Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The four cardinal directions or cardinal points

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 15, 2016

Cardinal direction

The four cardinal directions or cardinal points

The four cardinal directions or cardinal points are the directions of north, east, south, and west, commonly denoted by their initials: N, E, S, W. East and west are at right angles to north and south, with east being in the clockwise direction of rotation from north and west being directly opposite east. Intermediate points between the four cardinal directions form the points of the compass.

The intermediate (intercardinal, or ordinal) directions are northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW), and northwest (NW). Further, the intermediate direction of every set of intercardinal and cardinal direction is called a secondary-intercardinal direction, the eight shortest points in the compass rose to the right, i.e. NNE, ENE, ESE, and so on.

Many cultures not descended from European traditions use cardinal directions, but have a number other than four. Typically, a “center” direction is added, for a total of five. Rather than the Western use of direction letters, properties such as colors are often associated with the various cardinal directions—these are typically the natural colors of human perception rather than optical primary colors.

In many regions of the world, prevalent winds change direction seasonally, and consequently many cultures associate specific named winds with cardinal and intercardinal directions. The classical Greeks personified these winds as Anemoi. When boxing the compass into intercardinal subdirections, each corresponds to one of the directional winds into the Mediterranean Sea (for example, south-east is linked to Sirocco, the wind from the Sahara).

Dynastic Chinese culture and some other Central Asian cultures view the center as a fifth principal direction hence the English translated term “Five Cardinal Points”. Where it is different than the west is that the term is used as a foundation for I Ching, the Wu Xing and the five naked-eye planets. In traditional Chinese astrology, the zodiacal belt is divided into the four constellation groups corresponding to the four cardinal directions.

Each direction is often identified with a color, and (at least in China) with a mythological creature of that color. Geographical or ethnic terms may contain the name of the color instead of the name of the corresponding direction.

During the Migration Period, the Germanic languages’ names for the cardinal directions entered the Romance languages, where they replaced the Latin names borealis (or septentrionalis) with north, australis (or meridionalis) with south, occidentalis with west and orientalis with east.

It is possible that some northern people used the Germanic names for the intermediate directions. Medieval Scandinavian orientation would thus have involved a 45 degree rotation of cardinal directions.

The classical compass winds 

In the ancient Mediterranean world, the classical compass winds were names for the points of geographic direction and orientation, in association with the winds as conceived of by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ancient wind roses typically had twelve winds and thus twelve points of orientation, sometimes reduced to eight or increased to twenty-four.

Originally conceived as a branch of meteorology, the classical wind rose had only a tentative relationship with actual navigation. The Classical 12-point wind rose was eventually displaced by the modern compass rose (8-point, 16-point and 32-point), adopted by seafarers during the Middle Ages.

It is uncertain when or why the human sense of geographic orientation and direction became associated with winds. It is probable that for ancient settled populations, local physical landmarks (e.g. mountains, deserts, settlements) were the initial and most immediate markers of general direction (“towards the coast”, “towards the hills”, “towards the lands of Xanadu”, etc.). Astral phenomena, in particular the position of the sun at dawn and dusk, were also used to denote direction.

The association of geographic direction with wind was another source. It was probably farming populations, attentive to rain and temperature for their crops, that noticed the qualitative differences in winds – some were humid, others dry, some hot, others cold – and that these qualities depended on where the wind was blowing from. Local directional names were used to refer to the winds, eventually giving the wind itself a proper name, irrespective of the observer’s position.

This was likely furthered by sailors who, far from landmarks at sea, nonetheless recognized a particular wind by its qualities and referred to it by a familiar name. The final step, completing the circle, was to use the proper names of the winds to denote general cardinal directions of the compass rose. This would take a little longer to work itself through.

Unlike the Biblical Israelites, the early Greeks maintained two separate and distinct systems of cardinal directions and winds, at least for a while. The Greek wind system was adopted by the Romans, partly under their Greek nomenclature, but increasingly also under new Latin names.

Roman poet Virgil, in his Georgics (c. 29 BCE) refers to several of the winds by their old Greek names (e.g. Zephyrus, Eurus, Boreas), and introduces a few new Latin names – notably, “black Auster”, “cold Aquilo” and “frigid Caurus”.

In the Early Middle Ages, Arab scholars came into contact with the Greek works. Abu Yahya Ibn al-Batriq and Hunayn ibn Ishaq translated Aristotle’s Meteorology, and scholars like Ibn Sinna and Ibn Rushd provided commentaries on it and expanded on it for their own systems.

The Frankish chronicler Einhard, in his Vita Karoli Magni (c. 830), claimed that Charlemagne himself adopted the classical 12-wind system, replacing the Greek-Latin names with an entirely new set of Germanic names of his own invention.

It is interesting to note that Charlemagne’s nomenclature resolves the half-wind dilemma (e.g. NNE vs. NE) by word order – Northeast and Eastnorth – giving neither a priority over the other (thus closer to NNE and ENE, with NE itself absent).

The Frankish suffix -roni means “running from” (similar to the modern English “-ern” in “Northern”). The etymology of Nord is uncertain (the suggestion from Sanskrit nara, water, might imply “rainy quarter”, but this is speculative); Ost means “place of shining” (dawn, from the same Proto-Indo-European root that yielded the Greek Eos and Latin Auster), Sund, from “Sun-tha” meaning “the sunned place” and Vuest from Vues-tha meaning the “dwelling place” (as in, the place of rest at dusk, same root as Sanksrit vas, dwelling, and Latin vespera, evening)).

Charlemagne’s nomenclature is clearly the source of the modern cardinal directions (North, East, South, West) as found in most west European languages, both Germanic (German, Dutch, English, etc.) as well as Romance ones (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese).

Astral phenomena were used to define four cardinal points: arctos (“bear”, the Ursa Major, for North), anatole, “sunrise” or eos “dawn”, East), mesembria (“noon”, South) and dysis (“sunset” or hesperus, “evening”, West).

Heraclitus, in particular, suggests that a meridian drawn between the north (arctos) and its opposite could be used to divide East from West. Homer already spoke of Greeks sailing with Ursa Major (or “Wagon”/”Wain”) for orientation.

The identification of the Pole Star (at that time, Kochab in the Ursa Minor) as the better indicator of the North seems to have emerged a little later (it is said Thales introduced this, probably learned from Phoenician seafarers).

Distinct from these cardinal points, the ancient Greeks had four winds (Anemoi). The peoples of early Greece reportedly conceived of only two winds – the winds from the north, known as Boreas, and the winds from the south, known as Notos. But two more winds – Eurus from the east and Zephyrus from the west – were added soon enough.

