Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

God is everywhere and everything – god is love – the prime mover

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 17, 2016

Mother goddess

Mother goddess

The Mesopotamian mother goddess is known under many names, the most prominent of which is the Sumerian name Nintud/Nintur. Other frequent names are Ninmah and Belet-ili. She was in charge of pregnancy and birth and, especially in earlier periods, appears as the creator of humankind.

One of her main functions was associated with pregnancy and childbirth. She guides children when they are still in the womb and feeds them after they have been born. The mother goddess also appears as the creator of humankind.

Mami is a goddess in the Babylonian epic Atra-Hasis, the Mesopotamian flood story, and in other creation legends. She was probably synonymous with Ninhursag. She was involved in the creation of humankind from clay and blood.

She created humankind by mixing clay with blood of a slain god. As the legends states she pinched off fourteen pieces of primordial clay which she formed into womb deities, seven on the left and seven on the right with a brick between them, who produced the first seven pairs of human embryos.

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

Nintur created humankind by mixing clay with blood of a slain god, and in the Sumerian tale of Enki and Ninmah the two deities compete by creating various creatures out of clay, resulting ultimately in the creation of humans. The clay is said to come from the top of the abzu, the cosmic underground waters.

In her role as the creator of humankind she is eventually replaced by the god Enki/Ea, as visible in Enūma elish. Her role diminish throughout the second half of the second millennium even in primarily female functions, such as creation, as the “marginalization of goddesses”.

Nammu

In Sumerian mythology, Nammu was the Goddess Sea , a primeval goddess, the Engur (Sumerian: engur; Akkadian: engurru), also called Abzu (Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû; lit. ab= “ocean” zu= “deep”), corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology.

No husband or male god is attested in connection with Namma, thus leading to the belief that “the first cosmic production is asexual”. Later on, in particular in Akkadian texts, Namma loses importance and is only rarely mentioned.

Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. She gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.

Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu.

It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going. The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. Nammu told him that with the help of Enki she can create humans in the image of gods. She is singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.

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. 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.

Tiamat

Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. Depicted as a woman she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.

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. Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (the deeps, abyss), in the Book of Genesis 1:2.

In Greek mythology, Tethys was a Titan, among the first twelve children of the primordial Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky), and the wife of her brother Titan Oceanus, and the mother by him of the river gods and the Oceanids.

Apsu

The Engur or Apsu was the name for the primeval sea below the void space of the Underworld (Kur), and the earth (Ma), a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land, above.

Ma is tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain), considered the first ever dragon god, and usually referred to the Zagros mountains to the east of Sumer. However, kur can also mean “foreign land”.

Although the word for earth was Ki, Kur came to also mean land, and Sumer itself, was called “Kur-gal” or “Great Land”. “Kur-gal” also means “Great Mountain” and is a metonym for both Nippur and Enlil who rules from that city. Ekur, “mountain house” was the temple of Enlil at Nippur. A second, popular meaning of Kur was “underworld”, or the world under the earth.

Kur was sometimes the home of the dead. Kur is almost identical with “Ki-gal”, “Great Land” which is the Underworld (thus the ruler of the Underworld is Ereshkigal “Goddess of The Great Land”. In the Enuma Elish in Akkadian tablets from the first millennium BC, Kur is part of the retinue of Tiamat, and seems to be a snakelike dragon. In one story the slaying of the great serpent Kur results in the flooding of the earth.

Apsu 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.

Absu 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.

Ninlil – Hursag – Ninhursag

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.

She is the consort goddess of Enlil (EN = “Lord” + LÍL = “Wind”, “Lord (of the) Storm”), 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.

The myth of Enlil and Ninlil discusses when Enlil was a young god, he was banished from Ekur in Nippur, home of the gods, to Kur, the underworld for seducing a goddess named Ninlil. Ninlil followed him to the underworld where she bore his first child, the moon god Sin (Sumerian Nanna/Suen). After fathering three more underworld-deities (substitutes for Sin), Enlil was allowed to return to the Ekur.

Hursag (transcribed cuneiform: ḫur.saḡ (HUR.SAG)) is a Sumerian term variously translated as meaning “mountain”, “hill”, “foothills” or “piedmont”. Thorkild Jacobsen extrapolated the translation in his later career to mean literally, “head of the valleys”.

In a myth variously entitled by Samuel Noah Kramer as “The Deeds and Exploits of Ninurta” and later Ninurta Myth Lugal-e by Thorkild Jacobsen, Hursag is described as a mound of stones constructed by Ninurta after his defeat of a demon called Asag.

Ninurta’s mother Ninlil visits the location after this great victory. In return for her love and loyalty, Ninurta gives Ninlil the hursag as a gift. Her name is consequentially changed from Ninlil to Ninhursag or the “mistress of the Hursag”.

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

Ninhursag was a mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. Nin-hursag means (“lady of the sacred mountain”; from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”). 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’.

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. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (Mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili(“Lady of the gods”). Some of the names above were once associated with independent goddesses (such as Ninmah and Ninmenna), who later became identified and merged with Ninhursag, and myths exist in which the name Ninhursag is not mentioned.

As the wife and consort of Enki she was also referred to as Damgulanna (great wife of heaven) or Damkina (faithful wife). 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. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.

Ma

Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele. According to ancient geographers, Comana was situated in Cappadocia (and later Cataonia). Another epithet for the city, found in inscriptions, is Hieropolis “sacred city”, owing to a famous temple of the Syrian Moon goddess Enyo or, in the local language: Ma (cf. Men, the moon goddess of Caria).

