Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The dragon, the chaoskampf and the mother goddess

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on July 20, 2018

The dragon-slaying myth and theme was an important motif in Sumer by 3000 BC, and the dragon-slaying epic influenced the myths of later groups, including the Babylonians and Akkadians. The dragon was worshipped, symbolising the element of water, fertility and wealth, and later became a frightful symbol of power.

The Babylonian Epic of Creation centered principally around the slaying of the dragon Tiamat. This was inscribed in Akkadian, dating back to the first millennium BC, which is more than a thousand years later than the Sumerian inscriptions.

In Sumerian mythology, Kur is a monstrous dragon with scaly body and massive wings. Kur is considered the first ever dragon, and usually referred to the Zagros mountains to the east of Sumer.

Ancient Near East portal Puruli (EZEN Puruliyas) was a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna (from Hittite ḫanna- “grandmother”), a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who is married to a new king. Ḫannaḫanna was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat.

The central ritual of the Puruli festival is dedicated to the destruction of the dragon Illuyanka by the storm god Teshub. The corresponding Assyrian festival is the Akitu of the Enuma Elish. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.

There has been made comparisons between Teshub’s battle with Illuyankas and the sky-god Zeus’ battle with serpent-like Typhon, a monstrous serpentine giant and the most deadly creature in Greek mythology.

Typhon and his mate Echidna were the progenitors of many famous monsters. According to Hesiod, Typhon was the son of Gaia and Tartarus. However one source has Typhon as the son of Hera alone, while another makes Typhon the offspring of Cronus.

Typhon attempted to overthrow Zeus for the supremacy of the cosmos. The two fought a cataclysmic battle, which Zeus finally won with the aid of his thunderbolts. Defeated, Typhon was cast into Tartarus, or buried underneath Mount Etna, or the island of Ischia.

Typhon mythology is part of the Greek succession myth, which explained how Zeus came to rule the gods. Typhon’s story is also connected with that of Python (the serpent killed by Apollo), and both stories probably derived from several Near Eastern antecedents. Typhon was (from c. 500 BC) also identified with the Egyptian god of destruction Set. In later accounts Typhon was often confused with the Giants.

Illuyanka is probably a compound, consisting of two words for “snake”, Proto-Indo-European *hillu- and *heng(w)eh-. The same compound members, inverted, appear in Latin anguilla “eel”. The *h₁illu- word is cognate to English eel, the anka- word to Sanskrit ahi.

In the early Vedic religion, Vritra (‘enveloper’) is a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and adversary of Indra. In Hinduism, Vritra is identified as an Asura. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi (‘snake’). He appears as a dragon blocking the course of the rivers and is heroically slain by Indra.

According to the Rig Veda, Vritra kept the waters of the world captive until he was killed by Indra, who destroyed all the 99 fortresses of Vritra (although the fortresses are sometimes attributed to Sambara) before liberating the imprisoned rivers.

Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: ezen á.ki.tum, akiti-šekinku, á.ki.ti.še.gur.ku, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu or rêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.

The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.

The battle between Vahagn and the Vishap 

The Vishap is a dragon in Armenian mythology closely associated with water, similar to the Leviathan. It is usually depicted as a winged snake or with a combination of elements from different animals. Mount Ararat was the main home of the Vishap. The volcanic character of the Araratian peak and its earthquakes may have suggested its association with the Vishap.

Sometimes with its children, the Vishap used to steal children or toddlers and put a small evil spirit of their own brood in their stead. According to ancient beliefs, the Vishap ascended to the sky or descended therefrom to earth, causing thunderous storms, whirlwinds, absorption of the sun (causing an eclipse).

According to ancient legends, the dragon fought Vahagn Vishapakagh (Vahagn the Dragon Reaper), a god of fire and war worshiped anciently and historically in Armenia. He was also a sun-god.

The Vedic Agni, too, like Indra and Vahagn, is a god of war and also a slayer of dragons. Indeed, Vahagn’s name appears to be composed of elements related to the Sanskrit vah “to bring” plus agni “fire”. Vahagn is thus simply the “bringer of fire”. In this capacity he may be equated, then, with the Greek Prometheus and the Vedic Matarisvan, both of whom stole the fire of Jupiter (i.e. from Zeus, in the first instance and Dyaus Pitar in the second).

Vahagn was invoked as a god of courage, later identified with the Greek deity Heracles. The priests of Vahévahian temple, who claimed Vahagn as their own ancestor, placed a statue of the Greek hero in their sanctuary. In the Armenian translation of the Bible, “Heracles, worshipped at Tyr” is renamed “Vahagn”.

All the gods, according to the Euhemerist belief, had been living men; Vahagn likewise was introduced within the ranks of the Armenian kings, as a son of the Orontid Dynasty (or Yervanduni dynasty, 6th century B.C.), together with his brothers — Bab and Tiran.

The name of the Armenian princely house of Vahevunis is believed to derive from Vahagn. The Vahevunis were ranked high in the Royal Register of Armenia, recorded by King Valarshak. In pre-Christian Armenia, the Vahevunis hereditarily possessed the temple town of Ashtishat on the left bank of the Aratzani river and most likely also held the post of the Sparapet, i.e., the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Armenian Army.

Verethragna

Vahagn was linked to Verethragna, an Avestan language neuter noun literally meaning “smiting of resistance” and the hypostasis of victory in the texts of the Avesta; the name turned into Vahagn (the Avestan “th” becoming “h” in Arsacid Middle Persian), later on to take the form of Vahagn.

Representing this concept is the divinity Verethragna, who is the hypostasis of “victory”, and “as a giver of victory Verethragna plainly enjoyed the greatest popularity. The neuter noun verethragna is related to Avestan verethra, ‘obstacle’ and verethragnan, ‘victorious’. The word is cognate with Vedic vṛtra (lit. ‘enveloper’), a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and adversary of Indra in the early Vedic religion.

The name and, to some extent, the deity has correspondences in Armenian Vahagn and Vram, Buddhist Sogdian Wshn, Manichaen Parthian Wryhrm, Kushan Bactrian Orlagno. While the figure of Verethragna is highly complex, parallels have also been drawn between it and (variously) Vedic Indra, Puranic Vishnu, Manichaean Adamas, Chaldean/Babylonian Nergal, Egyptian Horus, Hellenic Ares and Heracles.

In the Zoroastrian hierarchy of angels, Bahram is a helper of Asha Vahishta (Avestan, middle Persian: Ardvahisht; Aša Vahišta, Arta Vahišta), “Best Truth”), the Amesha Spenta responsible for the luminaries. Asha Vahishta is closely associated with fire. Fire is “grandly conceived as a force informing all the other Amesha Spentas, giving them warmth and the spark of life.”

Asha, also arta, is a concept of cardinal importance to Zoroastrian theology and doctrine. Its Old Persian equivalent is arta-. In Middle Iranian languages the term appears as ard-. The Middle Persian descendant is Ashawahist or Ardwahisht; New Persian Ardibehesht or Ordibehesht.

In the moral sphere, aša/arta represents what has been called “the decisive confessional concept of Zoroastrianism”. The opposite of Avestan aša is druj, “deceit, falsehood”. The significance of the term is complex, with a highly nuanced range of meaning. It is commonly summarized in accord with its contextual implications of ‘truth’ and ‘right(eousness)’, ‘order’ and ‘right working’.

In addition to the role of fire as the agent of Truth, fire, among its various other manifestations, is also “the fire of judicial ordeal, prototype of the fiery torrent of judgement day, when all will receive their just deserts ‘by fire and by Aša’.”

‘Aša’ derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root as ‘Airyaman’, the divinity of healing who is closely associated with Asha Vahishta. In the Avesta, airyaman (or airiiaman) is both an Avestan language common noun as well as the proper name of a Zoroastrian divinity.

The common noun is a theological and social term literally meaning “member of (the) community or tribe.” In a secondary development, the common noun became the proper name of a divinity Airyaman, who is the yazata of health and healing. In Zoroastrian tradition, Avestan Airyaman is Middle Persian Erman (Ērmān).

In the astronomical and calendrical reforms of the Sassanids (205-651 CE), the planet Mars was named Bahram. Zaehner attributes this to the syncretic influences of the Chaldean astral-theological system, where Babylonian Nergal is both the god of war and the name of the red planet.

According to Zoroastrians and Hindus the Avestan Verethragna derived from the warrior god Indra. However, there is no valid justification for supposing that the Proto-Aryan adjective *vrtraghan was specifically connected with *Indra or any other particular god.”