The etymology of the names of the four archaic Greek winds is uncertain. Among tentative propositions is that Boreas might come from “boros”, an old variant of “oros” (Greek for “mountains”, which were to the north geographically).

An alternative hypothesis is that it may come from “boros” meaning “voracious”. Another is that it comes from the phrase “from the roar”, a reference to its violent and loud noise. Notos probably comes from “notios” (“moist”, a reference to the warm rains and storms brought from the south). Eurus and Zephyrus seem to come from “brightness” (q.v. Eos) and “gloominess” (“zophos”) respectively, doubtlessly a reference to sunrise and sunset.

Aura, in ancient Greek and ancient Roman religion, is the divine personification of the breeze. The plural form, Aurae, “Breezes,” is often found. They are the winged nymphs of the breezes, daughters of Boreas, the god of the north wind, Eurus, the god of the east wind, Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, or Notus, the god of the south wind.

The Tower of the Winds or the Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrhestes is an octagonal Pentelic marble clock tower in the Roman Agora in Athens that functioned as a horologion or “timepiece”. Unofficially, the monument is also called Aerides, which means Winds.

The structure features a combination of sundials, a water clock, and a wind vane. It was supposedly built by Andronicus of Cyrrhus around 50 BC, but according to other sources, might have been constructed in the 2nd century BC before the rest of the forum. In summer of 2014, the Athens Ephorate of Antiquities began cleaning and conserving the structure, with the work expected to last until late 2015.


In ancient Greek religion and myth, the Anemoi (“Winds”) were wind gods who were each ascribed a cardinal direction from which their respective winds came, and were each associated with various seasons and weather conditions.

They were sometimes represented as mere gusts of wind, at other times were personified as winged men, and at still other times were depicted as horses kept in the stables of the storm god Aeolus, who provided Odysseus with the Anemoi in the Odyssey.

The Spartans were reported to sacrifice a horse to the winds on Mount Taygetus. Astraeus, the astrological deity sometimes associated with Aeolus, and Eos, the goddess of the dawn, were the parents of the Anemoi, according to the Greek poet Hesiod.

Of the four chief Anemoi, Boreas (Aquilo in Latin) was the north wind and bringer of cold winter air, Zephyrus (Favonius in Latin) was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes, and Notos (Auster in Latin) was the south wind and bringer of the storms of late summer and autumn; Eurus, the southeast (or according to some, the east) wind, was not associated with any of the three Greek seasons, and is the only one of these four Anemoi not mentioned in Hesiod’s Theogony or in the Orphic Hymns.

The deities equivalent to the Anemoi in Roman mythology were the Venti (Latin, “winds”). These gods had different names, but were otherwise very similar to their Greek counterparts, borrowing their attributes and being frequently conflated with them.

The four sons of Horus

The four sons of Horus were a group of four gods in Egyptian religion, who were essentially the personifications of the four canopic jars, which accompanied mummified bodies. Since the heart was thought to embody the soul, it was left inside the body. The brain was thought only to be the origin of mucus, so it was reduced to liquid, removed with metal hooks, and discarded. This left the stomach (and small intestines), liver, large intestines, and lungs, which were removed, embalmed and stored, each organ in its own jar.

There were times when embalmers deviated from this scheme: during the 21st Dynasty they embalmed and wrapped the viscera and returned them to the body, while the Canopic jars remained empty symbols.

The earliest reference to the sons of Horus the Elder is found in the Pyramid Texts where they are described as friends of the king, as they assist the king in his ascension to heaven in the eastern sky by means of ladders.

Their association with Horus the Elder specifically goes back to the Old Kingdom when they were said not only to be his children but also his souls. As the king, or Pharaoh was seen as a manifestation of, or especially protected by, Horus, these parts of the deceased pharaoh, referred to as the Osiris, were seen asparts of Horus, or rather, his children, an association that did not diminish with each successive pharaoh.

Since Horus was their father, so Isis, Horus’s original wife in the early mythological phase, was usually seen as their mother, although Hathor was also believed to be their mother, though in the details of the funerary ritual each son, and therefore each canopic jar, was protected by a particular goddess. Others say their mother was Serket, goddess of medicine and magic.

Just as the sons of Horus protected the contents of a canopic jar, the king’s organs, so they in turn were protected. As they were male in accordance with the principles of male/female duality their protectors were female.

The classic depiction of the four sons of Horus on Middle Kingdom coffins show Imsety and Duamutef on the eastern side of the coffin and Hapi and Qebehsenuef on the western side.

The eastern side is decorated with a pair of eyes and the mummy was turned on its side to face the east and the rising sun; therefore, this side is sometimes referred to as the front. The sons of Horus also became associated with the cardinal compass points, so that Hapi was the north, Imsety the south, Duamutef the east and Qebehsenuef the west. Their brother was Ihy, son of Hathor.

Until the end of the 18th Dynasty the canopic jars had the head of the king, but later they were shown with animal heads. Inscriptions on coffins and sarcophagi from earliest times showed them usually in animal form.

Spell 148 in the Book of the Dead directly associates all four of Horus’s sons, described as the four pillars of Shu and one of the four rudders of heaven, with the four cardinal points of the compass.

Hapi had baboon form, and was associated with the north. He protected the lungs, and was protected by Nephthys. Imsety had human form, and was associated with the south. He protected the liver, and was protected by Isis. Duamutef had jackal form, and was associated with the east. He protected the stomach, and was protected by Neith. Qebehsenuef had hawk form, and was the god associated with the west. He protected the intestines, and was protected by his mother Serket.

The reasons for attributing these four animals to the sons of Horus is not known, although we may point to other associations which these animals have in Egyptian mythology.

The baboon is associated with the moon and Thoth, the god of wisdom and knowledge, and also the baboons which chatter when the sun rises raising their hands as if in worship. The jackal (or possibly dog) is linked to Anubis and the act of embalming and also Wepwawet the “opener of the ways” who seeks out the paths of the dead. The hawk is associated with Horus himself and also Seker the mummified necropolis god. Imseti, the human, may be linked to Osiris himself or Onuris the hunter.

The Egyptians themselves linked them with the ancient kings of Lower and Upper Egypt, the Souls of Pe and Nekhen. In Spells 112 and 113 of the Book of the Dead which have their origins in the earlier Coffin Texts Spells 157 and 158, it is described how Horus has his eye injured, and because of this is given the sons of Horus:

As for Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef, their father is Horus, their mother Isis. And Horus said to Ra, place two brothers in Pe, two brothers in Nekhen from this my troupe, and to be with me assigned for eternity. The land may flourish, the turmoil be quenched. It happened for Horus who is upon his papyrus-column. I know the powers of Pe; it is Horus, it is Imsety, it is Hapy.

The injury of Horus’s eye is part of the myth cycle known as the Contending of Horus and Set recounting how they fought over the crown of Egypt.