Men

Men (Latin: Mensis, also known at Antioch in Pisidia as Men Ascaënus) was a god worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. The roots of the Men cult may go back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC. Ancient writers describe Men as a local god of the Phrygians.

Lunar symbolism dominates his iconography. The god is usually shown with a crescent like open horns on his shoulders, and he is described as the god presiding over the months. He is depicted with a Phrygian cap and a belted tunic. He may be accompanied by bulls and lions in religious artwork. The iconography of Men partly recalls that of Mithras, who also wears a Phrygian cap and is commonly depicted with a bull and symbols of the sun and moon.

Mah

In later times, Men may have been identified with both Attis of Phrygia and Sabazius of Thrace; he may shared a common origin with the Zoroastrian lunar divinity Mah or Maonghah, the Avestan language word for both the moon and for the Zoroastrian divinity that presides over and is the hypostasis of the moon.

The names ‘Maonghah’ and Mah derive from an Indo-European root that is also the origin of the English language word “moon.” The Zoroastrian divinity has however no Vedic equivalent. Maonghah retains the name Mah in the 9th-12th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition, and continues with that name into New Persian. Herodotus states that the moon was the tutelary divinity of the Iranian expatriates residing in Asia Minor.

Ahura Mazda is described to be the cause of the moon’s waxing and waning, and the Amesha Spentas, the “divine sparks” of Ahura Mazda that each represent one facet of creation, evenly distribute the light of the moon over the earth. The Fravashis are said to be responsible for keeping the moon and stars on its appointed course.

The Moon is however also “bestower, radiant, glorious, possessed of water, possessed of warmth, possessed of knowledge, wealth, riches, discernment, weal, verdure, good, and the healing one”. “During the spring, the Moon causes plants to grow up out of the earth”. In the litany to the Moon, she is described as the “queen of the night.”

The Moon plays a prominent role in Zoroastrian cosmogony. The legend runs as follows: Ahriman (Av: Angra Mainyu) incites Jeh (Jahi) the primeval whore to kill the primordial bovine Gawiewdad (Av. Gavaevodata). Jeh does as told, but as the creature lies dying, the chihr is rescued and placed in the care of the moon. This chihr is then the “prototype” (karb) of all creatures of the animal world.

The precise meaning of the word chihr in this context is unknown. It is traditionally translated as “seed”, which in the sense of “prototype” carries the connotation of a particular physical form or appearance. But the word can also mean “seed” in the sense of “race, stock”. The Moon is repeatedly spoken of as possessing the cithra of the primeval bull.

In the hierarchy of yazatas, the Moon is the assistant (or ‘cooperator’, hamkar) of Vohu Manah, the Avestan language term for a Zoroastrian concept, generally translated as “Good Purpose”, “Good Mind”, or “Good Thought”, referring to the good moral state of mind that enables an individual to accomplish his duties.

The identification with Vohu Manah is reflected in other texts where the moon is associated with mental harmony and inner peace. Manah is cognate with the Sanskrit word Manas suggesting some commonality between the ideas of the Gathas and those of the rig veda. The opposite of Vohu Manah is Aka Manah, “evil purpose”.

Mani

Máni (Old Norse/Icelandic “moon”) is the personification of the moon in Norse mythology. He is the brother of the personified sun, Sól, and the son of Mundilfari, and is followed by the children Hjúki and Bil through the heavens.

As a proper noun, Máni appears throughout Old Norse literature. Scholarly theories have been proposed about Máni’s potential connection to the Northern European notion of the Man in the Moon, and a potentially otherwise unattested story regarding Máni through skaldic kennings.

Monday is the day of the week between Sunday and Tuesday. The name of Monday is derived from Old English Mōnandæg and Middle English Monenday, which means “moonday”. The Germanic term is a Germanic interpretation of Latin lunae dies (“day of the moon”).

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Luna is the divine embodiment of the Moon (Latin luna; cf. English “lunar”). She is often presented as the female complement of the Sun (Sol) conceived of as a god. Luna is also sometimes represented as an aspect of the Roman triple goddess (diva triformis), along with Proserpina and Hecate.

Luna is not always a distinct goddess, but sometimes rather an epithet that specializes a goddess, since both Diana, the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals, eventually equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, and Juno, the protector and special counselor of the state, her Greek equivalent being Hera, are identified as moon goddesses.

In many languages of India, the word for Monday is derived from Sanskrit Somavāra; Soma is another name of the Moon god in Hinduism. In some languages of India, it is also called Chandravāra; Chandra (lit. “shining”) in Sanskrit means “moon”. In Thailand, the day is called Wan Jan, meaning “the day of the Moon god Chandra”. As Soma, he presides over Monday.

Chandra is also identified with the Vedic lunar deity Soma. The Soma name refers particularly to the juice of sap in the plants and thus makes the Moon the lord of plants and vegetation. He is connected with dew, and as such, is one of the gods of fertility. He is described as young, beautiful, fair; two-armed and having in his hands a club and a lotus. He rides his chariot across the sky every night, pulled by ten white horses or an antelope.

He is the father of Budha or Saumya (lit. son of Moon), the god of Mercury, the mother being Tara, the Hindu goddess of felicity and sanguineness, and he second consort of Hindu God Brihaspati, the god of Jupiter. Budha is the Hindu god of merchandise and the protector of merchants.

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