In the Avesta it is the hero warrior-priest Fereydun who battles the serpent Aži Dahāka, an evil figure in Persian mythology, evident in ancient Persian folklore as Aži Dahāka, which is associated with Vedic Vritra. It is the name of an Iranian mythical king and hero from the kingdom of Varena known as an emblem of victory, justice, and generosity in the Persian literature,

Aži (nominative ažiš) is the Avestan word for “serpent” or “dragon.” It is cognate to the Vedic Sanskrit word ahi, “snake”. The original meaning of dahāka is uncertain. In Persian mythology, Dahāka is treated as a proper noun, and is the source of the Ḍaḥḥāk (Zahhāk) of the Shāhnāme. Despite the negative aspect of Aži Dahāka in mythology, dragons have been used on some banners of war throughout the history of Iranian peoples.

Fereydun (Avestan: Θraētaona), Proto-Iranian Θraitauna- (Avestan Θraētaona-) and Proto-Indo-Iranian Traitaunas is a derivative (with augmentative suffix -una/-auna) of Tritas, the name of a deity or hero reflected in the Vedic Trita and the Avestan Θrita.

Both names are identical to the adjective meaning “the third”, a term used of a minor deity associated with two other deities to form a triad. In the Indian Vedas, Trita is associated with gods of thunder and wind.

Trita is also called Āptya, a name that is probably cognate with Āθβiya, the name of Thraetaona’s father in the Avestā, Zoroastrian texts collated in the third century. Traitaunas may therefore be interpreted as “the great son of Tritas”. The name was borrowed from Parthian into Classical Armenian as Hrudēn.

Trita (“the Third”) is a minor deity of the Rigveda. He is associated with the Maruts, with Vayu and with Indra, like Indra, or as Indra’s assistant, fighting Tvastar, Vrtra and Vala. He is called Āptya, the deity of the Apas (waters).

Ap (áp-) is the Vedic Sanskrit term for “water”, which in Classical Sanskrit only occurs in the plural, ‘Varuna’ or āpas (sometimes re-analysed as a thematic singular, āpa-), whence Hindi āp. The term is from PIE hap”water”. In Hinduism, it is also the name of the deva Varuna a personification of water, one of the Vasus in most later Puranic lists.

The Indo-Iranian word also survives as the Persian word for water, āb, e.g. in Punjab (from panj-āb “five waters”). In archaic ablauting contractions, the laryngeal of the PIE root remains visible in Vedic Sanskrit, e.g. pratīpa- “against the current”, from *proti-hxp-o-.

Varuna is a Vedic deity associated first with sky, later with waters as well as with Ṛta (justice) and Satya (truth). He is also mentioned in the Tamil grammar work Tolkāppiyam, as the god of sea and rain. His relationship with waters, rivers and oceans is mentioned in the Vedas.

In the earliest layer of the Rigveda, Varuna is the guardian of moral law, one who punishes those who sin without remorse, and who forgives those who are with remorse. In the Hindu Puranas, Varuna is the god of oceans.

The theonym Varuṇa is a derivation from the verbal vṛ (“to surround, to cover” or “to restrain, bind”) by means of a suffigal -uṇa-, for an interpretation of the name as “he who covers or binds”, in reference to the cosmological ocean or river encircling the world, but also in reference to the “binding” by universal law or Ṛta.

The etymological identification of the name Ouranos with the Sanskrit Varuṇa is based in the derivation of both names from the PIE root *ŭer with a sense of “binding” – the Indic king-god Varuṇa binds the wicked, the Greek king-god Ouranos binds the Cyclopes.

While the derivation of the name Varuṇa from this root is undisputed, this derivation of the Greek name is now widely rejected in favour of derivation from the root *wers- “to moisten, drip” (Sanskrit vṛṣ “to rain, pour”).

In the Rigveda, several hymns are dedicated to “the waters” (āpas). In the oldest of these the waters are connected with the drought of Indra. Agni, the god of fire, has a close association with water and is often referred to as Apām Napāt “offspring of the waters”. The female deity Apah is the presiding deity of Purva Ashadha (The former invincible one) asterism in Vedic astrology.

Apam Napat is an eminent figure of the Indo-Iranian pantheon. In the Rig Veda, Apām Napāt (Lord Varuna) is the angel of rain. Apam Napat created all existential beings. In Zoroastrianism, Apąm Napāt is a divinity of water. Apām Napāt in Sanskrit mean “son of waters” and grandson of Apah (water) and Apąm Napāt in Avestan means “Fire on Water”.

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

In Yasht 19 of the Avesta Apąm Napāt appears as the Creator of mankind. Here, there is an evident link between the glory of sovereignty (Khvarenah) and Apąm Napāt who protects Khvarenah as the royal glory of Iranian kings.

Apām Napāt is sometimes described as the supreme creator deity who originates in the cosmic waters. Apam Napat has a golden splendour and is said to be kindled by the cosmic waters.

The reference to fire may have originally referred to flames from natural gas or oil seepages surfacing through water. This Will-o’-the-wisp-like phenomenon would explain the otherwise puzzling concept of fire arising in water (fire and water being usually conceived of as opposing elements, with water the natural quencher of fire, rather than its engenderer).

In this connection, there is a suggestive conjecture that the word “naphtha” came (via Greek, where it meant any sort of petroleum) from the name “Apam Napat”.

Kur

Kur, the dragon

Kur was an underworld deity in the mythology of Sumer, and the monstrous creature that roughly corresponded to the Babylonian Tiamat and the Hebrew Leviathan. Some scholars have corresponded Tiamat with the Hebrew Tehom.

There are three great Sumerian myths of powerful entities overcoming, or slaying, Kur. However, given the complexity of the Sumerian word kur, some myths and legends that utilize it refer to a mountain or foreign land or to the nether world or to the dragon that lived in the nether world. Therefore, it is important to distinguish which entity is being referred to in a given myth.

Kur lived in the empty space between the primal sea and the earth’s crust. Kur personifyies the home of the dead in the underworld, Hell, the “river of the dead”. It is likely that this is the namesake for the monstrous dragon that dwelled at the bottom of this ‘great below.’

All references to Kur, tiamat, and Tehom, signify a primal force associated with either an abyss (Tehom), a sea (Tiamat), a mountain (Kur), and a reptile/serpent (all three). This primeval force has inspired many tales and entire cultures of people.

Kur is often associated with both mountain and serpent. Although Kur was sometimes the home of the dead, it is possible that the flames on escaping gas plumes in parts of the Zagros mountains would have given those mountains a meaning not entirely consistent with the primary meaning of mountains and an abode of a god.

A volcanic mountain would release serpentine-appearing streams of lava. The violent splitting of Pangaea and resulting rise of lava from below could explain this tale. Enlil separating An-Ki would be the land splitting.

This results in lava rising, which would be the primeval waters over taking Ereshkigal (“queen of the great earth”). The lava would then meet the sea and cool, thus producing steam in a violent manner. This would correlate to Enki battling Kur (Enki is the water-god). Enki’s assumed victory would be the sea cooling the lava completely.

The Sumerian word kur corresponds to several concepts and meanings that developed over time. Kur was an enormous serpent, or snake-like dragon, living in the bottom of the ‘great below,’ where Kur kept contact with the primeval waters.

One of the primary meanings of kur is ‘mountain,’ which likely influenced the word’s later translation into ‘foreign land,’ and then again later simply into ‘land’ in general and as a determiner is placed before the name of a state or kingdom. The name for Sumer itself can be described as kur-gal, or ‘great land.’ The Assyrian pronunciation is mât.

The cosmic concept for the word kur, which can be identified with ki-gal, or ‘great below,’ which roughly translates to ‘nether world.’ Thus, the cosmic meaning of kur is the empty space between the primal sea (Abzu) and the earth’s crust (Ma), which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records.

Kur and Ereshkigal

The Sumerian afterlife was a dark, dreary cavern located deep below the ground, where inhabitants were believed to continue “a shadowy version of life on earth”. This bleak domain was known as Kur, and was believed to be ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal. All souls went to the same afterlife, and a person’s actions during life had no effect on how the person would be treated in the world to come.

The entrance to Kur was believed to be located in the Zagros mountains in the far east. It had seven gates, through which a soul needed to pass. The god Neti was the gatekeeper. Ereshkigal’s sukkal, or messenger, was the god Namtar. Galla were a class of demons that were believed to reside in the underworld; their primary purpose appears to have been to drag unfortunate mortals back to Kur. They are frequently referenced in magical texts, and some texts describe them as being seven in number.

Several extant poems describe the galla dragging the god Dumuzid into the underworld. The later Mesopotamians knew this underworld by its East Semitic name: Irkalla. During the Akkadian Period, Ereshkigal’s role as the ruler of the underworld was assigned to Nergal, the god of death. The Akkadians attempted to harmonize this dual rulership of the underworld by making Nergal Ereshkigal’s husband.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (EREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld. In Sumerian myths, Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. In later East Semitic myths she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal.

Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Great Lady of the Earth” or “Lady of the Great Earth”.

In the ancient Sumerian poem Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld Ereshkigal is described as Inanna’s older sister. The two main myths involving Ereshkigal are the story of Inanna’s descent into the Underworld and the story of Ereshkigal’s marriage to the god Nergal. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla.

According to the introductory passage of the ancient Sumerian epic poem, “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld,” Ereshkigal was forcibly abducted by Kur, who carried her away to the nether world where she was forced to become queen of the Underworld against her will immediately after the formation of the world.

In order to avenge the abduction of Ereshkigal, Enki, the god of water, set out in a boat and sailed to the nether world to attack Kur and avenge the theft. The Kur defends itself by pelting Enki with rocks of many sizes and by sending the waves beneath Enki’s boat to attack Enki as the primeval waters attacked the ship from all sides.

This particular myth of Kur is found in a prologue to Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World as opposed to its own tablet. As such, the prologue doesn’t complete the story; it merely recounts the battle in a brief passage as part of the introduction to another. The poem never actually explains who the ultimate victor of the battle is, but it is clear, however, from Enki’s epithets such as ‘Lord of the Abyss’, that Enki overpowered the dragon and returned victorious.

Hades and Persephone

The story about the abduction of Ereshkigal is similar to the myth of the rape of Greek Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, that became the formidable, venerable majestic princess or queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. The Greek story is probably derived from the ancient Sumerian story.  In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina, and her mother, Ceres and her father Jupiter.

Persephone was married to Hades, the god of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis, and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.

Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries, which promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. In some versions, Persephone is the mother of Zeus’s sons Dionysus, Iacchus, or Zagreus. The origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on very old agrarian cults of agricultural communities.

Persephone was commonly worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the process of being carried off by Hades.

Inanna and Dumuzid

In the Sumerian epic poem of “Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld” Inanna descends into the Underworld, apparently seeking to extend her powers there. Inanna is struck dead and her dead corpse is hung on a hook in the Underworld for everyone to see. It is demanded that Inanna in order to be free have to find someone to take her place in the underworld. When Inanna discovers that her husband Dumuzid has not mourned her death she becomes ireful towards him and orders the demons to take Dumuzid as her replacement.

Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna, the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and dream interpretation, the so-called “heavenly grape-vine”, stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons. The Sumerians believed that, while Geshtinanna was in Heaven and Dumuzid in Kur, the earth became dry and barren, thus causing the season of summer.

The cult of Dumuzid was later spread to the Levant and to Greece, where he became known under the West Semitic name Adonis. Adonis’s name was a borrowing from the Canaanite word ʼadōn, meaning “lord”which is related to Adonai (Hebrew: אֲדֹנָי‎), one of the titles used to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day.

Modern scholars consider the story of Aphrodite and Adonis to be derived from the earlier Mesopotamian myth of Inanna (Ishtar) and Dumuzid (Tammuz). Syrian Adonis is Gaus. or Aos, akin to Egyptian Osiris, the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are associated with vegetation.

Enlil and Ninlil

Enlil and Ninlil is a Sumerian poem describing the affair between Enlil and the goddess Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, the consort goddess of Enlil.

Ninlil lived in Dilmun with her family. Ninlil’s mother Nunbarshegunu instructs Ninlil to go bathe in the river. Ninlil goes to the river, where Enlil, who lie with her by the water, seduces her and impregnates her with their son, the moon-god Nanna. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to Kur, the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.

Ninlil follows Enlil to the underworld, where he impersonates the “man of the gate”. Ninlil demands to know where Enlil has gone, but Enlil, still impersonating the gatekeeper, refuses to answer. He then seduces Ninlil and impregnates her with Nergal, the god of death.

The same scenario repeats, only this time Enlil instead impersonates the “man of the river of the nether world, the man-devouring river”; once again, he seduces Ninlil and impregnates her with the god Ninazu. Finally, Enlil impersonates the “man of the boat”; once again, he seduces Ninlil and impregnates her with Enbilulu, the god of rivers and canals. In some texts Ninlil is also the mother of Ninurta.

The story of Enlil’s courtship with Ninlil is primarily a genealogical myth invented to explain the origins of the moon-god Nanna, as well as the various gods of the Underworld, but it is also, to some a extent, a coming-of-age story describing Enlil and Ninlil’s emergence from adolescence into adulthood.

The Sun goddess of the Earth and the Sun god of Heaven

In addition to the Sun goddess of Arinna, the Hittites also worshipped the Sun goddess of the Earth (Hittite: taknaš dUTU, Luwian: tiyamaššiš Tiwaz) and the Sun god of Heaven (Hittite: nepišaš Ištanu), while the Luwians originally worshipped the old Proto-Indo-European Sun god Tiwaz.

The Sun goddess of the Earth was the goddess of the underworld. Her Hurrian equivalent was Allani and her Sumerian/Akkadian equivalent was Ereshkigal, both of which had a marked influence on the Hittite goddess from an early date. In the Neo-Hittite period, the Hattian underworld god, Lelwani was also syncretised with her.

The Sun goddess of the Earth, as a personification of the chthonic aspects of the Sun, had the task of opening the doors to the Underworld. She was also the source of all evil, impurity, and sickness on Earth. Otherwise she is mostly attested in curses, oaths, and purification rituals.

In the Hittite and Hurrian religions the Sun goddess of the Earth played an important role in the death cult and was understood to be the ruler of the world of the dead. For the Luwians there is a Bronze Age source which refers to the “Sun god of the Earth” (cuneiform Luwian: tiyamašši- dU-za): “If he is alive, may Tiwaz release him, if he is dead, may the Sun god of the Earth release him”.

The Sun god of Heaven was identified with the Hurrian solar deity, Šimige. He was the protector of the Hittite king, indicated by a winged solar disc on the royal seals, and was the god of the kingdom par excellence. He played an important role as the foremost oath god in interstate treaties. As a result of the influence of the Mesopotamian Sun god Šamaš, the Sun god of Heaven also gained an important role as the god of law, legality, and truth.

Tiwaz was the descendant of the male Sun god of the Indo-European religion, Dyeus, who was superseded among the Hittites by the Hattian Sun goddess of Arinna. The name of the Proto-Anatolian Sun god can be reconstructed as *Diuod-, which derives from the Proto-Indo-European word *dei- (“shine”, “glow”). This name is cognate with the Greek Zeus, Latin Jupiter, and Norse Tyr.

He is often referred to as “Father” and invoked along with the “Father gods”. His epithet “Tiwaz of the Oath” indicates that he was an oath-god. While Tiwaz (and the related Palaic god Tiyaz) retained a promenant role in the pantheon, the Hittite cognate deity Šiwat was largely eclipsed by the Sun goddess of Arinna, becoming a god of the day, especially the day of death.

Ma – Nammu

Ma is a Sumerian word meaning “land” that in Sumerian mythology was also used to regard Primordial Land. There seems to be some loss in records as to the transition, but the same name Ma appears again later, also tied to the Earth, in Ma being referred to as “Mother of the mountain” – in this case, Kur (Mountain) the first dragon god.

It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and it is suggested that Enki during the earliest period had a subordinate position to a goddess, taking the role of divine consort or high priest, later taking priority.

Nammu or Namma was a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.

Nammu, a Sumerian primeval goddess, was the Goddess sea (Engur) and the mother goddess of the primeval creative matter that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth).

She is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”, 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. 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. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods.

Abzu

The Abzu or Apsu (ZU.AB; Sumerian: abzu; Akkadian: apsû; lit. ab=’water’ zu=’deep’), also called engur (LAGAB×HAL; Sumerian: engur also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), was the name for the primeval sea or the fresh water from underground aquifers which was given a religious fertilising quality in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology.

Lakes, springs, rivers, wells, and other sources of fresh water were thought to draw their water from the abzu. In Sumerian E-A means “the house of water”, and it has been suggested that this was originally the name for the shrine to the god at Eridu, a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline. It has also been suggested that the original non-anthropomorphic divinity at Eridu was not Enki but Abzu.

It was the first temple known to have been built in Southern Iraq. Four separate excavations at the site of Eridu have demonstrated the existence of a shrine dating back to the earliest Ubaid period, more than 6,500 years ago. Over the following 4,500 years, the temple was expanded 18 times, until it was abandoned during the Persian period.

The Enki temple had at its entrance a pool of fresh water, and excavation has found numerous carp bones, suggesting collective feasts. Carp are shown in the twin water flows running into the later God Enki, suggesting continuity of these features over a very long period.