In a unique illustration in the tomb of Ay the sons of Horus are shown wearing the red and white crowns as the Souls of Pe and Nekhen, the souls of the royal ancestors.

The attributes of the sons of Horus are not limited to their role as the protectors of canopic jars. They appear as the four rudders of heaven in Spell 148 of the Book of the Dead, as four of the seven celestial spirits summoned by Anubis in Spell 17 of the Book of the Dead and through this are linked to the circumpolar stars of the Great Bear (or Plough): “The tribunal around Osiris is Imset, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuf, these are at the back of the Plough constellation of the northern sky.”


Lokapāla, Sanskrit and Pāli for “guardian of the world”, has different uses depending on whether it is found in a Hindu or Buddhist context. In Hinduism, lokapāla refers to the Guardians of the Directions associated with the four cardinal directions. In Buddhism, lokapāla refers to the Four Heavenly Kings, and to other protector spirits, whereas the Guardians of the Directions are referred to as the ‘dikpālas’.

In Buddhism, lokapāla are one of two broad categories of Dharmapāla (protectors of the Buddhist religion) -the other category being Wisdom Protectors. In China, “each is additionally associated with a specific direction and the Four Heraldic Animals of Chinese astronomy/astrology, as well as playing a more secular role in rural communities ensuring favorable weather for crops and peace throughout the land…Easily identified by their armor and boots, each has his own magic weapon and associations.” Their names are (east) Dhrtarastra, (west) Virupaksa, (north) Vaishravana, and (south) Virudhaka.

In Hinduism the Guardians of the eight cardinal directions are called the Lokapālas or Ashta Dikpalakas. They are Indra (east), Agni (south – east), Yama (south), Nirṛti (South – west), Varuṇa (west), Vayu (North west), Kubera (north), and Īśāna (north east).


The Guardians of the Directions (Sanskrit: Dikpāla) are the deities who rule the specific directions of space according to Hinduism and Vajrayāna Buddhism, especially Kālacakra. As a group of eight deities, they are called Aṣṭa-Dikpāla, literally meaning guardians of eight directions. They are often augmented with two extra deities for the ten directions (the two extra directions being zenith and nadir), when they are known as the Daśa-dikpāla.

In Hinduism it is traditional to represent their images on the walls and ceilings of Hindu temples. Ancient Java and Bali Hinduism recognize Nava-Dikpāla, literally meaning guardians of nine directions, that consist of eight directions with one addition in the center.

The nine guardian gods of directions is called Dewata Nawa Sanga (Nine guardian devata), the diagram of these guardian gods of directions is featured in Surya Majapahit, the emblem of Majapahit empire.

There are strong similarities between the concept of the guardians of the directions and the lore surrounding the Chinese four symbols, four ancestral spirits who are responsible for four of the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).

The Four Heavenly Kings 

The Four Heavenly Kings are four Buddhist gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. In Chinese, they are known collectively as the “Fēng Tiáo Yǔ Shùn” (literally: “Good climate”) or “Sì Dà Tiānwáng” (literally: “Four Great Heavenly Kings”). The Hall of the Heavenly Kings is a standard component of Chinese Buddhist temples.

The Four Heavenly Kings are said to currently live in the Cāturmahārājika heaven (Pali Cātummahārājika, “Of the Four Great Kings”) on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, which is the lowest of the six worlds of the devas of the Kāmadhātu. They are the protectors of the world and fighters of evil, each able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma.

All four serve Śakra, the lord of the devas of Trāyastriṃśa. On the 8th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month, the Four Heavenly Kings either send out messengers or go themselves to see how virtue and morality are faring in the world of men. Then they report upon the state of affairs to the assembly of theTrāyastriṃśa devas.

On the orders of Śakra, the four kings and their retinues stand guard to protect Trāyastriṃśa from another attack by the Asuras, which once threatened to destroy the kingdom of the devas. They are also vowed to protect the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Buddha’s followers from danger.

According to Vasubandhu, devas born in the Cāturmahārājika heaven are 1/4 of a krośa in height (about 750 feet tall). They have a five-hundred-year lifespan, of which each day is equivalent to 50 years in our world; thus their total lifespan amounts to about nine million years (other sources say 90,000 years).

The symbols that the Kings carry also link the deities to their followers; for instance, the nāgas, magical creatures who can change form between human and serpent, are led by Virūpākṣa, represented by a snake; the gandharvas are celestial musicians, led by Dhṛtarāṣṭra, represented with a lute.

The umbrella was a symbol of regal sovereignty in ancient India, and the sword is a symbol of martial prowess. Vaiśravaṇa’s mongoose, which ejects jewels from its mouth, is said to represent generosity in opposition to greed.

Surya Majapahit

Surya Majapahit (The Sun of Majapahit) is the emblem commonly found in ruins dated from the Majapahit era. The emblem commonly took the form of an eight-pointed sun ray with the rounded part in the center depicting Hindu deities.

The emblem might have taken the form of a cosmological diagram haloed by typical “Surya Majapahit” sun rays, or a simple circle with typical sun rays. Because of the popularity of this sun emblem during the Majapahit era, it is suggested that the sun emblem served as the imperial symbol or emblem of the Majapahit empire.

The most common depiction of Surya Majapahit consists of the images of nine deities and eight sun rays. The round center of the sun depicting nine Hindu gods called Dewata Nawa Sanga. The major gods in the center is arranged in eight cardinal points around one god in the center.

The arrangements are Shiva (Center), Isvara (East), Mahadeva (West), Vishnu (North), Brahma (South), Sambhu (Northeast), Sangkara (Northwest), Mahesora (Southeast), and Rudra (Southwest).

The minor deities located at the outer rim of the sun, symbolized by eight shining sun rays, are Indra (East), Varuna (West), Kubera (North), Yama (South), Isana (Northeast), Vayu (Northwest), Agni (Southeast), and Nirrti (Southwest).

The emblem is rendered in many forms; sometimes it took the form of the circle of deities and sun rays, or just a simple eight-pointed sun ray such as the emblematic Surya Majapahit set into the ceiling of Candi Penataran. The deities in the sun arranged as cosmological diagram in the form of a mandala.

Another variation of Surya Majapahit is the eight pointed sun rays with the god of sun Surya in the center riding celestial horse or chariot. The carving of Surya Majapahit usually can be found on the center ceiling of the Garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the temple such as Bangkal, Sawentar, and Jawi temple.

Surya Majapahit also can be found on the Stella, carving of halo or aura at the back of the statue’s head. The carving of Surya Majapahit also commonly found in gravestone dating from Majapahit era, such as the Troloyo cemetery in Trowulan.

