Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The plough

Posted by Fredsvenn on May 21, 2016

Song of the hoe

The song of the hoe: translation



Neolithic revolution

The Mesolithic period was a transitional era between the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, beginning with the Holocene warm period around 11,660 BP and ending with the Neolithic introduction of farming, the date of which varied in each geographical region. Adaptation was required during this period due to climate changes that affected environment and the types of available food.

Small stone tools called microliths, including small bladelets and microburins, emerged during this period. For instance, spears or arrows were found at the earliest known Mesolithic battle site at Cemetery 117 in the Sudan. Holmegaard bows were found in the bogs of Northern Europe dating from the Mesolithic period.

The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution, representing a transition from hunting and gathering nomadic life to an agriculture existence. It evolved independently in six separate locations worldwide circa 10,000–7000 years BP (8,000–5,000 BC).

There are some key defining characteristics. The Introduction of agriculture resulted in a shift from nomadic to more sedentary lifestyles, and the use of agricultural tools such as the plough, digging stick and hoe (tool) made agricultural labor more efficient.

Animals were domesticated, including dogs. Another defining characteristic of the period was the emergence of pottery, and, in the late Neolithic period, the wheel was introduced for making pottery. Neolithic architecture included houses and villages built of mud-brick and wattle and daub and the construction of storage facilities, tombs and monuments.

Copper metalworking was employed as early as 9000 BC in the Middle East; and a copper pendant found in northern Iraq dated to 8700 BC. Ground and polished stone tools continued to be created and used during the Neolithic period.

The Stone Age developed into the Bronze Age after the Neolithic Revolution. The Neolithic Revolution involved radical changes in agricultural technology which included development of agriculture, animal domestication, and the adoption of permanent settlements.

The Bronze Age is characterized by metal smelting of copper and its alloy bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, to create implements and weapons. Polished stone tools continued to be used due to their abundance compared with the less common metals (especially tin). This technological trend apparently began in the Fertile Crescent, and spread outward.

The hoe

A hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural hand tool used to shape the soil, control weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops. Shaping the soil can be piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), creating narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds and bulbs.

Weed control with a hoe can be by agitating the surface of the soil or by cutting foliage from the roots, and clearing soil of old roots and crop residues. Hoes for digging and moving soil are used harvesting root crops such as potatoes.

Hoes are an ancient technology, predating the plough and perhaps preceded only by the digging stick. In Sumerian mythology, the invention of the hoe was credited to Enlil, the chief of the council of gods. The hand-plough (mr) was depicted in predynastic Egyptian art, and hoes are also mentioned in ancient documents like the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1800 BC) and the Book of Isaiah (c. 800 BC).


A plough (UK) or plow (US) is a tool or farm implement used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting to loosen or turn the soil. Ploughs are traditionally drawn by working animals such as horses or cattle, but in modern times may be drawn by tractors.

A plough may be made of wood, iron, or steel frame with an attached blade or stick used to cut the earth. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, although written references to the plough do not appear in English until 1100 CE at which point it is referenced frequently.

In older English, as in other Germanic languages, the plough was traditionally known by other names, e.g. Old English sulh, Old High German medela, geiza, huohilī(n), Old Norse arðr (Swedish årder), and Gothic hōha, all presumably referring to the ard (scratch plough). The term plough or plow, as used today, was not common until 1700 CE.

The plough represents one of the major advances in agriculture. Some ancient hoes, like the Egyptian mr, were pointed and strong enough to clear rocky soil and make seed drills, which is why they are called hand-ards.

However, the domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization, perhaps as early as the 6000 BC, provided mankind with the draft power necessary to develop the larger, animal-drawn true ard (or scratch plough).


The ard, ard plough, or scratch plough is a simple light plough without a mouldboard. It is symmetrical on either side of its line of draft and is fitted with a symmetrical share that traces a shallow furrow but does not invert the soil. It began to be replaced in most of Europe by the carruca turnplough from the 7th century.

The earliest was the bow ard, which consists of a draft-pole (or beam) pierced by a thinner vertical pointed stick called the head (or body), with one end being the stilt (handle) and the other, a share (cutting blade) that was dragged through the topsoil to cut a shallow furrow ideal for most cereal crops.

The ard does not clear new land well, so hoes or mattocks must be used to pull up grass and undergrowth, and a hand-held, coulter-like ristle could be used to cut deeper furrows ahead of the share. Because the ard leaves a strip of undisturbed earth between the furrows, the fields are often cross-ploughed lengthwise and across, and this tends to form squarish fields (Celtic fields).

The ard is best suited to loamy or sandy soils that are naturally fertilized by annual flooding, as in the Nile Delta and Fertile Crescent, and to a lesser extent any other cereal-growing region with light or thin soil. By the late Iron Age, ards in Europe were commonly fitted with coulters.

The ard’s shallow furrows are ideal for most cereals, and if the seed is sown broadcast, the ard can be used to cover the seed in rows. In fact, the ard may have been invented in the Near East to cover seed rather than till. That would explain why in Mesopotamia seed drills were used together with ards.

The ard is most useful on light soils such as loams or sands, or in mountain fields where the soil is thin, and can be safely used in areas where deep ploughing would turn up hardpan or would cause salination or erosion.

Ards may be drawn by oxen, water buffalo, donkeys, camels, or other animals. Evidence of its use in prehistory is sometimes found at archaeological sites where the long, shallow scratches (ard marks) it makes can be seen cutting into the subsoil.

The ard first appears in the mid-Neolithic and is closely related to the domestication of cattle. It probably spread with animal traction in general across the cereal-growing cultures of the Neolithic Old World. Its exact point of origin is unknown, but it spread quickly throughout West Asia, South Asia and Europe in the late Neolithic and early Chalcolithic.

Evidence appears in the Near East in the 6th millennium BC. Iron versions appeared c. 2300 BC both in Assyria and 3rd-dynasty Egypt. In Europe, the earliest known wooden ard (at Lavagone in Italy) dates from around 2300-2000 BC, but the earliest scratch marks date from 3500-3000 BC. All of these were bow ards, also depicted in the rock drawings of Bohuslän, Sweden, and Fontanalba, France.


A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a variously curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crops or cuttings ucculent forage chiefly for feeding livestock (either freshly cut or dried as hay). A great diversity of types is used across many cultures. Between the dawn of the Iron Age and present, hundreds of region-specific variants of this basic forage-cutting tool were forged of iron, later steel.

One noteworthy feature of sickles is that their edges have been made in two very distinct manners/patterns – smooth or serrated. While both can (albeit with a different technique) be used for cutting either green grass or mature cereals, it is the serrated sickle that still dominates the duty of harvesting grain – with other words the “reaping”. Modern kitchen knives with serrated edges, as well as grain-harvesting machines use the same design principle as prehistoric sickles.

The development of the sickle in Mesopotamia can be traced back to times that pre-date the Neolithic. Large quantities of sickle blades have been excavated in sites surrounding Israel that have been dated to the Epipaleolithic era (18000-8000 BC). Formal digs in Wadi Ziqlab, Jordan have unearthed various forms of early sickle blades. The artifacts recovered ranged from 1 to 2 cm in length and possessed a jagged edge.

This intricate ‘tooth-like’ design showed a greater degree of design and manufacturing credence than most of the other artifacts that were discovered. Sickle blades found during this time were made of flint, straight and used in more of a sawing motion than with the more modern curved design. Flints from these sickles have been discovered near Mt. Carmel, which suggest the harvesting of grains from the area about 10,000 years ago.

The sickle had a profound impact on the agricultural revolution by assisting in the transition to farming and crop based lifestyle. It is now accepted that the use of sickles led directly to the domestication of Near Eastern wild grasses.

Research on domestication rates of wild cereals under primitive cultivation found that the use of the sickle in harvesting was critical to the people of early Mesopotamia. The relatively narrow growing season in the area and the critical role of grain in the late Neolithic Era promoted a larger investment in the design and manufacture of sickle over other tools.

Standardization to an extent was done on the measurements of the sickle so that replacement or repair could be more immediate. It was important that the grain was to be harvested at the appropriate time at one elevation so that the next elevation could be collected in the proper time. The sickle provided a more efficient option in collecting the grain and significantly sped up the developments of early agriculture.

