Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The king and the queen of gods

Posted by Fredsvenn on November 10, 2015

The mother goddess

The Mesopotamian mother goddess is known under many names, the most prominent of which is the Sumerian name Nintud/Nintur (“Queen of the (birthing) hut”). Other frequent names are Aruru, Dingirmah or Ninmah (“Magnificent Queen”), Belet-ili (“Queen of the gods”), and Ninhursag. However, her most frequently attested name is Nintur.

She was in charge of pregnancy and birth and, especially in earlier periods, appears as the creator of humankind. One of her main functions was associated with pregnancy and childbirth. She guides children when they are still in the womb and feeds them after they have been born.

Because the mother goddess appears under so many different names, she is attested from the Early Dynastic period until well into the first millennium BCE, though she loses importance throughout the second half of the second millennium.

In the third and second millennium BCE, the mother goddess was in high standing within the divine hierarchy of gods. She is mentioned together with the highest gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon, An, Enlil, and Enki. In the course of the second millennium BCE this situation changes and the goddess loses some of her high standing in favour of the healing goddess Gula and the goddess of love and war, Ištar.

In Mesopotamian iconography, the mother goddess is represented by the Ω sign, which is thought to represent a uterus. Sometimes the Ω sign is accompanied by a knife, which is interpreted as the tool that is used to cut the umbilical cord after birth. Specific anthropomorphic representations of the mother goddess are difficult to distinguish from depictions of other goddesses.

The mother goddess also appears as the creator of humankind. In the Akkadian myth of Atrahasis, the Mesopotamian flood story, Nintur created humankind by mixing clay with blood of a slain god, and in the Sumerian tale of Enki and Ninmah the two deities compete by creating various creatures out of clay, resulting ultimately in the creation of humans. The clay is said to come from the top of the abzu, the cosmic underground waters.

In her role as the creator of humankind she is eventually replaced by the god Enki/Ea, as visible in Enūma eliš. Frymer-Kensky referred to the diminishing importance of goddesses even in primarily female functions, such as creation, as the “marginalization of goddesses”.

Nothing is known about the mother goddess’s divine parentage. The gods An, Enlil, Enki, and Šulpae are at times considered to be her husband. She had a lot of offsprings. The beginning of the second tablet of the god list An-Anum lists several names of the mother goddess.

Ningikuga and Ningal

Ningikuga (“Lady of the Pure Reed”) in Sumerian mythology was a goddess of reeds and marshes. She was the daughter of An and Nammu and one of the consorts of Enki, by whom she became the mother of Ningal (“Great Lady/Queen”), a goddess of reeds in the Sumerian mythology 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 recognized at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia.

Ningal is equivalent to Nikkal, Ugaritic nkl, full name Nikkal-wa-Ib, a goddess of Ugarit/Canaan and later of Phoenicia. Nikkal is a goddess of orchards, whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful” and derives from Akkadian / West Semitic “´Ilat ´Inbi” meaning “Goddess of Fruit”. De Moor translates Ugaritic “ib” as “blossom” which survives in biblical Hebrew as אֵ and cites Canticles 6:11 as a survival of this usage.

Nikkal

Nikkal is daughter of Khirkhibi, the King of the summer, and is married to the moon god Yarikh, who gave her necklaces of lapis-lazuli. Their marriage is lyrically described in the Ugaritic text “Nikkal and the Kathirat”. She may have been feted in late summer when tree fruits had been finally harvested.

The oldest incomplete annotated piece of ancient music is a Hurrian song, a hymn in Ugaritic cuneiform syllabic writing which was dedicated to Nikkal. This was published upon its discovery in Ugarit by Emmanuel Laroche, first in 1955 and then more fully in 1968, and has been the focus of many subsequent studies in palaeomusicology by, amongst others, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, who gave it the title of “The Hymn to Nikkal” l.

NIn/ Eresh

The Sumerian word NIN (from the Akkadian pronunciation of the sign EREŠ) was used to denote a queen or a priestess, and is often translated as “lady”. Other translations include “queen”, “mistress”, “proprietress”, and “lord”. Many goddesses are called NIN, such as NIN.GAL (“great lady”), É.NIN.GAL (“lady of the great temple”), EREŠ.KI.GAL, and NIN.TI. The compound form NIN.DINGIR (“divine lady” or “lady of [a] god”), from the Akkadian entu, denotes a priestess.

Ninhursag

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’.

Nin-hursag means “lady of the sacred mountain” (from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”, possibly a reference to the site of her temple, the E-Kur (House of mountain deeps) at Eridu. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru (probably connected with Homeric arura; arable land,land generally), Belet-Ili (lady of the gods). As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife).

