Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The two aspects of life, the transformation

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 24, 2015


Libra (♎) is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. The Libra constellation occupies an area of 538 square degrees and contains three stars with known planets. It can be seen at latitudes between +65° and -90° and is best visible at 9 p.m. during the month of June.

It spans the 180–210th degree of the zodiac, between 180 and 207.25 degree of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between (northern autumnal equinox) September 23 and October 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Libra from approximately October 16 to November 17.

Libra is a relatively faint constellation, without any stars of first magnitude. The brightest stars alpha, beta, gamma and sigma Librae – form a quadrangle in the sky. With an apparent magnitude of 2.7, beta Librae is the brightest star in the constellation. It is a blue dwarf approximately 160 light-years distant. The star is also known as Zubeneschamali (“the northern claw”) and Lanx Australis (“the southern scale” of the balance).

Gamma Librae is a magnitude 4 star also known as Zuben-el-Akrab (“shears of the scorpion”). Sigma Librae is a red giant also known as Brachium (“arm”), Cornu (“horn”) and Zubenalgubi (“southern claw”). It used to be part of the constellation Scorpius and had the designation gamma Scorpii before being assigned to Libra in the 19th century.

Alpha Librae, also known as Zubenelgenubi (“southern claw”) and Kiffa Australis (“southern pan” of the scales), is the second brightest star in the constellation. It is binary star lying about 77 light-years from the Sun.

Libra does not contain any bright galaxies, but there is one that may be of interest to observers that can be spotted in a large telescope, lying next to Beta Librae. It is the barred spiral galaxy NGC 5885, with a magnitude of 11.7.

Libra is home to Gliese 581 c, the first extrasolar planet discovered orbiting its parent star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, within the star’s habitable zone. The Earth-like planet was found in 2007. Another planet orbiting the same star, Gliese 581 e is the smallest mass extrasolar planet discovered orbiting a normal star.

Libra belongs to the Zodiac family of constellations, along with Leo, Virgo, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. Constellations directly bordering Libra are Serpens Caput, Virgo, Hydra, Centaurus, Lupus, Scorpius and Ophiuchus.

In earlier times, Libra was represented not by a balance, but as the claws of a scorpion, Scorpius. At first Scorpio held the scales in his claw, or his claws were the scales. Ancient Sumerians called the constellation ZIB-BA AN-NA, meaning “the balance of heaven”, and it is from this that the Arabs got the name Zuben.

For a time, the constellation was represented by scorpion claws because of an error in translation of the Arabic word “zubana” and Akkadian word “zibanitu,” both of which can stand for “weighing scale” as well as “scorpion.” The Zuben- prefix in the names of the stars of Libra is from the Arabic word for ‘claw’.

In ancient times, scales had a shape similar to that of a scorpion hung upside down. As a result, the constellation was known as Chelae Scorpionis (“claws of a scorpion”) and was not identified with scales until the 1st century BC, in ancient Rome. The Romans created the constellation, Chelae, “claws”, a common Roman title for Libra.

Its name means “weighing scales” in Latin. Hence it seems that the Romans revived a constellation that existed before Greek times. The Chinese called the constellation Show Sing, “the Star of Longevity,” in ancient times, but later renamed it to Tien Ching, “the Celestial Balance.“

Libra is one of the three zodiac air signs, the others being Gemini and Aquarius. Personality traits often associated with people born under the sign of Libra include: harmonious, seeking justice and balance, intellectual, refined and concerned with relationships.

Romans considered it to be a favourable constellation because they believed that the Moon was in Libra when the city was founded. Today, Libra is depicted as the scales held by Astraea (Dike), the Greek goddess of justice, associated with the neighbouring constellation Virgo.

The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice. The ruling planet of Libra is Venus.

Themis is an ancient Greek Titaness. She is described as “of good counsel”, and is the personification of divine order, law, natural law and custom. Themis means “divine law” rather than human ordinance, literally “that which is put in place”, compared with títhēmi, meaning “to put”.

To the ancient Greeks she was originally the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies”. Moses Finley remarked of themis, as the word was used by Homer in the 8th century, to evoke the social order of the 10th- and 9th-century Greek Dark Ages:

Themis is untranslatable. A gift of the gods and a mark of civilized existence, sometimes it means right custom, proper procedure, social order, and sometimes merely the will of the gods (as revealed by an omen, for example) with little of the idea of right.

Finley adds, “There was themis—custom, tradition, folk-ways, mores, whatever we may call it, the enormous power of ‘it is (or is not) done’. The world of Odysseus had a highly developed sense of what was fitting and proper.”

The adjective Venusian is commonly used for items related to Venus, though the Latin adjective is the rarely used Venerean; the archaic Cytherean is still occasionally encountered. Venus is the only planet in the Solar System that is named after a female figure.

(Three dwarf planets—Ceres, Eris and Haumea—along with many of the first discovered asteroids and some moons (such as the Galilean moons) also have feminine names. Earth and the Moon also have feminine names in many languages—Gaia/Terra, Selene/Luna—but the female mythological figures who personified them were named after them, not the other way around.)

The astronomical symbol for Venus is the same as that used in biology for the female sex: a circle with a small cross beneath. The Venus symbol also represents femininity, and in Western alchemy stood for the metal copper. Polished copper has been used for mirrors from antiquity, and the symbol for Venus has sometimes been understood to stand for the mirror of the goddess.