The sickle remained common in the Bronze Age, both in the Ancient Near East and in Europe. Numerous sickles have been found deposited in hoards in the context of the European Urnfield culture (e.g. Frankleben hoard), suggesting a symbolic or religious significance attached to the artifact.

In archaeological terminology, Bronze Age sickles are classified by the method of attaching the handle. E.g. the knob-sickle (German Knopfsichel) is so called because of a protruding knob at the base of the blade which apparently served to stabilize the attachment of the blade to the handle.


The harpē was a type of sword or sickle. It was a sword with a sickle protrusion along one edge near the tip of the blade. The harpe is mentioned in Greek and Roman sources, and almost always in mythological contexts.

The harpe sword is most notably identified as the weapon used by Cronus to castrate his father, Uranus. Alternately, the weapon is identified as a more traditional sickle or scythe. The harpe, scythe or sickle was either a flint or adamantine (diamond) blade, and was provided to a then-unborn Cronus by his mother, Gaia:

While Uranus kept siring children with Gaia, he would not let her give birth to them, for fear of being overthrown by his own children. This state of affairs left Gaia in increasingly excruciating pain, as she fell pregnant with even more and more children, all of who she was prevented from birthing.

Gaia asked each of her unborn children to rise up against Uranus and free her, but was refused by all but the youngest, Cronus. So, Gaia provides him with a blade, (a harpe, sickle or scythe); and when Uranus next came to lay with Gaia, Cronus leapt up into action and castrated his father, overthrowing him and driving him away forever. Thus the blade, (either a harpe, sickle or scythe), became a symbol of Cronus’ power.

Perseus, (a grandson of Cronus’), is also regularly depicted in statues and sculpture, armed with a harpe sword in his quest to slay Medusa and recover her head. Perseus was provided with such a sword by his father, Zeus (Cronus’ youngest son and later overthrower).

In Greek and Roman art it is variously depicted, but it seems that originally it was a khopesh-like sickle-sword. Later depictions often show it as a combination of a sword and sickle, and this odd interpretation is explicitly described in the 2nd century Leucippe and Clitophon.


Khopesh is an Egyptian sickle-sword that evolved from battle axes. A typical khopesh is 50–60 cm (20–24 inches) in length, though smaller examples do also exist. The blunted edge of the weapon’s tip also served as an effective bludgeon, as well as a hook. These weapons changed from bronze to iron in the New Kingdom period. Various pharaohs are depicted with a khopesh, and some have been found in royal graves, such as the two examples found withTutankhamun.

The earliest known depiction of a khopesh is from the Stele of Vultures, a monument from the Early Dynastic III period (2600–2350 BC) in Mesopotamia celebrating a victory of the city-state of Lagash over its neighbour Umma. It shows various battle and religious scenes and is named after the vultures that can be seen in one of these scenes. It depicts King Eannatum of Lagash wielding the weapon; this would date the khopesh to at least 2500 BC.

The word khopesh may have derived from leg, as in leg of beef, because of their similarity in shape. The hieroglyph for ḫpš (leg) is found as early as during the time of the Coffin Texts (the First Intermediate Period).

The blade is only sharpened on the outside portion of the curved end. The khopesh evolved from the epsilon or similar crescent shaped axes that were used in warfare. Note, however, that the khopesh is not an axe. The khopesh went out of use around 1300 BC.

However, in the 196 BC Rosetta Stone it is referenced as the “sword “determinative in a hieroglyphic block, with the spelled letters of kh, p, and sh to say: Shall be set up a statue…, the Avenger of Baq-t-(Egypt), the interpretation whereof is ‘Ptolemy, the strong one of Kam-t’-(Egypt), and a statue of the god of the city, giving to him a sword royal of victory, …

Although some examples are clearly sharpened, many examples have dull edges which apparently were never intended to be sharp. It may therefore be possible that some khopeshes found in high status graves were ceremonial variants.

The term kopis (from Greek; plural kopides from koptō, “to cut, to strike”; alternatively a derivation from the Ancient Egyptian term khopesh for a cutting sword has been postulated) in Ancient Greece could describe a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade, primarily used as a tool for cutting meat, for ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice, or refer to a single edged cutting or “cut and thrust” sword with a similarly shaped blade.


A scythe is an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass or reaping crops. It has largely been replaced by horse-drawn and then tractor machinery, but is still used in some areas of Europe and Asia. The Grim Reaper and the Greek Titan Cronus are often depicted carrying or wielding a scythe.

“Scythe” derives from Old English siðe. In Middle English and after it was usually spelt sithe or sythe. However, in the 15th century some writers began to use the sc- spelling as they thought (wrongly) the word was related to the Latin scindere (meaning “to cut”). Nevertheless, the sithe spelling lingered and notably appears in Noah Webster’s dictionaries.


Sword From Middle English sword, swerd, from Old English sweord ‎(“sword”), from Proto-Germanic *swerdą ‎(“sword”), from Proto-Indo-European*swr̥dʰom ‎(“sword”), from Proto-Indo-European *swer- ‎(“to cut, pierce, fester”).

The first weapons that can be described as ‘swords’ date to around 3100 BC. They have been found in Arslantepe, Turkey, by Marcella Frangipane of Rome University; they are made from arsenical bronze, and are about 60 cm (24 in) long. Some of them are inlaid with silver.

The sword developed from the dagger when the construction of longer blades became possible, from the late 3rd millennium BC in the Middle East, first in arsenic copper, then in tin-bronze.


It has been hypothetised that R1b people (perhaps alongside neighbouring J2 tribes) were the first to domesticate cattle in northern Mesopotamia some 10,500 years ago. R1b tribes descended from mammoth hunters, and when mammoths went extinct, they started hunting other large game such as bisons and aurochs.

With the increase of the human population in the Fertile Crescent from the beginning of the Neolithic (starting 12,000 years ago), selective hunting and culling of herds started replacing indiscriminate killing of wild animals.

The increased involvement of humans in the life of aurochs, wild boars and goats led to their progressive taming. Cattle herders probably maintained a nomadic or semi-nomadic existence, while other people in the Fertile Crescent (presumably represented by haplogroups E1b1b, G and T) settled down to cultivate the land or keep smaller domesticates.

The analysis of bovine DNA has revealed that all the taurine cattle (Bos Taurus) alive today descend from a population of only 80 aurochs. The earliest evidence of cattle domestication dates from circa 8,500 BCE in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures in the Taurus Mountains.

The two oldest archaeological sites showing signs of cattle domestication are the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja’de el-Mughara in northern Iraq, two sites only 250 km away from each others. This is presumably the area from which R1b lineages started expanding – or in other words the “original homeland” of R1b.

Haplogroup J2 is thought to have appeared somewhere in the Middle East towards the end of the last glaciation, between 15,000 and 22,000 years ago. The oldest known J2 sample at present comes from Kotias Klde in Georgia and dates from c. 9700 BC, confirming that haplogroup J2 was already found around the Caucasus during the Mesolithic period.

Its present geographic distribution argues in favour of a Neolithic expansion from the Fertile Crescent. This expansion probably correlated with the diffusion of domesticated of cattle and goats, starting c. 8000-9000 BC from the Zagros Mountains and northern Mesopotamia, rather than with the development of cereal agriculture in the Levant (which appears to be linked rather to haplogroups G2 and E1b1b).

A second expansion of J2 could have occured with the advent of metallurgy, notably copper working (from the Lower Danube valley, central Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia), and the rise of some of the oldest civilisations.

Quite a few ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilisations flourished in territories where J2 lineages were preponderant. This is the case of the Hattians, the Hurrians, the Etruscans, the Minoans, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and their Carthaginian offshoot), the Israelites, and to a lower extent also the Romans, the Assyrians and the Persians. All the great seafaring civilisations from the middle Bronze Age to the Iron Age were dominated by J2 men.

There is a distinct association of ancient J2 civilisations with bull worship. The oldest evidence of a cult of the bull can be traced back to Neolithic central Anatolia, notably at the sites of Çatalhöyük and Alaca Höyük.