Mami is a goddess in the Babylonian epic Atra-Hasis and in other creation legends. She was probably synonymous with Ninhursag. She was involved in the creation of humankind from clay and blood. As Nintu legends states she pinched off fourteen pieces of primordial clay which she formed into womb deities, seven on the left and seven on the right with a brick between them, who produced the first seven pairs of human embryos.

She may have become Belet Ili (“Mistress of the Gods”), also known as Belet-ili, or Nintu, when, at Enki’s suggestion, the gods slew one amongst themselves and used that god’s blood and flesh, mixed with clay, to create humankind. Alternative forms of her name include Mama and Mammitum.

According to Enuma Elish Tiamat, who may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu, a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki, was sliced in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth.

Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablets of Destiny, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu was captured and later was slain: his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi deities. In the Babylonian tale, Enlil’s role is taken by Marduk, Enki’s son, and in the Assyrian version it is Asshur.

Some of the names above were once associated with independent goddesses (such as Ninmah and Ninmenna), who later became identified and merged with Ninhursag, and myths exist in which the name Ninhursag is not mentioned. As Ninmenna, according to a Babylonian investiture ritual, she placed the golden crown on the king in the Eanna temple.

She had many epithets including shassuru or “womb goddess”, tabsut ili “midwife of the gods”, “mother of all children” and “mother of the gods”. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. Some take the view that Ki (“Earth”) the primordial goddess of the earth and consort of An (sky), was identical to or an earlier form of Ninhursag.

This may very well be the case, since some authorities argue that Ki was never regarded as a deity in her own right in the historical period. There is no evidence of a cult for the goddess and the name appears in a limited number of Sumerian creation texts. As Ki, Ninhursag would be the mother of Enlil, whereas in other sources she is his sister.

According to legend her name was changed from Ninmah to Ninhursag by her son Ninurta in order to commemorate his creation of the mountains. In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag.

In the text “Creator of the Hoe”, she completed the birth of mankind after the heads had been uncovered by Enki’s hoe. In creation texts, Ninmah (another name for Ninhursag) acts as a midwife whilst the mother goddess Nammu makes different kinds of human individuals from lumps of clay at a feast given by Enki to celebrate the creation of humankind.

Omega

In Mesopotamian iconography, the mother goddess is represented by the Ω sign, which is thought to represent a uterus. Sometimes the Ω sign is accompanied by a knife, which is interpreted as the tool that is used to cut the umbilical cord after birth. Specific anthropomorphic representations of the mother goddess are difficult to distinguish from depictions of other goddesses.

The hair of Ninhursag is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash.

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.

Omega (capital: Ω, lowercase: ω; Greek Ωμέγα) is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet. In the Greek numeric system, it has a value of 800. The word literally means “great O” (ō mega, mega meaning ‘great’), as opposed to omicron, which means “little O” (o mikron, micron meaning “little”).

Alpha (Α or α) and omega (Ω or ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ or of God in the Book of Revelation. This couple of letters are used as Christian symbols, and are often combined with the Cross, Chi-rho, or other Christian symbols.

Aruru

Aruru is a surname of the Sumerian earth and fertility goddess Ninhursag. The term arura was also used to describe a measure of land in ancient Egypt (similar in manner to the acre), a square of 100 Egyptian cubits each way. This measures 2700m² or 2/3 of an acre.

Arura or aroura, is a Homeric Greek word with original meaning “arable land”, derived from the verb aroō, “plough”. The word was also used generally for earth, land and father-land and in plural to describe corn-lands and fields. The oldest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek a-ro-u-ra, written in Linear B syllabic script, originally meant “plough”.

Urash

Uraš or Urash (Akkadian: Uras, meaning “One of the Plough”), in Sumerian mythology is a goddess of earth, and one of the consorts of the sky god Anu. From Sumerian texts, the language used to describe Urash is very similar to the language used to describe Ninhursag. Therefore, the two goddesses may be one and the same. Urash is the mother of the goddess Ninsun (“lady wild cow”) and a grandmother of the hero Gilgamesh. However, Uras may only have been another name for Antum, Anu’s wife. The name Uras even became applied to Anu himself, and acquired the meaning “heaven”. Ninurta also was apparently called Uras in later times.

Antu

Ki later developed into the Babylonian and Akkadian goddess Antu, consort of the god Anu (from Sumerian An). In Akkadian mythology, Antu or Antum is a Babylonian goddess. She was the first consort of Anu, and the pair was the parents of the Anunnaki and the Utukki. Antu was replaced as consort by Ishtar or Inanna, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu.

