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

    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 origin of the Chinese theology

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on October 2, 2018

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When the medieval Icelanders were copying out Greek myths, they explained the god Saturn/Kronos to their readers as “Njord”. In Norse mythology, Njörðr is a god among the Vanir. Njörðr, father of the deities Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed sister, was in an ill-fated marriage with the goddess Skaði, lives in Nóatún and is associated with the sea, seafaring, wind, fishing, wealth, and crop fertility.

Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, battle, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. Odin was known in Old English as Wōden, in Old Saxon as Wōdan, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wōtan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym *wōđanaz (raging”, “anger, “fury”).

Odin is a frequent subject of study in Germanic studies, and numerous theories have been put forward regarding his development. Some of these focus on Odin’s particular relation to other figures; for example, the fact that Freyja’s husband Óðr appears to be something of an etymological doublet of the god, whereas Odin’s wife Frigg is in many ways similar to Freyja, and that Odin has a particular relation to the figure of Loki.

When they described the gods of Celtic and Germanic tribes, rather than considering them separate deities, the Romans interpreted them as local manifestations or aspects of their own gods, a cultural trait called the interpretatio Romana. Tacitus refers to the god Odin as “Mercury”, Thor as “Hercules” (“Jupiter”), and Týr as “Mars”.

Mercury, in particular, was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered. Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts. This is probably because, in the Roman syncretism, Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus, and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta.

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

Under the trifunctional hypothesis of Georges Dumézil, Odin is assigned one of the core functions in the Indo-European pantheon as a representative of the first function (sovereignty) corresponding to the Hindu Varuṇa (fury and magic) as opposed to Týr, who corresponds to the Hindu Mitrá (law and justice); while the Vanir represent the third function (fertility).

Four gods, Thor (with Jörð) , Baldr (with Frigg), Víðarr (the jötunn Gríðr) and Váli (the giantess Rindr), are explicitly identified as sons of Odin in the Eddic poems, in the skaldic poems, in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, and in the Gylfaginning section of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda. But silence on the matter does not indicate that other gods whose parentage is not mentioned in these works might not also be sons of Odin.

In various kennings Snorri also describes Heimdallr, Bragi, Týr and Höðr as sons of Odin, information that appears nowhere else in the Edda. For Heimdall there is no variant account of his father. The same may not be true for Bragi if Bragi is taken to be the skaldic poet Bragi Boddason made into a god. But Týr, according to the Eddic poem Hymiskvida, was son of the giant Hymir rather than a son of Odin.

As to Höd, outside of the single statement in the kennings, Snorri makes no mention that Höd is Baldr’s brother or Odin’s son, though one might expect that to be emphasized. In Saxo’s version of the death of Baldr, Höd, whom Saxo calls Høtherus, is a mortal and in no way related to Saxo’s demi-god Baldur.

Hermód appears in Snorri’s Gylfaginning as the messenger sent by Odin to Hel to seek to bargain for Baldr’s release. He is called “son” of Odin in most manuscripts, but in the Codex Regius version—the Codex Regius is normally considered the best manuscript—Hermód is called sveinn Óðins ‘Odin’s boy’, which might mean Odin’s son but in the context is as likely to mean Odin’s servant. However, when Hermód arrives in Hel’s hall, Snorri calls Baldur his brother. To confuse matters other texts know of a mortal hero named Hermód or Heremod.

The Golden Age: Njord and Saturn

Chinese theology

Caucasus, Western Asia and the Near East (often called one of “the cradles of civilization”) was the first region to enter the Bronze Age, which began with the rise of the Mesopotamian civilization in the mid 4th millennium BC.

The origins of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.

In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, a large archaeological site located in the Jazira region of northeastern Syria (Al Hasakah Governorate), near the Iraqi and Turkish borders, some archaeologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.

The early settlement dates back to the 5th millennium BCE, and it existed simultaneously with the Ubaid and the early Uruk cultures. It was a big centre of obsidian production. In the 3rd millennium, this was one of the largest cities of Northern Mesopotamia. Other contemporary early sites in this area are Chagar Bazar, Tell Arbid, and the multi-period site of Tell Brak.