Bull depictions are omnipresent in Minoan frescos and ceramics in Crete. Minoan Crete, Hittite Anatolia, the Levant, Bactria and the Indus Valley also shared a tradition of bull leaping, the ritual of dodging the charge of a bull. It survives today in the traditional bullfighting of Andalusia in Spain and Provence in France, two regions with a high percentage of J2 lineages.

Bull-masked terracotta figurines and bull-horned stone altars have been found in Cyprus (dating back as far as the Neolithic, the first presumed expansion of J2 from West Asia). The Hattians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaaites, and Carthaginians all had bull deities (in contrast with Indo-European or East Asian religions). The sacred bull of Hinduism, Nandi, present in all temples dedicated to Shiva or Parvati, does not have an Indo-European origin, but can be traced back to Indus Valley civilisation.

Father Time

Father Time is the anthropomorphized depiction of time. Father Time is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device (which represents time’s constant one-way movement, and more generally and abstractly, entropy). This image derives from several sources, including the Grim Reaper and the misattribution of Cronus (not Chronos) as the Greek Titan of human time, reaping and calendars, or the Lord of Time.

Around New Year’s Eve, the media (in particular editorial cartoons) use the convenient trope of Father Time as the personification of the previous year (or “the Old Year”) who typically “hands over” the duties of time to the equally allegorical Baby New Year (or “the New Year”) or who otherwise characterizes the preceding year. In these depictions, Father Time is usually depicted wearing a sash with the old year’s date on it.

Father Time is an established symbol in numerous cultures, and appears in a variety of art and media. In some cases, they appear specifically as Father Time, while in other cases they may have another name (such as Saturn) but the characters demonstrate the attributes which Father Time has acquired over the centuries.

The position of Saturn’s festival in the Roman calendar led to his association with concepts of time, especially the temporal transition of the New Year. In the Greek tradition, Cronus was often conflated with Chronus, “Time,” and his devouring of his children taken as an allegory for the passing of generations.

The sickle or scythe of Father Time is a remnant of the agricultural implement of Cronus-Saturn, and his aged appearance represents the waning of the old year with the birth of the new, in antiquity sometimes embodied by Aion. In late antiquity, Saturn is syncretized with a number of deities, and begins to be depicted as winged, as is Kairos, “Timing, Right Time”.


Saturn is a god in ancient Roman religion, and a character in myth. Saturn the planet and Saturday are both named after the god. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of plenty and peace. Under Saturn’s rule, humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in the “Golden Age” described by Hesiod and Ovid.

Saturn is a complex figure because of his multiple associations and long history. He was the first god of the Capitol, known since the most ancient times as Saturnius Mons, and was seen as a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. In later developments he came to be also a god of time.

The Roman soil preserved the remembrance of a very remote time during which Saturn and Janus reigned on the site of the city before its foundation: the Capitol was named mons Saturnius. The Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum housed the state treasury. In December, he was celebrated at what is perhaps the most famous of the Roman festivals, the Saturnalia, a time of feasting, role reversals, free speech, gift-giving and revelry.

The Romans identified Saturn with the Greek Cronus, whose myths were adapted for Latin literature and Roman art. In particular, Cronus’s role in the genealogy of the Greek gods was transferred to Saturn. As early as Livius Andronicus (3rd century BC), Jupiter was called the son of Saturn.

The Golden Age of Saturn’s reign in Roman mythology differed from the Greek tradition. He arrived in Italy “dethroned and fugitive,” but brought agriculture and civilization for which things was rewarded by Janus with a share of the kingdom, becoming he himself king. As the Augustan poet Vergil described it, “He gathered together the unruly race” of fauns and nymphs “scattered over mountain heights, and gave them laws….

Under his reign were the golden ages men tell of: in such perfect peace he ruled the nations.” He was considered the ancestor of the Latin nation as he fathered Picus, the first king of Latium, who married Janus’ daughter Canens and in his turn fathered Faunus, the horned god of the forest, plains and fields; when he made cattle fertile he was called Inuus. He came to be equated in literature with the Greek god Pan.

Saturn had two consorts who represented different aspects of the god. The name of his wife Ops, the Roman equivalent of Greek Rhea, means “wealth, abundance, resources.” The association with Ops though is considered a later development, as this goddess was originally paired with Consus.

But Saturn also had a less benevolent aspect, as indicated by the blood shed in his honor during gladiatorialmunera. His consort in archaic Roman tradition was Lua, sometimes called Lua Saturni (“Saturn’s Lua”) and identified with Lua Mater (“destruction, dissolution, loosening”), a goddess in whose honor the weapons of enemies killed in war were burned, perhaps as expiation. H.S. Versnel, however, proposed that Lua Saturni should not be identified with Lua Mater, but rather refers to “loosening”; she thus represents the liberating function of Saturn.

Saturn’s chthonic nature connected him to the underworld and its ruler Dis Pater, the Roman equivalent of Greek Plouton (Pluto in Latin) who was also a god of hidden wealth. In 3rd-century AD sources and later, Saturn is recorded as receiving gladiatorial offerings (munera) during or near the Saturnalia. These gladiator combats, ten days in all throughout December, were presented by the quaestors and sponsored with funds from the treasury of Saturn.

The practice of gladiatorial munera was criticized by Christian apologists as a form of human sacrifice. Although there is no evidence of this practice during the Republican era, the offering of gladiators led to later theorizing that the primeval Saturn had demanded human victims. Macrobius says that Dis Pater was placated with human heads and Saturn with sacrificial victims consisting of men (virorum victimis). The figurines that were exchanged as gifts (sigillaria) during the Saturnalia may have represented token substitutes.


In Norse mythology, Njörðr is a god among the Vanir. Njörðr, father of the deities Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed Vanir sister, was in an ill-fated marriage with the goddess Skaði, lives in Nóatún and is associated with sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility. In Old Icelandic translations of Classical mythology the Roman god Saturn’s name is glossed as “Njörðr.”


Kumarbi is the chief god of the Hurrians. He is the son of Anu (the sky), and father of the storm-god Teshub. He was identified by the Hurrians with Sumerian Enlil, and by the Ugaritians with El.

Kumarbi is known from a number of mythological Hittite texts, sometimes summarized under the term “Kumarbi Cycle”. 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.

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.

Dingir – An – Enlil

Dingir is a Sumerian word for “god.” Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for “deity” although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna. Generically, dingir can be translated as “god” or “goddess”.

The sign in Sumerian cuneiform DIĜIR by itself represents the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”), the ideogram for An or the word diĝir (“god”), the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon. In Assyrian cuneiform, it (AN, DIĜIR) could be either an ideogram for “deity” (ilum) or a syllabogram for an, or ìl-. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again an.

Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth; Outside of this dome was the primordial body of water known as Nammu (not to be confused with the subterranean Abzu). In Sumerian, the designation “An” was used interchangeably with “the heavens” so that in some cases it is doubtful whether, under the term, the god An or the heavens is being denoted.

The Akkadians inherited An as the god of heavens from the Sumerian as Anu-, and in Akkadian cuneiform, the DINGIR character may refer either to Anum or to the Akkadian word for god, ilu-, and consequently had two phonetic values an and il. Hittite cuneiform as adapted from the Old Assyrian kept the an value but abandoned il.

The concept of “divinity” in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for “sky”, and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of “divinity” is thus with “bright” or “shining” hierophanies in the sky.

The Assyrian sign DIĜIR could mean the Akkadian nominal stem il- meaning “god” or “goddess”, derived acrophonically from the Semitic ʾil-, the god Anum, the Akkadian word šamû meaning “sky”, the syllables an and il, a preposition meaning “at” or “to”, or a determinative indicating that the following word is the name of a god.

According to one interpretation, DINGIR could also refer to a priest or priestess although there are other Akkadian words ēnu and ēntu that are also translated priest and priestess. For example, nin-dingir (lady divine) meant a priestess who received foodstuffs at the temple of Enki in the city of Eridu.

When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara and Dumuzi.


Enlil (EN = Lord + LÍL = Wind, “Lord (of the) Storm”) is the god of breath, wind, loft and breadth (height and distance). 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.