Antu was a dominant feature of the Babylonian akit festival until as recently as 200 BC, her later pre-eminence possibly attributable to identification with the Greek goddess Hera, the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion.

Ki

Ninhursag was a great mother goddess, the goddess of childbirth, queen of the mountains, an aspect of the Earth Goddess Ki, which means “Earth” in ancient Sumerian. Cuneiform KI is the sign for “earth”. It is also read as GI, GUNNI (=KI.NE) “hearth”, KARAŠ (=KI.KAL.BAD) “encampment, army”, KISLAḪ (=KI.UD) “threshing floor” or steath, and SUR (=KI.GAG). In Akkadian orthography, it functions as a determiner for toponyms and has the syllabic values gi, ge, qi, and qe.

As an earth goddess in Sumerian mythology, Ki was the chief consort of An, the sky god. In some legends[citation needed] Ki and An were brother and sister, being the offspring of Anshar (“Sky Pivot”) and Kishar (“Earth Pivot”), earlier personifications of heaven and earth.

By her consort Anu, Ki gave birth to the Anunnaki, the most prominent of these deities being Enlil, god of the air. According to legends, heaven and earth were once inseparable until Enlil was born; Enlil cleaved heaven and earth in two. An carried away heaven. Ki, in company with Enlil, took the earth.

Some authorities question whether Ki was regarded as a deity since there is no evidence of a cult and the name appears only in a limited number of Sumerian creation texts. Samuel Noah Kramer identifies Ki with the Sumerian mother goddess Ninhursag and claims that they were originally the same figure.

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.

Nergal

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. 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 was 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 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.

Manungal

Manungal (or simply Nungal) is a goddess of the underworld, worshipped by the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Akkadians. She is the consort of the god Birdu, a god of the underworld who was syncretised with Nergal. Her title was the “Queen of the Ekur” where she held the “tablet of life” and carried out judgement on the wicked.

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 seems a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records. Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele.

Ninurta

Ninurta was a Sumerian and the Akkadian god of hunting and war. He was worshipped in Babylonia and Assyria and in Lagash he was identified with the city god Ningirsu. In older transliteration the name is rendered Ninib and Ninip, and in early commentary he was sometimes portrayed as a solar deity.

A number of scholars have suggested that either the god Ninurta or the Assyrian king bearing his name (Tukulti-Ninurta I) was the inspiration for the Biblical character Nimrod. In Nippur, Ninurta was worshiped as part of a triad of deities including his father, Enlil and his mother, Ninlil. In variant mythology, his mother is said to be the harvest goddess Ninhursag. The consort of Ninurta was Ugallu in Nippur and Bau when he was called Ningirsu.

Ninurta often appears holding a bow and arrow, a sickle sword, or a mace named Sharur: Sharur is capable of speech in the Sumerian legend “Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and can take the form of a winged lion and may represent an archetype for the later Shedu.

In another legend, Ninurta battles a birdlike monster called Imdugud (Akkadian: Anzû); a Babylonian version relates how the monster Anzû steals the Tablets of Destiny from Enlil. The Tablets of Destiny were believed to contain the details of fate and the future.

Ninurta, however, was not just a warrior. In the aftermath of the Deluge it was he who dammed the mountain passes to prevent more flooding in the plain between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and who had arranged extensive drainage works there to make the plain habitable again. Thereafter, he oversaw the introduction of organized agriculture to the region and was fondly nicknamed by the Sumerians Urash – “He of the Plough.”

After drainage of the Mesopotamian river valleys was complete, the cereal grains were brought down from the highlands. The Farmer’s Almanac was attributed to Ninurta, the one who taught agriculture to humanity. Due to Enlil’s change in attitude towards humanity after the Deluge, agricultural became easier for the descendants of Ziusudra, who were taught, than for the descendents of Adapa, who had to suffer and figure it out after being banished.

In the late neo-Babylonian and early Persian period syncretism seems to have fused Ninurta’s character with that of Nergal. The two gods were often invoked together, and spoken of as if they were one divinity. 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.

Heracles/ Heraclit

Ninurta slays each of the monsters later known as the “Slain Heroes” (the Warrior Dragon, the Palm Tree King, Lord Saman-ana, the Bison-beast, the Mermaid, the Seven-headed Snake, the Six-headed Wild Ram), and despoils them of valuable items such as Gypsum, Strong Copper, and the Magilum boat. Eventually, Anzû is killed by Ninurta who delivers the Tablet of Destiny to his father, Enlil.