Cultures in the ancient Near East practiced intensive year-round agriculture, developed a writing system, invented the potter’s wheel, created a centralized government, written law codes, city and nation states and empires, embarked on advanced architectural projects, introduced social stratification, economic and civil administration, slavery, and practiced organized warfare, medicine and religion.

Societies in the region laid the foundations for astronomy, mathematics and astrology. Dingir (usually transliterated DIĜIR) is a Sumerian word for “god.” Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript “D” as in e.g. DInanna.

The cuneiform sign by itself was originally an ideogram for the Sumerian word an (“sky” or “heaven”); its use was then extended to a logogram for the word diĝir (“god” or goddess) and the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon An, and a phonogram for the syllable /an/.

Akkadian took over all these uses and added to them a logographic reading for the native ilum and from that a syllabic reading of /il/. Anu was also identified with the Semitic god Ilu or El from early on. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.

Anu or An is the divine personification of the sky, supreme God, and ancestor of all the deities in ancient Mesopotamian religion. Anu was believed to be the supreme source of all authority, for the other gods and for all mortal rulers, and he is described in one text as the one “who contains the entire universe”. Anu’s primary role in myths is as the ancestor of the Anunnaki, the major deities of Sumerian religion.

He is identified with the north ecliptic pole centered in the constellation Draco and, along with his sons Enlil and Enki, constitutes the highest divine triad personifying the three bands of constellations of the vault of the sky.

By the time of the earliest written records, Anu was rarely worshipped, and veneration was instead devoted to his son Enlil, but, throughout Mesopotamian history, the highest deity in the pantheon was always said to possess the anûtu, meaning “An-power”. His primary cult center was the Eanna temple in the city of Uruk, but, by the Akkadian Period (c. 2334 – 2154 BC), his authority in Uruk had largely been ceded to the goddess Inanna, the Queen of Heaven.

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

Dyēus (Proto-Indo-European: *dyḗws, also *Dyḗus Ph2tḗr, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in the religious traditions of the prehistoric Proto-Indo-European societies. Part of a larger pantheon, he was the god of the daylit sky, and his position may have mirrored the position of the patriarch or monarch in society.

Rooted in the related but distinct Indo-European word *deiwos is the Latin word for deity, deus. The Latin word is also continued in English divine, “deity”, and the original Germanic word remains visible in “Tuesday” (“Day of Tīwaz”) and Old Norse tívar, which may be continued in the toponym Tiveden (“Wood of the Gods”, or of Týr).

In Ancient Egyptian religion, Taweret (also spelled Taurt, Tuat, Taouris, Tuart, Ta-weret, Tawaret, Twert, Thoeris and Taueret, and in Greek – Thouéris and Toeris) is the protective ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. The name “Taweret” means “she who is great” or simply “great one”, a common pacificatory address to dangerous deities.

The deity is typically depicted as a bipedal female hippopotamus with feline attributes, pendulous female human breasts, and the back of a Nile crocodile. She commonly bears the epithets “Lady of Heaven”, “Mistress of the Horizon”, “She Who Removes Water”, “Mistress of Pure Water”, and “Lady of the Birth House”.

She was thought to keep the northern sky – a place of darkness, cold, mist, and rain to the Egyptians – free of evil. She was shown to represent the never-setting circumpolar stars of Ursa Minor and Draco. The seven stars lined down her back are the stars of the Little Dipper. She was believed to be a guardian of the north, stopping all who were unworthy before they could pass her by.

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.

The underworld Kur is the void space between the primeval sea (Abzu) and the earth (Ma). Which seem a likely pairing for parentage, in a fuzzy set of records. Ma was a local goddess at Ma and a Phrygian alternative name for Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya “Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”).

Cybele is an Anatolian mother goddess; she may have a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations dated to the 6th millennium BC and identified by some as a mother goddess.