As Enlil was the only god who could reach An, the god of heaven, he held sway over the other gods who were assigned tasks by his agent and would travel to Nippur to draw in his power. He is thus seen as the model for kingship. Enlil was assimilated to the north “Pole of the Ecliptic”. His sacred number name was 50.

A pole star is a visible star, preferably a prominent one that is approximately aligned with the Earth’s axis of rotation; that is, a star whose apparent position is close to one of the celestial poles, and which lies approximately directly overhead when viewed from the Earth’s North Pole or South Pole.

A similar concept also applies to planets other than the Earth. In practice, the term pole star usually refers to Polaris, which is the current northern pole star, also known as the North Star.

The south celestial pole lacks a bright star like Polaris to mark its position. At present, the naked-eye star nearest to this imaginary point is the faint Sigma Octantis, which is sometimes known as the South Star.

While other stars’ apparent positions in the sky change throughout the night, as they appear to rotate around the celestial poles, pole stars’ apparent positions remain virtually fixed. This makes them especially useful in celestial navigation: they are a dependable indicator of the direction toward the respective geographic pole although not exact; they are virtually fixed, and their angle of elevation can also be used to determine latitude.

The identity of the pole stars gradually changes over time because the celestial poles exhibit a slow continuous drift through the star field. The primary reason for this is the precession of the Earth’s rotational axis, which causes its orientation to change over time.

If the stars were fixed in space, precession would cause the celestial poles to trace out imaginary circles on the celestial sphere approximately once every 26,000 years, passing close to different stars at different times. In fact, the stars themselves also exhibit proper motion, which causes a very small additional apparent drift of pole stars.


ʾĒl (or ‘Il, written aleph-lamed, cognate to Akkadian: ilu) is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity”, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major Ancient Near East deities. A rarer spelling, “‘ila”, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and inAmorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʔ‑L, meaning “god”.

Specific deities known as El or Il include the supreme god of the Canaanite religion, the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Semites in the pre-Sargonic period, and the god of the Hebrew Bible.

Cognate forms are found throughout the Semitic languages. They include Ugaritic ʾil, pl. ʾlm; Phoenician ʾl pl. ʾlm; Hebrew ʾēl, pl. ʾēlîm; Aramaic ʾl; Akkadian ilu, pl. ilānu.

In northwest Semitic use, El was both a generic word for any god and the special name or title of a particular god who was distinguished from other gods as being “the god”. El is listed at the head of many pantheons. El is the Father God among the Canaanites.

However, because the word sometimes refers to a god other than the great god Ēl, it is frequently ambiguous as to whether Ēl followed by another name means the great god Ēl with a particular epithet applied or refers to another god entirely. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “Ēl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad”.

The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. But in Hebrew this word also occurs for semantically singular “god”.

The stem ʾl is found prominently in the earliest strata of east Semitic, northwest Semitic, and south Semitic groups. Personal names including the stem ʾl are found with similar patterns in both Amorite and South Arabic – which indicates that probably already in Proto-Semitic ʾl was both a generic term for “god” and the common name or title of a single particular god.

For the Canaanites and the ancient Levantine region as a whole, Ēl or Il was the supreme god, the father of mankind and all creatures. He also fathered many gods, most importantly Hadad, Yam, and Mot, each sharing similar attributes to the Greco-Roman gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades respectively. As recorded on the clay tablets of Ugarit, El is the husband of the goddess Asherah.

Three pantheon lists found at Ugarit (modern Ra′s Shamrā, Syria) begin with the four gods ’il-’ib(which according to Cross (1973; p. 14) is the name of a generic kind of deity, perhaps the divine ancestor of the people), Ēl, Dagnu (that is Dagon), and Ba’l Ṣapān (that is the god Haddu or Hadad). Though Ugarit had a large temple dedicated to Dagon and another to Hadad, there was no temple dedicated to Ēl.

Ēl is called again and again Tôru ‘Ēl (“Bull Ēl” or “the bull god”). He is bātnyu binwāti (“Creator of creatures”), ’abū banī ’ili (“father of the gods”), and ‘abū ‘adami (“father of man”). He is qāniyunu ‘ôlam (“creator eternal”), the epithet ‘ôlamappearing in Hebrew form in the Hebrew name of God ’ēl ‘ôlam “God Eternal” in Genesis 21.33. He is ḥātikuka (“your patriarch”).

Ēl is the grey-bearded ancient one, full of wisdom, malku (“King”), ’abū šamīma (“Father of years”), ’El gibbōr (“Ēl the warrior”). He is also named lṭpn of unknown meaning, variously rendered as Latpan, Latipan, or Lutpani (“shroud-face” by Strong’s Hebrew Concordance).

“El” (Father of Heaven / Saturn) and his major son: “Hadad” (Father of Earth / Jupiter), are symbolized both by the bull, and both wear bull horns on their headdresses.

A bilingual inscription from Palmyra dated to the 1st century equates Ēl-Creator-of-the-Earth with the Greek god Poseidon. Going back to the 8th century BCE, the bilingual inscription at Karatepe in the Taurus Mountains equates Ēl-Creator-of-the-Earth to Luwian hieroglyphs read as da-a-ś, this being the Luwian form of the name of the Babylonian water god Ea, lord of the abyss of water under the earth. (This inscription lists Ēl in second place in the local pantheon, following Ba‘al Shamîm and preceding the Eternal Sun.)

Philo of Byblos (c. 64-141 A.D.) was a Greek writer whose account Sanchuniathon survives in quotation by Eusebius and may contain the major surviving traces of Phoenician mythology. Ēl (rendered Elus or called by his standard Greek counterpart Cronus) is not the creator God or first God. Ēl is rather the son of Sky and Earth. Sky and Earth are themselves children of ‘Elyôn ‘Most High’.

Ēl is brother to the God Bethel, to Dagon, and to an unknown god equated with the Greek Atlas, and to the goddesses Aphrodite/ Ashtart, Rhea (presumably Asherah), and Dione (equated with Ba`alat Gebal). Ēl is father of Persephone and of Athena (presumably the goddess ‘Anat).

Sky and Earth have separated from one another in hostility, but Sky insists on continuing to force himself on Earth, and attempts to destroy the children born of such unions. At last Ēl, son of Sky and Earth, with the advice of the god Thoth and Ēl’s daughter Athena successfully attacks his father Sky with a sickle and spear of iron. So he and his allies the Eloim gain Sky’s kingdom.

In a later passage it is explained that Ēl castrated Sky. One of Sky’s concubines (who was given to Ēl’s brother Dagon) was already pregnant by Sky. The son who is born of this union, called Demarûs or Zeus, but once called Adodus, is obviously Hadad, the Ba‘al of the Ugaritic texts who now becomes an ally of his grandfather Sky and begins to make war on Ēl.

Ēl has three wives, his sisters or half-sisters Aphrodite/Astarte (‘Ashtart), Rhea (presumably Asherah), and Dione (identified by Sanchuniathon with Ba‘alat Gebal the tutelary goddess of Byblos, a city which Sanchuniathon says that Ēl founded).


 Ensí (spelled in cuneiform script hence occasionally transliterated “patesi”; possibly derived from en si-k, “lord of the plowland”; borrowed into Akkadian as iššakkum) is a Sumerian language title designating the ruler or prince of a city-state.

Originally it may have designated an independent ruler, but in later periods the title presupposed subordinance to a lugal (King/Emperor). In the city state of Ashur, the hereditary ruler bore the Akkadian language version of the title énsi, while the patron deity was regarded as šarrum (“King”).

EN is the Sumerian cuneiform for “lord” or “priest”. Originally, it seems to have been used to designate a high priest or priestess of a Sumerian city-state’s patron-deity – a position that entailed political power as well. It may also have been the original title of the ruler of Uruk.

The 1350 BC Amarna letters uses EN for bêlu, though not exclusively. The more common spelling is mostly ‘be’ + ‘li’, to make “bêlí”, or its equivalent. Some example letters using cuneiform ‘EN’ are letters EA (for ‘El Amarna’) titled: “A demand for recognition”, by Abimilku; “Neither rebel or delinquent (2)”, by Labayu; and “Alone”, by Shuwardata.



