The Kursa and the Golden Fleece
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 20, 2015
Sumer, where the annunaki god (meaning “princely offspring” or “offspring of Anu”, they take their name from the old sky god An/Anu) in one hand carries a purse-size bucket or “hunting bags” of holy water, also known as Kursa, and in the other dabs the air with a fruit that looks like a pine cone (representation of the pineal gland, the spiritual gateway of the human body).
All the Anunaki have wings. All are wearing bracelets with a disc. All are carrying a pouch with handle in one hand, and thrusting a pine cone forward with the other.
The third picture is from Dagon or Dagan (Ugaritic: Dgn, Dagnu, or Daganu; Akkadian: Dagana), who was originally an East Semitic Mesopotamian (Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian) fertility god who evolved into a major Northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain (as symbol of fertility) and fish and/or fishing (as symbol of multiplying).
The hunting bag is an image normally used for tutelary deities, a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture or occupation. One type of tutelary deity is the genius, the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Pierre A. Riffard defines a tutelary spirit as either the genius (present since birth) or a familiar spirit.
The scholar Maciej Popko stated in his dissertation of 1978 that the kursa (the fleece) played an important role in religion and many old Hittite festivals. The kursa was a sacral attribute and was offered as a representative of a god. Popko explained how the Hittite kursa, a bag of leather, was made according to a text:
“They found the color and quality of the fleece important: six black rams (and) two white rams: (from) one makes the Fleece” and “six fleeces of rams, (each) bushy and well handled, the Overseer of the Shepherds makes fo[r ….(of each fleece] a godlike Fleece”. Some texts indicate that the kursa could have also been in the form of a shield or a cloth. It is then a cult symbol, which stands next to the sacral container with 20 arrows.
Popko remarked that there is a possibility that the kursa was not a shield but a skin, a fleece, which protected the arrow container. Hans Gustav Güterbock remarked that kursas could also been made from other materials like wood, reed, copper and beads. In the KI.LAM festival the “kursas of beads” are carried in the procession, following the priest of the tutelary deity and the spears, but before the “animals of the gods”, i.e. images of wild animals made of precious metals.
Aries is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It is located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram, and its symbol is (Unicode ♈), representing a ram’s horns. Aries, The Ram, is the first of the twelve zodiacal constellations, and in Greek myth represents the animal whose fleece was sought by Jason and the Argonauts.
Although Aries came to represent specifically the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece of Ancient Greek mythology, it has represented a ram since late Babylonian times. Before that, the stars of Aries formed a farmhand. Different cultures have incorporated the stars of Aries into different constellations including twin inspectors in China and a porpoise in the Marshall Islands.
Aries was not fully accepted as a constellation until classical times. In Hellenistic astrology, the constellation of Aries is associated with the golden ram of Greek mythology that rescued Phrixos and Helle on orders from Hermes, taking him to the land of Colchis.
Aries is now recognized as an official constellation, albeit as a specific region of the sky, by the International Astronomical Union. It was originally defined in ancient texts as a specific pattern of stars, and has remained a constellation since ancient times; it now includes the ancient pattern as well as the surrounding stars.
In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic. The MUL.APIN was a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar. Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”.
Although likely compiled in the 12th or 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age. The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC.
On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present. The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.
By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.
In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.
During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.
The First Point of Aries, the location of the vernal equinox, is named for the constellation. This is because the Sun crossed the celestial equator from south to north in Aries more than two millennia ago. Hipparchus defined it in 130 BC. as a point south of Gamma Arietis.
Because of the precession of the equinoxes, the First Point of Aries has since moved into Pisces and will move into Aquarius by around 2600 AD. The Sun now appears in Aries from late April through mid May, though the constellation is still associated with the beginning of spring.
Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer,” was a god in Babylonian mythology, and — after the murder of his father Abzu — the consort of the goddess Tiamat, his mother, who wanted to establish him as ruler and leader of all gods before she was killed by Marduk. Tiamat gave Kingu the 3 Tablets of Destiny, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power. She placed him as the general of her army.
However, like Tiamat, Kingu was eventually killed by Marduk. Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings, while Tiamat’s body created the earth and the skies. Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat.
Purusha is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. There is a diversity of views within various schools of Hinduism about the definition, scope and nature of Purusa. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or it means Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.
Purusha (“Person”, or “spirit”) is in Hindu myth, the masculine half of Brahma, of whom Satrap is the feminine half. In some versions, Purusha is a primeval giant from whose body the universe was created. In the allegorized extension of the concept of Brahma, Purusha is also the universal spirit or world-soul.
Prakṛti , also Prakṛiti or Prakṛuti (from Sanskrit language प्रकृति, prakṛti), means “nature”. It is, according to Hinduism, the basic nature of intelligence by which the Universe exists and functions. It is described in Bhagavad Gita as the “primal motive force”. It is the essential constituent of the universe and is at the basis of all the activity of the creation. The one god mentioned in the Vedas has two main parts, Prakrti and Purush, and all gods which Hindus worship are just an instance of the Purush while goddesses are instances of Prakrti (sometimes called Adi-Shakti).
Prakruti also means nature. Nature can be described as environment. It can also be used to denote the ‘feminine’ in sense of the ‘male’ being the purusha.
According to Samkhya and the Bhagavad Gita Prakrti or Nature is composed of the three gunas which are tendencies or modes of operation, known as sattva (creation), rajas (preservation), and tamas, (destruction).
Sattva encompasses qualities of goodness, light, and harmony. According to the Yoga Vasistha, people who are of a sattvic nature and whose activities are mainly based on sattva, will tend to seek answers regarding the origin and truth of material life. With proper support they are likely to reach liberation.
Rajas is associated with concepts of energy, activity, ambition, and passion; so that, depending on how it is used, it can either have a supportive or hindering effect on the evolution of the soul.
Tamas is commonly associated with inertia, darkness, insensitivity. Souls who are more tamasic are considered imbued in darkness and take the longest to reach liberation. Prakriti is closely associated with the concept of Maya within Vedic scripture.
Mulaprakruti can be translated as “the root of nature” or “root of Prakruti”; it is a closer definition of ‘fundamental matter’; and is often defined as the essence of matter, that aspect of the Absolute which underlines all the objective aspects of Nature.
While plain Prakruti encompasses classical earth element, i.e. solid matter, Mulaprakruti includes any and all classical elements, including any considered not discovered yet (some tattvas.)
Devi prakruti shakti in the context of shaktis as forces unifies kundalini, kriya, itcha, para, jnana and mantrika shaktis. Each is in a chakra.
Prakriti also means health in Marathi. According to the ancient vedic science of Ayurveda, the three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) as they pertain to the human physiology are called doshas: kapha, pitta, vata. The balance or imbalance of these doshas defines the prakriti or nature of one’s body.
In early Vedas, Purusa meant a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life. This was one of many creation theories discussed in the Vedas. The idea parallels Norse Ymir, with the myth’s origin in Proto-Indo-European religion. Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all in some versions of Chinese mythology.
In the Upanishads, the Purusa concept no longer meant a being or cosmic man. The meaning evolved to an abstract essence of Self, Spirit and the Universal Principle that is eternal, indestructible, without form and all pervasive.
The Purusa concept is explained with the concept of Prakrti in the Upanishads. The universe is envisioned, in these ancient Sanskrit texts, as a combination of perceivable material reality and non-perceivable, non-material laws and principles of nature.
Material reality, or Prakrti, is everything that has changed, can change and is subject to cause and effect. Purusa is the Universal principle that is unchanging, uncaused but is present everywhere and the reason why Prakrti changes, evolves all the time and why there is cause and effect. Purusa is what connects everything and everyone, according to various schools of Hinduism.