The four dwarfs

The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda contain over 100 dwarf names, while the Prose Edda gives the four dwarfs Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri (Old Norse ‘North, South, East, and West’) a cosmological role: they hold up the sky.

In Norse mythology, Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri (“Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western”) are four dwarves in the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning who each support one of the four cardinal points. Together, they uphold the heavenly dome, created from the skull of the jötunn Ymir. They probably represent the four winds, corresponding to the four stags of the cosmic tree Yggdrasill.

In Norse mythology, four stags or harts (male red deer) eat among the branches of the World Tree Yggdrasill. According to the Poetic Edda, the stags crane their necks upward to chomp at the branches. Their names are given asDáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór. An amount of speculation exists regarding the deer and their potential symbolic value.

Early suggestions for interpretations of the stags included connecting them with the four elements, the four seasons, or the phases of the moon. In his influential 1824 work, Finnur Magnússon suggested that the stags represented winds. Based on an interpretation of their names, he took Dáinn (“The Dead One”) and Dvalinn (“The Unconscious One”) to be calm winds, and Duneyrr (“Thundering in the Ear”) and Duraþrór (“Thriving Slumber”, perhaps referencing snoring) to be heavy winds.

He interpreted the stags biting the leaves of the tree as winds tearing at clouds. He noted that dwarves control the winds (cf. Norðri, Suðri, Austri and Vestri, the dwarves of the cardinal points), and that two of the stag names, Dáinn and Dvalinn, are also dwarf names as well.

Many scholars, following Sophus Bugge, believe that stanzas 33 and 34 of Grímnismál are of a later origin than those surrounding them. Finnur Jónsson surmised that there was originally only one stag which had later been turned into four, probably one on each side. This is consistent with stanza 35 of Grímnismál, which mentions only one hart.

North – Ner (Nereus/Njord)

North (Proto-Germanic *norþ-) from the proto-Indo-European *nórto-s ‘submerged’ from the root *ner- ‘left, below, to the left of the rising sun’ whence comes the Ancient Greek name Nereus.



In Greek mythology, Nereus was the eldest son of Pontus (the Sea) and Gaia (the Earth), who with Doris, a sea nymph whose name represented the bounty of the sea, fathered the Nereids and Nerites with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea.

The Nereids was the 50 daughters or sea nymphs (female spirits of sea waters) of Nereus and Doris, and Nerites was a minor sea deity (apparently their only male offspring), and brother of the Nereids. They often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea, and can be friendly and helpful to sailors, like the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece.

In the Iliad the Old Man of the Sea is the father of Nereids, though Nereus is not directly named. He was never more manifestly the Old Man of the Sea than when he was described, like Proteus, as a shapeshifter with the power of prophecy, who would aid heroes such as Heracles who managed to catch him even as he changed shapes.

In a late appearance, according to a fragmentary papyrus, Alexander the Great paused at the Syrian seashore before the climacteric battle of Issus (333 BC), and resorted to prayers, “calling on Thetis, Nereus and the Nereids, nymphs of the sea, and invoking Poseidon the sea-god, for whom he ordered a four-horse chariot to be cast into the waves.”

Nereus was known for his truthfulness and virtue: “But Pontos, the great sea, was father of truthful Nereus who tells no lies, eldest of his sons. They call him the Old Gentleman because he is trustworthy, and gentle, and never forgetful of what is right, but the thoughts of his mind are mild and righteous.”

Nereus and Proteus (the “first”) seem to be two manifestations of the god of the sea who was supplanted by Poseidon, one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology, when Zeus overthrew Cronus. Nereus was father to Thetis, one of the Nereids, who in turn was mother to the great Greek hero Achilles, and Amphitrite, who married Poseidon.


Poseidon was one of the twelve Olympian deities of the pantheon in Greek mythology. His main domain was the ocean, and he is called the “God of the Sea”. Additionally, he is referred to as “Earth-Shaker” due to his role in causing earthquakes, and has been called the “tamer of horses”. He is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard.

Linear B tablets show that Poseidon was venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece as a chief deity, but he was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades.

Poseidon was the second son of titans Cronus and Rhea. However, in some versions of the story, he, like his brother Zeus, did not share the fate of his other brother and sisters who were eaten by Cronus. In most accounts he is swallowed by Cronus at birth but later saved, with his other brothers and sisters, by Zeus. According to some folklore, he was saved by his mother Rhea, who concealed him among a flock of lambs and pretended to have given birth to a colt, which was devoured by Cronos.


In Etruscan mythology, Nethuns was the god of wells, later expanded to all water, including the sea. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology; both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon.

The name “Nethuns” is likely cognate with that of the Celtic god Nechtan and the Persian and Vedic gods sharing the name Apam Napat, perhaps all based on the Proto-Indo-European word népōts (“nephew, grandson”). In this case, Etruscan may have borrowed the Umbrian name *Nehtuns, (Roman Neptune, who was originally a god of water).

As a patron god his profile, wearing a ketos (sea monster) headdress, appears on a coin of Vetulonia, circa 215 – 211 BCE; he is accompanied by his trident, a three-pronged spear, between two dolphins.


In Greek, Roman, and Hindu mythology, the trident is said to have the power of control over the ocean. It is the weapon of Poseidon, or Neptune, the god of the sea in classical mythology. In Hindu mythology it is the weapon of Shiva, known as trishula (Sanskrit for “triple-spear”).

In religious Taoism, the trident represents the Taoist Trinity, the Three Pure Ones. In Taoist rituals, a trident bell is used to invite the presence of deities and summon spirits, as the trident signifies the highest authority of Heaven.

Apām Napāt 

The Womb-stage comes to an end with Agni, who is called in the Rig-veda “Apam-napat” or “the Son of the Waters”. After lying long hidden in Samudra, the Ocean, he flashes forth “water-born”. Then the Sun rises from the Womb of the Night and life rises from the dead or from sleep.

Apam Napat is an eminent figure of the Indo-Iranian pantheon. In the Rig Veda, Apām Napāt is the supreme god of creation. Apam Napat created all existential beings. In Zoroastrianism, Apąm Napāt is a divinity of water.

Apām Napāt in Sanskrit and Apąm Napāt in Avestan mean “son of waters”. Sanskrit and Avestan napāt (“grandson”) are cognate to Latin nepōs and English nephew, but the name Apām Napāt has also been compared to Etruscan Nethuns and Celtic Nechtan and Roman Neptune.


The Abzu (Cuneiform: ZU.AB; Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû) also called engur, (Cuneiform: LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru) literally, ab (“ocean”) zu (“deep”), was the name for the primeval sea below the void space of the underworld (Kur) and the earth (Ma) above. It is the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.

Absu may also refer to fresh water from underground aquifers that was given a religious fertilizing quality. Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu.