These features were found at all subsequent Sumerian temples, suggesting that this temple established the pattern for all subsequent Sumerian temples. “All rules laid down at Eridu were faithfully observed”.

In the city of Eridu, the Sumerian god Enki (Ea in the Akkadian language) was believed to have lived in the abzu since before human beings were created. His wife Damgalnuna, his mother Nammu, his advisor Isimud and a variety of subservient creatures, such as the gatekeeper Lahmu, also lived in the abzu.

Damgalnuna (“great wife of the prince”) or Damkina (“true wife”), also known as Ninḫursaĝ, was a mother goddess with many epithets, including shassuru (“womb goddess”) or 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.

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.

Chaoskampf

Abzu (apsû) 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 (Akkadian: TI.AMAT or TAM.TUM, Greek: Thaláttē), corresponding to Nammu in Sumerian mythology, who was a creature of salt water.

Abzu (or Apsû) fathered upon Tiamat the elder deities Lahmu and Lahamu (masc. the “hairy”), a title given to the gatekeepers at Enki’s Abzu/E’engurra-temple in Eridu. Laḫmu, Lakhmu, Lache, Lumasi, or Assyro-Akkadian Lammasu, is a a protective and beneficent deity deity from Akkadian mythology that represents the zodiac, parent stars, or constellations.

Lahmu and his sister Laḫamu are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, the sky father and earth mother, who birthed the gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon. Laḫmu is depicted as a bearded man with a red sash – usually with three strands – and four to six curls on his head and they are also depicted as monsters, which each encompasses a specific constellation. He is often associated with the Kusarikku or “Bull-Man”.

In Sumerian times Laḫmu may have meant “the muddy one”. Lahmu guarded the gates of the Abzu temple of Enki at Eridu. He and his sister Laḫamu are primordial deities in the Babylonian Epic of Creation Enuma Elis and Lahmu may be related to or identical with “Lahamu”, one of Tiamat’s creatures in that epic.

Lahmu and Lahamu, in turn, were the parents of the ‘ends’ of the heavens (Anshar, from an-šar = heaven-totality/end) and the earth (Kishar); Anshar and Kishar were considered to meet at the horizon, becoming, thereby, the parents of Anu (Heaven) and Ki (Earth).

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is refered to as a woman and is described as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

She was the “shining” personification of salt water who roared and smote in the chaos of original creation. She and Apsu filled the cosmic abyss with the primeval waters. She is “Ummu-Hubur who formed all things”.

Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (the deeps, abyss), in the Book of Genesis 1:2.

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. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.

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 later murder Apsu in order to usurp his lordship of the universe. 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. Correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed.

In the myth recorded on cuneiform tablets, the deity Enki (later Ea) believed correctly that Apsu was planning to murder the younger deities, upset with the chaos they created, and so captured him and held him prisoner beneath his temple the E-Abzu.

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.

With Enki it is an interesting change of gender symbolism, the fertilising agent is also water, Sumerian “a” or “Ab” which also means “semen”. In one evocative passage in a Sumerian hymn, Enki stands at the empty riverbeds and fills them with his ‘water'”.

This angered Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer”, their son, who reported the event to Tiamat, who enraged goes to war upon her husband’s murderers. She fashioned eleven monsters to battle the deities in order to avenge Apsu’s death, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with “poison instead of blood”.

The deities gathered in terror, but Anu, first extracting a promise that he would be revered as “king of the gods”, overcame her, armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club, and an invincible spear. Anu was later replaced by Enlil and in the late version that has survived after the First Dynasty of Babylon by Marduk, the son of Ea.

Taking on the form of a massive sea dragon, she is then slain by Enki’s son, the storm-god Marduk. Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates, her tail became the Milky Way.

The emergence of Enki as the divine lover of Damgalnun, and the divine battle between the younger Igigi divinities and Abzu, saw the Abzu, the underground waters of the Aquifer, becoming the place in which the foundations of the temple were built.

Tiamat possessed the 3 Tablets of Destiny and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, the deity she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host, who wore them as a breastplate. They gave him great power. She wanted to establish him as ruler and leader of all gods before she was killed by Marduk, and placed him as the general of her army.

However, like Tiamat, Kingu was to be captured and slain by Marduk. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablet of Destinies, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat.

His red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi deities. Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings.

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.

The motif of Chaoskampf (German: “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon.

The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet or the battle of Horus and Set.

The origins of the Chaoskampf myth most likely lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion whose descendants almost all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos.

The Tiamat myth is one of the earliest recorded versions of the Chaoskampf, the battle between a culture hero and a chthonic or aquatic monster, serpent or dragon. Chaoskampf motifs in other mythologies linked directly or indirectly to the Tiamat myth include the Hittite Illuyanka myth, and in Greek tradition Apollo’s killing of the Python as a necessary action to take over the Delphic Oracle.

Indo-European examples of this mythic trope include Thor vs. Jörmungandr (Norse), Tarḫunz vs. Illuyanka (Hittite), Indra vs. Vritra (Vedic), Yahweh vs. Leviathan (Hebrew), Θraētaona vs. Aži Dahāka (Avestan) and Zeus vs. Typhon (Greek) among others.

In Norse mythology, Ginnungagap (“gaping abyss”, “yawning void”) is the primordial void, mentioned in the Gylfaginning, the Eddaic text recording Norse cosmogony. Ginnunga- is usually interpreted as deriving from a verb meaning “gape” or “yawn”, but no such word occurs in Old Norse except in verse 3 of the Eddic poem “Vǫluspá”, “gap var ginnunga”, which may be a play on the term.

The beginning of everything

Geshtu-(E) (also Geshtu, Gestu) is, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, a minor god of intelligence. Legend says that he was sacrificed by the great gods and his blood was used in the creation of mankind.

Kingu, also spelled Qingu, meaning “unskilled laborer”, was a god in Babylonian mythology, and—after the murder of his father Abzu—the consort of the goddess Tiamat, his mother, who wanted to establish him as ruler and leader of all gods before she was killed by Marduk.

Tiamat gave Kingu the 3 Tablets of Destiny, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power. She placed him as the general of her army. However, like Tiamat, Kingu was eventually killed by Marduk.

Marduk mixed Kingu’s blood with earth and used the clay to mold the first human beings, while Tiamat’s body created the earth and the skies. Kingu then went to live in the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, along with the other deities who had sided with Tiamat.

In Norse mythology, Ymir, Aurgelmir, Brimir, or Bláinn is the ancestor of all jötnar. Ymir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional material, in the Prose Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century, and in the poetry of skalds.

Taken together, several stanzas from four poems collected in the Poetic Edda refer to Ymir as a primeval being who was born from venom that dripped from the icy rivers Élivágar and lived in the grassless void of Ginnungagap.

Ymir birthed a male and female from the pits of his arms, and his legs together begat a six-headed being. The gods Odin, Vili and Vé fashioned the Earth (elsewhere personified as a goddess; Jörð) from his flesh, from his blood the ocean, from his bones the mountains, from his hair the trees, from his brains the clouds, from his skull the heavens, and from his eyebrows the middle realm in which mankind lives, Midgard. In addition, one stanza relates that the dwarfs were given life by the gods from Ymir’s flesh and blood (or the Earth and sea).

In the Prose Edda, a narrative is provided that draws from, adds to, and differs from the accounts in the Poetic Edda. According to the Prose Edda, after Ymir was formed from the elemental drops, so too was Auðumbla, a primeval cow, whose milk Ymir fed from.

The Prose Edda also states that three gods killed Ymir; the brothers Odin, Vili and Vé, and details that, upon Ymir’s death, his blood caused an immense flood. Scholars have debated as to what extent Snorri’s account of Ymir is an attempt to synthesize a coherent narrative for the purpose of the Prose Edda and to what extent Snorri drew from traditional material outside of the corpus that he cites.

By way of historical linguistics and comparative mythology, scholars have linked Ymir to Tuisto, the Proto-Germanic being attested by Tacitus in his 1st century AD work Germania and have identified Ymir as an echo of a primordial being reconstructed in Proto-Indo-European mythology.

According to Tacitus’s Germania (AD 98), Tuisto (or Tuisco) is the divine ancestor of the Germanic peoples. The figure remains the subject of some scholarly discussion, largely focused upon etymological connections and comparisons to figures in later (particularly Norse) Germanic mythology.

The Germania manuscript corpus contains two primary variant readings of the name. The most frequently occurring, Tuisto, is commonly connected to the Proto-Germanic root *twai – “two” and its derivative *twis – “twice” or “doubled”, thus giving Tuisto the core meaning “double”.