Originally, a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is termed patriarchy.

The word is derived from Greek patriarchēs, meaning “chief or father of a family”, a compound of patria, meaning “family”, and archein, meaning “to rule”.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referred to as the three patriarchs of the people of Israel, and the period during which they lived is termed the Patriarchal Age. The word patriarch originally acquired its religious meaning in the Septuagint version of the Bible.

Today, the word has acquired specific ecclesiastical meanings. In particular, the highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church (above major archbishop and primate), and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs (and in certain cases also popes).

The office and the ecclesiastical circumscription of such a patriarch is termed a patriarchate. Historically, a patriarch has often been the logical choice to act as ethnarch of the community identified with his religious confession within a state or empire of a different creed.


 In Old Norse, ǫ́ss (or áss, ás, plural æsir; feminine ásynja, plural ásynjur) is the term denoting a member of the principal pantheon in the indigenous Germanic religion known as Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Frigg, Thor, Baldr and Týr.

The second pantheon comprises the Vanir. All sources describe the deities Njörðr, Freyr and Freyja as members of the Vanir. Numerous theories have been proposed for the etymology of Vanir. Scholar R. I. Page says that, while there are no shortages of etymologies for the word, it is tempting to link the word with “Old Norse vinr, ‘friend’, and Latin Venus, ‘goddess of physical love.'”

In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage the Æsir-Vanir War, which results in a unified pantheon.  The war is an important event in Norse mythology, and the implications for the potential historicity surrounding accounts of the war are a matter of scholarly debate and discourse.

The cognate term in Old English is ōs (plural ēse) denoting a deity in Anglo-Saxon paganism. Unlike the Old English word god (and Old Norse goð), the term ōs (áss) was never adopted into Christian use.

The Old High German is ans, plural ensî. The Gothic language had ans- (based only on Jordanes who glossed anses with uncertain meaning, possibly demi-god and presumably a Latinized form of actual plural *anseis). The reconstructed Proto-Germanic form is *ansuz (plural *ansiwiz).

The a-rune was named after the æsir. Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune of the Elder Futhark. The name is based on Common Germanic *ansuz a god, one of the main deities in Germanic paganism.

The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a, like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph, the first letter of the Semitic abjads. The name aleph is derived from the West Semitic word for “ox”, and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on an Egyptian hieroglyph which depicts an ox’s head.

The Phoenician letter is derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head and gave rise to the Greek Alpha (Α), being re-interpreted to express not the glottal consonant but the accompanying vowel, and hence the Latin A and Cyrillic А.

In Modern Standard Arabic, the word /ʔaliːf/ literally means ‘tamed’ or ‘familiar’, derived from the root |ʔ-l-f|, from which the verb /ʔalifa/ means ‘to be acquainted with; to be on intimate terms with’.

In modern Hebrew, the same root |ʔ-l-f| (alef-lamed-peh) gives me’ulaf, the passive participle of the verb le’alef, meaning ‘trained’ (when referring to pets) or ‘tamed’ (when referring to wild animals); the IDF rank of Aluf, taken from an Edomite title of nobility, is also cognate.

The Aramaic reflex of the letter is conventionally represented with the Hebrew א in typography for convenience, but the actual graphic form varied significantly over the long history and wide geographic extent of the language.

Maraqten identifies three different aleph traditions in East Arabian coins, a lapidary Aramaic form that realizes it as a combination of a V-shape and a straight stroke attached to the apex, much like a Latin K; a cursive Aramaic form he calls the “elaborated X-form,” essentially the same tradition as the Hebrew reflex; and an extremely cursive form with of two crossed oblique lines, much like a simple Latin X.

In the Norwegian rune poem, óss is given a meaning of “estuary” while in the Anglo-Saxon one, ōs, takes the Latin meaning of “mouth”. Since the name of a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz “god”, or*ahsam “ear (of wheat)”.

The Anglo-Saxon futhorc split the Elder Futhark a rune into three independent runes due to the development of the vowel system in Anglo-Frisian. These three runes are ōs (transliterated o), æsc “ash” (transliterated æ) and ac “oak” (transliterated a).

The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune, which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār).

Jera (also Jeran, Jeraz) is the conventional name of the j-rune of the Elder Futhark, from a reconstructed Common Germanic stem *jēra- meaning “harvest, (good) year”. The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet is Gothic 𐌾, named jēr, also expressing /j/. The Elder Futhark rune gives rise to the Anglo-Frisian runes /j/, named gēr /jeːr/, and ᛡ /io/, namedior, and to the Younger Futhark ár rune ᛅ, which stood for /a/ as the /j/ phoneme had disappeared in Old Norse.

The reconstructed Common Germanic name *jēran is the origin of English year (Old English ġēar). In contrast to the modern word, it had a meaning of “season” and specifically “harvest”, and hence “plenty, prosperity”.

The Germanic word is cognate with Greek horos (“year”) and hora (“season”), whence hour, Slavonic jarŭ (“spring”) and with the -or- in Latin hornus “of this year” (from *ho-jōrinus), as well as Avestan yāre “year”, all from a PIE stem*yer-o-.

The derivation of the rune is uncertain; some scholars see it as a modification of Latin G (“C with stroke”) while others consider it a Germanic innovation. The letter in any case appears from the very earliest runic inscriptions, figuring on the Vimose comb inscription, harja.

As the only rune of the Elder Futhark which was not connected, its evolution was the most thorough transformation of all runes, and it was to have numerous graphical variants. In the later period of the Elder Futhark, during the 5th to 6th centuries, connected variants appear, and these are the ones that give rise to the derivations in Anglo-Saxon (as ger and ior) and Scadinavian (as ár) traditions.

The corresponding Gothic letter is j, named jer, which is also based on the shape of the Elder Futhark rune. This is an exception, shared with urus, due to the fact that neither the Latin nor the Greek alphabets at the time of the introduction of the Gothic one had graphemes corresponding to the distinction of j and w from i and u.

The rune in the Anglo-Saxon futhorc is continued as Gēr and Ior, the latter a bind rune of Gyfu and Is (compare also Ear). Gēr is consistently written epigraphically and on artifacts, while the form for [j] appears only rarely in later manuscripts (as does a separate symbol for Ior).

During the 7th and 8th centuries, the initial j in *jara was lost in Old Norse, which also changed the sound value of the rune from /j/ to an /a/ phoneme. The rune was then written as a vertical staff with a horizontal stroke in the centre, and scholars transliterate this form of the rune as A, with majuscule, to distinguish it from the ansuz rune, a.

During the last phase of the Elder Futhark, the jēra-rune came to be written as a vertical staff with two slanting strokes in the form of an X in its centre. As the form of the rune had changed considerably, an older 7th century form of the rune () was assumed by the s-rune.

When the n-rune had stabilized in its form during the 6th and 7th centuries, its vertical stroke slanted towards the right, which made it possible to simplify the jēra-rune by having only one vertical stroke that slanted towards the left, giving the ár-rune of the Younger Futhark. Since a simpler form of the rune was available for the /a/ phoneme, the older cross form of the rune now came to be used for the /h/ phoneme.



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. This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.

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.

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”). Enamtila has also been suggested by Piotr Michalowski to be a part of the Ekur.

A hymn to Urninurta mentions the prominence of a tree in the courtyard of the Ekur, reminiscent of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden: “O, chosen cedar, adornment of the yard of Ekur, Urinurta, for thy shadow the country may feel awe!”. This is suggested by G. Windgren to reflect the concept of the tree as a mythical and ritual symbol of both king and god.

The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East.

Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.

The priests of the Ekur festivities are described with en being the high priest, lagar as his associate, mues the leader of incantations and prayers, and guda the priest responsible for decoration. Sacrifices and food offerings were brought by the king, described as “faithful shepherd” or “noble farmer”.


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 represents a ram’s horns.

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. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.

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 LÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”.

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, who 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.

Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states. 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.

Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces, the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac spanning the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries, the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°).

In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.

Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.

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.

Adonis, in Greek mythology, is a central figure in various mystery religions. In 1966, Wahib Attalah wrote that the “cult of Adonis belonged to women,” and further asserted “the cult of dying Adonis was fully developed in the circle of young girls around Sappho on Lesbos, about 600 BC, as a fragment of Sappho reveals.”