Abzu is depicted as a deity only in the Babylonian creation epic, the Enûma Elish, taken from the library of Assurbanipal (c 630 BCE) but which is about 500 years older. In this story, he was a primal being made of fresh water and a lover to another primal deity, Tiamat, who was a creature of salt water.

The Enuma Elish begins: “When above the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, the first, the begetter, and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, she who bore them all; they were still mixing their waters, and no pasture land had yet been formed, nor even a reed marsh…”

This resulted in the birth of the younger gods, who latter murder Apsu in order to usurp his lordship of the universe. Enraged, Tiamat gives birth to the first dragons, filling their bodies with “venom instead of blood”, and made war upon her treacherous children, only to be slain by Marduk, the god of Storms, who then forms the heavens and earth from her corpse.

Enki was believed to have lived in the abzu since before human beings were created. His wife Damgalnuna, his mother Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR), his advisor Isimud and a variety of subservient creatures, such as the gatekeeper Lahmu, also lived in the abzu.


Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki (Ea in the Akkadian language) 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. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.

Enki 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.

In Enuma Elish, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them. His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.

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

In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water’”. This may be a reference to Enki’s hieros gamos or sacred marriage with Ki/Ninhursag (the Earth). Benito states “With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”.

In the city of Eridu, Enki’s temple was known as E-abzu (house of the cosmic waters) and was located at the edge of a swamp, an abzu. Certain tanks of holy water in Babylonian and Assyrian temple courtyards were also called abzu (apsû). Typical in religious washing, these tanks were similar to Judaism’s mikvot, the washing pools of Islamic mosques, or the baptismal font in Christian churches.


In another even older tradition, Nammu, a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology, was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki. According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu.

It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu, a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki.

Nammu was the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods”. She was the Goddess sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu.

Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.

Creation of humans

The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.

Enki advises that they create a servant of the gods, humankind, out of clay and blood. Enki assembles a team of divinities to help him, creating a host of “good and princely fashioners”.

Against Enki’s wish the Gods decide to slay Kingu, and Enki finally consents to use Kingu’s blood to make the first human, with whom Enki always later has a close relationship, the first of the seven sages, seven wise men or”Abgallu” (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = Man), also known as Adapa. Adapa, the first man fashioned, later goes and acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the “Me” of “kingship descends on Eridu”.


The Apkallu (Akkadian), or Abgal (Sumerian), are seven Mesopotamian sages, demigods who are said to have been created by the god Enki (Akkadian: Ea) to establish culture and give mankind the Me (moral code), the crafts, and the art, and in that way give civilization to mankind. They were noted for having been saved during the flood. They served as priests of Enki and as advisors or sages to the earliest kings of Sumer before the flood.

According to the myth, human beings were initially unaware of the benefits of culture and civilization. The god Enki sent from Dilmun, amphibious half-fish, half-human creatures, who emerged from the sweet water Abzu to live with the early human beings and teach them the arts and other aspects of civilization such as writing, law, temple and city building and agriculture. These creatures are known as the Apkallu.

In Hinduism, Ursa Major is known as Saptarshi, each of the stars representing one of the Saptarshis or Seven Sages viz. Bhrigu, Atri, Angirasa, Vasishta, Pulastya, Pulalaha and Kratu. The fact that the two front stars of the constellations point to the pole star is explained as the boon given to the boy sage Dhruva by Lord Vishnu.


Septentrional, meaning “of the north”, is a word rarely used in English, but is commonly used in Latin and in the Romance languages. The term septentrional usually is found on maps, mostly those made before 1700. Early maps of North America often refer to the northern- and northwestern-most unexplored areas of the continent as at the “Septentrional” and as “America Septentrionalis”, sometimes with slightly varying spellings.

The term septentrional is the adjectival form of the Latin noun septentrion, which refers to the seven stars of the Big Dipper asterism, the Septentrion. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the etymology of septentrional as: [ad. L. septentrio, sing. of septentriōnēs, orig. septem triōnēs, the seven stars of the constellation of the Great Bear, f.septem seven + triōnes, pl. of trio plough-ox. Cf. F. septentrion.]

The term, sometimes abbreviated to “Sep.”, was used in historical astronomy to indicate the northern direction on the celestial globe, together with Meridional (“Mer.”) for southern, Oriental (“Ori.”) for eastern and Occidental (“Occ.”) for western. The usual antonym for septentrional is the term meridional, which refers to the noonday sun, not to a celestial feature in the Southern sky.

The novelist Gene Wolfe used the word septentrional in The Book of the New Sun, as the name of a praetorian guard, who are especially close to the ruler, hence are part of the palace inner-circle; such stars are close to the polar star.


“Septentrional” is more or less synonymous with the term “boreal”. The Latin word borealis comes from the Greek boreas “north wind, north”, which, according to Ovid, was personified as the son of the river-god Strymon, son of Oceanus and Tethys, and the father of Calais and Zetes.

Boreas was the Greek god of the cold north wind and the bringer of winter. For the wind which came directly from the north the Romans sometimes used the name Septentrio.

Although normally taken as the north wind, the Roman writers Aulus Gellius and Pliny the Elder both took Boreas as a north-east wind, equivalent to the Roman Aquilo. Boreas is depicted as being very strong, with a violent temper to match.

He was frequently shown as a winged old man with shaggy hair and beard, holding a conch shell and wearing a billowing cloak. Pausanias wrote that Boreas had snakes instead of feet, though in art he was usually depicted with winged human feet.

Boreas was closely associated with horses. He was said to have fathered twelve colts after taking the form of a stallion, to the mares of Erichthonius, king of Dardania. These were said to be able to run across a field of grain without trampling the plants. Pliny the Elder (Natural History iv.35 and viii.67) thought that mares might stand with their hindquarters to the North Wind and bear foals without a stallion.

The Greeks believed that his home was in Thrace, and Herodotus and Pliny both describe a northern land known as Hyperborea “Beyond the North Wind” where people lived in complete happiness and had extraordinarily long lifespans. He is said to have fathered three giant Hyperborean priests of Apollo by Chione.

Boreas was also said to have kidnapped Orithyia, an Athenian princess, from the Ilisos. Boreas had taken a fancy to Orithyia and had initially pleaded for her favours, hoping to persuade her. When this failed, he reverted to his usual temper and abducted her as she danced on the banks of the Ilisos.

Boreas wrapped Orithyia up in a cloud, raped her, and with her, Boreas fathered two sons—the Boreads, Zethes and Calais—and two daughters— Chione, goddess of snow, and Cleopatra. Boreas’ two sons Calaïs and Zetes, known as Boreads, were in the crew of the Argo as Argonauts.