Any assumption of a gender inference is entirely conjectural, as the tvia/tvis roots are also the roots of any number of other concepts/words in the Germanic languages. Take for instance the Germanic “twist”, which, in all but the English has the primary meaning of “dispute/conflict”.

The second variant of the name, occurring originally in manuscript E, reads Tuisco. One proposed etymology for this variant reconstructs a Proto-Germanic *tiwisko and connects this with Proto-Germanic *Tiwaz, giving the meaning “son of Tiu”. This interpretation would thus make Tuisco the son of the sky-god (Proto-Indo-European *Dyeus) and the earth-goddess.

Connections have been proposed between the 1st century figure of Tuisto and the hermaphroditic primeval being Ymir in later Norse mythology, attested in 13th century sources, based upon etymological and functional similarity. Meyer (1907) sees the connection as so strong, that he considers the two to be identical.

Lindow (2001), while mindful of the possible semantic connection between Tuisto and Ymir, notes an essential functional difference: while Ymir is portrayed as an “essentially… negative figure” – Tuisto is described as being “celebrated” (celebrant) by the early Germanic peoples in song, with Tacitus reporting nothing negative about Tuisto.

Jacob (2005) attempts to establish a genealogical relationship between Tuisto and Ymir based on etymology and a comparison with (post-)Vedic Indian mythology: as Tvastr, through his daughter Saranyū and her husband Vivaswān, is said to have been the grandfather of the twins Yama and Yami, so Jacob argues that the Germanic Tuisto (assuming a connection with Tvastr) must originally have been the grandfather of Ymir (cognate to Yama).

Incidentally, Indian mythology also places Manu (cognate to Germanic Mannus), the Vedic progenitor of mankind, as a son of Vivaswān, thus making him the brother of Yama/Ymir.

Tacitus relates that “ancient songs” (Latin carminibus antiquis) of the Germanic peoples celebrated Tuisto as “a god, born of the earth” (deum terra editum). These songs further attributed to him a son, Mannus, who in turn had three sons, the offspring of whom were referred to as Ingaevones, Herminones and Istaevones, living near the Ocean (proximi Oceano), in the interior (medii), and the remaining parts (ceteri) of the geographical region of Germania, respectively.

Tacitus’s report falls squarely within the ethnographic tradition of the classical world, which often fused anthropogony, ethnogony, and theogony together into a synthetic whole. The succession of father-son-three sons parallels occurs in both Germanic and non-Germanic Indo-European areas. The essential characteristics of the myth have been theorized as ultimately originated in Proto-Indo-European society around 2,000 BCE.

According to Rives (1999), the fact that the ancient Germanic peoples claimed descent from an earth-born god was used by Tacitus to support his contention that they were an indigenous population: the Latin word indigena was often used in the same sense as the Greek autochthonos, meaning literally ‘[born from] the land itself’.

Lindauer (1975) notes that, although this claim is to be judged as one made out of simple ignorance of the facts on the part of Tacitus, he was not entirely wrong, as he made the judgement based on a comparison with the relatively turbulent Mediterranean region of his day.

In 1498, a monk named Annio da Viterbo published fragments known as “Pseudo-Berossus”, now considered a forgery, claiming that Babylonian records had shown that Tuiscon or Tuisto, the fourth son of Noah, had been the first ruler of Scythia and Germany following the dispersion of peoples, with him being succeeded by his son Mannus as the second king.

Later historians (e.g. Johannes Aventinus) managed to furnish numerous further details, including the assertion by James Anderson that this Tuiscon was in fact none other than the biblical Ashkenaz, son of Gomer.

Purusha is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.

In early Vedas, Purusa meant a cosmic man whose sacrifice by the gods created all life. This was one of many creation theories discussed in the Vedas. The idea parallels Norse Ymir, with the myth’s origin in Proto-Indo-European religion.

Pangu is the first living being and the creator of all in some versions of Chinese mythology. The first writer to record the myth of Pangu was Xu Zheng during the Three Kingdoms period c 220–280. Recently his name was found in a tomb dated 194 AD.

In the beginning, there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. This chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg for about 18,000 years. Within it, the perfectly opposed principles of Yin and Yang became balanced, and Pangu emerged (or woke up) from the egg. Pangu is usually depicted as a primitive, hairy giant who has horns on his head and wears fur.

Pangu began creating the world: he separated Yin from Yang with a swing of his giant axe, creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang). To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky.

With each day, the sky grew ten feet (3 meters) higher, the Earth ten feet thicker, and Pangu ten feet taller. This task took yet another 18,000 years. In some versions of the story, Pangu is aided in this task by the four most prominent beasts, namely the Turtle, the Qilin, the Phoenix, and the Dragon.

After the 18,000 years had elapsed, Pangu died. His breath became the wind, mist and clouds, his voice became thunder, his left eye became the sun, his right eye became the moon, his head became the mountains and extremes of the world, his blood became rivers, his muscles became fertile land, his facial hair became the stars and Milky Way, his fur became bushes and forests. his bones became valuable minerals, his bone marrow became sacred diamonds, his sweat became rain, and the fleas on his fur carried by the wind became animals.

From matriarchy to patriarchy

Robert Graves considered Tiamat’s death by Marduk as evidence for his hypothesis of an ancient shift in power from a matriarchal society to a patriarchy. Grave’s ideas were later developed into the Great Goddess theory by Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone etc.

The theory suggests Tiamat and other ancient monster figures were presented as former supreme deities of peaceful, woman-centered religions that were turned into monsters when violent. Their defeat at the hands of a male hero corresponded to the manner in which male-dominated religions overthrew ancient society.

Sabazios is the horseman and sky father god of the Phrygians and Thracians. In Indo-European languages, such as Phrygian, the -zios element in his name derives from dyeus, the common precursor of Latin deus (‘god’) and Greek Zeus.

Though the Greeks interpreted Phrygian Sabazios as both Zeus and Dionysus, representations of him, even into Roman times, show him always on horseback, as a nomadic horseman god, wielding his characteristic staff of power.

It seems likely that the migrating Phrygians brought Sabazios with them when they settled in Anatolia in the early first millennium BCE, and that the god’s origins are to be looked for in Macedonia and Thrace.

The recently discovered ancient sanctuary of Perperikon in modern-day Bulgaria is believed to be that of Sabazios. The Macedonians were also noted horsemen, horse-breeders and horse-worshippers up to the time of Philip II, whose name signifies “lover of horses”.

Possible early conflict between Sabazios and his followers and the indigenous mother goddess of Phrygia (Cybele) may be reflected in Homer’s brief reference to the youthful feats of Priam, who aided the Phrygians in their battles with Amazons.

An aspect of the compromise religious settlement, similar to the other such mythic adjustments throughout Aegean culture, can be read in the later Phrygian King Gordias’ adoption “with Cybele” of Midas.

One of the native religion’s creatures was the Lunar Bull. Sabazios’ relations with the goddess may be surmised in the way that his horse places a hoof on the head of the bull, in a Roman marble relief at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Though Roman in date, the iconic image appears to be much earlier.

Under the Roman Emperor Gordian III the god on horseback appears on coins minted at Tlos, in neighboring Lycia, and at Istrus, in the province of Lower Moesia, between Thrace and the Danube. It is generally thought that the young emperor’s grandfather came from an Anatolian family, because of his unusual cognomen, Gordianus.

The iconic image of the god or hero on horseback battling the chthonic serpent, on which his horse tramples, appears on Celtic votive columns, and with the coming of Christianity it was easily transformed into the image of Saint George and the Dragon, whose earliest known depictions are from tenth- and eleventh-century Cappadocia and eleventh-century Georgia and Armenia.

Among Roman inscriptions from Nicopolis ad Istrum, Sabazios is generally equated with Jove and mentioned alongside Mercury. Similarly in Hellenistic monuments, Sabazios is either explicitly (via inscriptions) or implicitly (via iconography) associated with Zeus.

On a marble slab from Philippopolis, Sabazios is depicted as a curly-haired and bearded central deity among several gods and goddesses. Under his left foot is a ram’s head, and he holds in his left hand a sceptre tipped with a hand in the benedictio latina gesture.

Sabazios is accompanied by busts on his right depicting Luna, Pan, and Mercury, and on his left by Sol, Fortuna, and Daphne. According to Macrobius, Liber and Helios were worshipped among the Thracians as Sabazios; this description fits other Classical accounts that identify Sabazios with Dionysos.

Sabazios is also associated with a number of archeological finds depicting a bronze, right hand in the benedictio latina gesture. The hand appears to have had ritual significance and may have been affixed to a sceptre (as the one carried by Sabazios on the Philippopolis slab).