There has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning the multiple roles of Adonis, if any, and his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. Modern scholarship sometimes describes him as an annually renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. His name is often applied in modern times to handsome youths, of whom he is the archetype.

The Greek Adōnis was a borrowing from the Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning “lord”, which is related to Adonai, one of the names used to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day. Syrian Adonis is Gauas or Aos, akin to Egyptian Osiris, the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are deities of rebirth and vegetation.

Adonis is the Hellenized form of the Phoenician word “adoni”, meaning “my lord”. It is believed that the cult of Adonis was known to the Greeks from around the sixth century BC, but it is unquestionable that they came to know it through contact with Cyprus. Around this time, the cult of Adonis is noted in the Book of Ezekiel in Jerusalem, though under the Babylonian name Tammuz.

Adonis originally was a Phoenician god of fertility representing the spirit of vegetation. It is further speculated that he was an avatar of the version of Ba’al, worshipped in Ugarit. It is likely that lack of clarity concerning whether Myrrha was called Smyrna, and who her father was, originated in Cyprus before the Greeks first encountered the myth. However, it is clear that the Greeks added much to the Adonis-Myrrha story, before it was first recorded by classical scholars.

Baldr (“lord, prince, king”) is a god in Norse mythology, who is given a central role in the mythology. Despite this his precise function is rather disputed. He is often interpreted as the god of love, peace, forgiveness, justice, light or purity, but was not directly attested as a god of such.

He is the second son of Odin and the goddess Frigg. His twin brother is the blind god, Höðr. According to Gylfaginning, a book of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda, Baldr’s wife is Nanna and their son is Forseti, (Old Norse “the presiding one,” actually “president” in Modern Icelandic and Faroese) is an Æsir god of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology.

After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea. In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again. In an attempt to bring back Baldr from the dead, the god Hermóðr rides to Hel and, upon receiving the hope of resurrection from the being Hel, Nanna gives Hermóðr gifts to give to the goddess Frigg (a robe of linen), the goddess Fulla (a finger-ring), and others (unspecified).

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 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.

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 Anunnaki are a group of deities in ancient Mesopotamian cultures. The name is variously written “a-nuna”, “a-nuna-ke-ne”, or “a-nun-na”, meaning “princely offspring” or “offspring of Anu” (in Akkadian; Sumerian: An, from An “sky, heaven”), the earliest attested Sky Father deity.

In Sumerian religion, he was also “King of the Gods”, “Lord of the Constellations, Spirits, Angels and Demons”, and “Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven”, where Anu himself wandered the highest Heavenly Regions. He was believed to have the power to judge those who had committed crimes, and to have created the stars as soldiers to destroy the wicked. His attribute was the Royal Tiara. His attendant and vizier was the god Ilabrat.

Anu existed in Sumerian cosmogony as a dome that covered the flat earth; Outside of this dome was the primordial body of water known as Nammu (not to be confused with the subterranean Abzu). When Enlil rose to equal or surpass An in authority, the functions of the two deities came to some extent to overlap. An was also sometimes equated with Amurru, and, in Seleucid Uruk, with Enmešara and Dumuzi.

Eanna or the Temple of Eanna was an ancient Sumerian temple “the residence of Ishtar” and Anu mentioned several times in the Epic of Gilgamesh, and elsewhere. Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The House of Heaven (Sumerian: e-anna; Cuneiform: E.AN) temple in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice.

The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to have housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.

According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival. A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk.

According to The Oxford Companion to World Mythology, the Anunnaki: “…are the Sumerian deities of the old primordial line; they are chthonic deities of fertility, associated eventually with the underworld, where they became judges. They take their name from the old sky god An (Anu).”

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. Anu 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.

Golden age

The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five (or more) Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and then the present (Iron), which is a period of decline, sometimes followed by the Leaden Age. By definition, one is never in the Golden Age. The real terms for golden age is it mean they accomplished something.

By extension “Golden Age” denotes a period of primordial peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age peace and harmony prevailed, people did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age with a youthful appearance, eventually dying peacefully, with spirits living on as “guardians”. Plato in Cratylus recounts the golden race of humans who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean literally made of gold, but good and noble.

There are analogous concepts in the religious and philosophical traditions of the South Asian subcontinent. For example, the Vedic or ancient Hindu culture saw history as cyclical, composed of yugas with alternating Dark and Golden Ages. The Kali yuga (Iron Age), Dwapara yuga (Bronze Age), Treta yuga (Silver Age) and Satya yuga (Golden Age) correspond to the four Greek ages.

In classical Greek mythology the Golden Age was presided over by the leading Titan Cronus, who He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus.

In some version of the myth Astraea also ruled. She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, but in the Bronze Age, when men became violent and greedy, fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra.

European pastoral literary tradition often depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and peace, set in Arcadia, a region of Greece that was the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them.

Similar beliefs occur in the ancient Middle East and throughout the ancient world, as well. The Ekur was seen as a place of judgement and the place from which Enlil’s divine laws are issued. The ethics and moral values of the site are extolled in myths, which Samuel Noah Kramer suggested would have made it the most ethically-oriented in the entire ancient Near East. Its rituals are also described as: “banquets and feasts are celebrated from sunrise to sunset” with “festivals, overflowing with milk and cream, are alluring of plan and full of rejoicing”.

Ursa Major

Ursa Major (also known as the Great Bear) is a constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere. Its name, Latin for “the greater (or larger) she-bear”, stands as a reference to and in direct contrast with Ursa Minor, “the smaller she-bear”, with which it is frequently associated in mythology and amateur astronomy. It can be visible throughout the year in most of the northern hemisphere.

The constellation’s most recognizable asterism, a group of seven relatively bright stars commonly known as the “Big Dipper”, “the Wagon” or “the Plough” (among others), both mimics the shape of the lesser bear (the “Little Dipper”) and is commonly used as a navigational pointer towards the current northern pole star, Polaris in Ursa Minor.

Ursa Major occupies a large area in the northern celestial hemisphere. It is bordered by eight other constellations: Draco to the north and northeast, Boötes to the east, Canes Venatici to the east and southeast, Coma Berenices to the southeast, Leo and Leo Minor to the south, Lynx to the southwest and Camelopardalis to the northwest.

It’s also the namesake of its constellation family, which includes all the constellations it borders except for Leo (a member of the Zodiac), and also Ursa Minor and Corona Borealis.

The Big Dipper and the constellation as a whole have mythological significance in numerous world cultures, usually as a symbol of the north. The constellation of Ursa Major has been seen as a bear by many distinct civilizations. This may stem from a common oral tradition stretching back more than 13,000 years.

Using statistical and phylogenetic tools, Julien d’Huy reconstructs the following Palaeolithic state of the story: “There is an animal that is a horned herbivore, especially an elk. One human pursues this ungulate. The hunt locates or get to the sky. The animal is alive when it is transformed into a constellation. It forms the Big Dipper”.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter (the king of the gods) lusts after a young woman named Callisto, a nymph of Diana. Juno, Jupiter’s jealous wife, discovers that Callisto has a son named Arcas, and believes it is by Jupiter. Juno then transforms the beautiful Callisto into a bear so she no longer attracts Jupiter. Callisto, while in bear form, later encounters her son Arcas.

Arcas almost shoots the bear, but to avert the tragedy, Jupiter turns Arcas into a bear too and puts them both in the sky, forming Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Callisto is Ursa Major and her son, Arcas, is Ursa Minor.

In ancient times the name of the constellation was Helike, (“turning”), because it turns around the Pole. In Book Two of Lucan it is called Parrhasian Helice, since Callisto came from Parrhasia in Arcadia, where the story is set.

The Odyssey notes that it is the sole constellation that never sinks below the horizon and “bathes in the Ocean’s waves”, so it is used as a celestial reference point for navigation. It is also referred to as the “Wain”.

It is one of the few star groups mentioned in the Bible (Job 9:9; 38:32), Orion and the Pleiades being others. Ursa Major was also pictured as a bear by the Jewish peoples. The Bear was translated as Arcturus in the Vulgate and it persisted in the KJV.