From then on, the Athenians saw Boreas as a relative by marriage. When Athens was threatened by Xerxes, the people prayed to Boreas, who was said to have then caused winds to sink 400 Persian ships.

A similar event had occurred twelve years earlier, and Herodotus writes: Now I cannot say if this was really why the Persians were caught at anchor by the storm wind, but the Athenians are quite positive that, just as Boreas helped them before, so Boreas was responsible for what happened on this occasion also. And when they went home they built the god a shrine by the River Ilissus.

The abduction of Orithyia was popular in Athens before and after the Persian War, and was frequently depicted on vase paintings. In these paintings, Boreas was portrayed as a bearded man in a tunic, with shaggy hair that is sometimes frosted and spiked. The abduction was also dramatized in Aeschylus’s lost play Oreithyia.

In other accounts, Boreas was the father of Butes (by another woman) and the lover of the nymph Pitys. The Roman equivalent of Boreas was Aquilo. This north-east wind was associated with winter. The poet Virgil writes: “Meanwhile the sun moves round the great year, and icy winter roughens the waters with north-east winds”.

Ursa Major – The Big Dipper

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The word Arctic comes from the Greek word arktikos, “near the Bear, northern” and that from the word arktos, meaning bear.

The name refers either to the constellation Ursa Major, the “Great Bear”, which is prominent in the northern portion of the celestial sphere, or to the constellation Ursa Minor, the “Little Bear”, which contains Polaris, the Pole star, also known as the North Star.

Ursa Major (also known as the Great Bear) is a constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere. It can be visible throughout the year in most of the northern 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.

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. It 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.

This may stem from a common oral tradition stretching back for thousands of 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”.

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 currentnorthern pole star, Polaris in Ursa Minor. The Big Dipper and the constellation as a whole have mythological significance in numerous world cultures, usually as a symbol of the north.

The Big Dipper (US) or Plough (UK) is an asterism consisting of the seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major; six of them are of second magnitude and one, Megrez (δ), of third magnitude. Four define a “bowl” or “body” and three define a “handle” or “head”. It is recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures.

The North Star (Polaris), also known as the North Star or Pole Star, 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 Ursae Majoris) through (α Ursae Majoris). By visually tracing a line from Merak through Dubhe and continuing, one’s eye will land on Polaris, accurately indicating true north. This makes it useful in celestial navigation.

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” (Großer Wagen) and, less often, the “Great Bear” (Großer Bär). In Scandinavia, it is known by variations of “Charles’s Wagon” (Karlavagnen, Karlsvogna, or Karlsvognen). In Dutch, its official name is the “Great Bear” (Grote Beer), but it is popularly known as the “Saucepan” (Steelpannetje). In Italian, too, it is called the “Great Wagon” (Grande Carro).

In Romanian and most Slavic languages, it is known as the “Great Wagon” but, in Hungarian, it is commonly called “Göncöl’s Wagon” (Göncölszekér) or, less often, “Big Göncöl” (Nagy Göncöl) after a táltos (shaman) in Hungarian mythology who carried medicine that could cure any disease.

In Finnish, the figure is known as the “Salmon Net” (Otava) and widely used as a cultural symbol. The brown bear in Finnish actually became known as otava, but this is claimed to stem from its resemblance to—and mythical origin from—the asterism rather than vice versa.

Book XVIII of Homer’s Iliad mentions it as “the Bear, which men also call the Wain”. 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.

In traditional Chinese astronomy, which continues to be used for throughout East Asia (e.g., in astrology), these stars are generally considered to compose the Right Wall of the Purple Forbidden Enclosure which surrounds the Northern Celestial Pole, although numerous other groupings and names have been made over the centuries.

Similarly, each star has a distinct name, which likewise has varied over time and depending upon the asterism being constructed. The Western asterism is now known as the “Northern Dipper” or the “Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper”. The personification of the Big Dipper itself is also known as “Doumu” in Chinese folk religion and Taoism, and Marici in Buddhism.

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. Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation. 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 being the North Star. 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.

Ursa Minor has traditionally been important for navigation, particularly by mariners, because of Polaris being the North Star. 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 the Babylonian star catalogues, Ursa Minor was known as MAR.GID.DA.AN.NA, the Wagon of Heaven, Damkianna. 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.


Kubera (later Sanskrit: Kuvera), also spelt Kuber, is the Lord of Wealth and the god-king of the semi-divine Yakshas in Hindu mythology. He is regarded as the regent of the North (Dik-pala), and a protector of the world (Lokapala).

His many epithets extol him as the overlord of numerous semi-divine species and the owner of the treasures of the world. Kubera is often depicted with a plump body, adorned with jewels, and carrying a money-pot and a club.

Originally described as the chief of evil spirits in Vedic-era texts, Kubera acquired the status of a Deva (god) only in the Puranas and the Hindu epics. The scriptures describe that Kubera once ruled Lanka, but was overthrown by his demon stepbrother Ravana, later settling in the city of Alaka in the Himalayas. Descriptions of the “glory” and “splendours” of Kubera’s city are found in many scriptures.

Kubera has also been assimilated into the Buddhist and Jain pantheons. In Buddhism, he is known as Vaisravana, the patronymic used of the Hindu Kubera and is also equated with Pañcika, while in Jainism, he is known as Sarvanubhuti.

Kubera is often depicted as a dwarf, with fair complexion and a big belly. In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, Kubera is described as the embodiment of both Artha (“wealth, prosperity, glory”) and Arthashastras, the treatises related to it—and his iconography mirrors it.

The exact origins of the name Kubera are unknown. “Kubera” or “Kuvera” as spelt in later Sanskrit, means “deformed or monstrous” or “ill-shaped one”; indicating his deformities. Another theory suggests that Kubera may be derived from the verb root kumba, meaning to conceal. Kuvera is also split as ku (earth), and vira (hero).

Kubera also enjoys the titles “king of the whole world”, “king of kings” (Rajaraja), “Lord of wealth” (Dhanadhipati) and “giver of wealth” (Dhanada). His titles are sometimes related to his subjects: “king of Yakshas” (Yaksharajan), “Lord of Rakshasas” (Rakshasadhipati), “Lord of Guhyakas” (Guhyakadhipa), “king of Kinnaras”(Kinnararaja), “king of animals resembling men” (Mayuraja), and “king of men” (Nararaja). Kubera is also called Guhyadhipa (“Lord of the hidden”). The Atharvaveda calls him the “god of hiding”.

While Kubera still enjoys prayers as the god of wealth, his role is largely taken by the god of wisdom, fortune and obstacle-removal, Ganesha, with whom he is generally associated.


Pisces (Ancient Greek: Ikhthyes) is the twelfth and the last astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation. It spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude.

Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area on average between February 19 and March 20, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon, Neptune, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, Typhon and Vishnu.

A planet’s domicile is the zodiac sign over which it has rulership, and the rulers of Pisces, or those associated with Pisceans, are Jupiter, Neptune, and the moon. In esoteric astrology, Venus was considered the ruler of Pisces, and prior to the discovery of Neptune in 1846, Jupiter was said to rule Pisces primarily.

Neptune is mostly considered the secondary ruling planet of Pisces today because of the association with the Roman god of water and the sea, Neptune. The detriment, or the sign “opposite” to that which is deemed the ruling planet, is Mercury. Venus is exalted in Pisces, while Mercury also falled into Pisces.

Inanna (Pisces) – Tammuz (Aries)

Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and goddess of the E-Anna temple at the city of Uruk, her main centre, was associated with the planet Venus. Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

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).

Inanna is the goddess of love. In the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh points out Inanna’s infamous ill-treatment of her lovers. Inanna also has a very complicated relationship with her lover, Dumuzi, in “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld”.

Despite Inanna’s fate, and in contrast to the other individuals who were properly mourning Inanna, Dumuzi was lavishly clothed and resting beneath a tree, or upon her throne, entertained by slave-girls. Inanna, displeased, decrees that the demons shall take him, using language which echoes the speech Ereshkigal gave while condemning her. Dumuzi is then taken to the underworld.

Dumuzi tries to escape his fate, and is capable of fleeing the demons for a time, as the deities intervene and disguise him in a variety of forms. He is eventually found. However, Dumuzi’s sister, out of love for him, begged to be allowed to take his place. It was then decreed that Dumuzi spent half the year in the underworld, and his sister take the other half.

Inanna, displaying her typically capricious behavior, mourns his time in the underworld. This she reveals in a haunting lament of his deathlike absence from her, for “[he] cannot answer . . . [he] cannot come/ to her calling . . . the young man has gone.” Her own powers, notably those connected with fertility, subsequently wane, to return in full when he returns from the netherworld each six months. This cycle then approximates the shift of seasons.

She also is one of the Sumerian war deities: “She stirs confusion and chaos against those who are disobedient to her, speeding carnage and inciting the devastating flood, clothed in terrifying radiance. It is her game to speed conflict and battle, untiring, strapping on her sandals.” Battle itself is sometimes referred to as “the dance of Inanna.”

Kali – Shiva

Kālī, also known as Kālikā, is a Hindu goddess. The name Kali is derived from the Sanskrit “Kālá”, or time – she therefore represents time, change, power, creation, preservation, and destruction. “Kali” also mean “the black one”, the feminine noun of the Sanskrit adjective Kālá.

Another of Shiva’s fearsome forms is as Kāla “time” and Mahākāla “great time”, which ultimately destroys all things. The name Kāla appears in the Shiva Sahasranama, where it is translated by Ram Karan Sharma as “(the Supreme Lord of) Time.”

She is often portrayed standing or dancing on her consort, the Hindu god Shiva, who lies calm and prostrate beneath her. Shiva is also depicted as a corpse below Goddess Kali, it represents that Shiva is a corpse without Shakti. He remains inert. While Shiva is the static form, Mahakali or Shakti is the dynamic aspect without whom Shiva is powerless. The depiction of Shiva as Nataraja (Sanskrit: naṭarāja, “Lord of Dance”) is popular.


Cybele – Attis

Nergal – Ereshkigal

In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, is an open star cluster located in the constellation of Taurus. Ishara was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars).  In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra.

Nergal’s fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Lugal-banda (Nergal as the fighting-cock), Sharrapu (“the burner,” a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti or Seven.

Nergal is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna and Ninurta. According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. The term Gallus is also a multiple pun in Latin, meaning a Gaul, or a rooster, as well as a castrated priest.

While these efforts at “folk” etymologies were widespread in classical times, it has been suggested that gallu comes from the SumerianGal meaning “great” and Lu meaning “man”, humans or sexually ambivalent demons that freed Inanna from the underworld. They originally seem to have been consecrated to the god Enki.

There was a category of Mesopotamian priests called kalu; in Sumerian gala. The Gala (Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.

These priests played the tympanum and were involved in bull sacrifice. Another category of Mesopotamian priests called assinnu, galatur, and kurgarru had a sacred function. These transgender or eunuch priests participated in liturgical rites, during which they were costumed and masked. They played music, sang, and danced, most often in ceremonies dedicated to the goddess Ishtar.

A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome. Attis was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology.

His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and in his self-mutilation, death, and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.

Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubeleyan Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess. Hannahannah (from Hittite hanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the pre-Sumerian goddess Inanna. Hannahannah was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat. The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In some texts the god Ninazu is the son of Nergal and Allatu/Ereshkigal.


In the late Babylonian astral-theological system Nergal is related to the planet Mars. As a fiery god of destruction and war, Nergal doubtless seemed an appropriate choice for the red planet, and he was equated by the Greeks to the war-god Ares (Latin Mars) – hence the current name of the planet.

In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta.

Amongst the Hurrians and later Hittites Nergal was known as Aplu, a name derived from the Akkadian Apal Enlil, (Apal being the construct state of Aplu) meaning “the son of Enlil”[. Aplu may be related with Apaliunas who is considered to be the Hittite reflex of *Apeljōn, an early form of the name Apollo.

Mars in culture is about the planet Mars in culture. For example, the planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war Mars. In Babylonian astronomy, the planet was named after Nergal, their deity of fire, war, and destruction, most likely due to the planet’s reddish appearance. In the Skanda Purana, a Hindu religious text, Mars is known as the deity Mangala and was born from the sweat of Shiva.

Tyr – Hel

Týr is a god of war and will take mead, meat and blood for sacrifice. If a warrior carved the rune Tîwaz on his weapon he would be dedicating it to Týr and strengthen the outcome of a battle to be in his favor. After a warrior has dedicated his weapon to Týr he should not lose it or break it. Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanica. Tuesday is in fact “Tīw’s Day” (also in Alemannic Zischtig from zîes tag), translating dies Martis.


Nerio / Minerva

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Nerio was an ancient war goddess and the personification of valor. She was the partner of Mars in ancient cult practices. Spoils taken from enemies were sometimes dedicated to Nerio by the Romans.

Nerio was later supplanted by mythologized deities appropriated and adapted from other religions. She was sometimes identified with the goddess Bellona, and occasionally with the goddess Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy.

Stemming from an Italic moon goddess *Meneswā (‘She who measures’), the Etruscans adopted the inherited Old Latin name, *Menerwā, thereby calling her Menrva. It is assumed that her Roman name, Minerva, is based on this Etruscan mythology. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools and commerce. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena. Like Athena, Minerva was born from the head of her father, Jupiter (Greek Zeus).