There are a lot of parallels with both and the story of Marduk (son of Enki) who slew Abzu (or Apsu), and delivered the Tablets of Destiny from Kingu to his father, Enki. Heracles (Ancient Greek: Hēraklēs, from Hēra, “Hera”, and kleos, “glory”), born Alcaeus (Alkaios) or Alcides (Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus.

He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman Emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves.

The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.

In the astral-theological system Ninurta was associated with the planet Saturn, or perhaps as offspring or an aspect of Saturn. In his capacity as a farmer-god, there are similarities between Ninurta and the Greek Titan Kronos, whom the Romans in turn identified with their Titan Saturn.

Many popular stories were told of his life, the most famous being The Twelve Labours of Heracles; Alexandrian poets of the Hellenistic age drew his mythology into a high poetic and tragic atmosphere. His figure, which initially drew on Near Eastern motifs such as the lion-fight, was known everywhere: his Etruscan equivalent was Hercle, a son of Tinia and Uni.

Apollo

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”. As God of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt.

Aplu was a Hurrian deity of the plague — bringing it, or, if propitiated, protecting from it — and resembles Apollo Smintheus, “mouse-Apollo”. Aplu, it is suggested, comes from the Akkadian Aplu Enlil, meaning “the son of Enlil”, a title that was given to the god Nergal, who was linked to Shamash, Babylonian god of the sun. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.

Rudra

The Vedic Rudra has some similar functions with Apollo. The terrible god is called “The Archer”, and the bow is also an attribute of Shiva. Rudra could bring diseases with his arrows, but he was able to free people of them, and his alternative Shiba, is a healer physician god. However the Indo-European component of Apollo, does not explain his strong relation with omens, exorcisms, and with the oracular cult.

Shiva

Shiva (Sanskrit: Śiva, meaning “The Auspicious One”; Tamil: Śivan, meaning “The Red One”), also known as Mahadeva (“Great God”), is one of the Trinity 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”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.

Kali

Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, or shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga. The name of Kali means black one and force of time, she is therefore called the Goddess of Time, Change, Power, Creation, Preservation, and Destruction.

Her earliest appearance is that of a destroyer principally of evil forces. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman; and recent devotional movements re-imagine Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess. She is often portrayed standing or dancing on her husband, the god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her.

Khaldi

Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk, was one of the three chief deities of Ararat (Urartu). The other two chief deities were Theispas of Kumenu, and Shivini of Tushpa. His shrine was at Ardini (the present form of the name is Artin, meaning “sun rising” or to “awake”), in Assyrian known as Muṣaṣir (Akkadian for Exit of the Serpent/Snake), an ancient city of Urartu, attested in Assyrian sources of the 9th and 8th centuries BC.

Of all the gods of Ararat (Urartu) pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to him. His wife was the goddess Arubani. He is portrayed as a man with or without a beard, standing on a lion.

Khaldi was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bow and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as ‘the house of weapons’.

Hayk or Hayg, also known as Haik Nahapet (Hayk the Tribal Chief) is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. His story is told in the History of Armenia attributed to the Armenian historian Moses of Chorene (410 to 490).

Tyr

Týr (Old Norse: Týr) is a god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic Teiws, Old English Tīw and Old High German Ziu and Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz. The Latinised name is Tius or Tio. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.

Old Norse Týr, literally “god”, plural tívar “gods”, comes from Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz (cf. Old English Tīw, Old High German Zīo), which continues Proto-Indo-European *deiwós “celestial being, god” (cf. Welsh duw, Latin deus, Lithuanian diẽvas, Sanskrit dēvá, Avestan daēvō “demon”). And *deiwós is based in *dei-, *deyā-, *dīdyā-, meaning ‘to shine’.

The earliest attestation for Týr’s continental counterpart occurs in Gothic tyz “the t-rune” (𐍄) in the 9th-century Codex Vindobonensis 795. The name is later attested in Old High German as Cyo in the A Wessobrunn prayer ms. of 814. The Negau helmet inscription (2nd century b.c.) may actually record the earliest form, teiva, but this interpretation is tentative.

Týr in origin was a generic noun meaning “god”, e.g. Hangatyr, literally, the “god of the hanged”, as one of Odin’s names, which was probably inherited from Tyr in his role as god of justice.

The t-rune ᛏ is named after Tyr, and was identified with this god; the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Tîwaz. The rune is sometimes also referred to as *Teiwaz, or spelling variants. Multiple Tiwaz runes either stacked atop one another to resemble a tree-like shape, or repeated after one another appear several times in Germanic paganism.