An origin myth is a myth that purports to describe the origin of some feature of the natural or social world. One type of origin myth is the cosmogonic myth, which describes the creation of the world. However, many cultures have stories set after the cosmogonic myth, which describe the origin of natural phenomena and human institutions within a preexisting universe.
Geshtu-(E) (also Geshtu, Gestu) is, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, a minor god of intelligence. Legend says that he was sacrificed by the great gods and his blood was used in the creation of mankind.
In Norse mythology, Ymir, Aurgelmir, Brimir, or Bláinn is a primeval being born of primordial elemental poison and the ancestor of all jötnar. Ymir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material, in the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, and in the poetry of skalds.
Taken together, several stanzas from four poems collected in the Poetic Edda refer to Ymir as a primeval being who was born from venom that dripped from the icy rivers Élivágar and lived in the grassless void of Ginnungagap. Ymir birthed a male and female from the pits of his arms, and his legs together begat a six-headed being.
The gods Odin, Vili, and Vé fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Jörð) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the hills, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).
In the Prose Edda, a narrative is provided that draws from, adds to, and differs from the accounts in the Poetic Edda. According to the Prose Edda, after Ymir was formed from the elemental drops, so too was Auðumbla, a primeval cow, whose milk Ymir fed from.
The Prose Edda also states that three gods killed Ymir; the brothers Odin, Vili, and Vé, and details that, upon Ymir’s death, his blood caused an immense flood. Scholars have debated as to what extent Snorri’s account of Ymir is an attempt to synthesize a coherent narrative for the purpose of the Prose Edda and to what extent Snorri drew from traditional material outside of the corpus that he cites.
By way of historical linguistics and comparative mythology, scholars have linked Ymir to Tuisto, the Proto-Germanic being attested by Tacitus in his 1st century AD work Germania and have identified Ymir as an echo of a primordial being reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European mythology.
In the 1st century AD, Roman historian Tacitus writes in his ethnographic work Germania that the Germanic peoples sing songs about a primeval god who was born of the Earth named Tuisto, and that he was the progenitor of the Germanic peoples.
Tuisto is the Latinized form of a Proto-Germanic theonym that is a matter of some debate. By way of historical linguistics some scholars have linked Tuisto to the Proto-Germanic theonym *Tiwaz, while other scholars have argued that the name refers to a “two-fold” or hermaphroditic being (compare Old Swedish tvistra, meaning “separate”). The latter etymology has led scholars to a connection to Ymir on both linguistic and mythical grounds.
By way of historical linguistics and comparative mythology, scholars have linked Ymir to other primordial, sometimes hermaphroditic or twin beings in other Indo-European mythologies and have reconstructed elements of a Proto-Indo-European cosmological dissection.
Citing Ymir as a prime example, scholars J. P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams comment that “the [Proto-Indo-European] cosmogonic myth is centered on the dismemberment of a divine being—either anthropomorphic or bovine—and the creation of the universe out of its various elements”.
Further examples cited include the climactic ending of the Old Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge where a bull is dissected that makes up the Irish geography, and apparently Christianized forms of the myth found in the Old Russian Poem of the Dove King, the Frisian Frisian Code of Emsig, and Irish manuscript BM MS 4783, folio 7a.
Other examples given include Ovid’s 1st century BC to 1st century AD Latin Metamorphoses description of the god Atlas’s beard and hair becoming forests, his bones becoming stone, his hands mountain ridges, and so forth; the 9th century AD Middle Persian Škend Gumānīg Wizār, wherein the malevolent being Kūnī’s skin becomes the sky, from his flesh comes the earth, his bones the mountains, and from his hair comes plants; and the 10th century BC Old Indic Purusha sukta from the Rig Veda, which describes how the primeval man Purusha was dissected; from his eye comes the sun, from his mouth fire, from his breath wind, from his feet the earth, and so on.
Among surviving sources, Adams and Mallory summarize that “the most frequent correlations, or better, derivations, are the following: Flesh = Earth, Bone = Stone, Blood = Water (the sea, etc.), Eyes = Sun, Mind = Moon, Brain = Cloud, Head = Heaven, Breath = Wind”.
Adams and Mallory write that “In both cosmogonic myth and the foundation element of it, one of the central aspects is the notion of sacrifice (of a brother, giant, bovine, etc.). The relationship between sacrifice and cosmogony was not solely that of a primordial event but the entire act of sacrifice among the Indo-Europeans might be seen as a re-creation of the universe where elements were being continuously recycled. [ . . . ] Sacrifice thus represents a creative re-enactment of the initial cosmic dismemberment of a victim and it helps return the material stuff to the world”.
The Germanic languages have information about both Ymir and Mannus (cognates of *Yemo- and *Manu- respectively), but they never appear in the same myth, rather they appear only in myths widely separated in both time and circumstances.
A Roman text (dated CE 98) tells that Mannus, the son of Tuisto, was the ancestor of the Germanic people, according to Tacitus, writing in Latin, in Germania 2. We never see this being again, but the name Allemagne is interpreted (perhaps by folk etymology) as “all-men” the name for themselves.
In Hindu tradition, Manu is the name of accorded to a progenitor of humanity being the first human to appear in the world in an epoch after universal destruction. According to the Puranas, 14 Manus appear in each kalpa (aeon). The period of each Manu is called Manvantara.
The current world is that of Vaivasvata, the seventh Manu of the aeon of the white boar (sveta varaha kalpa). Vaivasvata, also known as Sraddhadeva or Satyavrata, was the king of Dravida before the great flood. He was warned of the flood by the Matsya avatar of Vishnu, and built a boat that carried his family and the seven sages to safety, helped by Matsya.
The earliest extant text that mentions this story is the Satapatha Brahmana (dated variously from 700 BCE to 300 BCE). The myth is repeated with variations in other texts, including the Mahabharata and the various Puranas. It is similar to other flood myths such as that of Gilgamesh and Noah.
Ziusudra (also Zi-ud-sura and Zin-Suddu; Hellenized Xisuthros: “found long life” or “life of long days”) of Shuruppak is listed in the WB-62 Sumerian king list recension as the last king of Sumer prior to the deluge. He is subsequently recorded as the hero of the Sumerian flood epic. He is also mentioned in other ancient literature, including The Death of Gilgamesh and The Poem of Early Rulers, and a late version of The Instructions of Shuruppak refers to Ziusudra. Akkadian Atrahasis (“extremely wise”) and Utnapishtim (“he found life”), as well as biblical Noah (“rest”) are similar heroes of flood legends of the ancient Near East.
In Hawaiian mythology, Nu’u was a man who built an ark with which he escaped a Great Flood. He landed his vessel on top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. Nu’u mistakenly attributed his safety to the moon, and made sacrifices to it. Kane, the creator god, descended to earth on a rainbow and explained Nu’u’s mistake.
Although each version of the flood myth has distinctive story elements, there are numerous story elements that are common to two, three, or four versions. The earliest version of the flood myth is preserved fragmentarily in the Eridu Genesis, written in Sumerian cuneiform and dating to the 17th century BC, during the 1st Dynasty of Babylon when the language of writing and administration was still Sumerian. Strong parallels are notable with other Near Eastern flood legends, such as the biblical account of Noah.
The texts ascribed to the Svayambhuva Manu include Manava Grihyasutra, Manava Sulbasutra and Manava Dharmashastra (Manusmriti or “rules of Manu”). Manusmriti is considered by some Hindus to be the law laid down for humans and is seen as the most important and earliest metrical work of the Dharmaśāstra textual tradition of Hinduism.