Astraea or Astrea (English translation: “star-maiden”), in ancient Greek religion, was a daughter of Astraeus, an astrological deity and the Titan-god of the dusk, and Eos, a Titaness and the goddess of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the Oceanus.

Some also associate Astraeus with the winds, as he is the father of the four Anemoi/wind deities. He is also sometimes associated with Aeolus, the Keeper of the Winds, since winds often swell up around dusk.

In Hesiod’s Theogony and in the Bibliotheca, Astraeus is a second-generation Titan, descended from Crius and Eurybia. However, Hyginus wrote that he was descended directly from Tartarus and Gaia, and referred to him as one of the Gigantes.

Appropriately, as god of the dusk, Astraeus married Eos, goddess of the dawn. Together as nightfall and daybreak they produced many children who are associated with what occurs in the sky during twilight.

They had many sons, the four Anemoi (“Winds”): Boreas, Notus, Eurus, and Zephyrus, and the five Astra Planeta (“Wandering Stars”, i.e. planets): Phainon (Saturn), Phaethon (Jupiter), Pyroeis (Mars), Eosphoros/Hesperos (Venus), and Stilbon (Mercury). A few sources mention one daughter, Astraea, the goddess of innocence and, sometimes, justice.

The dawn goddess Eos is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of Helios, god of the sun, and Selene, goddess of the moon, “who shine upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless gods who live in the wide heaven.” Hesiod told in Theogony (371-374). The generation of Titans preceded all the familiar deities of Olympus, who largely supplanted them.

In Greek mythology, Hyperion (“The High-One”) was one of the twelve Titan children of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky or Heaven) who, led by Cronus, overthrew Uranus and were themselves later overthrown by the Olympians. With his sister, the Titaness Theia, Hyperion fathered Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn).

As the father of Helios, Hyperion was regarded as the “first principle” by Emperor Julian, though his relevance in Julian’s notions of theurgy is unknown.

In Greek mythology, Theia (sometimes rendered Thea or Thia), also called Euryphaessa “wide-shining”, is a Titaness and a goddess of the moon. The name Theia alone means simply “goddess” or “divine”; Theia Euryphaessa brings overtones of extent ( eurys, “wide”) and brightness (phaos, “light”). Her brother/consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).

Hesiod’s Theogony gives her an equally primal origin, a daughter of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky). Robert Graves also relates that later Theia is referred to as the cow-eyed Euryphaessa who gave birth to Helios in myths dating to Classical Antiquity.

Once paired in later myths with her Titan brother Hyperion as her husband, “mild-eyed Euryphaessa, the far-shining one” of the Homeric Hymn to Helios, was said to be the mother of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn).

Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers (ῥοδοδάκτυλος, rhododáktylos) or rosy forearms (ῥοδόπηχυς, rhodópēkhys) as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise. In Homer, her saffron-coloured robe is embroidered or woven with flowers; rosy-fingered and with golden arms, she is pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird.

Eos is cognate to Vedic Sanskrit Ushas and Latin Aurora, both goddesses of dawn, and all three considered derivatives of a PIE stem *h₂ewsṓs (later *Ausṓs), “dawn”, a stem that also gave rise to Proto-Germanic *Austrō, Old Germanic *Ōstara and Old English Ēostre/Ēastre. This agreement leads to the reconstruction of a Proto-Indo-European dawn goddess.

One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *h₂ewsṓs- or *h₂ausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.

Derivatives of *h₂ewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ἠώς (Ēōs), Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn- is from an extended stem *h₂ews-tro-.

The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *h₂wes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.

The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).

Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir. The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess.

As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos. The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”).

J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams (1997) have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Ἠριγόνη Erigone “early-born” in Greek.

The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn.

The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the New Year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.

According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, Eos consorted with the war god Ares and was thereupon cursed with unsatisfiable sexual desire by the jealous Aphrodite. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion and Cleitus. The good-looking Cleitus was made immortal by her. She also asked for Tithonus to be made immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, which resulted in him living forever as a helpless old man.

According to Hesiod by Tithonus Eos had two sons called Memnon and Emathion. Memnon fought among the Trojans in the Trojan War and was slain. Her image with the dead Memnon across her knees (like Thetis with the dead Achilles) is an icon that inspired the Christian Pietà.

The abduction of Cephalus had special appeal for an Athenian audience because Cephalus was a local boy, and so this myth element appeared frequently in Attic vase-paintings and was exported with them. In the literary myths Eos kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting and took him to Syria. The second-century CE traveller Pausanias was informed that the abductor of Cephalus was Hemera, goddess of Day.

Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaeton and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to her — and put a curse on them. In Hyginus’ report, Cephalus accidentally killed Procris sometime later after he mistook her for an animal while hunting; in Ovid’s Metamorphoses vii, Procris, a jealous wife, was spying on him and heard him singing to the wind, but thought he was serenading his ex-lover Eos.

Among the Etruscans, the generative dawn-goddess was Thesan. Depictions of the dawn-goddess with a young lover became popular in Etruria in the fifth century, probably inspired by imported Greek vase-painting.

