The mythological origin of Mercury
Posted by Fredsvenn on December 24, 2016
The earliest known recorded observations of Mercury are from the Mul.Apin tablets. These observations were most likely made by an Assyrian astronomer around the 14th century BC. The cuneiform name used to designate Mercury on the Mul.Apin tablets is transcribed as Udu.Idim.Gu\u.Ud (“the jumping planet”).
Babylonian records of Mercury date back to the 1st millennium BC. The Babylonians called the planet Nabu after the messenger to the gods in their mythology.i is a god in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians.
The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu (the son of Marduk), the patron god of scribes, wisdom and literature, was in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.
Nabu’s name itself means “to call” in Akkadian language, while later cognates in Aramaic language and Hebrew language have a sense of one who has been called, or one who can prophesy.
Nabu was known as Nisaba, the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest, gaining prominence among the Assyrians and Babylonians in the first millennium BC following his association with Marduk.
As with many Sumerian deities, Nisaba’s exact place in the pantheon and her heritage appears somewhat ambiguous. She is the daughter of An and Urash. In some other tales, she is considered the mother of Ninlil, and by extension, the mother-in-law of Enlil.
From Sumerian texts, the language used to describe Urash is very similar to the language used to describe Ninhursag. Therefore, the two goddess may be one and the same. Nisaba is the sister of Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh. If Urash and Ninhursag are the same goddess, then Nisaba is also the half sister of Nanshe and (in some versions) Ninurta.
She is the chief scribe of Nanshe, the daughter of Enki (god of wisdom, magic and fresh water) and Ninhursag (earth and mother goddess). Nanshe, is like her father heavily associated with water. Nanshe has two major symbols, both of which are also seen in Christian folklore. The fish represents her original role as a water and fishing goddess. The pelican, said in folklore to rip open its own chest to feed its young, represents her role as a protector and caregiver.
On the first day of the new year, she and Nanshe work together to settle disputes between mortals and give aid to those in need. Nisaba keeps a record of the visitors seeking aid and then arranges them into a line to stand before Nanshe, who will then judge them. Nisaba is also seen as a caretaker for Ninhursag’s temple at Kesh, where she gives commands and keeps temple records.
Nabu was worshipped in Babylon’s sister city Borsippa, where his statue was moved to Babylon each New Year so that he could pay his respects to his father. Nabu’s symbol was a stylus resting on a tablet. His wife was the Akkadian goddess Tashmet.
His cult later spread to Egypt and Anatolia due to Aramaic settlers. Nabu was also the keeper of the Tablets of Destiny, which recorded the fate of mankind.
He wore a horned cap, and stood with his hands clasped, in the ancient gesture of priesthood. He rode on a winged dragon known as Sirrush that originally belonged to his father Marduk.
In Babylonian astrology, Nabu was identified with the planet Mercury. In Hellenistic times, Nabu was identified with the Greek god Apollo. As the god of wisdom and writing, Nabu was linked by the Romans with Mercury, and by the Egyptians with Thoth. In the Bible, Nabu is mentioned as Nebo in Isaiah 46:1 and Jeremiah 48:1.
Ninshubur 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. Due to similarities between the two, some believe the later Hermes to have been based in part on Ninshubur.
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.
Though described as an unmarried virgin, in a few accounts Ninshubur is said to be one of Inanna’s lovers. In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was male. In “A Hymn to Nergal,” Ninshubur appears as the minister of the underworld.
Ninshubur was an important figure in ancient Sumerian mythology and she played an integral role in several myths involving her mistress, the goddess, Inanna.
In the Sumerian myth of “Inanna and Enki,” Ninshubur is described as the one who rescues Inanna from the monsters that Enki has sent after her. In this myth, Ninshubur plays a similar role to Isimud, who acts as Enki’s messenger to Inanna.
In the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent into the Netherworld, Ninshubur is described as the one who pleads with all of the gods in an effort to persuade them to rescue Inanna from the Netherworld.
Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Proto-Armenian Hurrian-speaking kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC, located in the Armenian Highland, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper. The capital was called Ubbumu. Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani, to the name Armenia.
Weidner interpreted textual evidence to indicate that after the Hurrian king Shattuara of Mitanni was defeated by Adad-nirari I of the Middle Assyrian Empire in the early 13th century BC, he then became ruler of a reduced vassal state known as Shubria or Subartu. The name Subartu (Sumerian: Shubur) for the region is attested much earlier, from the time of the earliest Mesopotamian records (mid 3rd millennium BC).
Together with Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants, according to most scholars, later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Armenians.
The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum / Subartum / ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir / Subar / Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. The name also appears as Subari in the Amarna letters, and, in the form Šbr, in Ugarit.
Subartu was apparently a polity in Upper Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris. Most scholars suggest that Subartu is an early name for Assyria proper on the Tigris and westward, although there are various other theories placing it sometimes a little farther to the east and/or north. Its precise location has not been identified.
From the point of view of the Akkadian Empire, Subartu marked the northern geographical horizon, just as Mar.tu, Elam and Sumer marked “west”, “east” and “south”, respectively.