Manes (according to Greek mythology) was the eponymous first king of Maeonia, and later came to be known as the first king in line of the primordial house of Lydia, the Atyad dynasty. Manes was believed to be a son of Gaia and Zeus. Herodotus, in his account of the colonization of Tyrrhenia (Book 1:94), makes Manes the father of king Atys. Later, Herodotus states (Book 4:45) that Cotys was Manes’ son, and Asies his grandson for whom the Lydians believed Asia had been named. This genealogy is preserved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
The exact relationship between the names Maeonia and Lydia, named after Lydus, son of Atys and grandson or great-grandson of Manes, remains a matter of debate. They may have been successive names for one country, or different parts of the same realm.
Omphale (omphalo) and Tmulus (tumulus)
In what could be an error rather than independent tradition, Strabo makes Atys, son or grandson of Manes, to be one of the descendants of Omphale and Heracles, the founders of the next dynasty of Tylonids (or Heraclids) — Omphale having reigned as Queen of Lydia after the death of her husband Tmolus, and Heracles having been first her slave then her husband. All other accounts place Atys and Lydus, and Tyrrhenus brother of Lydus, among the pre-Tylonid kings of Lydia.
Diodorus Siculus (4.31.8) and Ovid in his Heroides (9.54) mention a son named Lamos. But Bibliotheca (2.7.8) gives the name of the son of Heracles and Omphale as Agelaus.
Pausanias (2.21.3) gives yet another name, mentioning Tyrsenus, son of Heracles by “the Lydian woman”, by whom Pausanias presumably means Omphale. This Tyrsenus supposedly first invented the trumpet, and Tyrsenus’ son Hegeleus taught the Dorians with Temenus how to play the trumpet and first gave to Athena the surname Trumpet.
The name Tyrsenus appears elsewhere as a variant of Tyrrhenus, whom many accounts bring from Lydia to settle the Tyrsenoi/Tyrrhenians/Etruscans in Italy. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.28.1) cites a tradition that the supposed founder of the Etruscan settlements was Tyrrhenus, the son of Heracles by Omphale the Lydian, who drove the Pelasgians out of Italy from the cities north of the Tiber River. Dionysius gives this as an alternate to other versions of Tyrrhenus’ ancestry.
Herodotus (1.7) refers to a Heraclid dynasty of kings who ruled Lydia, yet were perhaps not descended from Omphale, writing, “The Heraclides, descended from Heracles and the slave-girl of Iardanus….” Omphale as slave-girl seems odd.
However, Diodorus Siculus relates that when Heracles was still Omphale’s slave, before Omphale (daughter of Iardanus) set Heracles free and married him, Heracles fathered a son, Cleodaeus, on a slave-woman. This fits, though in Herodotus the son of Heracles and the slave-girl of Iardanus is named Alcaeus.
But according to the historian Xanthus of Lydia (fifth century BC.) as cited by Nicolaus of Damascus, the Heraclid dynasty of Lydia traced their descent to a son of Heracles and Omphale named Tylon, and were called Tylonidai. We know from coins that this Tylon was a native Anatolian god equated with the Greek Heracles.
Herodotus asserts that the first of the Heraclids to reign in Sardis was Agron, the son of Ninus, son of Belus, son of Agelaus, son of Heracles. But later writers know a Ninus who is the primordial king of Assyria, and they often call this Ninus son of Belus. Their Ninus is the legendary founder and eponym of the city of Ninus, referring to Ninevah, while Belus, though sometimes treated as a human, is identified with the god Bel.
An earlier genealogy may have made Agron, as a legendary first king of an ancient dynasty, to be a son of the mythical Ninus, son of Belus, and stopped at that point. In the genealogy given by Herodotus, someone may have grafted the tradition of a Lydian son of Heracles at the top end of it, so that Ninus and Belus in the list now become descendants of Heracles, who just happen to bear the same names as the more famous Ninus and Belus.
That, at least, is the interpretation of later chronographers who also ignored Herodotus’ statement that Agron was the first to be a king, and included Alcaeus, Belus, and Ninus in their List of Kings of Lydia.
As to how Agron gained the kingdom from the older dynasty descended from Lydus son of Atys, Herodotus only says that the Heraclides, “having been entrusted by these princes with the management of affairs, obtained the kingdom by an oracle.”
Strabo (5.2.2) makes Atys father of Lydus, and Tyrrhenus to be one of the descendants of Heracles and Omphale. But all other accounts place Atys, Lydus, and Tyrrhenus brother of Lydus among the pre-Heraclid kings of Lydia.
In Greek mythology, Omphale was a daughter of Iardanus, either a king of Lydia, or a river-god. Omphale was queen of the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor; according to Bibliotheke she was the wife of Tmolus, the oak-clad mountain king of Lydia; after he was gored to death by a bull, she continued to reign on her own.
In one of many Greek variations on the theme of penalty for “inadvertent” murder, for his murder of Iphitus, the great hero Heracles, whom the Romans identified as Hercules, was, by the command of the Delphic Oracle Xenoclea, remanded as a slave to Omphale for the period of a year, the compensation to be paid to Eurytus, who refused it. The theme, inherently a comic inversion of sexual roles, is not fully illustrated in any surviving text from Classical Greece.
Plutarch, in his vita of Pericles, 24, mentions lost comedies of Kratinos and Eupolis, which alluded to the contemporary capacity of Aspasia in the household of Pericles, and to Sophocles in The Trachiniae it was shameful for Heracles to serve an Oriental woman in this fashion, but there are many late Hellenistic and Roman references in texts and art to Heracles being forced to do women’s work and even wear women’s clothing and hold a basket of wool while Omphale and her maidens did their spinning, as Ovid tells: Omphale even wore the skin of the Nemean Lion and carried Heracles’ olive-wood club. Unfortunately no full early account survives, to supplement the later vase-paintings.
But it was also during his stay in Lydia that Heracles captured the city of the Itones and enslaved them, killed Syleus who forced passersby to hoe his vineyard, and captured the Cercopes. He buried the body of Icarus and took part in the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Argonautica. After some time, Omphale freed Heracles and took him as her husband.
Omphale’s name, connected with omphalos, a Greek word meaning navel (or axis), may represent a significant Lydian earth goddess. The Greeks did not recognize her as a goddess: the undisputed etymological connection with omphalos, the world-navel, has never been made clear.
The word tumulus is Latin for ‘mound’ or ‘small hill’, which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh- with extended zero grade *tum-, ‘to bulge, swell’ also found in tumor, thumb, thigh, and thousand.
A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli also are known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgräber, or kurgans, and may be found throughout much of the world. A cairn, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, might also originally have been a tumulus.
Tumuli are often categorized according to their external apparent shape. In this respect, a long barrow is a long tumulus, usually constructed on top of several burials, such as passage graves.
A round barrow is a round tumulus, also commonly constructed on top of burials. The internal structure and architecture of both long and round barrows has a broad range, the categorization only refers to the external apparent shape.
The method of inhumation may involve a dolmen, a cist, a mortuary enclosure, a mortuary house, or a chamber tomb. Examples of barrows include Duggleby Howe and Maeshowe.
Diodorus Siculus provides the first appearance of the Omphale theme in literature, though Aeschylus was aware of the episode. In her best-known myth, she is the mistress of the hero Heracles during a year of required servitude, a scenario that offered writers and artists opportunities to explore sexual roles and erotic themes.
An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world. Omphalos stones marking the centre were erected in several places about the Mediterranean Sea; the most famous of those was at Delphi.
Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus, the father who swallowed his children so as to prevent them from usurping him as he had deposed his own father, Uranus.
The omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.