There is sketchy evidence of a consort, in German named Zisa: Tacitus mentions one Germanic tribe who worshipped “Isis”, and Jacob Grimm pointed to Cisa/Zisa, the patroness of Augsburg, in this connection. The name Zisa could be derived from Ziu etymologically.

The Excerptum ex Gallica Historia of Ursberg (ca. 1135) records a dea Ciza as the patron goddess of Augsburg. According to this account, Cisaria was founded by Swabian tribes as a defence against Roman incursions. This Zisa would be the female consort of Ziu, as Dione was of Zeus, the sky and thunder god in ancient Greek religion, who ruled as king of the gods of Mount Olympus.

Istanu

Istanu (Ištanu; from Hattic Estan, “Sun-god”) was the Hittite and Hattic god of the sun. In Luwian he was known as Tiwaz or Tijaz. He was a god of judgement, and was depicted bearing a winged sun on his crown or head-dress, and a crooked staff.

Osiris

Osiris (alternatively Ausir, Asiri or Ausar, among other spellings), was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead, but more appropriately as the god of transition, resurrection, and regeneration.

He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail.

Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth god Geb, though other sources state his father is the sun-god Ra and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son.

He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning “Foremost of the Westerners”, a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was also sometimes called “king of the living”: ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones”.

Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the New Year.

Ashur

Ashur (also, Assur, Aššur; written A-šur, also Aš-šùr) is an East Semitic god, and the head of the Assyrian pantheon in Mesopotamian religion, worshipped mainly in the northern half of Mesopotamia, and parts of north-east Syria and south east Asia Minor which constituted old Assyria. He may have had a solar iconography.

Isis

Isis (original Egyptian pronunciation more likely “Aset” or “Iset”) is a goddess from the polytheistic pantheon of Egypt. She was first worshiped in Ancient Egyptian religion, and later her worship spread throughout the Roman empire and the greater Greco-Roman world.

She married her brother, Osiris, and she conceived Horus with him. Isis was instrumental in the resurrection of Osiris when he was murdered by Set. Using her magical skills, she restored his body to life after having gathered the body parts that had been strewn about the earth by Set.

This myth became very important during the Greco-Roman period. For example, it was believed that the Nile River flooded every year because of the tears of sorrow which Isis wept for Osiris. Osiris’s death and rebirth was relived each year through rituals. The worship of Isis eventually spread throughout the Greco-Roman world, continuing until the suppression of paganism in the Christian era.

The popular motif of Isis suckling her son Horus, however, lived on in a Christianized context as the popular image of Mary suckling her infant son Jesus from the fifth century onward.

The first secure references to Isis date back to the 5th dynasty, when her name appears in the sun temple of king Niuserre and on the statue of a priest named Pepi-Ankh, who worshipped at the very beginning of 6th dynasty and bore the title “high priest of Isis and Hathor”.

By the New Kingdom period, in many places, Isis was more prominent than her spouse. She was seen as the mother of the pharaoh, and was often depicted breastfeeding the pharaoh. It is theorized that this displacement happened through the merging of cults from the various cult centers as Egyptian religion became more standardized.

When the cult of Ra rose to prominence, with its cult center at Heliopolis, Ra was identified with the similar deity, Horus. But Hathor had been paired with Ra in some regions, as the mother of the god.

Since Isis was paired with Horus, and Horus was identified with Ra, Isis began to be merged with Hathor as Isis-Hathor. By merging with Hathor, Isis became the mother of Horus, as well as his wife. Eventually the mother role displaced the role of spouse.

Thus, the role of spouse to Isis was open and in the Heliopolis pantheon, Isis became the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus/Ra. This reconciliation of themes led to the evolution of the myth of Isis and Osiris.

Inanna

Inanna (Cuneiform: (Old Babylonian) or (Neo-Assyrian) MUŠ; Sumerian: Inanna; Akkadian: Ištar) was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre. Her name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna; however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).

These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.

Aratta (Urartu/ Armenia) is a land that appears in Sumerian myths surrounding Enmerkar and Lugalbanda, two early and possibly mythical kings of Uruk also mentioned on the Sumerian king list. Aratta is in Sumerian literature described as a fabulously wealthy place full of gold, silver, lapis lazuli and other precious materials, as well as the artisans to craft them. It is remote and difficult to reach. It is home to the goddess Inanna, who transfers her allegiance from Aratta to Uruk. It is conquered by Enmerkar of Uruk.

Ishtar

Ishtar is the East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna, and the cognate for the Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte.

Astarte

Astarte or Ashtoreth is the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Ishtar, worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The name is particularly associated with her worship in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians.

She was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults there. The name Astarte is sometimes also applied to her cults in Mesopotamian cultures like Assyria and Babylonia.