Though Etruscans preferred to show the goddess as a nurturer (Kourotrophos) rather than an abductor of young men, the late Archaic sculptural acroterion from Etruscan Cære, now in Berlin, showing the goddess in archaic running pose adapted from the Greeks, and bearing a boy in her arms, has commonly been identified as Eos and Cephalus. On an Etruscan mirror Thesan is shown carrying off a young man, whose name is inscribed as Tinthu.

The Roman equivalent of Eos is Aurora, also a cognate showing the characteristic Latin rhotacism. The Dawn became associated in Roman cult with Matuta, later known as Mater Matuta. She was also associated with the sea harbors and ports, and had a temple on the Forum Boarium. On June 11, the Matralia was celebrated at that temple in honor of Mater Matuta; this festival was only for women during their first marriage.

Astraea was the virgin goddess of Innocence and purity and is always associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike (daughter of Zeus and Themis and the personification of just judgement). She should not to be confused with Asteria, the goddess of the stars and the daughter of Coeus and Phoebe.

Astraea, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the Golden Age, one of the old Greek religion’s five deteriorating Ages of Man. According to Ovid, Astraea abandoned the earth during the Iron Age.

Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo. The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation. In the Tarot, the 8th card, Justice, with a figure of Justitia, can thus be considered related to the figure of Astraea on historical iconographic grounds. According to legend, Astraea will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.

In Sumerian mythology, a me (Sumerian, conventionally pronounced) or ñe [ŋɛ] or parşu (Akkadian), 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 mes were originally collected by Enlil and then handed over to the guardianship of Enki who was to broker them out to the various Sumerian centers beginning with his own city of Eridu and continuing with Ur, Meluhha, and Dilmun. This is described in the poem, “Enki and the World Order” which also details how he parcels out responsibility for various crafts and natural phenomena to the lesser gods.

We never learn what any of the mes look like, yet they are represented as physical objects of some sort. Not only are they stored in a prominent location in the E-abzu. Some of them are indeed physical objects such as musical instruments, but many are technologies like “basket weaving” or abstractions like “victory”. It is not made clear in the poem how such things can be stored, handled, or displayed.

Not all the mes are admirable or desirable traits. Alongside functions like “heroship” and “victory” we also find “the destruction of cities”, “falsehood”, and “enmity”. The Sumerians apparently considered such evils and sins an inevitable part of humanity’s lot in life, divinely and inscrutably decreed, and not to be questioned.

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. 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.

Ma was a local goddess at Ma (Comana) and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele, an originally Anatolian mother goddess with 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 dated to the 6th millennium BCE.

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.

Maat or Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation.

It is said that the Egyptian goddess Maat used an ostrich feather to measure the weight of the heart, or soul, in which a person’s heart or soul lies in one pan and the ostrich feather of the goddess Maat in the other. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.

Her ideological counterpart was Isfet (meaning “injustice”, “chaos”, or “violence”; as a verb, “to do evil”). Pharaohs are often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws of the Creator.

After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat.

The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).

Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser known deity.

Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Khmun, later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes) and Shmounein in the Coptic rendering.

The Greeks related Thoth to their god Hermes due to his similar attributes and functions. One of Thoth’s titles, “Three-times great, great” was translated to the Greek Trismegistos, making Hermes Trismegistus.

Thoth’s roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (i.e. hieroglyphs) themselves.

In the underworld, Duat, Toth appeared as an ape, A’an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma’at, was exactly even.

The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. divine) law, making proper use of Ma’at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them.

Compare this to how his feminine counterpart, Ma’at was the force which maintained the Universe. He is said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivalled that of Ra and Osiris.

The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, land surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.

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. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.

The Hittite sun goddess Arinniti was later assimilated with Hebat. A prayer of Queen Puduhepa makes this explicit: “To the Sun-goddess of Arinna, my lady, the mistress of the Hatti lands, the queen of Heaven and Earth. Sun-goddess of Arinna, thou art Queen of all countries! In the Hatti country thou bearest the name of the Sun-goddess of Arinna; but in the land which thou madest the cedar land thou bearest the name Hebat.”

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself, was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: “Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals”. The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.

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.

Shiva (meaning “The Auspicious One”), also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is one of the main deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme god within Shaivism, one of the three most influential denominations in contemporary Hinduism. He is one of the five primary forms of God in the Smarta tradition, and “the Destroyer” or “the Transformer” among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine.

At the highest level, Shiva is regarded as limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless. Shiva also has many benevolent and fearsome forms. In benevolent aspects, he is depicted as an omniscient Yogi who lives an ascetic life on Mount Kailash, as well as a householder with wife Parvati and his two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya, and in fierce aspects, he is often depicted slaying demons. Shiva is also regarded as the patron god of yoga and arts.

The main iconographical attributes of Shiva are the third eye on his forehead, the snake Vasuki around his neck, the adorning crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the trishula as his weapon and the damaru as his musical instrument. Shiva is usually worshiped in the aniconic form of Lingam, a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples.

The lingam (meaning “mark”, “sign”, or “inference”) is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples. In traditional Indian society, the linga is rather seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of God, Shiva himself.

The lingam is often represented alongside the yoni (literally “vagina” or “womb”), the symbol of the Goddess (Shakti or Devi), the Hindu Divine Mother, female creative energy. Within Shaivism, the sect dedicated to the god Shiva, the yoni symbolizes his consort.