Although there are many variations, the hand of Sabazios is typically depicted with a pinecone on the thumb and with a serpent or pair of serpents encircling the wrist and surmounting the bent ring and pinky fingers.

Additional symbols occasionally included on the hands of Sabazios include a lightning bolt over the index and middle fingers, a turtle and lizard on the back of the hand, an eagle, a ram, a leafless branch, the thyrsos, and the Mounted Heros.

The ecstatic Eastern rites practiced largely by women in Athens were thrown together for rhetorical purposes by Demosthenes in undermining his opponent Aeschines for participating in his mother’s cultic associations:

On attaining manhood you abetted your mother in her initiations and the other rituals, and read aloud from the cultic writings … You rubbed the fat-cheeked snakes and swung them above your head, crying Euoi saboiand hues attes, attes hues.

Transference of Sabazios to the Roman world appears to have been mediated in large part through Pergamum. The naturally syncretic approach of Greek religion blurred distinctions. Later Greek writers, like Strabo in the first century CE, linked Sabazios with Zagreus, among Phrygian ministers and attendants of the sacred rites of Rhea and Dionysos.

Strabo’s Sicilian contemporary, Diodorus Siculus, conflated Sabazios with the secret ‘second’ Dionysus, born of Zeus and Persephone, a connection that is not borne out by surviving inscriptions, which are entirely to Zeus Sabazios.

The Christian Clement of Alexandria had been informed that the secret mysteries of Sabazius, as practiced among the Romans, involved a serpent, a chthonic creature unconnected with the mounted skygod of Phrygia: “‘God in the bosom’ is a countersign of the mysteries of Sabazius to the adepts”. Clement reports: “This is a snake, passed through the bosom of the initiates”.

Much later, the Byzantine Greek encyclopedia, Suda (10th century?), flatly states: Sabazios … is the same as Dionysos. He acquired this form of address from the rite pertaining to him; for the barbarians call the bacchic cry “sabazein”.

Hence some of the Greeks too follow suit and call the cry “sabasmos”; thereby Dionysos [becomes] Sabazios. They also used to call “saboi” those places that had been dedicated to him and his Bacchantes … Demosthenes [in the speech] “On Behalf of Ktesiphon” [mentions them].

Some say that Saboi is the term for those who are dedicated to Sabazios, that is to Dionysos, just as those [dedicated] to Bakkhos [are] Bakkhoi. They say that Sabazios and Dionysos are the same. Thus some also say that the Greeks call the Bakkhoi Saboi.

In Roman sites, though an inscription built into the wall of the abbey church of San Venanzio at Ceperana suggested to a Renaissance humanist it had been built upon the foundations of a temple to Jupiter Sabazius, according to modern scholars not a single temple consecrated to Sabazius, the rider god of the open air, has been located.

Small votive hands, typically made of copper or bronze, are often associated with the cult of Sabazios. Many of these hands have a small perforation at the base which suggests they may have been attached to wooden poles and carried in processions. The symbolism of these objects is not well known.

The first Jews who settled in Rome were expelled in 139 BCE, along with Chaldaean astrologers by Cornelius Hispalus under a law which proscribed the propagation of the “corrupting” cult of “Jupiter Sabazius”, according to the epitome of a lost book of Valerius Maximus:

Gnaeus Cornelius Hispalus, praetor peregrinus in the year of the consulate of Marcus Popilius Laenas and Lucius Calpurnius, ordered the astrologers by an edict to leave Rome and Italy within ten days, since by a fallacious interpretation of the stars they perturbed fickle and silly minds, thereby making profit out of their lies.

The same praetor compelled the Jews, who attempted to infect the Roman custom with the cult of Jupiter Sabazius, to return to their homes. By this it is conjectured that the Romans identified the Jewish YHVH Tzevaot (“sa-ba-oth”, “of the Hosts”) as Jove Sabazius.

This mistaken connection of Sabazios and Sabaos has often been repeated. In a similar vein, Plutarch maintained that the Jews worshipped Dionysus, and that the day of Sabbath was a festival of Sabazius.

Plutarch also discusses the identification of the Jewish God with the “Egyptian” Typhon, an identification which he later rejects, however. The monotheistic Hypsistarians worshipped the Most High under this name, which may have been a form of the Jewish God.

Chaos

Chaos (Greek khaos) refers to the void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, or to the initial “gap” created by the original separation of heaven and earth. In Hesiod’s Theogony (c. 700 BC), Chaos was the first of the primordial deities, followed by Gaia (Earth), Tartarus (the nether abyss), and Eros (Love). From Chaos came Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night).

Greek χάος means “emptiness, vast void, chasm, abyss”, from the verb χαίνω, “gape, be wide open, etc.”, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵhehn-, cognate to Old English geanian, “to gape”, whence English yawn. It may also mean space, the expanse of air, and the nether abyss, infinite darkness. Pherecydes of Syros (fl. 6th century BC) interprets chaos as water, like something formless which can be differentiated.

The term chaos has been adopted in modern comparative mythology and religious studies as referring to the primordial state before creation. This by strictly combining two separate notions of primordial waters or a primordial darkness from which a new order emerges and a primordial state as a merging of opposites, such as heaven and earth, which must be separated by a creator deity in an act of cosmogony.

In both cases, chaos referring to a notion of a primordial state contains the cosmos in potentia but needs to be formed by a demiurge, an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe, before the world can begin its existence.

Timaeus, a character in two of Plato’s dialogues, Timaeus and Critias, describes the Demiurge as unreservedly benevolent, and so it desires a world as good as possible. The world remains imperfect, however, because the Demiurge created the world out of a chaotic, indeterminate non-being.

Chaos has been linked with the term tohu wa-bohu of Genesis 1:2. The term may refer to a state of non-being prior to creation or to a formless state. In the Book of Genesis, the spirit of God is moving upon the face of the waters, and the earliest state of the universe is like a “watery chaos”.

The mother goddess

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

She may have become Belet Ili (“Mistress of the Gods”) 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 Nintu. Alternative forms of her name include Mama and Mammitum.

Ma was a local goddess at Comana in Hellenistic Cappadocia. Her name Ma means “Mother”, and she also had the epithets “Invincible” and “Bringer of Victory”. She is interpreted as a mother goddess, but at the same time as a warrior goddess, as her name and epithets indicate both. She was associated with the transition of adulthood of both genders, and sacred prostitution was practiced during her biennial festivals.

Ma has been identified with a number of other deities, indicating her function. She has been compared to Cybele and Bellona. The ancient Greeks compared Ma to the goddess Enyo and Athena Nicephorus. Plutarch likened her with Semele and Athena. Ma introduced and worshiped at Macedonia region together with other foreign deities.

According to ancient geographers, Comana was situated in Cappadocia (and later Cataonia). Comana was a city of Cappadocia and later Cataonia (Latin: Comana Cataoniae; frequently called Comana Chryse or Aurea, i.e. “the golden”, to distinguish it from Comana in Pontus). The Hittite toponym Kummanni is considered likely to refer to Comana, but the identification is not considered proven.

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). The temple and its fame in ancient times as the place where the rites of Ma-Enyo, a variety of the great west Asian nature-goddess, were celebrated with much solemnity.

Mēn (“month; Moon”, presumably influenced by Avestan maŋha) was a lunar god worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. He is attested in various localised variants, such as Mēn Askaenos in Antioch in Pisidia, or Mēn Pharnakou at Ameria in Pontus.

Mēn is often found in association with Persianate elements, especially with the goddess Anahita. Lunar symbolism dominates his iconography. The god is usually shown with the horns of a crescent emerging from behind his shoulders, and he is described as the god presiding over the (lunar) months.

Strabo describes Mēn as a local god of the Phrygians. Mēn may be incluenced by the (feminine) Zoroastrian lunar divinity Mah, but his male sex is apparently due to the Mesopotamian moon god Sin.

In the Kingdom of Pontus, there was a temple estate dedicated to Mēn Pharnakou and Selene at Ameria, near Cabira (Strabo 12.3.31). The temple was probably established by Pharnakes I in the 2nd century BC, apparently in an attempt to counter-balance the influence of the Moon goddess Ma of Comana. The cult of Mēn Pharnakou in Pontus has been traced to the appearance of the star and crescent motif on Pontic coins at the time.

Taşlıalan (1988) in a study of Antioch in Pisidia has remarked that the people who settled on the acropolis in the Greek colonial era carried the Mēn Askaenos cult down to the plain as Patrios Theos and in the place where the Augusteum was built there are some signs of this former cult as bucrania on the rock-cut walls.

Autochthonous Mēn as attested in Anatolia is to be distinguished from his reception as a “Phrygian god” in Rome during the imperial period. Here, Mēn is depicted with a Phrygian cap and a belted tunic.