Zeus/ Jupiter

His name is cognate with the first element of his Roman equivalent Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology. The Romans regarded Jupiter as the equivalent of the Greek Zeus, and in Latin literature and Roman art, the myths and iconography of Zeus are adapted under the name Iuppiter.

In the Greek-influenced tradition, Jupiter was the brother of Neptune and Pluto. Each presided over one of the three realms of the universe: sky, the waters, and the underworld. The Italic Diespiter was also a sky god who manifested himself in the daylight, usually but not always identified with Jupiter. Tinia is usually regarded as his Etruscan counterpart.

Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea, the youngest of his siblings to be born, though sometimes reckoned the eldest as the others required disgorging from Cronos’s stomach.

At the oracle of Dodona, his consort was said to be Dione, by whom the Iliad states that he fathered Aphrodite. Zeus was also infamous for his erotic escapades. These resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone, Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses.

He was respected as an allfather who was chief of the gods and assigned the others to their roles: “Even the gods who are not his natural children address him as Father, and all the gods rise in his presence.” He was equated with many foreign weather gods, permitting Pausanias to observe “That Zeus is king in heaven is a saying common to all men”. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak.

In addition to his Indo-European inheritance, the classical “cloud-gatherer” (Greek: Nephelēgereta) also derives certain iconographic traits from the cultures of the Ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus is frequently depicted by Greek artists in one of two poses: standing, striding forward with a thunderbolt leveled in his raised right hand, or seated in majesty.

Mars

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the Solar System, after Mercury. Named after the Roman god of war, it is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was second in importance only to Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

Under the influence of Greek culture, Mars was identified with the Greek god Ares, whose myths were reinterpreted in Roman literature and art under the name of Mars. Although Ares was viewed primarily as a destructive and destabilizing force, Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people.

In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

The importance of Mars in establishing religious and cultural identity within the Roman Empire is indicated by the vast number of inscriptions identifying him with a local deity, particularly in the Western provinces.

Hel

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 referred to as a daughter of Loki, and to “go to Hel” is to die. Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim.

In the same source, her appearance is described as half blue and half flesh-coloured and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.

Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel’s potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, that she may have been considered a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels in Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali or that Hel may have become a being only as a late personification of the location of the same name.

Hera/ Juni

Hera was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and the peacock were considered sacred to her. Hera’s mother is Rhea and her father Cronus.

Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Etruscan counterpart was Uni, the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia.

Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She often appeared sitting pictured with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Hera, whose goatskin was called the ‘aegis’.

Uni

Uni appears in the Etruscan text on the Pyrgi Tablets as the translation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte or Ashtoreth, the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Ishtar, worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity.

Among the pre-roman Latin tribes, the goddess was worshipped as Uni: a single triad made up of the maiden Juventas, the mother Juno, and the wise Minerva. Later, the Etruscans and early Romans, as we have seen, substituted the chief god Jupiter for Juventas, creating another kind of triad altogether. With her husband Tinia and Menrva, she was part of a powerful triad.

Alu – Anu – Kumarbi – Teshub

Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky) and father of the storm-god Teshub Teshub (also written Teshup or Tešup; cuneiform IM; hieroglyphic Luwian (DEUS)TONITRUS, read as Tarhunzas), the Hurrian god of sky and storm. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.

Alalu was a primeval deity of the Hurrian mythology. He is considered to have housed “the Hosts of Sky”, the divine family, because he was a progenitor of the gods, and possibly the father of Earth.

The name “Alalu” was borrowed from Semitic mythology and is a compound word made up of the Semitic definite article al and the Semitic supreme deity Alu. The -u at the end of the word is an inflectional ending; thus, Alalu may also occur as Alali or Alala depending on the position of the word in the sentence. He was identified by the Greeks as Hypsistos. He was also called Alalus.

After nine years of reign, Alalu was defeated by his son Anu. Anuʻs son Kumarbi also defeated his father, and his son Teshub defeated him, too. Alalu fled to the underworld.

Kumarbi is known from a number of mythological Hittite texts, sometimes summarized under the term “Kumarbi Cycle”. These texts notably include the myth of The Kingship in Heaven, also known as the Song of Kumarbi or the “Hittite Theogony”, the Song of Ullikummi, the Kingship of the God KAL, the Myth of the dragon Hedammu, and the Song of Silver.

The Song of Kumarbi or Kingship in Heaven is the title given to a Hittite version of the Hurrian Kumarbi myth, dating to the 14th or 13th century BC. It is preserved in three tablets, but only a small fraction of the text is legible.