The male counterpart of the yoni is Shivaling. Their union represents the eternal process of creation and regeneration. Since the late 19th century, some have interpreted the yoni and the lingam as aniconic representations of the vulva and a phallus respectively.

The union of lingam and yoni represents the “indivisible two-in-oneness of male and female, the passive space and active time from which all life originates”. The yoni is the creative power of nature and represents the goddess Shakti. The lingam stone represents Shiva, and is usually placed in the yoni. The lingam is the transcendental source of all that exists. The lingam united with the yoni represents the nonduality of immanent reality and transcendental potentiality.

Linga represents Cosmic Egg (‘Brahmanda’ in Sanskrit) who has no beginning nor end. It is believed that this changing world (‘Jagat’ in Sanskrit) merges or dissolves into the Formless in the end. So, the Linga is the simplest sign of emergence and mergence.

In Hinduism, the ancient Indian texts contain the word yoni in various contexts. In Hindu philosophy, according to Tantra, yoni is the origin of life. The yoni is also considered to be an abstract representation of Shakti and Devi, the creative force that moves through the entire universe.

Shamash (Akkadian: Šamaš, “Sun”) was a native Mesopotamian deity and the Sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hebrew pantheons. Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu (Akkadian rendition of Sumerian UD “Sun”, Assyro-Babylonian Shamash “Sun”). Akkadian šamaš is cognate to Syriac šemša or šimšu Hebrew šemeš and Arabic šams.

Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the “offspring of Nannar”; i.e. of the Moon-god. Sin (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: ŠEŠ.KI, NANNA), the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. He is commonly designated as En-zu, which means “lord of wisdom”.

During the period (c.2600-2400 BC) that Ur exercised a large measure of supremacy over the Euphrates valley, Sin was naturally regarded as the head of the pantheon. It is to this period that we must trace such designations of Sin as “father of the gods”, “chief of the gods”, “creator of all things”, and the like. The “wisdom” personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor.

An important Sumerian text (“Enlil and Ninlil”) tells of the descent of Enlil and Ninlil, pregnant with Nanna/Sin, into the underworld. There, three “substitutions” are given to allow the ascent of Nanna/Sin. The story shows some similarities to the text known as “The Descent of Inanna”. The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.

Since, in an enumeration of the pantheon, Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the Moon-god that the Sun-god appears as the dependent power. Such a supposition would accord with the prominence acquired by the Moon in the calendar and in astrological calculations, as well as with the fact that the Moon-cult belongs to the nomadic and therefore earlier stage of civilization, whereas the Sun-god rises to full importance only after the agricultural stage has been reached.

Utu is the Sun god in Sumerian mythology, the son of the moon god Nanna and the goddess Ningal (“Great Lady/Queen”), a goddess of reeds in the Sumerian mythology, daughter of Enki and Ningikurga and the consort of the moon god Nanna by whom she bore Utu the sun god, Inanna, and in some texts, Ishkur. She is chiefly recognised at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia. His brother and sisters are Ishkur and the twins Inanna (the goddess of the planet Venus) and Ereshkigal. His center cult was located in the city of Larsa.

Utu is the god of the sun, justice, application of law, and the lord of truth. He is usually depicted as wearing a horned helmet and carrying a saw-edged weapon not unlike a pruning saw. It is thought that every day, Utu emerges from a mountain in the east, symbolizing dawn, and travels either via chariot or boat across the Earth, returning to a hole in a mountain in the west, symbolizing sunset. Every night, Utu descends into the underworld to decide the fate of the dead. He is also depicted as carrying a mace, and standing with one foot on a mountain. Its symbol is “sun rays from the shoulders, and or sun disk or a saw”.

Asha (aša) is the Avestan language term (corresponding to Vedic language ṛta) for a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-.

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 word is also the proper name of the divinity Asha, the Amesha Spenta that is the hypostasis or “genius” of “Truth” or “Righteousness”. In the Younger Avesta, this figure is more commonly referred to as Asha Vahishta (Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”.

The Middle Persian descendant is Ashawahist or Ardwahisht; New Persian Ardibehesht or Ordibehesht. In the Gathas, the oldest texts of Zoroastrianism and thought to have been composed by the prophet himself, it is seldom possible to distinguish between moral principle and the divinity. Later texts consistently use the ‘Best’ epithet when speaking of the Amesha Spenta, only once in the Gathas is ‘best’ an adjective of aša/arta.

Avestan aša and its Vedic equivalent ṛtá both derive from Proto-Indo-Iranian *ṛtá- “truth”, which in turn continues Proto-Indo-European *h2r-to- “properly joined, right, true”, from the root *h2ar. The word is attested in Old Persian as arta.

It is unclear whether the Avestan variation between aša and arta is merely orthographical. Benveniste suggested š was only a convenient way of writing rt and should not be considered phonetically relevant.

According to Gray, š is a misreading, representing – not /ʃ/ – but /rr/, of uncertain phonetic value but “probably” representing a voiceless r. Miller suggested that rt was restored when a scribe was aware of the morpheme boundary between the /r/ and /t/ (that is, whether the writer maintained the –ta suffix).

Both Avestan aša/arta and Vedic ŗtá- are commonly translated as “truth” as this best reflects both the original meaning of the term as well as the opposition to their respective antonyms. The opposite of Avestan aša/arta is druj-, “lie.” Similarly, the opposites of Vedic ṛtá- are ánṛta- and druh, likewise “lie”.