By a process of folk etymology, the Romans could have linked her foreign name to the root men- in Latin words such as mens meaning “mind”, perhaps because one of her aspects as goddess pertained to the intellectual. The wordmens is built from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘mind’ (linked with memory as in Greek Mnemosyne and mnestis: memory, remembrance, recollection, manush in Sanskrit meaning mind).

Minerva was born with weapons from the head of Jupiter. After impregnating the titaness Metis (“wisdom,” “skill,” or “craft”), Jupiter recalled a prophecy that his own child would overthrow him. Fearing that their child would grow stronger than he and rule the Heavens in his place, Jupiter swallowed Metis whole. The titaness forged weapons and armor for her child while within the father-god, and the constant pounding and ringing gave him a headache.

To relieve the pain, Vulcan used a hammer to split Jupiter’s head and, from the cleft, Minerva emerged, whole, adult, and bearing her mother’s weapons and armor. From the 2nd century BC onwards, the Romans equated her with the Greek goddess Athena.

She was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolised her association with wisdom and knowledge.


Metis was of the Titan generation and, like several primordial figures, an Oceanid, in the sense that Metis was born of Oceanus and his sister Tethys, of an earlier age than Zeus and his siblings. Metis was the first great spouse of Zeus, and also his cousin. Zeus is himself titled Mêtieta, “the wise counsellor,” in the Homeric poems.

While the sea-divinities Tethys and Oceanus were formerly represented in Roman-era mosaics, they were replaced at a later period by the figure of Thalassa, especially in Western Asia. There she was depicted as a woman clothed in bands of seaweed and half submerged in the sea, with the crab-claw horns that were formerly an attribute of Oceanus now transferred to her head. In one hand she holds a ship’s oar, and in the other a dolphin.

Tiamat was later known as Thalattē (as a variant of thalassa, the Greek word for “sea”) in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus’ first volume of universal history. It is thought that the name of Tiamat was dropped in secondary translations of the original religious texts (written in the East Semitic Akkadian language) because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word for “sea” for Tiamat, since the two names had become essentially the same due to association.

Thorkild Jacobsen and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu, following an early form, ti’amtum. Burkert continues by making a linguistic connection to Tethys. He finds the later form, thalatth, to be related clearly to Greek thalatta or thalassa, “sea”.

By the era of Greek philosophy in the fifth century BC, Metis had become the mother of wisdom and deep thought, but her name originally connoted “magical cunning” and was as easily equated with the trickster powers of Prometheus as with the “royal metis” of Zeus. The Stoic commentators allegorised Metis as the embodiment of “prudence”, “wisdom” or “wise counsel”, in which form she was inherited by the Renaissance.

The Greek word metis meant a quality that combined wisdom and cunning. This quality was considered to be highly admirable in the Mycenean era, with the hero Odysseus being the embodiment of it. In the Classical era, it was regarded by Athenians as one of the notable characteristics of the Athenian character. Metis was the one who gave Zeus a potion to cause Cronus to vomit out Zeus’ siblings.

Metis was both a threat to Zeus and an indispensable aid. Zeus lay with Metis but immediately feared the consequences. It had been prophesied that Metis would bear extremely powerful children: the first, Athena and the second, a son more powerful than Zeus himself, who would eventually overthrow Zeus.

In order to forestall these dire consequences, Zeus tricked her into turning herself into a fly and promptly swallowed her. He was too late: Metis had already conceived a child. In time she began making a helmet and robe for her fetal daughter.

The hammering as she made the helmet caused Zeus great pain, and Hephaestus either clove Zeus’s head with an axe, or hit it with a hammer at the river Triton, giving rise to Athena’s birth. Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown, armed, and armoured, and Zeus was none the worse for the experience.

The similarities between Zeus swallowing Metis and Cronus swallowing his children have been noted by several scholars. This also caused some controversy in regard to reproduction myths and the lack of a need for women as a means of reproduction.


Hesiod’s account is followed by Acusilaus and the Orphic tradition, which enthroned Metis side by side with Eros as primal cosmogenic forces. Plato makes Poros (“resource” or “plenty”), or “creative ingenuity”, the child of Metis. This figure exists in Roman mythology as well and is known as Pomona, in which Porus is the personification of abundance. He is the brother of Athena.

In Plato’s Symposium, Porus was the personification of resourcefulness or expediency. He was seduced by Penia (poverty) while drunk on more than his fill of nectar at Aphrodite’s birthday. Penia gave birth to Eros (love) from their union. According to the character Diotima, Eros is forever in need because of his mother, but forever pursuing because of his father.

Njord – Nerthus

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 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.



East (*aus-t-) is from the word for dawn. The proto-Indo-European form is *austo-s from the root is *aues- ‘shine (red)’. Ēostre or Ostara (Old English: Ēastre, Northumbrian dialect Ēostre; Old High German: *Ôstara (reconstructed form)) is a Germanic goddess who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name (Northumbrian: Ēosturmōnaþ; West Saxon: Ēastermōnaþ; Old High German: Ôstarmânoth), is the namesake of the festival of Easter in some languages.

Ēostre is attested solely by Bede in his 8th-century work The Reckoning of Time, where Bede states that during Ēosturmōnaþ (the equivalent of April), pagan Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor, but that this tradition had died out by his time, replaced by the Christian Paschal month, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

By way of linguistic reconstruction, the matter of a goddess called *Austrō in the Proto-Germanic language has been examined in detail since the foundation of Germanic philology in the 19th century by scholar Jacob Grimm and others.

As the Germanic languages descend from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), historical linguists have traced the name to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn *Hewsṓs (→ *Ausṓs), from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend.

Additionally, scholars have linked the goddess’s name to a variety of Germanic personal names, a series of location names (toponyms) in England, and, discovered in 1958, over 150 2nd century BCE inscriptions referring to the matronae Austriahenae. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.


South (*sunþ-) derived from proto-Indo-European *sú-n-to-s from the root *seu- ‘seethe, boil’. Cognate with this root is the word Sun, thus “the region of the Sun.”

The English proper noun Sun developed from Old English sunne and may be related to south. Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages. All Germanic terms for the Sun stem from Proto-Germanic *sunnōn.

The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English (Sunnandæg; “Sun’s day”, from before 700) and is ultimately a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of the Greek hēméra hēlíou. The Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not common in general English language use; the adjectival form is the related word solar.


West (*wes-t-) from a word for “evening.” The proto-Indo-European form is *uestos from the root *ues- ‘shine (red)’, itself a form of *aues-. Cognate with the root are the Latin words vesper and vesta and the Ancient Greek Hestia, Hesperus and Hesperides.

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