The song relates that Alalu was overthrown by Anu who was in turn overthrown by Kumarbi. When Anu tried to escape, Kumarbi bit off his genitals and spat out three new gods. In the text Anu tells his son that he is now pregnant with the Teshub, Tigris, and Tašmišu.

Upon hearing this Kumarbi spit the semen upon the ground and it became impregnated with two children. Kumarbi is cut open to deliver Tešub. Together, Anu and Teshub depose Kumarbi.

Taru is the Hattian form derived from Teshub. His Hittite and Luwian name was Tarhun (with variant stem forms Tarhunt, Tarhuwant, Tarhunta), although this name is from the Hittite root *tarh- “to defeat, conquer”.

Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.

In another version of the Kingship in Heaven, the three gods, Alalu, Anu, and Kumarbi, rule heaven, each serving the one who precedes him in the nine-year reign. It is Kumarbi’s son Tešub, the Weather-God, who begins to conspire to overthrow his father.

From the first publication of the Kingship in Heaven tablets scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian creation myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus which is recounted in Hesiod’s Theogony.

Hebat

Teshub was paired with Hebat, the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living” and “Queen of the deities”; in the Hittite, with the sun goddess Arinniti of Arinna – a cultus of great antiquity which has similarities with the venerated bulls and mothers at Çatalhöyük in the Neolithic era. His son was called Sarruma, the mountain god.

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.

Hannahannah

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.

Hannahannah is associated with the Gulses in Hittite mythology, in Hurrian mythology known as the Hutena, goddesses of fate. They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Moirai of ancient Greece.

Cybele

Hebat/ Hannahanna is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele, an originally Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where the statue of a pregnant, seated goddess 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.

Cybele’s major mythographic narratives attach to her relationship with Attis, who is described by ancient Greek and Roman sources and cults as her youthful consort, and as a Phrygian deity.

Enlil and Ninlil

Enlil (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). It was the name of a chief deity listed and written about in Mesopotamian religion. The name is perhaps pronounced and sometimes rendered in translations as “Ellil” in later Akkadian, Hittite, and Canaanite literature.

In later Akkadian, Enlil is the son of Anshar (“whole heaven”) and Kishar (“Whole Earth”), who were the children of Lahamu and Lahmu and the grandchildren of Tiamat and Apsû. They, in turn, are the parents of Anu, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons.

Enlil is one of the most important gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon. Sometimes he is said to be the offspring of An and brother of the birth-goddess Aruru, which is another name of Ninhursag. He is also, however, sometimes described as the descendant of Enki and Ninki (“Lord” and “Lady Earth,” not to be confused with the deity Enki). Yet a third tradition attributes his birth to the primeval water-goddess Nammu. Among his prominent offspring are Inanna, Adad, Nanna, Nergal, Ninurta, and Utu.

The personality of Enlil is very complex. It is not certain what the Sumerian element “lil” originally stood for. It has had meanings as diverse as “air”, and “spirit”. It was Enlil who was said to have separated the primordial heaven/earth, thus bringing forth the created universe. On a cosmic level, while Enki’s realm was below (the abzu), and An ruled above (the heavens), Enlil’s realm was the earth and the spheres of the winds and weather above it.

Enlil was responsible for all aspects of life: fertility and prosperity, as well as famine and catastrophe. His great cult center was the temple E-kur at Nippur. He is sometimes also referred to as Nunamnir. He is the lord who “determines the fates”, a function he shares with the god Enki.

Enlil was known as the inventor of the mattock (a key agricultural pick, hoe, ax or digging tool of the Sumerians) and helped plants to grow. He created order in the cosmos. He filled the rivers with fish. He invented the plough and the yoke so that farmers could till the earth with oxen. He is known as “Lord of the plough”.

It is said that Enlil made the grain grow. He is the father of all plants and god of the waters. He is in charge of the bolt which bars the sea. He is the “Lord of Wisdom”, “Lord of Incantations”, and the one that knows everything. When he speaks of a thing it will be made.

His wife is Ninlil (“lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu. 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.

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.

Mountain houses

There is a clear association of Ziggurats with Mountain houses. These play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished. The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur.

Ekur is a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”. It is the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus and was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer. In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”).

Some scholars also identify hursag with an undefined mountain range or strip of raised land outside the plain of Mesopotamia. Hursag (cuneiform: HUR.SAG) is a Sumerian term variously translated as meaning “mountain”, “hill”, “foothills” or “piedmont”. Thorkild Jacobsen extrapolated the translation in his later career to mean literally, “head of the valleys”.