Avestan druj, like its Vedic Sanskrit cousin druh, appears to derive from the PIE root *dhreugh, also continued in Persian d[o]rūġ “lie”, German Trug “fraud, deception”. Old Norse draugr and Middle Irish airddrach means “spectre, spook”. The Sanskrit cognate druh means “affliction, afflicting demon”.

Aša “cannot be precisely rendered by some single word in another tongue,” but may be summarized as follows: It is, first of all, ‘true statement’. This ‘true statement’, because it is true, corresponds to an objective, material reality. This reality embraces all of existence. Recognized in it is a great cosmic principle since all things happen according to it. “This cosmic […] force is imbued also with morality, as verbal Truth, ‘la parole conforme’, and Righteousness, action conforming with the moral order.”

The correspondence between truth, reality, and an all-encompassing cosmic principle is not far removed from Heraclitus’ conception of Logos, an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric, and religion. Originally a word meaning “a ground”, “a plea”, “an opinion”, “an expectation”, “word”, “speech”, “account”, “to reason” it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge.

That “truth” is also what was commonly understood by the term is attested in Greek: In Isis and Osiris 47, Plutarch calls the divinity Aletheia, “Truth.” Aletheia is truth or disclosure in philosophy. It was used in Ancient Greek philosophy and revived in the 20th century by Martin Heidegger.

In the early to mid 20th-century, Martin Heidegger brought renewed attention to the concept of aletheia, by relating it to the notion of disclosure, or the way in which things appear as entities in the world.

Heidegger gave an etymological analysis of aletheia, and drew out an understanding of the term as ‘unconcealedness’. Thus, aletheia is distinct from conceptions of truth understood as statements which accurately describe a state of affairs (correspondence), or statements which fit properly into a system taken as a whole (coherence).

Instead, Heidegger focused on the elucidation of how an ontological “world” is disclosed, or opened up, in which things are made intelligible for human beings in the first place, as part of a holistically structured background of meaning.

It is a Greek word variously translated as “unclosedness”, “unconcealedness”, “disclosure” or “truth”. The literal meaning of the word is “the state of not being hidden; the state of being evident.” It also means factuality or reality.

In the Zoroastrian calendar, the third day of the month and the second month of the year are dedicated to and named after aša and Asha Vahishta (Ordibehesht in Modern Persian both in Iranian Calendar and Yazdgerdi calendar).

A special service to aša and Aša, known as the ‘Jashan of Ardavisht’, is held on the day on which month-name and day-name dedications intersect. In the Fasli and Bastani variants of the Zoroastrian calendar, this falls on April 22.

Rapithwin, one of the five gahs (watches) of the day, under the protection of Aša. (Bundahishn 3.22) This implies that all prayers recited between noon and three invoke Aša. Noon is considered to be the “perfect” time, at which instant the world was created and at which instant time will stop on the day of the final renovation of the world.

In the winter months, the daevic time of year, Rapithwin is known as the Second Havan (the first Havan being from dawn to noon), and with the first day of spring, March 21, Rapithwin symbolically returns. This day, March 21, is Nowruz.

Nowruz, the holiest of all Zoroastrian festivals is dedicated to Aša. It follows immediately after Pateti, the day of introspection and the Zoroastrian equivalent of All-Souls Day. Nowruz, Zoroastrianism’s New Year’s Day, is celebrated on the first day of spring, traditionally understood to be the day of rebirth, and literally translated means “New Day”. The first month of the year of the Zoroastrian calendar is Farvadin, which is dedicated to and named after the Fravašis, the guardian spirits of the dead.

“The underlying idea of the dedication” of the second month of the year to Asha Vahishta “may be revivification of the earth after the death of winter.”

Maya or Māyā, literally means “illusion” and “magic”. However, the term has multiple meanings depending on the context. In earlier older language, it literally implies extraordinary power and wisdom, in later Vedic texts and modern literature dedicated to Indian traditions, Māyā connotes a “magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem”.

In Indian philosophies, Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting “that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal”, and the “power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality”.

In Buddhism, Maya was the name of Gautama Buddha’s mother. Maya is also the name of a manifestation of Lakshmi, the goddess of “wealth, prosperity and love”, in Hinduism. For these reasons, it is a popular name for girls.

Māyā is a Sanskrit word with unclear etymology, probably comes from two roots, mā (or may-) which means “measure”, and “yā” which means “vanish, to go, undertake”. These roots are also related to the root mā, which means mother and serve as an epithet for goddesses such as Lakshmi.

A similar word is also found in the Proto-Indo-Iranian language *māyā, cognate to Avestan māyā with the meaning of “magic power”. Franklin Southworth states the word’s origin is uncertain, and other possible roots of Māyā include “may-” meaning mystify, confuse, intoxicate, delude, as well as “māy-” which means “disappear, be lost”.

According to Monier Williams, Māyā meant wisdom and extraordinary power in an earlier older language, but from Vedic period onwards, the word came to mean “illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, witchcraft and magic”.

However, Shastri states that the Monier Williams’ list is a “loose definition, misleading generalization”, and not accurate in interpreting ancient Vedic and medieval era Sanskrit texts; instead, he suggests a more accurate meaning of Maya is “appearance, not mere illusion”.