In Theosophy, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades focus the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius, then to the Sun, then to the god of Earth (Sanat Kumara), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays to the human race.

Ursa Minor

Ursa Minor (Latin: “Smaller She-Bear”, contrasting with Ursa Major), also known as the Little Bear, is a constellation in the Northern Sky. Like the Great Bear, the tail of the Little Bear may also be seen as the handle of a ladle, hence the North American name, Little Dipper: seven stars with four in its bowl like its partner the Big Dipper.

Ursa Minor has traditionally been important for navigation, particularly by mariners, because of Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation, being the North Star. It appeared on a pair of tablets containing canonical star lists that were compiled around 1000 BC, the MUL.APIN, and was one of the “Stars of Enlil”—that is, the northern sky. The possible origin of its name was its appearing to rotate like a wheel around the north celestial pole.

Ursa Minor is bordered by Camelopardalis to the west, Draco to the west, and Cepheus to the east. It is colloquially known in the US as the Little Dipper because its seven brightest stars seem to form the shape of a dipper (ladle or scoop).

The star at the end of the dipper handle is Polaris. Polaris can also be found by following a line through the two stars, Alpha and Beta Ursae Majoris that form the end of the ‘bowl’ of the Big Dipper, for 30 degrees (three upright fists at arms’ length) across the night sky.

The four stars constituting the bowl of the Little Dipper are of second, third, fourth, and fifth magnitudes, and provide an easy guide to determining what magnitude stars are visible, useful for city dwellers or testing one’s eyesight.

The first mention of Ursa Minor in Greek texts was by philosopher Thales of Miletus in the 600 BC. He pointed out that it was a more accurate guide to finding true north than Ursa Major.

This knowledge had reportedly come from the Phoenicians in the eastern Mediterranean, and the constellation bore the term Phoinikē. Homer had previously only referred to one “bear”, raising the question of what he saw the stars of Ursa Minor as, or whether they were recognized as a constellation at all.

Ursa Minor and Ursa Major were related by the Greeks to the myth of Callisto and her son Arcas, both placed in the sky by Zeus. In a variant of the story in which Boötes represents Arcas, Ursa Minor represents a dog.

This is the older tradition, which explains both the length of the tail and the obsolete alternative name of Cynosura (the dog’s tail) for Polaris, the North Star. Cynosura is also described as a nurse of Zeus, honoured by the god with a place in the sky.

An alternative myth tells of two bears that saved Zeus from his murderous father Kronos by hiding him on Mount Ida. Later Zeus set them in the sky, but their tails grew long from being swung by the god.

Because Ursa Minor consists of seven stars, the Latin word for “North” (i.e., where Polaris points) is septentrio, from septem (seven) and triones (oxen), from seven oxen driving a plough, which the seven stars also resemble. This name has also been attached to the main stars of Ursa Major.

Polaris is currently less than one degree away from the north celestial pole (hence the alternative name Pole Star) so its position in the sky is largely unaffected by the rotation of the Earth. From any point in the Northern Hemisphere the direction to Polaris is always north and its angular altitude is roughly equal to the latitude.

In Inuit astronomy, the three brightest stars—Polaris, Kochab and Pherkad—were known as Nuutuittut “never moving”, though the term is more frequently used in the singular to refer to Polaris alone. The Pole Star is too high in the sky at far northern latitudes to be of use in navigation.

Big dipper

The “Big Dipper” (a term mainly used in the US and Canada; Plough and (historically) Charles’ Wain are used in the UK) is an asterism (not a constellation) within Ursa Major made up of seven bright stars, with four defining a “bowl” or “body” and three defining a “handle” or “head”, that together comprise one of the best-known patterns in the sky.

These stars are the brightest of the formal constellation Ursa Major. Like many of its common names allude to, its shape is said to resemble a ladle, an agricultural plough or wagon; in the context of Ursa Major, they are commonly drawn to represent the hindquarters and tail of the Great Bear.

The North Star (Polaris), the current northern pole star and the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper, can be located by extending an imaginary line from Merak (β) through Dubhe (α). This makes it useful in celestial navigation. Throughout the year the Big Dipper prominently features in the night sky over the Northern Hemisphere.

In both Ireland and the United Kingdom, this pattern is known as the Plough. Another former name was the Great Wain (i.e., wagon). In northern England, it is occasionally still known as the Butcher’s Cleaver, and in the northeast, as Charlie’s Wagon. This derives from the earlier Charles’s Wain and Charles his Wain, which derived from the still older Carlswæn.

A folk etymology holds that this derived from Charlemagne, but the name is common to all the Germanic languages and intended the churls’ wagon (i.e., “the men’s wagon”), in contrast with the women’s wagon (the Little Dipper). An older “Odin’s Wain” may have preceded these Nordic designations.

In German, it is known as the “Great Wagon” and, less often, the “Great Bear”. In Scandinavia, it is known by variations of “Charles’s Wagon” (Karlavagnen, Karlsvogna, or Karlsvognen). In Dutch, its official name is the “Great Bear”, but it is popularly known as the “Saucepan” (Steelpannetje). In Italian, too, it is called the “Great Wagon”. In Romanian and most Slavic languages, it is known as the “Great Wagon”.

In Latin, these seven stars were known as the “Seven Oxen” (septentriones, from septem triōnēs). Triōnēs is a hapax legomenon, occurring only in a single passage by Varro, where he glosses it as meaning “plough oxen”.

The derivation is acceptable but the meaning, if Varro is right that it derives from terō (“thresh grain by rubbing”), is surely “threshing oxen”: the seven stars wheel around the pole star like oxen on a threshing floor. The name is the origin of septentriōnēs the Latin word for north, from which came the adjective septentrional (“northern”) in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The seven sages

In Hindu astronomy, it is referred to as the “Collection of Seven Great Sages” (Saptarshi Mandal), as each star is named after a mythical Hindu sage. The Saptarishi (from saptarṣi, a Sanskrit dvigu meaning “seven sages”) are the seven rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and Hindu literature. The Vedic Samhitas never enumerate these rishis by name, though later Vedic texts such as the Brahmanas and Upanisads do so. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion.

The Apkallu (Akkadian), or Abgal (Sumerian), (from Sumerian ab=water, gal=big, and lu=man, is a reference to Adapa the first sage’s association with water), are seven Sumerian sages, demigods who are said to have been created by the god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) to establish culture and give civilization to mankind.

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.

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, a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki who is readily identifiable by his possessing two faces looking in opposite directions. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.

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.

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.

The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread from there throughout the Middle East. It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques, or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.

The Abgallu served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest kings of Sumer before the flood. They are credited with giving mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the arts. They were seen as fish-like men who emerged from the sweet water Abzu. They are commonly represented as having the lower torso of a fish, or dressed as a fish.

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.

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 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.

The king list continues: In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.

The first of the Mesopotamian seven sages, Adapa, was a mythical figure of Eridu who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. He is depicted as an early culture hero. Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea, 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.

Vague parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death. Parallels are also apparent (to an even greater degree) with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom.

Stephanie Dalley writes “From Erra and Ishum we know that all the sages were banished … because they angered the gods, and went back to the Apsu, where Ea lived, and … the story … ended with Adapa’s banishment”.

The Seven Sages (of Greece) or Seven Wise Men (c. 620 – 550 BC) was the title given by ancient Greek tradition to seven early-6th-century BC philosophers, statesmen, and law-givers who were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom.


Boötes is a constellation in the northern sky, located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere. The name comes from the Greek Boōtēs, meaning herdsman or plowman (literally, ox-driver; from bous “cow”). It contains the fourth brightest star in the night sky, the orange-hued Arcturus.

In ancient Babylon the stars of Boötes were known as SHU.PA. They were apparently depicted as the god Enlil, who was the leader of the Babylonian pantheon and special patron of farmers. The name Boötes was first used by Homer in his Odyssey as a celestial reference point for navigation, described as “late-setting” or “slow to set”, translated as the “Plowman”.

Exactly whom Boötes is supposed to represent in Greek mythology is not clear. According to one version, he was a son of Demeter, Philomenus, twin brother of Plutus, a ploughman who drove the oxen in the constellation Ursa Major.