He may be accompanied by bulls and lions in religious artwork. The Roman iconography of Mēn 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.

The Augustan History has the Roman emperor Caracalla (r. 198–217) venerate Lunus at Carrhae; this, i.e. a masculine variant of the feminine Latin noun luna “Moon”, has been taken as a Latinized name for Mēn.

The same source records the local opinion that anyone who believes the deity of the moon to be feminine shall always be subject to women, whereas a man who believes that he is masculine will dominate his wife.

David Magie suggests that Caracalla had actually visited the temple of Sin, the Mesopotamian Moon god. In later times, Mēn may also have been identified with both Attis of Phrygia and Sabazius of Thrace.

Ma was a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”), an Anatolian mother goddess who may have a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia where statues of plump women have been found in excavations and dated to the 6th millennium BC.

Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BCE. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the Harvest-Mother goddess Demeter.

The inscription Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya at a Phrygian rock-cut shrine, dated to the first half of the 6th century BC, is read as “Mother of the mountain”. This is consistent with Cybele as any of several similar tutelary goddesses, each known as “mother” and associated with specific Anatolian mountains or other localities: a goddess thus “born from stone”.

Ḫannaḫanna (from Hittite ḫanna- “grandmother”) is a Hurrian Mother Goddess related to or influenced by the Sumerian goddess Inanna. Ḫannaḫanna was also identified with the Hurrian goddess Hebat, also transcribed Khepat, was known as “the mother of all living” and “Queen of the deities”. The Hittite sun goddess Arinniti was later assimilated with Hebat. Hebat is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele.

Ninhursag

Ninḫursaĝ (“lady of the sacred mountain”: from Sumerian NIN “lady” and ḪAR.SAG “sacred mountain, foothill”), also known as Damgalnuna or Ninmah, was the ancient Sumerian mother goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She had many names including Ninmah (“Great Queen”); Nintu (“Lady of Birth”); Mamma or Mami (mother); Aruru, Belet-Ili (lady of the gods, Akkadian).

Possibly included among the original mother goddesses was Damgalnuna (great wife of the prince) or Damkina (true wife), the consort of the god Enki. The mother goddess had many epithets including shassuru or ‘womb goddess’, tabsut ili ‘midwife of the gods’, ‘mother of all children’ and ‘mother of the gods’. In this role she is identified with Ki in the Enuma Elish. She had shrines in both Eridu and Kish.

Ninhursag is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the “true and great lady of heaven” (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were “nourished by Ninhursag’s milk”. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

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

In the legend of Enki and Ninhursag, Ninhursag bore a daughter to Enki called Ninsar (“Lady Greenery”). Through Enki, Ninsar bore a daughter Ninkurra. Ninkurra, in turn, bore Enki a daughter named Uttu. Enki then pursued Uttu, who was upset because he didn’t care for her.

Uttu, on her ancestress Ninhursag’s advice buried Enki’s seed in the earth, whereupon eight plants (the very first) sprung up. Enki, seeing the plants, ate them, and became ill in eight organs of his body.

Enki had eaten forbidden flowers and was then cursed by Ninhursaga, who was later persuaded by the other gods to heal him. Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body.

Ninti (“Lady Rib”) is the last of the eight goddesses of healing who was created by Ninhursag to heal Enki’s body. Her specific healing area was the rib. However, since sumerian Ti both means rib and to live, Ninti is also a pun on “Lady Life”, a title of Ninhursag herself.

The title “the mother of all living” was a title also given to the Hurrian goddess Hebat, who during Aramaean times also appears to have been identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve. Hebat was venerated all over the ancient Near East. Her name appears in many theophoric personal names. A king of Jerusalem mentioned in the Amarna letters was named Abdi-Heba, possibly meaning “Servant of Hebat”

This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah, who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.

The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess. Some scholars suggest that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam’s rib in the Book of Genesis.

The poem of Enlil and Sud has a simple narrative for its theme: the courtship of Sud, the goddess of Suruppag and daughter of Nisaba, goddess of Eres, by the powerful Enlil, god of Nibru, and their subsequent marriage. Sud becomes Enlil’s consort Ninlil.

“In the sleeping quarters, in the flowered bed fragrant like a cedar forest, Enlil made love to his wife and took great pleasure in it. He sat her on his dais appropriate to the status of Enlil, and made the people pray to her. The lord whose statements are powerful also determined a fate for the Lady (Aruru), the woman of his favour; he gave her the name Nintur, the ‘Lady who gives birth’, the ‘Lady who spreads her knees’. (…) Proud woman, surpassing the mountains! You who always fulfil your desires—from now on, Sud, Enlil is the king and Ninlil is the queen. The goddess without name has a famous name now…”

Ninurta was believed to be the son of Enlil. In Lugal-e, his mother is identified as the goddess Ninmah, whom he renames Ninhursag, but, in Angim dimma, his mother is instead the goddess Ninlil.

In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil.

Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.

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”.

Second only to the goddess Inanna, Ninurta probably appears in more myths than any other Mesopotamian deity. In the Sumerian poem Lugal-e, also known as Ninurta’s Exploits, a demon known as Asag has been causing sickness and poisoning the rivers.

Ninurta’s talking mace Sharur urges him to battle Asag. Ninurta confronts Asag, who is protected by an army of stone warriors. Ninurta initially “flees like a bird”, but Sharur urges him to fight.

Ninurta slays Asag and his armies. Then Ninurta organizes the world, using the stones from the warriors he has defeated to build the mountains, which he designs so that the streams, lakes and rivers all flow into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, making them useful for irrigation and agriculture.

Ninurta’s mother Ninmah descends from Heaven to congratulate her son on his victory. Ninurta dedicates the mountain of stone to her and renames her Ninhursag, meaning “Lady of the Mountain”.

Nisaba, the goddess of scribes, appears and writes down Ninurta’s victory, as well as Ninhursag’s new name. Finally, Ninurta returns home to Nippur, where he is celebrated as a hero.

This myth combines Ninurta’s role as a warrior deity with his role as an agricultural deity. The title Lugal-e means “O king!” and comes from the poem opening phrase in the original Sumerian. Ninurta’s Exploits is a modern title assigned to it by scholars.

A companion work to the Lugal-e is Angim dimma, or Ninurta’s Return to Nippur, which describes Ninurta’s return to Nippur after slaying Asag. It contains little narrative and is mostly a praise piece, describing Ninurta in larger-than-life terms and comparing him to the god An.

Hursag

Hursag (ḪUR.SAĜ) 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”.

Mountains play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. Some scholars also identify hursag with an undefined mountain range or strip of raised land outside the plain of Mesopotamia.

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.

Alpha and Omega 

Sometimes Ninhursag’s hair is depicted in an omega shape and at times she wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders. Frequently she carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash.

Her symbol, resembling the Greek letter omega Ω, has been depicted in art from approximately 3000 BC, although more generally from the early second millennium BC. It appears on some boundary stones – on the upper tier, indicating her importance.

The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected. The symbol appears on very early imagery from Ancient Egypt.

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

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals, it has a value of 1. It was derived from the Phoenician and Hebrew letter aleph – an ox or leader. In English, the noun “alpha” is used as a synonym for “beginning”, or “first” (in a series), reflecting its Greek roots.

Alpha, both as a symbol and term, is used to refer to or describe a variety of things, including the first or most significant occurrence of something. The New Testament has God declaring himself to be the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

As the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega is often used to denote the last, the end, or the ultimate limit of a set, in contrast to alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In addition to the Greek alphabet, Omega was also adopted into the early Cyrillic alphabet.

Æsir and Vanir

In Old Norse, ǫ́ss (or áss, ás, plural æsir; feminine ásynja, plural ásynjur) is a member of the principal pantheon in Norse religion. The second pantheon is known as the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage war against each other, which results in a unified pantheon.

Numerous theories have been proposed for the etymology of Vanir. Scholar R. I. Page says that, while there are no shortages of etymologies for the word, it is tempting to link the word with “Old Norse vinr, ‘friend’, and Latin Venus, ‘goddess of physical love.'”

The cognate term of ǫ́ss in Old English is ōs (plural ēse) denoting a deity in Anglo-Saxon paganism. The Old High German is ans, plural ensî. The Gothic language had ans- (based only on Jordanes who glossed anses with uncertain meaning, possibly ‘demi-god’ and presumably a Latinized form of actual plural *anseis). The reconstructed Proto-Germanic form is *ansuz (plural *ansiwiz).