Maya was the name of Gautama Buddha’s mother. In Hinduism, Māyā is also a form of Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and wealth, and the wife of the god Vishnu. In Devi Mahatmya, the epithet for the goddess is Mahamāyā, meaning “one whose power of illusion is great”. Because of the name’s association with revered identities in Indian philosophies, Mayā is a common name for girls in India and amongst the Indian diaspora around the world.

Truth is most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. The commonly understood opposite of truth is falsehood, which, correspondingly, can also take on a logical, factual, or ethical meaning.

The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy and religion. Many human activities depend upon the concept, where its nature as a concept is assumed rather than being a subject of discussion; these include most (but not all) of the sciences, law, and everyday life.

Various theories and views of truth continue to be debated among scholars, philosophers, and theologians. Language and words are a means by which humans convey information to one another and the method used to determine what is a “truth” is termed a criterion of truth.

There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

The English word truth is derived from Old English tríewþ, tréowþ, trýwþ, Middle English trewþe, cognate to Old High German triuwida, Old Norse tryggð. Like troth, it is a -th nominalisation of the adjective true (Old English tréowe).

The English word true is from Old English (West Saxon) (ge)tríewe, tréowe, cognate to Old Saxon (gi)trûui, Old High German (ga)triuwu (Modern German treu “faithful”), Old Norse tryggr, Gothic triggws, all from a Proto-Germanic *trewwj- “having good faith”, perhaps ultimately from PIE *dru- “tree”, on the notion of “steadfast as an oak” (e.g., Sanskrit “dru” tree). Old Norse trú, “faith, word of honour; religious faith, belief” (archaic English troth “loyalty, honesty, good faith”, compare Ásatrú).

From Middle English trouthe, trowthe, variant of treouthe, treuthe, from Old English trēowþ, trīewþ (“truth, veracity; faith, fidelity; pledge, covenant”), from Proto-Germanic *triwwiþō (“promise, contract”), equivalent to true +‎ -th.

Thus, ‘truth’ involves both the quality of “faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, sincerity, veracity”, and that of “agreement with fact or reality”, in Anglo-Saxon expressed by sōþ (Modern English sooth).

All Germanic languages besides English have introduced a terminological distinction between truth “fidelity” and truth “factuality”. To express “factuality”, North Germanic opted for nouns derived from sanna “to assert, affirm”, while continental West Germanic (German and Dutch) opted for continuations of wâra “faith, trust, pact” (cognate to Slavic věra “(religious) faith”, but influenced by Latin verus).

Romance languages use terms following the Latin veritas, while the Greek aletheia, Russian pravda and South Slavic istina have separate etymological origins.

In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue. It was believed that she hid in the bottom of a holy well because she was so elusive. Her image is shown as a young virgin dressed in white.

Veritas is also the name given to the Roman virtue of truthfulness, which was considered one of the main virtues any good Roman should possess. In Greek mythology, Veritas is known as Aletheia and is the daughter of Zeus, or a creation of Prometheus. Veritas was often depicted nude.

The ancient Greek origins of the words “true” and “truth” have some consistent definitions throughout great spans of history that were often associated with topics of logic, geometry, mathematics, deduction, induction, and natural philosophy.

Socrates’, Plato’s and Aristotle’s ideas about truth are seen by some as consistent with correspondence theory. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true”.

In Hinduism, Truth is defined as “unchangeable”, “that which has no distortion”, “that which is beyond distinctions of time, space, and person”, “that which pervades the universe in all its constancy”. The human body, therefore is not completely true as it changes with time, for example.

Satya literally means truth, reality. It also refers to a virtue in Indian religions, referring to being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. In Yoga, satya is one of five yamas, the virtuous restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one’s expressions and actions. It is a Sanskrit word that means adhering to truth, reality and honesty.

“Satya” (Sat-yá) is derived from Sat and ya. Sat means being, reality, and is the present participle of the root as “to be” (PIE *h₁es-; cognate to English is). Ya and yam means “advancing, supporting, hold up, sustain, one that moves”.

As a composite word, Satya and Satyam imply that “which supports, sustains and advances reality, being”; it literally means, “that which is true, actual, real, genuine, trustworthy, valid”.

In Vedic literature, and later sutras, the meaning of the word Satya evolves into an ethical concept about truthfulness and is considered an important virtue. It means being true and consistent with reality in one’s thought, speech and action.

A related concept Sattva, also derived from “sat”, means true essence, nature, spiritual essence, character. Sattva is also a Guna, a psychology concept particularly in Sämkya-Yoga schools of Hinduism, where it means goodness, purity, clean, positive, one that advances good true nature of self.

There are many references, properties and explanations of truth by Hindu sages that explain varied facets of truth. Combined with other words, satya acts as modifier, like “ultra” or “highest,” or more literally “truest,” connoting purity and excellence. For example, satyaloka is the “highest heaven’ and Satya Yuga is the “golden age” or best of the four cyclical cosmic ages in Hinduism, and so on.

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. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.

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. Christopher Siren reports that Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses.

In Hurrian mythology, the Hutena are goddesses of fate. They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Moirai of ancient Greece. They are called the Gul Ses (Gul-Shesh; Gulshesh; Gul-ashshesh) in Hittite mythology.