The lingam (also linga, ling, Shiva linga, Shiv ling, Sanskrit: liṅgaṃ, 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 (Sanskrit word, literally “origin” or “source” or “womb), a symbol of the goddess or of Shakti, female creative energy. 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 Sanskrit term, liṅgaṃ, has a number of definitions ranging from symbol to phallus, and more specifically, the “genital organ of Śiva worshipped in the form of a Phallus”. In Shaivite Hindu temples, the lingam is a smooth cylindrical mass symbolising Shiva and is worshipped as a symbol of generative power. It is found at the centre of the temple often resting in the middle of a rimmed, disc-shaped yoni, a representation of Shakti.
Yama or Yamarāja is a god of death, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic deities. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean “twin”. In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called “Yima”.
According to the Vishnu Purana, his parents are the sun-god Surya and Sanjna, the daughter of Vishvakarman. Yama is the brother of Sraddhadeva Manu and of his older sister Yami, which Horace Hayman Wilson indicates to mean the Yamuna. According to Harivamsa Purana her name is Daya.
In a disputable etymology, W. Meid (1992) has linked the names Yama (reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European as *yemos) and the name of the primeval Norse frost giant Ymir, which can be reconstructed in Proto-Germanic as *umijaz or *jumijaz, in the latter case possibly deriving from PIE *ym̥yos, from the root yem “twin”.
In his myth, however, Ymir is not a twin, and only shares with Yama the characteristics of being primeval and mortal. However, Ymir is a hermaphrodite and engenders the race of giants.
A parallel character in Iranian mythology and Zoroastrianism is known as Yima Xšaēta, who appears in the Avesta. The pronunciation “Yima” is peculiar to the Avestan dialect; in most Iranian dialects, including Old Persian, the name would have been “Yama”.
In the Avesta, the emphasis is on Yima’s character as one of the first mortals and as a great king of men. Over time, *Yamaxšaita was transformed into Jamšēd or Jamshid, celebrated as the greatest of the early shahs of the world. Both Yamas in Zoroastrian and Hindu myth guard hell with the help of two four-eyed dogs.
Tiamat and Apzu
In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman, she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu,(correctly) assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.
Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband’s murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon, she is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopatmian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”. Marduk then forms heavens and the earth from her divided body.
The main temple to Enki is called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization.His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp. His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was accompanied by an attendant Isimud. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.
He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field (Square of Pegasus). Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for “40,” occasionally referred to as his “sacred number.” The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk) was in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.
Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them.
His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.
Early royal inscriptions from the third millennium BCE mention “the reeds of Enki”. Reeds were an important local building material, used for baskets and containers, and collected outside the city walls, where the dead or sick were often carried.
This links Enki to the Kur or underworld of Sumerian mythology. In another even older tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.
In Sumerian mythology, Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR) was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology. Nammu was the Goddess Sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.
Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. An indication of her continued relevance may be found in the theophoric name of Ur-Nammu, the founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu. Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.
The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.
Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water'”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth).
Eridu (Cuneiform: NUN.KI; Sumerian: eriduki; Akkadian: irîtu modern Arabic: Tell Abu Shahrain) is an archaeological site in southern Mesopotamia (modern Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq). Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. In the Sumerian king list, Eridu is named as the city of the first kings.
The urban nucleus of Eridu was Enki’s temple, called House of the Aquifer (Cuneiform: E.ZU.AB; Sumerian: e-abzu; Akkadian: bītu apsû), which in later history was called House of the Waters (Cuneiform: E.LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: e-engur; Akkadian: bītu engurru). The name refers to Enki’s realm. His consort Ninhursanga had a nearby temple at Ubaid.
Babylonian texts talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”. Located 12 km southwest of Ur, Eridu was the southernmost of a conglomeration of Sumerian cities that grew about temples, almost in sight of one another. In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was originally the home of Enki, later known by the Akkadians as Ea, who was considered to have founded the city. His temple was called E-Abzu, as Enki was believed to live in Abzu, an aquifer from which all life was believed to stem.
The king list gave particularly long rules to the kings who ruled before a great flood occurred, and shows how the center of power progressively moved from the south to the north of the country. Adapa, a man of Eridu, is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea (Abgallu, from ab=water, gal=big, lu=man), he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim.
In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient’s body, and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.
In Sumerian mythology, Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian water-god Ea. Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki/Ea began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth (Sumerian ab=water; zu=far).
The stories of Inanna, goddess of Uruk, describe how she had to go to Eridu in order to receive the gifts of civilization. At first Enki, the god of Eridu attempted to retrieve these sources of his power, but later willingly accepted that Uruk now was the centre of the land. This seems to be a mythical reference to the transfer of power northward.
The Ancient Egyptians envisaged the oceanic abyss of the Nun as surrounding a bubble in which the sphere of life is encapsulated, representing the deepest mystery of their cosmogony. In Ancient Egyptian creation accounts the original mound of land comes forth from the waters of the Nun.
The Nun is the source of all that appears in a differentiated world, encompassing all aspects of divine and earthly existence. In the Ennead cosmogony Nun is perceived as transcendent at the point of creation alongside Atum the creator god.
Nu was shown usually as male but also had aspects that could be represented as female or male. Nunet (; also spelt Naunet) is the female aspect, which is the name Nu with a female gender ending. The male aspect, Nun, is written with a male gender ending.
As with the primordial concepts of the Ogdoad, Nu’s male aspect was depicted as a frog, or a frog-headed man. In Ancient Egyptian art, Nun also appears as a bearded man, with blue-green skin, representing water. Naunet is represented as a snake or snake-headed woman.
Beginning with the Middle Kingdom Nun is described as “the Father of the Gods” and he is depicted on temple walls throughout the rest of Ancient Egyptian religious history.
The Ogdoad includes along with Naunet and Nun, Amaunet and Amun, Hauhet and Heh, and Kauket with Kuk. Like the other Ogdoad deities, Nu did not have temples or any center of worship. Even so, Nu was sometimes represented by a sacred lake, or, as at Abydos, by an underground stream.
In the 12th Hour of the Book of Gates Nu is depicted with upraised arms holding a “solar bark” (or barque, a boat). The boat is occupied by eight deities, with the scarab deity Khepri standing in the middle surrounded by the seven other deities.
During the late period when Egypt became occupied, the negative aspect of the Nun (chaos) became the dominant perception, reflecting the forces of disorder that were set loose in the country.
In Egyptian mythology, Ptah (Egyptian: ptḥ, probably vocalized as Pitaḥ in ancient Egyptian) is the demiurge of Memphis, god of craftsmen and architects. In the triad of Memphis, he is the spouse of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertum. He was also regarded as the father of the sage Imhotep. Ptah is the patron of craftsmanship, metalworking, carpenters, shipbuilders, and sculpture.
Ptah is the Creator god par excellence: He is considered the demiurge who existed before all other things, and by his willfulness, thought the world. It was first conceived by Thought, and realized by the Word: Ptah conceives the world by the thought of his heart and gives life through the magic of his Word.
That which Ptah commanded was created, with which the constituents of nature, fauna, and flora, are contained. He also plays a role in the preservation of the world and the permanence of the royal function.
In the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, the Nubian pharaoh Shabaka would transcribe on a stela known as the Shabaka Stone, an old theological document found in the archives of the library of the temple of the god at Memphis.
This document has been known as the Memphite Theology, and shows the god Ptah, the god responsible for the creation of the universe by thought and by the word. From the Middle Kingdom onwards, he was one of five major Egyptian gods with Ra, Isis, Osiris and Amun.
Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, is one of the most important and frequently mentioned deities from earliest times, as evidenced by his prominence in the Pyramid Texts, where he is portrayed as both a creator and father to the king.
He is usually depicted as a man wearing either the royal head-cloth or the dual white and red crown of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, reinforcing his connection with kingship. Sometimes he also is shown as a serpent, the form he returns to at the end of the creative cycle, and also occasionally as a mongoose, lion, bull, lizard, or ape.