The Great Zab or Upper Zab is an approximately 400-kilometre (250 mi) long river flowing through Turkey and Iraq. It rises in Turkey near Lake Van and joins the Tigris in Iraq south of Mosul.The Little Zab or Lower Zab originates in Iran and joins the Tigris in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The ancient Greeks knew the planet as Stilbon, meaning “the gleaming”, Hermaon and Hermes, a planetary name that is retained in modern Greek Ermis. The Romans named the planet after the swift-footed Roman messenger god, Mercury (Latin Mercurius), which they equated with the Greek Hermes, because it moves across the sky faster than any other planet. The astronomical symbol for Mercury is a stylized version of Hermes’ caduceus.
Mercury is a major Roman god, being one of the Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the patron god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence (and thus poetry), messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he is also the guide of souls to the underworld.
In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes: a caduceus, a petasos (often winged), and/or winged sandals. Etruscan artwork often depicts Turms in his role as psychopomp, conducting the soul into the afterlife. Bernard Combet-Farnoux interprets comments by Servius and Macrobius as indicating that “Hermes-Turms” had the epithet Camillus, meaning ‘servant’ (i.e. of the other deities).
He was considered the son of Maia and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx (“merchandise”; compare merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages); another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for “boundary, border” (cf. Old English “mearc”, Old Norse “mark” and Latin “margō”) and Greek Arctūrus, as the “keeper of boundaries,” referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds.
Arcturus, also designated Alpha Boötis (α Boötis, abbreviated Alpha Boo, α Boo) is a star in the constellation of Boötes. 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 along with the star Cor Caroli.
In ancient 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. Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan or Odin (from Old Norse Óðinn), by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.
In Norse mythology, from which stems most of the information about the god, Odin is associated with healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg.
In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym wōđanaz.
Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini and Virgo and is exalted in Virgo or Aquarius. The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea. In Greek mythology, she was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth.
The constellation Virgo has lots of different origins depending on which mythology is being studied. Most myths generally view Virgo as a virgin maiden with heavy association with wheat. In Greek and Roman mythology they relate the constellation to Demeter, mother of Persephone, or Proserpina in Roman, the goddess of the harvest.
In the Egyptian myths, when the constellation Virgo was in the sun was when the start of the wheat harvest again thus connecting Virgo back to the wheat grain. She also has various connections with the India goddess Kanya, and even the Virgin Mary.
The consort of Mars was Nerio or Nerine, “Valor.” She represents the vital force (vis), power (potentia) and majesty (maiestas) of Mars. Her name was regarded as Sabine in origin and is equivalent to Latin virtus, “manly virtue” (from vir, “man”).
Virility as a kind of life force (vis) or virtue (virtus) is an essential characteristic of Mars. As an agricultural guardian, he directs his energies toward creating conditions that allow crops to grow, which may include warding off hostile forces of nature. As an embodiment of masculine aggression, he is the force that drives wars – but ideally, war that delivers a secure peace.
In Greek mythology, Gemini was associated with the myth of Castor and Pollux, the children of Leda and Argonauts both. Pollux was the son of Zeus, who seduced Leda, while Castor was the son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta and Leda’s husband. Castor and Pollux were also mythologically associated with St. Elmo’s fire in their role as the protectors of sailors. When Castor died, because he was mortal, Pollux begged his father Zeus to give Castor immortality, and he did, by uniting them together in the heavens.
In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
O’Brien (1982) reconstructs a horse goddess with twin offspring, pointing to Gaulish Epona, Irish Macha (the twins reflected in Macha’s pair, Liath Macha and Dub Sainglend), Welsh Rhiannon, and Eddaic Freyja in the tale of the construction of the walls of Asgard, seeing a vestige of the birth of hippomorphic twins in Loki in the form of a mare (in place of Freyja) giving birth to eight-legged Sleipnir.
In his 8th century Ecclesiastical History, Bede records that the first chieftains among the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in England were said to have been Hengist and Horsa. He relates that Horsa was killed in battle against the Britons and was thereafter buried in East Kent, where at the time of writing a monument still stood to him. According to Bede, Hengist and Horsa were the sons of Wictgils, son of Witta, son of Wecta, son of Woden.
The myths surrounding Hengest and Horsa could come from a common source, since they were descendants of Woden and Hengest’s name meant “stallion” (in German: Hengst) Shapiro (1982) points to Slavic Volos and Veles.
Hindu mythology used the name Budha for Mercury, and this god was thought to preside over Wednesday. In Hindu mythology, Budha is the god of Mercury (planet), mid-week Wednesday, and of Merchants and merchandise.
The god Odin (or Woden) of Germanic paganism was associated with the planet Mercury and Wednesday. The name is derived from Old English Wōdnesdæg and Middle English Wednesdei, “day of Woden”, ultimately a calque of dies Mercurii “day of Mercury”.
In Chinese astrology, Mercury represents Water, the fourth element, therefore symbolizing communication, intelligence, and elegance.