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 the harvest goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, also called Kore or Cora (“the maiden”), the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter and the queen of the underworld, in Greek myth.

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.

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. Hebat is married to Teshub and is the mother of Sarruma and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.

It is thought that Hebat may have had a Southern Mesopotamian origin, being the deification of Kubaba, the founder and first ruler of the Third Dynasty of Kish. The name may be transliterated in different versions – Khebat with the feminine ending -t is primarily the Syrian and Ugaritic version.

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.

Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld.

A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is a deity associated with the number three. Such deities are common throughout world mythology; the number three has a long history of mythical associations.

In religious iconography or mythological art, three separate beings may represent either a triad who always appear as a group (Greek Moirai, Charites, Erinnyes; Norse Norns; or the Irish Morrígna) or a single deity known from literary sources as having three aspects (Greek Hecate, Diana Nemorensis).

Hecate or Hekate is a goddess in Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding two torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery.

In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd-3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. She was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family.

Hecate may have originated among the Carians of Anatolia, where variants of her name are found as names given to children. William Berg observes, “Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens.”

She also closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, the goddess who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, with whom she was identified in Rome.

Trivia was a friend of Ceres and helped her to find her daughter Proserpina. As a part of her role as an underworld goddess, she was known as the Queen of Ghosts. Although she helped Ceres to find her daughter, she was also known to steal young maidens to assist her in her powers. These women later became nymphs.

Her association for Romans of the first century BCE with Artemis was so thorough that Lucretius identifies the altar of the goddess at the sacrifice of Iphianassa (Iphigeneia) in Aulis as Triviai virginis aram.

According to the personal mythology of Robert Graves, Persephone is not only the younger self of Demeter, she is in turn also one of three guises of the Triple Goddess — Kore (the youngest, the maiden, signifying green young grain), Persephone (in the middle, the nymph, signifying the ripe grain waiting to be harvested), and Hecate (the eldest of the three, the crone, the harvested grain), which to a certain extent reduces the name and role of Demeter to that of group name. Before her abduction, she is called Kore; and once taken she becomes Persephone (‘she who brings destruction’).

Demeter and her daughter Persephone were usually called: The goddesses often distinguished as “the older” and “the younger” (Ereshkigal and Inanna, in Sumerian mythology) in Eleusis, Demeters, in Rhodes and Sparta, the thesmophoroi, “the legislators” in the Thesmophoria, the Great Goddesses, in Arcadia, and the mistresses in Arcadia. In Mycenaean Pylos, Demeter and Persephone were probably called “queens” (wa-na-ssoi).

Demeter’s virgin daughter Persephone was abducted to the underworld by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. Demeter searched for her ceaselessly, preoccupied with her loss and her grief. The seasons halted; living things ceased their growth, then began to die. Faced with the extinction of all life on earth, Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to the underworld to bring Persephone back.

Hades agreed to release her if she had eaten nothing while in his realm; but Persephone had eaten a small number of pomegranate seeds. This bound her to Hades and the underworld for certain months of every year, either the dry Mediterranean summer, when plant life is threatened by drought, or the autumn and winter.

There are several variations on the basic myth. In the Homeric hymn to Demeter, Hecate assists in the search and later becomes Persephone’s underworld attendant.

In another, Persephone willingly and secretly eats the pomegranate seeds, thinking to deceive Hades, but is discovered and made to stay. In all versions, Persephone’s time in the underworld corresponds with the unfruitful seasons of the ancient Greek calendar, and her return to the upper world with springtime. Demeter’s descent to retrieve Persephone from the underworld is connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead.

In ancient Greek religion and Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Her cult titles include Sito (Σιτώ), “she of the Grain”, as the giver of food or grain and Thesmophoros ( thesmos: divine order, unwritten law; “phoros”: bringer, bearer), “Law-Bringer,” as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society.

Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. She and her daughter Persephone were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon.

In the Linear B Mycenean Greek tablets of circa 1400–1200 BC found at Pylos, the “two mistresses and the king” may be related with Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.

In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina, and her mother, Ceres. The Romans identified Proserpina with their native fertility goddess Libera, daughter of the grain and agriculture goddess Ceres and wife to Liber. St. Augustine (AD 354 – 430) observes that Libera is concerned with female fertility, as Liber is with male fertility.

Just as Persephone was thought to be a daughter of Demeter, Romans made Proserpina a daughter of Demeter’s Roman equivalent, Ceres. Like Persephone, Proserpina is associated with the underworld realm and its ruler; and along with her mother Ceres, with the springtime growth of crops and the cycle of life, death and rebirth or renewal. Her name is a Latinisation of “Persephone”, perhaps influenced by the Latin proserpere (“to emerge, to creep forth”), with respect to the growing of grain.

Her core myths – her forcible abduction by the god of the Underworld, her mother’s search for her and her eventual but temporary restoration to the world above – are the subject of works in Roman and later art and literature. In particular, Proserpina’s seizure by the god of the Underworld – usually described as the Rape of Proserpina, or of Persephone – has offered dramatic subject matter for Renaissance and later sculptors and painters.

The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”), sometimes it is given as Ninkigal (lit: “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great 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.

Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. Ereshkigal was also a queen that many gods and goddesses looked up to in the underworld.