This is corroborated by the constellation’s name, which itself means “ox-driver” or “herdsman.” The ancient Greeks saw the asterism now called the “Big Dipper” or “Plough” as a cart with oxen.

This influenced the name’s etymology, derived from the Greek for “noisy” or “ox-driver”. Another myth associated with Boötes tells that he invented the plow and was memorialized for his ingenuity as a constellation.

Another myth associated with Boötes by Hyginus is that of Icarius, who was schooled as a grape farmer and winemaker by Dionysus. Icarius made wine so strong that those who drank it appeared poisoned, which caused shepherds to avenge their supposedly poisoned friends by killing Icarius.

Maera, Icarius’s dog, brought his daughter Erigone to her father’s body, whereupon both she and the dog committed suicide. Zeus then chose to honor all three by placing them in the sky as constellations: Icarius as Boötes, Erigone as Virgo, and Maera as Canis Major or Canis Minor.

Following another reading, the constellation is identified with Arcas and also referred to as Arcas and Arcturus, son of Zeus and Callisto. Arcas was brought up by his maternal grandfather Lycaon, to whom one day Zeus went and had a meal.

To verify that the guest was really the king of the gods, Lycaon killed his grandson and prepared a meal made from his flesh. Zeus noticed and became very angry, transforming Lycaon into a wolf and gave back life to his son. In the meantime Callisto had been transformed into a she-bear, by Zeus’s wife, Hera, who was angry at Zeus’s infidelity.

This is corroborated by the Greek name for Boötes, Arctophylax, which means “Bear Watcher”. Callisto in form of a bear was almost killed by her son who was out hunting. Zeus rescued her, taking her into the sky where she became Ursa Major, “the Great Bear”.

The name Arcturus (the constellation’s brightest star) comes from the Greek word meaning “guardian of the bear”. Sometimes Arcturus is depicted as leading the hunting dogs of nearby Canes Venatici and driving the bears of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.


Arcturus (α Boo, α Boötis, Alpha Boötis) of the constellation Boötes is the brightest star in thenorthern celestial hemisphere. As one of the brightest stars in the sky, Arcturus has been significant to observers since antiquity. In Mesopotamia, it was linked to the god Enlil, and also known as Shudun (“yoke”), or SHU-PA of unknown derivation in the Three Stars Each Babylonian star catalogues and later MUL.APIN around 1100 BC.

Ptolemy described Arcturus as subrufa “slightly red”. Together with Spica and Denebola (or Regulus, depending on the source), Arcturus is part of the Spring Triangle asterism, and by extension, also of the Great Diamond after factoring in Cor Caroli.

The name of the star derives from Ancient Greek Arktouros (“Guardian of the Bear”), ultimately from arktos (“bear”) and ouros (“watcher, guardian”). It has been known by this name since at least the time of Hesiod. This is a reference to its being the brightest star in the constellation Boötes (of which it forms the left foot), which is next to the Greater and Lesser Bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.


Ninshubur (also known as Ninshubar, Nincubura or Ninšubur) was 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 f 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, and the second youngest of the Olympian gods (Dionysus being the youngest), 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.

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan (Odin), by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

In the Roman syncretism, Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus, and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta. Although Lugus may originally have been a deity of light or the sun (though this is disputed), similar to the Roman Apollo, his importance as a god of trade made him more comparable to Mercury, and Apollo was instead equated with the Celtic deity Belenus.


In the Babylonian star catalogues, Ursa Minor was known as MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA, the Wagon of Heaven, Damkianna. Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains. As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (“great wife of heaven”) or Damkina (“faithful wife”).

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), is the consort goddess of Enlil. She lived in Dilmun with her family. Impregnated by her husband Enlil, who lie with her by the water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.

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

In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta, the heroic god who slew Asag the demon with his mace, Sharur. 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”.

Hursag 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”. Some scholars also identify hursag with an undefined mountain range or strip of raised land outside the plain of Mesopotamia.

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.

Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains. 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’.

She had many epithets includingshassuru 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.

Her hair 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

In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a goddess associated with fertility. The name Nerthus is generally held to be a Latinized form of Proto-Germanic *Nerþuz, a direct precursor to the Old Norse deity name Njörðr.

While scholars have noted numerous parallels between the descriptions of the two figures, Njörðr is attested as a male deity. Various scholarly theories exist regarding the goddess and her potential later traces amongst the Germanic peoples, including that the figure may be identical to the unnamed sister-wife of Njörðr mentioned in two Old Norse sources.

In Germania, Tacitus records that the remote Suebi tribes were united by their veneration of the goddess at his time of writing and maintained a sacred grove on an (unspecified) island and that a holy cart rests there draped with cloth, which only a priest may touch. The priests feel her presence by the cart, and, with deep reverence, attend her cart, which is drawn by heifers.

Everywhere the goddess then deigns to visit, she is met with celebration, hospitality, and peace. All iron objects are locked away, and no one will leave for war. When the goddess has had her fill she is returned to her temple by the priests. Tacitus adds that the goddess, the cart, and the cloth are then washed by slaves in a secluded lake. The slaves are then drowned.

Freyja/Frigg/Nanna – Odin/Odr/Balder – Inanna – Tammuz

In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse for “(the) Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Along with her brother Freyr (Old Norse the “Lord”), her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr’s sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the Vanir.

Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, keeps the boar Hildisvíni by her side, possesses a cloak of falcon feathers, and, by her husband Óðr, is the mother of two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi.

Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak, is invoked in matters of fertility and love, and is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife. Freyja’s husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names.

The distinction between Freyja and Frigg in some Germanic mythologies is problematic. Due to significant thematic overlap, scholars have proposed a particular connection to the goddess Freyja. Scholars have theorized about whether Freyja and the goddess Frigg, described as the wife of the god Odin, ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples.

It has been theorized about Freyja’s connection to the valkyries, female battlefield choosers of the slain; and her relation to other goddesses and figures in Germanic mythology, including the thrice-burnt and thrice-reborn Gullveig/Heiðr, the goddesses Gefjon, Skaði, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa, Menglöð, and the 1st century CE “Isis” of the Suebi.

Frigg is the wife of the major god Odin and dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir, is famous for her foreknowledge, is associated with the goddesses Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gná, and is ambiguously associated with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity Jörð (Old Norse “Earth”). The children of Frigg and Odin include the gleaming god Baldr.

The name Friday comes from the Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frige”, a result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frigg with the Roman goddess Venus, with whom the day is associated in many different cultures. The same holds for Frīatag in Old High German, Freitag in Modern German, and vrijdag in Dutch.

The expected cognate name in Old Norse would be *friggjar-dagr. However, the name of Friday in Old Norse is frjá-dagrinstead, indicating a loan of the week-day names from Low German. The modern Scandinavian form is Fredag in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, meaning Freyja’s day.

Freyja’s name appears in numerous place names in Scandinavia, with a high concentration in southern Sweden. Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name, but it was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization. Rural Scandinavians continued to acknowledge Freyja as a supernatural figure into the 19th century, and Freyja has inspired various works of art.

In Norse mythology, Nanna Nepsdóttir or simply Nanna is a goddess associated with the god Baldr. Accounts of Nanna vary greatly by source. In the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Nanna is the wife of Baldr and the couple produced a son, the god Forseti. After Baldr’s death, Nanna dies of grief. Nanna is placed on Baldr’s ship with his corpse and the two are set aflame and pushed out to sea.

In Hel, Baldr and Nanna are united again. In an attempt to bring back Baldr from the dead, the god Hermóðr rides to Hel and, upon receiving the hope of resurrection from the being Hel, Nanna gives Hermóðr gifts to give to the goddess Frigg (a robe of linen), the goddess Fulla (a finger-ring), and others (unspecified).

Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. Inanna’s symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses.

Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty). She was associated with the planet Venus. The story of Inanna’s descent to the underworld is a relatively well-attested and reconstructed composition.

Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states. 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.

In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.

Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.

Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. At the same time she is associated with the Gulses in Hittite mythology. The Gulses is connected with the Huttena, the goddesses of fate, in Hurrian mythology. They are similar to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Moirai of ancient Greece.

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