Atum’s name is thought to be derived from the word tem which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the ‘complete one’ and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka.
Atum was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the darkness and endless watery abyss that existed before creation. A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created his children—the first deities, out of loneliness. He produced from his own sneeze, or in some accounts, semen, Shu, the god of air, and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture.
The brother and sister, curious about the primeval waters that surrounded them, went to explore the waters and disappeared into the darkness. Unable to bear his loss, Atum sent a fiery messenger, the Eye of Ra, to find his children. The tears of joy he shed on their return were the first human beings.
In the Heliopolitan creation myth, Atum was considered to be the first god, having created himself, sitting on a mound (benben) (or identified with the mound itself), from the primordial waters, Nu (“watery one”), also called Nun (“inert one”), the deification of the primordial watery abyss in ancient Egyptian religion. In the Ogdoad cosmogony, the word nu means “abyss”.
Early myths state that Atum created the god Shu and goddess Tefnut by spitting them out of his mouth. To explain how Atum did this, the myth uses the metaphor of masturbation, with the hand he used in this act representing the female principle inherent within him. Other interpretations state that he has made union with his shadow.
In the Old Kingdom the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king’s soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. He was also a solar deity, associated with the primary sun god Ra. Atum was linked specifically with the evening sun, while Ra or the closely linked god Khepri were connected with the sun at morning and midday.
In the Book of the Dead, which was still current in the Graeco-Roman period, the sun god Atum is said to have ascended from chaos-waters with the appearance of a snake, the animal renewing itself every morning.
Atum is the god of pre-existence and post-existence. In the binary solar cycle, the serpentine Atum is contrasted with the ram-headed scarab Khepri—the young sun god, whose name is derived from the Egyptian hpr “to come into existence”. Khepri-Atum encompassed sunrise and sunset, thus reflecting the entire solar cycle.
A lamassu (Cuneiform: AN.KAL; Sumerian: lamma; Akkadian: lamassu; sometimes called a lamassus) is an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human’s head, a body of an ox or a lion, and bird’s wings. In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity.
A less frequently used name is shedu (Cuneiform: AN.KAL×BAD; Sumerian: alad; Akkadian, šēdu) which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu. The Lammasu or Lumasi represent the zodiacs, parent-stars or constellations.
In art, lamassu were depicted as hybrids, either winged bulls or lions with the head of a human male. The motif of a winged animal with a human head is common to the Near East, first recorded in Ebla around 3000 BCE.
The first distinct lamassu motif appeared in Assyria during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser as a symbol of power. The Assyrians typically prominently placed lamassu at the entrances of cities and palaces. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk.
The Lammasu or Lumasi represent the zodiacs, parent-stars, or constellations. They are depicted as protective deities because they encompass all life within them. To protect houses, the lamassu were engraved in clay tablets, which were then buried under the door’s threshold.
They were often placed as a pair at the entrance of palaces. At the entrance of cities, they were sculpted in colossal size, and placed as a pair, one at each side of the door of the city, that generally had doors in the surrounding wall, each one looking towards one of the cardinal points.
In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh they are depicted as physical deities as well, which is where the Lammasu iconography originates, these deities could be microcosms of their microcosmic zodiac, parent-star, or constellation.
Although “lamassu” had a different iconography and portrayal in Sumerian culture, the terms lamassu, alad, and shedu evolved throughout the Assyro-Akkadian culture from the Sumerian culture to denote the Assyrian-winged-man-bull symbol and statues during the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Female lamassus were called “apsasû”.
The motif of the Assyrian-winged-man-bull called Aladlammu and Lamassu interchangeably is not the lamassu or alad of Sumerian origin which were depicted with different iconography. These monumental statues were called aladlammû or lamassu which meant “protective spirit”. In the Enûma Eliš they are both symbolized as the zodiacs, parent-stars, or constellations and as physical deities as well as was in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
The lamassu is a celestial being from Mesopotamian mythology bearing a human head, bull’s body, sometimes with the horns and the ears of a bull, and wings. It appears frequently in Mesopotamian art.
Pabilsag/Papsukkal – Ninshubur
The lamassu and shedu were household protective spirits of the common Babylonian people, becoming associated later as royal protectors, were placed as sentinels at the entrances. The Akkadians associated the god Papsukkal, the messenger god in the Akkadian pantheon, with lamassu and the god Išum with shedu. He is the regent of the 10th month in the Babylonian calendar.
Ishum is a minor god in Akkadian mythology, the brother of Shamash and an attendant of Erra. He may have been a god of fire and, according to texts, led the gods in war as a herald but was nonetheless generally regarded as benevolent. Ishum is known particularly from the Babylonian legend of Erra and Ishum. He developed from the Sumerian figure of Endursaga, the herald god in the Sumerian mythology, who leads the pantheon, particularly in times of conflict.
Papsukkal is identified in late Akkadian texts and is known chiefly from the Hellenistic period. His consort is Amasagnul, and he acts as both messenger and gatekeeper for the rest of the pantheon. A sanctuary, the E-akkil is identified from the Mesopotamian site of Mkish.
He becomes syncretised from Ninshubur (also known as Ninshubar, Nincubura or Ninšubur), the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology. A goddess in her own right, her name can be translated as ‘Queen of the East’, and she was said to be a messenger and traveller for the other gods. As Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, Ninshubur was said to be associated with Mercury, as Venus and Mercury appear together in the sky.
Ninshubur accompanied Inanna as a vassal and friend throughout Inanna’s many exploits. She helped Inanna fight Enki’s demons after Inanna’s theft of the sacred me. Later, when Inanna became trapped in the Underworld, it was Ninshubur who pleaded with Enki for her mistress’s release.
Though described as an unmarried virgin, in a few accounts Ninshubur is said to be one of Inanna’s lovers. In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was male. In “A hymn to Nergal” Ninshubur appeared as the minister of the underworld.
Due to similarities between the two, some believe the later Hermes, an Olympian god in Greek religion and mythology, the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, to have been based in part on Ninshubur. 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 Sumerian name Pabilsag is composed of two elements – Pabil, meaning ‘elder paternal kinsman’ and Sag, meaning ‘chief, head’. The name may thus be translated as the ‘Forefather’ or ‘Chief Ancestor’. The figure is reminiscent of modern depictions of Sagittarius.
Pabilsaĝ, in Mesopotamian tradition, was a tutelary god of the city of Isin, located approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Nippur. The consort of the goddess Nininsinna (“lady wild cow”), a goddess, best known as the mother of the legendary hero Gilgamesh, and as the tutelary goddess of Gudea of Lagash, he was identified with the lost city of Larak.
Ninsun was originally named Nininsina (Nin Isis a), according to Pabilsag’s journey to Nibru. Ninsun was called Gula in Sumerian Mythology until the name was later changed to Ninisina. Gula in the latter became a Babylonian goddess.
According to the ancient Babylonian text, Nininsina wedded Pabilsag near a riverbank. By Pabilsag she bore Damu, a god of vegetation and rebirth. Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; 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.
In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’.As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife).
Her symbol, resembling the Greek letter omega Ω, has been depicted in art from around 3000 BC, though more generally from the early second millennium. It appears on some boundary stones — on the upper tier, indicating her importance. The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.
The text Pabilsag’s journey to Nibru describes Pabilsag as journeying to Nippur and presenting the god Enlil with gifts. He was given the epithet of “the wild bull with multicoloured legs”. According to the ancient Babylonian text, Pabilsag wedded Nininsina near a riverbank. He is represented in the constellation Sagittarius.