She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines which date back to the Mesopotamia period. According to the doctrine of two kingdoms, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated, as one is of this world and one of the world of the dead.

One of these myths is Inanna’s descent to the netherworld and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her kingdom and Inanna is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself.

The other myth is the story of Nergal, the plague god. Once, the gods held a banquet that Ereshkigal as queen of the Netherworld cannot come up to attend. They invite her to send a messenger and she sends Namtar, her vizier.

He is treated well by all but disrespected by Nergal. As a result of this, Nergal is banished to the kingdom controlled by the goddess. Versions vary at this point, but all of them result in him becoming her husband. In later tradition, Nergal is said to have been the victor, taking her as wife and ruling the land himself.

It is theorized that the story of Inanna’s descent is told to illustrate the possibility of an escape from the netherworld, while the Nergal myth is intended to reconcile the existence of two rulers of the netherworld: a goddess and a god. The addition of Nergal represents the harmonizing tendency to unite Ereshkigal as the queen of the netherworld with the god who, as god of war and of pestilence, brings death to the living and thus becomes the one who presides over the dead.

In some versions of the myths, she rules the underworld by herself, sometimes with a husband subordinate to her named Gugalana. It was said that she had been stolen away by Kur and taken to the underworld, where she was made queen unwillingly.

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.

She lived in Dilmun with her family. Raped and ravaged by her husband Enlil, who impregnated her with water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him. In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta, the heroic god who slew Asag the demon with his mace, Sharur.

After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.

In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. She is said to be the daughter of Loki, a trickster God of the Norse, and a Giantess. Her body was seen as half dead and half alive. Some say that part of of her body was beautiful while the other was horrid like death, symbolizing the light and dark aspects within all of us and everything, the transformation.

One of the myths involving Hel is the story of the death of Baldr (also Balder, Baldur) is a god of light and purity in Norse mythology, and a son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg. Tricked by Loki, Baldr died in a contest that took place in Asgard, which is known as the capitol of the Gods. Upon his death he was sent to the realm of Hel where he was welcomed with a feast. Though back in his world, Baldr was deeply mourned.

According to Gylfaginning, a book of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Baldr’s wife is Nanna and their son is Forseti. 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.

Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “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.

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 a Linear B (Mycenean Greek) inscription on a tablet found at Pylos dated 1400–1200 BC, John Chadwick reconstructs the name of a goddess *Preswa who could be identified with Persa, daughter of Oceanus and finds speculative the further identification with the first element of Persephone.

Persephonē is her name in the Ionic Greek of epic literature. The Homeric form of her name is Persephoneia. In other dialects she was known under variant names: Persephassa (Περσεφάσσα), Persephatta (Περσεφάττα), or simply Korē (Κόρη, “girl, maiden”).

Plato calls her Pherepapha in his Cratylus, “because she is wise and touches that which is in motion”. There are also the forms Periphona and Phersephassa. The existence of so many different forms shows how difficult it was for the Greeks to pronounce the word in their own language and suggests that the name has probably a Pre-Greek origin.

Persephatta is considered to mean “female thresher of corn,” going by “perso-” relating to Sanskrit “parsa”, “sheaf of corn” and the second constituent of the name originating in Proto-Indo European *-gʷʰn-t-ih, from the root *gʷʰen “to strike”. An alternative etymology is from pherein phonon, “to bring (or cause) death”.

Parsua (earlier Parsuash, Parsumash) was an ancient tribal kingdom/chiefdom (860-600 BC) located near Lake Urmia between Zamua (formerly: Lullubi) 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. Some accounts suggest that Teispes, the son of Achaemenes and an ancestor of Cyrus the Great, led a migration from Parsua to Persis, formerly the Elamite state of Anshan.

There is evidence that Cyrus I and Ariaramnes were both his sons. Cyrus I is the grandfather of Cyrus the Great, whereas Ariaramnes is great grandfather of Darius the Great. According to 7th-century BC documents, he captured the Elamite city of Anshan, speculated to have occurred after the Persians were freed from Median supremacy, and expanded his small kingdom.

Schmitt suggests that the name is probably Iranian, but its etymology is unknown. Its connection with either the name of the Mitannian and Urartian storm god Tešup-Theispas, or with the (Elamite) byname Za-iš-pi-iš-ši-ya is likely.

The Hittite toponym Kummanni, the main center the Anatolian kingdom of Kizzuwatna, the name of an ancient Anatolian kingdom in the 2nd millennium BC, located on the edge of Assyrian influence in the far northeastern corner of Mesopotamia, separating Assyria from Urartu and the highlands of southeastern Anatolia, is considered likely to refer to the city of Comana in Cappadocia, and later Cataonia.

Kummanni was the major cult center of the Hurrian chief deity, Tešup. Its Hurrian name Kummeni simply translates as “The Shrine.” Several ethnic groups coexisted in the Kingdom of Kizzuwatna. The Hurrians inhabited this area at least since the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. The Hittite expansion in the early Old Kingdom period (under Hattusili I and Mursili I) was likely to bring the Hittites and the Luwians to southeastern Anatolia.

The Luwian language was part of the Indo-European language group, with close ties to the Hittite language. Both the local Hittites and the Luwians were likely to contribute to the formation of independent state of Kizzuwatna after the weakening of the Hittite Old Kingdom.

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