The ansuz rune, ᚫ, was named after the Æsir. The a-rune, ansuz, ᚫ, Younger Futhark ᚬ, was probably named after the Æsir. The name of 𐌰 a in the Gothic alphabet is ahsa. The common Germanic name of the rune may thus have either been ansuz “God, one of the Æsir”, or ahsam “ear (of corn)”.

Since the name of Gothic a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz “god”, or *ahsam “ear (of wheat)”.

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

The Younger Futhark corresponding to the Elder Futhark ansuz rune is ᚬ, called óss. It is transliterated as ą. This represented the phoneme /ɑ̃/, and sometimes /æ/ (also written ᛅ) and /o/ (also written ᚢ). The variant grapheme ᚯ became independent as representing the phoneme /ø/ during the 11th to 14th centuries.

The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a (Etruscan A), like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph. The Phoenician letter is derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head.

Alulim was both the first king of Eridu and the first king of Sumer, according to the mythological antediluvian section of the Sumerian King List. Enki, the god of Eridu, is said to have brought civilization to Sumer at this point, or just shortly before.

Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. To the early Hebrews, Taurus was the first constellation in their zodiac and consequently it was represented by the first letter in their alphabet, Aleph.

The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC. In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU4.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”.

As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”. The Akkadian name was Alu.

Alalu is god in Hurrian mythology. He is considered to have housed the divine family, because he was a progenitor of the gods, and possibly the father of Earth. He was also called Alalus.

Alalu was a primeval deity of the Hurrian mythology. After nine years of reign, Alalu was defeated by Anu and fled to the underworld. Alaluʻs son Kumarbi also defeated Anu, biting and swallowing his genitals, hence becoming pregnant of three gods, among which Teshub who eventually defeated him. Scholars have pointed out the similarities between the Hurrian myth and the story from Greek mythology of Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus.

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

The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune (ᛅ), which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār). Jera (also Jeran, Jeraz) is the conventional name of the j-rune ᛃ of the Elder Futhark, from a reconstructed Common Germanic stem *jēra- meaning “harvest, (good) year”.

The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet is Gothic 𐌾, named jēr, also expressing /j/. The Elder Futhark rune gives rise to the Anglo-Frisian runes ᛄ /j/, named gēr /jeːr/, and ᛡ /io/, named ior, and to the Younger Futhark ár rune ᛅ, which stood for /a/ as the /j/ phoneme had disappeared in Old Norse.

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

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

Odal rune

A Raetic variant is conjectured to be at the origin or parallel evolution of the Elder Futhark Odal rune ᛟ, also known as the Othala rune, which represents the o sound. Its reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *ōþalan “heritage; inheritance, inherited estate”.

It was in use for epigraphy during the 3rd to the 8th centuries. It is not continued in the Younger Futhark, disappearing from the Scandinavian record around the 6th century, but it survived in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, and expressed the Old English œ phoneme during the 7th and 8th centuries. Its name is attested as ēðel in the Anglo-Saxon manuscript tradition.

The Common Germanic stem ōþala- or ōþila- “inherited estate” is an ablaut variant of the stem aþal-. It consists of a root aþ- and a suffix -ila- or -ala-. The suffix variant accounts for the umlauted form ēþel.

Germanic aþal‑ had a meaning of (approximately) “nobility”, and the derivation aþala- could express “lineage, (noble) race, descent, kind”, and thus “nobleman, prince” (whence Old English atheling), but also “inheritance, inherited estate, property, possession”. Its etymology is not clear, but it is usually compared to atta “father”.

There is an apparent, but debated, etymological connection of Odal to Adel (Old High German adal or edil), meaning nobility, noble family line, or exclusive group of superior social status; aristocracy, typically associated with major land holdings and fortifications.

The term oþal (Old High German uodal) is a formative element in some Germanic names, notably Ulrich and variants;, the stem aþal is more frequent, found in Gothic names such as Athalaric, Ataulf, etc. and in Old High German names such as Adalbert, and Adel.

Unrelated, but difficult to separate etymologically, is the root aud- “wealth, property, possession, prosperity”; from this root are names such as Edmund and other English names with the ed prefix (from Old English ead), German Otto and various Germanic names beginning with ed- or od-. Possibly related is euþa, euþu a word for “child, offspring” (attested in Old Norse jóð, and possibly in the name of the Iuthungi).

Odal was associated with the concept of inheritance in ancient Scandinavian property law. Some of these laws are still in effect today, and govern Norwegian property. These are the Åsetesrett (homestead right), and the Odelsrett (allodial right).

Omphalo

An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Ancient Greek, the word means “navel”. In Greek lore, Zeus sent two eagles across the world to meet at its center, the “navel” of the world.

Among the Ancient Greeks, it was a widespread belief that Delphi was the center of the world. According to the myths regarding the founding of the Delphic Oracle, Zeus, in his attempt to locate the center of the earth, launched two eagles from the two ends of the world, and the eagles, starting simultaneously and flying at equal speed, crossed their paths above the area of Delphi, and so was the place where Zeus placed the stone.

Omphalos is also the name of the stone given to Cronus. In the ancient world of the Mediterranean, it was a powerful religious symbol. The omphalos was not only an object of Hellenic religious symbolism and world centrality; it was also considered an object of power. Its symbolic references included the uterus, the phallus, and a cup of red wine representing royal blood lines.

Most accounts locate the Delphi omphalos in the adyton (sacred part of the temple) near the Pythia (oracle). The stone sculpture itself (which may be a copy), has a carving of a knotted net covering its surface, and a hollow center, widening towards the base.

The omphalos represents the stone which Rhea wrapped in swaddling clothes, pretending it was Zeus, in order to deceive Cronus. (Cronus was the father who swallowed his children so as to prevent them from usurping him as he had deposed his own father, Uranus).

Omphalos stones were believed to allow direct communication with the gods. It is suggested that the stone was hollow to allow intoxicating vapours breathed by the Oracle to channel through it. Python at Delphi was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo and buried under the Omphalos.

Libra and Aries

Libra is a constellation and the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac. It spans 180°–210° celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac, Sun transits this area on average between (northern autumnal equinox) September 23 and October 23, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Libra from approximately October 16 to November 17.

Its name is Latin for weighing scales. Libra was known in Babylonian astronomy as MUL Zibanu (the “scales” or “balance”), or alternatively as the Claws of the Scorpion. The scales were held sacred to the sun god Shamash, who was also the patron of truth and justice.

Going back to ancient Greek times, Libra the constellation between Virgo and Scorpio used to be over ruled by the constellation of Scorpio. They called the area the Latin word “chelae”, which translated to “the claws” which can help identify the individual stars that make up the full constellation of Libra, since it was so closely identified with the Scorpion constellation in the sky.

It was also seen as the Scorpion’s Claws in ancient Greece. Since these times, Libra has been associated with law, fairness and civility. In Arabic zubānā means “scorpion’s claws”, and likely similarly in other Semitic languages: this resemblance of words may be why the Scorpion’s claws became the Scales.

It has also been suggested that the scales are an allusion to the fact that when the sun entered this part of the ecliptic at the autumnal equinox, the days and nights are equal. Libra’s status as the location of the equinox earned the equinox the name “First Point of Libra”, though this location ceased to coincide with the constellation in 730 because of the precession of the equinoxes.

The symbol of the scales is based on the Scales of Justice held by Themis, the Greek personification of divine law and custom. She became the inspiration for modern depictions of Lady Justice. The ruling planet of Libra is Venus, however some may consider Eris as its ruler as well.

Both the hours of the day and the hours of the night match each other. Thus why the Romans put so much trust in the “balanced sign”. According to the Romans in the First Century, Libra was a push over. The moon was said to be in Libra when Rome was founded. Everything was balanced under this righteous sign. The Roman writer Manilius once said that Libra was the sign “in which the seasons are balanced”.

In astrology, a celestial body is said to be in detriment, or exile, when it is positioned in the zodiac sign opposite the sign it rules (over which it has domicile). When a celestial body is in detriment it is said to be not comfortable in that sign and to tend to operate with the least strength. The detrimental sign of Libra is Aries.

Aries (meaning “ram”) is the first astrological sign in the zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°). Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this sign from approximately March 20 to April 21 each year.  It was strongly associated with Mars, both the planet and the god.

The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the gold-haired winged flying ram which was held in Colchis that provided the Golden Fleece. The fleece is a symbol of authority and kingship.

The First Point of Aries, the location of the vernal equinox, is named for the constellation. According to the tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the March equinox, which time systems and the western calendar are rooted in, so as to occur on average on March 21.

The mother goddess

Enlil becomes Enki and Ninlil becomes Ninhursag

Enlil and Ninlil (the windy ones) – Ninhursag and Enki (the mound)

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