Sagittarius is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It is the ninth astrological sign, which is associated with the constellation Sagittarius. Under the tropical zodiac, sun transits this sign between November 23 and December 21. The symbol of the archer is based on the centaur Chiron, who mentored Achilles in archery.
Sagittarius, half human and half-horse, is the centaur of mythology, the learned healer who forms a bridge between human beings and beasts. Also known as the Archer, Sagittarius is represented by the symbol of an arrow.
In Hittite the Sumerian form LAMMA, which signifies a protective deity, is used both a name for the so-called “Tutelary deity” identified in certain later texts with Inara, involved with the Puruli spring festival, and a title given to similar protective gods.
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.
Kurunta is the Hittite god of wild animals and hunting. He has to face the same tasks as the god Inar, a Hittite god of woods and fields. Inar is mentioned in the Hahhima-myth. There Tarhun sends Inar to look for sun god Istanu, but the ice devil Hahhima freezes Inar.
Kurunta’s Insignia was the deer or a stag. He became king of gods after he had thrown Tarhun down from the sky. The god rebel forces humanity against the gods and even does not care about the powerful gods. But because of the wish of gods to get sacrifices without getting them Enki and Kumarbi unite against Kurunta. With help of Nara-Napsara, the brother of A’as from the underworld, they force all animals and the mountain god Nasalma against Kurunta.
After that Kurunta is killed by Tarhun and Ninurta so he accepts Tarhun’s sovereignty. Kurunta takes part at the conference of gods after Telipinu’s return. He is also the saving god of Carchemish.
The Babylonians identified Sagittarius as the god Nergal, a strange centaur-like creature firing an arrow from a bow. It is generally depicted with wings, with two heads, one panther head and one human head, as well as a scorpion’s stinger raised above its more conventional horse’s tail. In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.
The name Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali was a deity worshipped throughout Mesopotamia with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the deity of the city of Cuth (Cuthah): “And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal” (2 Kings, 17:30).
According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. He is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. He has also been called “the king of sunset”. Nergal evolved from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld.
Nergal actually seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only a representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle.
Nergal was also the deity who presides over the netherworld, and who stands at the head of the special pantheon assigned to the government of the dead (supposed to be gathered in a large subterranean cave known as Aralu or Irkalla). In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.
Ordinarily Nergal pairs with his consort Laz. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.
Nergal’s fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Lugal-banda (Nergal as the fighting-cock), Sharrapu (“the burner,” a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti or Seven.
A certain confusion exists in cuneiform literature between Ninurta (slayer of Asag and wielder of Sharur, an enchanted mace) and Nergal. Nergal has epithets such as the “raging king,” the “furious one,” and the like. A play upon his name—separated into three elements as Ne-uru-gal (lord of the great dwelling)—expresses his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon.
In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars)—hence the current name of the planet.
Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”. The worship of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, who was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical.
Being a deity of the desert, god of fire, which is one of negative aspects of the sun, god of the underworld, and also being a god of one of the religions which rivaled Christianity and Judaism, Nergal was sometimes called a demon and even identified with Satan. According to Collin de Plancy and Johann Weyer, Nergal was depicted as the chief of Hell’s “secret police”, and worked as “an honorary spy in the service of Beelzebub”.
In Greek mythology, Sagittarius is usually identified as a centaur: half human, half horse. However, perhaps due to the Greek’s adoption of the Sumerian constellation, some confusion surrounds the identity of the archer.
Some identify Sagittarius as the centaur Chiron, the son of Philyra and Saturn and tutor to Jason, who was said to have changed himself into a horse to escape his jealous wife, Rhea. However, Chiron is in fact represented by the constellation Centaurus, the other heavenly centaur. An alternative tradition is that Chiron merely invented the constellation Sagittarius to help in guiding the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.
A competing mythological tradition, as espoused by Eratosthenes, identified the Archer not as a centaur but as the satyr Crotus, son of Pan, who Greeks credited with the invention of archery. According to myth, Crotus often went hunting on horseback and lived among the Muses, who requested that Zeus place him in the sky, where he is seen demonstrating archery.
The arrow of this constellation points towards the star Antares, the “heart of the scorpion,” and Sagittarius stands poised to attack should Scorpius ever attack the nearby Hercules, or to avenge Scorpius’s slaying of Orion.
Images of unions of different elements into one symbol were originally used by the Ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks. The image of the sphinx, found in Egypt and Babylon, depicted the body of a lion and the head of a human, while the harpies of Greek mythology showed bird-like human women.
A centaur or hippocentaur is a mythological creature with the upper body of a human and the lower body of a horse. The tentative identification of two fragmentary Mycenaean terracotta figures as centaurs, among the extensive Mycenaean pottery found at Ugarit, suggests a Bronze Age origin for these creatures of myth.
The most common theory holds that the idea of centaurs came from the first reaction of a non-riding culture, as in the Minoan Aegean world, to nomads who were mounted on horses. The theory suggests that such riders would appear as half-man, half-animal (Bernal Díaz del Castillo reported that the Aztecs had this misapprehension about Spanish cavalrymen). Horse taming and horseback culture arose first in the southern steppe grasslands of Central Asia, perhaps approximately in modern Kazakhstan.
The Lapith tribe of Thessaly, who were the kinsmen of the Centaurs in myth, were described as the inventors of horse-back riding by Greek writers. The Thessalian tribes also claimed their horse breeds were descended from the centaurs.
The Greek word kentauros is generally regarded as of obscure origin. The etymology from ken – tauros, “piercing bull-stickers” was a euhemerist suggestion in Palaephatus’ rationalizing text on Greek mythology, On Incredible Tales (Περὶ ἀπίστων): mounted archers from a village called Nephele eliminating a herd of bulls that were the scourge of Ixion’s kingdom. Another possible related etymology can be “bull-slayer”.
Some say that the Greeks took the constellation of Centaurus, and also its name “piercing bull”, from Mesopotamia, where it symbolized the god Baal who represents rain and fertility, fighting with and piercing with his horns the demon Mot who represents the summer drought. In Greece, the constellation of Centaurus was noted by Eudoxus of Cnidus in the fourth century BC and by Aratus in the third century.
While Centaurus now has a high southern latitude, at the dawn of civilization it was an equatorial constellation. Precession has been slowly shifting it southward for millennia, and it is now close to its maximal southern declination. Thousands of years from now Centaurus will, once again, be at lower latitudes and be visible worldwide.
The figure of Centaurus can be traced back to a Babylonian constellation known as the Bison-man (MUL.GUD.ALIM). This being was depicted in two major forms: firstly, as a 4-legged bison with a human head, and secondly, as a being with a man’s head and torso attached to the rear legs and tail of a bull or bison. It has been closely associated with the Sun god Utu-Shamash from very early times.
The Greeks depicted the constellation as a centaur and gave it its current name. It was mentioned by Eudoxus in the 4th century BCE and Aratus in the 3rd century BCE. In the 2nd century AD, Claudius Ptolemy catalogued 37 stars in Centaurus.
Large as it is now, in earlier times it was even larger, as the constellation Lupus was treated as an asterism within Centaurus, portrayed in illustrations as an unspecified animal either in the centaur’s grasp or impaled on its spear.
The Southern Cross, which is now regarded as a separate constellation, was treated by the ancients as a mere asterism formed of the stars composing the centaur’s legs. Additionally, what is now the minor constellation Circinus was treated as undefined stars under the centaur’s front hooves.
According to the Roman poet Ovid (Fasti v.379), the constellation honors the centaur Chiron, who was tutor to many of the earlier Greek heroes including Heracles (Hercules), Theseus, and Jason, the leader of the Argonauts.
