The seven rays
Posted by Fredsvenn on October 31, 2015
In Theosophy, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades transmit the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius. From there is it sent via the Sun to the god of Earth (Sanat Kumara), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays to the human race.
In Ancient Mesopotamian religion, Humbaba, also spelled Huwawa, and surnamed the Terrible, was a monstrous giant of immemorial age raised by Utu, the Sun. Humbaba was the guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived, by the will of the god Enlil, who “assigned [Humbaba] as a terror to human beings.”
Humbaba is first mentioned in Tablet II of the Epic of Gilgamesh: after Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends following their initial fight, they set out on an adventure to the Cedar Forest beyond the seventh mountain range, to slay Humbaba (Huwawa): “Enkidu,” Gilgamesh vows, “since a man cannot pass beyond the final end of life, I want to set off into the mountains, to establish my renown there.”
Gilgamesh tricks the monster into giving away his seven “radiances” by offering his sisters as wife and concubine. When Humbaba’s guard is down, Gilgamesh punches him and captures the monster. Defeated, Humbaba appeals to a receptive Gilgamesh for mercy, but Enkidu convinces Gilgamesh to slay Humbaba. In a last effort, Humbaba tries to escape but is decapitated by Enkidu, or in some versions by both heroes together; his head is put in a leather sack, which is brought to Enlil, the god who set Humbaba as the forest’s guardian.
While Gilgamesh thus distracts and tricks this spirit of the cedar forest, the fifty unmarried young men he has brought on the adventure are felling cedar timber, stripping it of its branches and laying it “in many piles on the hillside,” ready to be taken away. Thus the adventure reveals itself in the context of a timber raid, bringing cedar wood to timberless Mesopotamia.
Enlil becomes enraged upon learning this and redistributes Humbaba’s seven splendors (or in some tablets “auras”). “He gave Humbaba’s first aura to the fields. He gave his second aura to the rivers. He gave his third aura to the reed-beds. He gave his fourth aura to the lions. He gave his fifth aura to the palace (one text has debt slaves). He gave his sixth aura to the forests (one text has the hills). He gave his seventh aura to Nungal.”
No vengeance was laid upon the heroes, though Enlil says, “He should have eaten the bread that you eat, and should have drunk the water that you drink! He should have been honored.” As his death approaches, and Gilgamesh is oppressed with his own mortality, the gods remind him of his great feats: “…having fetched cedar, the unique tree, from its mountains, having killed Humbaba in the forest…”
The iconography of the apotropaic severed head of Humbaba, with staring eyes, flowing beard and wild hair, is well documented from the First Babylonian Dynasty, continuing into Neo-Assyrian art and dying away during the Achaemenid rule.
The severed head of the monstrous Humbaba found a Greek parallel in the myth of Perseus and the similarly employed head of Medusa, which Perseus placed in his leather sack. Archaic Greek depictions of the gorgoneion render it bearded, which is an anomaly in the female Gorgon. Judith McKenzie detected Humbaba heads in a Nabatean tomb frieze at Petra.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Kur (Sumerian) or Ersetu (Akkadian) is the underworld from which there is no return. It was also called earth of no return, Kurnugia in Sumerian and Erset la tari in Akkadian. Kur is ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and her consort, the death god Nergal, a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta.
Irkalla was originally another name for Ereshkigal, who ruled the underworld alone until Nergal was sent to the underworld and seduced Ereshkigal (in Babylonian mythology). Both the deity and the location were called Irkalla, much like how Hades in Greek mythology is both the name of the underworld and the god who ruled it.
The Sumerian netherworld was a place for the bodies of the dead to exist after death. One passed through the seven gates on their journey through the portal to the netherworld leaving articles of clothing and adornment at each gate, not necessarily by choice as there was a guardian at each gate to extract a toll for one’s passage and to keep one from going the wrong way.
The story of Inanna’s descent to the underworld is a relatively well-attested and reconstructed composition. In Sumerian religion, the Underworld was conceived of as a dreary, dark place; a home to deceased heroes and ordinary people alike. While everyone suffered an eternity of poor conditions, certain behavior while alive, notably creating a family to provide offerings to the deceased, could alleviate conditions somewhat.
Inanna’s reason for visiting the underworld is unclear. The reason she gives to the gatekeeper of the underworld is that she wants to attend the funeral rites of Ereshkigal’s husband, here said to be Gud-gal-ana. Gugalana was the Bull of Heaven in The Epic of Gilgamesh, which was killed by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. To further add to the confusion, Ereshkigal’s husband typically is the plague god, Nergal.
In this story, before leaving Inanna instructed her minister and servant, Ninshubur, to plead with the deities Enlil, Sin, and Enki to save her if anything went amiss. The attested laws of the underworld dictate that, with the exception of appointed messengers, those who enter it could never leave.
Inanna dresses elaborately for the visit, with a turban, a wig, a lapis lazuli necklace, beads upon her breast, the ‘pala dress’ (the ladyship garment), mascara, pectoral, a golden ring on her hand, and she held a lapis lazuli measuring rod, a tool used to physically measure lengths and survey areas of various sizes. These garments are each representations of powerful mes she possesses. Perhaps Inanna’s garments, unsuitable for a funeral, along with Inanna’s haughty behavior, make Ereshkigal suspicious.
Following Ereshkigal’s instructions, the gatekeeper tells Inanna she may enter the first gate of the underworld, but she must hand over her lapis lazuli measuring rod. She asks why, and is told ‘It is just the ways of the Underworld’. She obliges and passes through. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, at each one removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey, thus stripping her of her power.
When she arrives in front of her sister, she is naked. “After she had crouched down and had her clothes removed, they were carried away. Then she made her sister Erec-ki-gala rise from her throne, and instead she sat on her throne. The Anna, the seven judges, rendered their decision against her. They looked at her – it was the look of death. They spoke to her – it was the speech of anger. They shouted at her – it was the shout of heavy guilt. The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook.”
Ereshkigal’s hatred for Inanna could be referenced in a few other myths. Ereshkigal, too, is bound by the laws of the underworld; she can’t leave her kingdom of the underworld to join the other ‘living’ deities, and they can’t visit her in the underworld, or else they can never return. Inanna symbolized erotic love and fertility, and contrasts with Ereshkigal, who had been stolen away by Kur and taken to the underworld, where she was made queen unwillingly.