the sun, but originally distinct from it. Mithra is closely associated with the feminine yazata Aredvi Sura Anahita, the hypostasis of knowledge.
It seems that the ancients themselves did not divorce the eastern roots of Mithraism, as exemplified also by the remarks of Dio Cassius, who related that in 66 AD/CE the king of Armenia, Tiridates, visited Rome. Cassius states that the dignitary worshipped Mithra; yet, he does not indicate any distinction between the Armenian’s religion and Roman Mithraism.
It is apparent from their testimony that ancient sources perceived Mithraism as having a Persian origin; hence, it would seem that any true picture of the development of Roman Mithraism must include the latter’s relationship to the earlier Persian cultus, as well as its Asia Minor and Armenian offshoots. Current scholarship is summarized thus by Dr. Beck (2004; 28):
Since the 1970s, scholars of western Mithraism have generally agreed that Cumont’s master narrative of east-west transfer is unsustainable; but… recent trends in the scholarship on Iranian religion, by modifying the picture of that religion prior to the birth of the western mysteries, now render a revised Cumontian scenario of east-west transfer and continuities once again viable.
In his massive anthology, Armenian and Iranian Studies, Dr. James R. Russell, professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, essentially proves that Roman Mithraism had its origins in not only Persian or Iranian Mithraism and Zoroastrianism but also in Armenian religion, dating back centuries before the common era.
In the 4th century, Christianity replaced Mithraism in the Roman Empire. As the former did not have any ritual tradition of its own, it absorbed nearly all of the rituals and the symbolic dates of the Mithraists.
In particular the 25th of December, Mithra’s date of birth, became that of Christ. Sunday (day of the sun), holiday of the Mithraists, became the holiday of the Christians. The Christmas tree, holy bread and more other things entered, in this way, the Christian traditions.
The Christian priest would furthermore be called “my Father”, following the title of the great master of the 7th degree of the Mithraists. Centuries later the Mithraism became a basic part of freemasonry. Until that time the birthday of Jesus Christ was celebrated in January the 6th.
But the religion of most of the Romans and the people of many of the European countries was still Mithraism. But when Christianity spread, the priests, since they could not stop the practice of celebrating Mithra’s birthday on December the 25th, declared this day as Jesus’s birthday which is still so.
Since the first night of winter (21th of December) is the longest night and from that night on the days get longer and the warmth and light of the sun increases, that night was supposed to be the time for the re-birth of sun.
The Aryan tribes celebrated sun’s birth at the beginning of winter. Yalda is a Soriani word meaning birth. The Roman used the word natalis for birth.
Mesh (Mitra) and ṛtá (arta)
Armenian kingdom of Mitanni (one house in Armenian)
The influence of Mitanni
The relation between Egypt and Mitanni – in the time of Akhenaten
Some notes of the ancient history of the Armenians
Aten, Akhenaten and Monotheism, and the relation between Egypt and Mitanni
Urartu / Armenia
Mitanni and Egypt
Arta/Asha: From Aratta to Urartu/Urashtu and Armenia/Assyria
The Aryans (Armenians) – the country of endless fire
The Hurro-Urartians, the horse and the wheel
Things Fall Apart: Iraq
The Norse Goddess Hel
Tappeh Mill Fire Temple
Vahagn – the God of Fires: March 21
The Armenian deity of the sun and fire
Arta/Asha: From Aratta to Urartu/Urashtu and Armenia/Assyria
The Aryans – The origin of the Civilization in Mesopotamia – and the rest of the world – The origin of Mitra/Jesus
The Aryan Civilization: Mitanni (Hurri-Aryan – Armenian) – Mitra – Mithraic mysteries
Our nation of Mitanni/Maryannu (Aryan)