However, most authorities consider Sagittarius to be the civilized Chiron (“hand”), held to be the superlative centaur amongst his brethren, while Centaurus represents a more uncouth member of the species. The legend associated with Chiron says that he was accidentally poisoned with an arrow shot by Hercules, and was subsequently placed in the heavens.
Although a centaur, Chiron’s physical appearance often differs somewhat from other centaurs, demonstrating his status and heritage. In traditional Greek representations of Chiron his front legs are human, rather than equine, this is in contrast to the traditional representation of centaurs,which have the entire lower body of a horse. This clearly sets Chiron apart from the other centaurs, making him easily identifiable.
This difference may also have highlighted Chiron’s unique lineage, being the son of Cronus. Chiron is often depicted carrying a branch with dead hares he has caught hanging from it. Chiron is also often depicted wearing clothes, demonstrating he is more civilised and unlike a normal centaur (the only other occasional exceptions to this rule are the centaurs Nessus and Pholus).
Robert Graves (relying on the work of Georges Dumézil, who argued for tracing the centaurs back to the Indian gandharva), speculated that the centaurs were a dimly remembered, pre-Hellenic fraternal earth cult who had the horse as a totem. A similar theory was incorporated into Mary Renault’s The Bull from the Sea.
Kinnaras, another half-man half-horse mythical creature from the Indian mythology, appeared in various ancient texts, arts as well as sculptures from all around India. It is shown as a horse with the torso of a man in place of where the horse’s head has to be, that is similar to a Greek centaur.
The Sagartians (Asagartiya, Old Persian Aš-ša-kar-ti-ia, BabylonianKURSa-ga-ar-ta-a-a, Greek Σαγαρτιοι) were an ancient Iranian tribe, dwelling in the Iranian plateau. Their exact location is unknown; they were probably neighbors of the Parthians in northeastern Iran.
According to Herodotus (1.125, 7.85) they were related to the Persians (Southwestern Iranian), but they may also have entered a political union with the Medians (Northwestern Iranian) at some point.
Ptolemy (6.2.6) locates them in Media, while Stephanus of Byzantium claims that there was a peninsula in the Caspian Sea called Sagartía. They were nomadic pastoralists, their main weapon being the lasso (Herodotus 7.85).
It is unclear whether they are identical to the Zikirti mentioned by Sargon II as inhabitants of northern Zagros in the late 8th century BC. They may have been granted the district of Arbela by Median king Cyaxares as a reward for their aid in the capture of Niniveh.
According to Herodotus (3.93), the Sagartians belonged to the 14th Satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. A Sagartian delegation appears among the tribute bearers on the Apadana relief.
The ancient Jewish people were influenced by the iconography of Assyrian culture. The prophet Ezekial wrote about a fantastic being made up of aspects of a human being, a lion, an eagle and a bull. Later, in the early Christian period, the four Gospels were ascribed to each of these components. When it was depicted in art, this image was called the Tetramorph.
A tetramorph is a symbolic arrangement of four differing elements, or the combination of four disparate elements in one unit. The term is derived from the Greek tetra, meaning four, and morph, shape.
Archaeological evidence exists showing that early man divided the four quarters of the horizon, or space, later a place of sacrifice, such as a temple, and attributed characteristics and spiritual qualities to each quarter.
Alternatively the composite elements were carved into mythic creatures such as the Egyptian, Greek and Babylonian sphinxes of antiquity depicting bull-like bodies with birds-wings, lion’s paws and human faces. Such composite creatures are found in many mythologies.
In Christian art the tetramorph is the union of the symbols of the Four Evangelists, the four living Creatures derived from the Book of Ezekiel, into a single figure or, more commonly, a group of four figures.
Each of the four Evangelists has a creature, usually shown with wings: St Matthew the man, St Mark the lion, St Luke the ox, and John the eagle. In Christian art and iconography, Evangelist portraits are often accompanied by tetramorphs, or the symbols alone used to represent them. Evangelist portraits that depict them in their human forms are often accompanied by their symbolic creatures, and Christ in Majesty is often shown surrounded by the four symbols.
The word comes from the Greek for “four forms” or “shapes”. In English usage each symbol may be described as a tetramorph in the singular, and a group as “the tetramorphs”, but usually only in contexts where all four are included. The tetramorphs were especially common in Early Medieval art, above all in illuminated Gospel books, but remain common in religious art to the present day.
The name Erbil was mentioned in Sumerian holy writings of third millennium BC as Urbilum, Urbelum or Urbillum, Later, the Akkadians and Assyrians by a folk etymology rendered the name as arba’ū ilū to mean four gods.
The city became a centre for the worship of the Assyro-Babylonian goddess Ishtar which was also borrowed from Sumer god of innanna. In classical times the city became known as Arbela (‘Άρβηλα). In Old Persian the city was called Arbairā.
Erbil (Urbilum) is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in history. Arbela was founded by Sumer as almost all Middle East city or town names include “ur” (Ur-bilum) are common names of Sumer. Erbil city was destroyed by Akkadians and later on Assyrian were replaced Akkadians.
The first mention of Erbil in literary sources’ comes from the archives of Ebla. They record two journeys to Erbil (Irbilum) by a messenger from Ebla around 2300 BC. Later, Erridupizir, king of Gutium, captured the city in 2200 BC. The Neo-Sumerian ruler of Ur, Amar-Sin, sacked Urbilum in his second year, c. 1975 BC).
Erbil was an integral part of Assyria from around 1900 BC until 605 BC, and it remained part of Assyria under Persian, Greek, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid rule. Under the Median Empire, Cyaxares might have settled a number of people from the Ancient Iranian tribe of Sagartians in Arbela and Kirkuk, probably as a reward for their help in the capture of Nineveh.
The Persian emperor Cyrus the Great occupied Assyria in 547 BC, and established it as an Achaemenid satrapy called in Old Persian Aθurā (Athura), a geographical area within the Persian Achaemenid Empire held by the last nobility of Aššur (Akkadian), with Arbela as the capital.
Although sometimes regarded as a satrapy, Achaemenid royal inscriptions list it as a dahyu, a concept generally interpreted as meaning either a group of people or both a country and its people, without any administrative implication.
It mostly incorporated the original Assyrian kingdom, corresponding with modern northern Iraq in the upper Tigris, the middle and upper Euphrates, modern-day north eastern Syria (Eber-Nari) and part of south-east Anatolia (modern Turkey).
The Neo-Assyrian Empire collapsed after a period of violent civil wars, followed by an invasion by a coalition of some of its former subject peoples, the Iranian peoples (Medes and Persians), Babylonians, Scythians, and Cimmerians in the late 7th century BC, culminating in the Battle of Nineveh, and Assyria had fallen completely by 605 BC.
Between 605 and 559 BC, Assyria was divided between the Median Empire to the east and the Neo-Babylonian Empire to the west. Both parts were subsumed into the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC, and it has been argued that they constituted the satrapies of Media and Athura, respectively. In Herodotus’ account the Ninth Tributary District comprised “Babylonia and the rest of Assyria”, and excluded Eber-Nari.
Despite a few rebellions, Assyria functioned as an important part of the Achaemenid Empire. The Assyrian people were given the right to govern themselves throughout Achaemenid rule, and the Assyrian (Aramaic) language was used diplomatically by the Persians. Known for their combat skills, Assyrian soldiers (along with the Lydians) constituted the main heavy infantry of the Achaemenid empire’s military.
Due to the major destruction of Assyria during the fall of its empire, some early scholars described the area as an “uninhabited wasteland.” Other Assyriologists, however, such as John Curtis and Simo Parpola, have strongly disputed this claim, citing how Assyria would eventually become one of the wealthiest regions among the Achaemenid Empire.