In a myth variously entitled by Samuel Noah Kramer as “The Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and later Ninurta Myth Lugal-e by Thorkild Jacobsen, Hursag is described as a mound of stones constructed by Ninurta after his defeat of a demon called Asag. Ninurta’s mother Ninlil visits the location after this great victory. In return for her love and loyalty, Ninurta gives Ninlil the hursag as a gift. Her name is consequentially changed from Ninlil to Ninhursag or the “mistress of the Hursag”.

The hursag is described here in a clear cultural myth as a high wall, levee, dam or floodbank, used to restrain the excess mountain waters and floods caused by the melting snow and spring rain. The hursag is constructed with Ninurta’s skills in irrigation engineering and employed to improve the agriculture of the surrounding lands, farms and gardens where the water had previously been wasted.

The creation of life

In Sumerian mythology, Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR, “house of the subterranean waters”) 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. 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. 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.

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.

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) (see below).

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.

Enki and Ninhursag

The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos.

In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water (also the Sumerian word for semen), is living with his wife in the paradise of Dilmun. Despite being a place where “the raven uttered no cries” and “the lion killed not, the wolf snatched not the lamb, unknown was the kid-killing dog, unknown was the grain devouring boar”, Dilmun had no water and Enki heard the cries of its Goddess, Ninsikil, and orders the sun-God Utu to bring fresh water from the Earth for Dilmun.

The subsequent tale, with similarities to the Biblical story of the forbidden fruit, repeats the story of how fresh water brings life to a barren land. Enki, the Water-Lord then “caused to flow the ‘water of the heart” and having fertilised his consort Ninhursag, also known as Ki or Earth, after “Nine days being her nine months, the months of ‘womanhood’… like good butter, Nintu, the mother of the land, …like good butter, gave birth to Ninsar, (Lady Greenery)”.

In the legend of Enki and Ninhursag, Ninhursag bore a daughter to Enki called Ninsar (“Lady Greenery”). Through Enki, Ninsar bore a daughter Ninkurra (“Lady Pasture”), who in turn bore Enki a daughter named Uttu, the weaver or spider, the weaver of the web of life, the goddess of weaving and clothing. Uttu in Sumerian means “the woven” and she was illustrated as a spider in a web. She is a goddess in the pantheon.

Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki’s reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous wayward nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks, the places likely to be affected by flooding, the home of Enki.

In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki’s semen from Uttu’s womb and plants it in the earth where eight plants rapidly germinate. Enki then eats it. And so, despite warnings, Enki consumes the other seven fruits. Consuming his own semen, he falls pregnant (ill with swellings) in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his hip, his throat, his limbs, his side and his rib. The gods are at a loss to know what to do, chagrinned they “sit in the dust”.

As Enki lacks a womb with which to give birth, he seems to be dying with swellings. The fox then asks Enlil King of the Gods, “If i bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward?” Ninhursag’s sacred fox then fetches the goddess.

Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body. Abu for the Jaw, Nintul for the Hip, Ninsutu for the tooth, Ninkasi for the mouth, Dazimua for the side, Enshagag for the Limbs. The last one, Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself.

The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.

Ninti (“Lady Rib”) is the Sumerian goddess of life. Ninti is also the last of the eight goddesses of healing who was created by Ninhursag to heal Enki’s body. Her specific healing area was the rib (Sumerian Ti means rib and to live). Ninti is also a pun on “Lady Life”. Ninti means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to Ninhursag, and also the later Hurrian goddess Kheba.

This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah, who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve. It is suggested that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam’s rib in the Book of Genesis.

Lilith

The semitic root L-Y-L served as derivative for the Hebrew layil and Arabic layl, meaning “night”. The Talmudic and Yiddish use of Lilith cognates with the Hebrew. In the Akkadian language of Assyria and Babylonia the terms lili and līlītu mean spirits. Archibald Sayce (1882) considered that Hebrew lilit (or lilith) Hebrew and the earlier Akkadian līlītu are from proto-Semitic. Charles Fossey (1902) has this literally translating to “female night being/demon,” although cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia exist where Līlīt and Līlītu refers to disease-bearing wind spirits.

Another possibility is association not with “night,” but with “wind,” thus identifying the Akkadian Lil-itu as a loan from the Sumerian lil, “air” — specifically from Ninlil, “lady air,” goddess of the south wind (and wife of Enlil) — and itud, “moon”.

However, in Jewish folklore, from Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time (Rosh Hashanah) and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs. The legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism.

For example, in the 13th century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she coupled with the archangel Samael. This story reminds about the story of Uttu who refused to obey Enki.

From the great Mother Goddess to Ereshkigal/Inanna – Maria/Lilith – Venus

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