This wealth was due to the land’s great prosperity for agriculture that the Persians used effectively for almost 200 years. In contrast to the policy of the Assyrian Empire, the Achaemenid Persians did not intervene in the internal affairs of their ruling satrapies as long as they continued the flow of tribute and taxes back to Persia.
The Battle of Gaugamela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 BC, took place approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of Erbil. After the battle, Darius managed to flee to the city, and, somewhat inaccurately, the confrontation is sometimes known as the “Battle of Arbela”.
Erbil became part of the region disputed between Rome and Persia under the Sasanids. The ancient Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ, Old Persian: Nodshirakan, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, Nor Shirakan) had its center at Erbil, and the town and kingdom are known in Jewish Middle Eastern history for the conversion of the royal family to Judaism.
Its rulers converted to Judaism from Ashurism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount. According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem.
Its populace then converted from the Mesopotamian Religion during the 1st and 2nd centuries to Church of the East Christianity, with Pkidha traditionally becoming its first bishop around 104 AD. The metropolitanate of Ḥadyab in Arbela (Syriac: ܐܪܒܝܠ Arbel) became a centre of eastern Syriac Christianity until late in the Middle Ages.
Adiabene had a mixed population, while the Syriac language was dominant. According to Pliny, four tribes inhabited the region of Adiabene: Orontes, Alani, Azones and Silices. The account of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews shows that there was a substantial Jewish population in the kingdom, which led to the establishment of a prominent rabbinic academy in Arbela. During the Sassanid era, Persians came to the fore politically.
The difficult mixing of cultures can be seen in the story of the martyrdom of Mahanuš, a prominent Iranian Zoroastrian who converted to Christianity. In later times Adiabene became an archbishopric, with the seat of the metropolitan at Arbela.
Based on names of the Adiabene rulers, Ernst Herzfeld suggested a Saka/Scythian origin for the royal house of the kingdom; however, later progress in Iranian linguistic studies showed that these names were common west middle Iranian names.
It has been suggested that the royal house of Adiabene after fleeing Trajan’s invasion, established the later Amatuni dynasty, an ancient Armenian noble family, known from the 4th century in the canton of Artaz, between lakes Van and Urmia, with its center at Shavarshan (latter-day Maku), and subsequently also at Aragatsotn, west of Lake Sevan, with the residence at Oshakan.
The Amatuni who was of Caspio-Median or Matianian-Mannaean origin, is given a specious Jewish ancestry by the early Armenian tradition (Moses of Chorene 2.57). Their forefather’s name Manue suggests a connection with royal house of Adiabene.
Adiabene was a district in Mesopotamia between upper and lower Zab and was a part of the Neo Assyrian Empire and inhabited by Assyrians even after the fall of Nineveh. It was an integral part of Achaemenid Assyria (Athura) and Sassanid Assyria (Assuristan). The region was later made a part of the Roman province of Assyria after the invasion by Trajan in the year 116.
According to Patricia Crone and Michael Cook. when the heartland of Assyria was back into focus in early Christianity (during the Parthian era and about six centuries after the fall of the Assyrian Empire), “it was with an Assyrian, not a Persian let alone Greek, self-identification: the temple of Ashur was restored, the city was rebuilt, and an Assyrian successor state that returned in the shape of the client kingdom of Adiabene.” Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus states that the inhabitants of Adiabene were Assyrians.
As many of the Aramaic-speaking Assyrians adapted Biblical (including Jewish) names, most of the early bishops had Eastern Aramaic or Jewish/Biblical names, which does not suggest that many of the early Christians in this city were converts from Judaism. It served as the seat of a Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East. From the city’s Christian period come many church fathers and well-known authors in Syriac.
The scholar Calvert Watkins wrote an important article in 2000: ‘A Distant Anatolian Echo in Pindar: the Origin of the Aegis Again’. He argued that the aegis can be viewed as similar with the kursas. This article is often referred to, as scholars attempt to argue that Hittite myths would have had an influence on the Myth of the Golden Fleece.
Watkins wrote in his article: “Exactly how the poets of the epic tradition imaged the aegis is a difficult question. It is probably a goat skin in some form, for that is its obvious etymology ; it is put round the shoulder like a sword(-strap) or a shield (-strap). In classical art Athena’s aegis is a skin thrown over the shoulders like a small shawl“. “We first meet the aegis in the Iliad.”
He remarked also that the aegis is connected with Athena in her form as a goddess of war (2000-6). The aegis could contain abstract allegorical symbols. The phobos “fear, panic, rout” could be embodied in the aegis itself. Watkins also pointed to the Greek tradition that the Gorgon’s head figures in Athena’s aegis, as in Homer, or later on her shield. Watkins stated that: Gorgon’s head is physically in the functioning hunting bag (kibisis), in the myth just as it is symbolically in the aegis of Athena” (2000-9).
The Myth of the Golden Fleece
Hittite kursa- or gursa- is an Asianic cultural word, also appearing also in Kaneshite kursanwn / gursanwn and Akkadian kusinu, gusinu (“skinbag”).
Has been connected with Greek βύρσα (búrsa, “(skin)bag, wineskin”) and Czech, Slovene, Serbo-Croatian krzno, originally assumed to be cognate reflexes of Proto-Indo-European *gʷurso-, but that theory is not accepted today and is held untenable (the proper Greek reflex would be *γύρσα (gúrsa)). Nevertheless, the word eventually spread to Greek, and from there to the West (Latin bursa → French bourse → English purse and dis-burse).
A number of other theories have been proposed with Proto-Indo-European origin of this word, but all of them are held untenable today. The talismanic usage likely underlies the primary meaning of the “(sheep)skin”, and ties well in with Asianic and Pontic “Golden Fleece” myths.
A bilingual cuneiform tablet found in the Hattusas archives records the mythological tale of a hunter in the then already dead Hurrian language along with a translation into Hittite. This remarkable discovery gave us the Hurrian word ashi from which Homer’s askos, for “hide” or”fur,” apparently stemmed.
Before their migration to the Aegean, the Greeks borrowed the Hittite word kursa, which by a familiar phonological shift became bursa, another synonym for “fleece.” These words seem to confirm the Greeks’ belief that their ancestors had come from western Asia, as recounted in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, who sought the Golden Fleece in Colchis, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.
The evidence that the Greeks came thence to their historical homeland puts the Greek “colonies” on the northern shore of the Black Sea in a new light. The colonies may now be considered as very early settlements that were established when the Greeks began migrating to their final home in the Aegean.
The Kursa “bags” hasve been compared to the Golden Fleece, the fleece of the gold-hair winged ram, which was held in Colchis, of the Greek myths. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship. They were apparently worshipped by themselves which explains their prominence on the pillar of Portasar.
This contribution analyses the Greek myth of the Golden Fleece with special attention to its (possible) Oriental components. The first part of the myth, which is situated in Greece, contains a number of relevant motifs in this respect: the ‘desperate housewife’ (cf. the Joseph story in Genesis); the king’s responsibility of the land (cf. the stories around David in the OT); the scapegoat motif, and the sacrifice of one’s own child (cf. Abraham and Isaac). The second part of the myth, which is situated in Colchis, concentrates on the Golden Fleece proper.
Recent investigations have argued its connection with the Hittite kurša, and my contribution tries to strengthen this connection. In Greek myth and ritual we can see its development into the Golden Fleece of the Argonauts but also into Athena’s aegis; the early history of the Golden Fleece still connects it with Anatolia.
The killing of the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece seems inspired by the defeat of Illuyankaš. Both the kurša and the myth of Illuyankaš played an important role at the Hittite Purulli festival, which may have promoted their combination. The routes of transmission of the Oriental parts of the myth probably were Cilicia, Cyprus and the later Royal Road.