The archeological period in which bronze was the hardest metal in widespread use is known as the Bronze Age. The beginning of the Bronze Age in Caucasus and the Near East is conventionally dated to the mid-4th millennium BC, and to the early 2nd millennium BC in China; everywhere it gradually spread across regions.

Bronze weapons were an integral part of Shang society. Shang infantry were armed with a variety of stone and bronze weaponry, including máo spears, yuè pole-axes, gē pole-based dagger-axes, composite bows, and bronze or leather helmets.

Recent archaeological finds have shown that the late Shang used horses, chariots, bows and practiced horse burials that are similar to the steppe peoples to the west. There is little doubt that the chariot entered China through the Central Asia and the Northern Steppe, possibly indicating some form of contact with the Indo-Europeans.

Oracle bone inscriptions suggest that the Shang used chariots in royal hunts and in battle only as mobile command vehicles. In contrast, the western enemies of the Shang, such as the Zhou, began to use limited numbers of chariots in battle towards the end of the Shang period.

During the Shang dynasty, China became one of the most skilled bronze-working civilizations in the ancient world, as people heated, melted, and cast metal to making cooking utensils, tools, weapons, and other household items.

The Shang dynasty or Yin dynasty, according to traditional historiography, is the earliest dynasty of traditional Chinese history supported by archaeological evidence. It ruled in the Yellow River valley in the second millennium BC, succeeding the Xia dynasty and followed by the Zhou dynasty.

The classic account of the Shang comes from texts such as the Book of Documents (Shujing, earlier Shu-king) or Classic of History, also known as the Shangshu (“Esteemed Documents”), which is is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature, Bamboo Annals and Records of the Grand Historian.

Records of the Grand Historian, also known by its Chinese name Shiji, is a monumental history of ancient China and the world finished around 94 BC by the Han dynasty official Sima Qian after having been started by his father, Sima Tan, Grand Astrologer to the imperial court.

The work covers the world as it was then known to the Chinese and a 2500-year period from the age of the legendary Yellow Emperor to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han in the author’s own time.

The Records has been called a “foundational text in Chinese civilization”. After Confucius and the First Emperor of Qin, “Sima Qian was one of the creators of Imperial China, not least because by providing definitive biographies, he virtually created the two earlier figures.”

The Records set the model for the 24 subsequent dynastic histories of China. In contrast to Western historical works, the Records do not treat history as “a continuous, sweeping narrative”, but rather break it up into smaller, overlapping units dealing with famous leaders, individuals, and major topics of significance.

The Bamboo Annals, also known as the Ji Tomb Annals, is a chronicle of ancient China. It begins at the earliest legendary times (the Yellow Emperor) and extends to 299 BC, with the later centuries focusing on the history of the State of Wei in the Warring States period. It thus covers a similar period to Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian (91 BC).

According to the traditional chronology based on calculations made approximately 2,000 years ago by Liu Xin, the Shang ruled from 1766 to 1122 BC, but according to the chronology based upon the “current text” of Bamboo Annals, they ruled from 1556 to 1046 BC. The Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project dated them from c. 1600 to 1046 BC.

Excavation at the Ruins of Yin (near modern-day Anyang), which has been identified as the last Shang capital, uncovered eleven major royal tombs and the foundations of palaces and ritual sites, containing weapons of war and remains from both animal and human sacrifices. Tens of thousands of bronze, jade, stone, bone, and ceramic artifacts have been found.

The Anyang site has yielded the earliest known body of Chinese writing, mostly divinations inscribed on oracle bones – turtle shells, ox scapulae, or other bones. The inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization.

Chinese theology, which comes in different interpretations according to the classic texts and the common religion, and specifically Confucian, Taoist and other philosophical formulations, is fundamentally monistic, that is to say it sees the world and the gods of its phenomena as an organic whole, or cosmos, which continuously emerges from a simple principle.

This is expressed by the concept that “all things have one and the same principle” (wànwù yīlǐ). This principle is commonly referred to as Tiān, a concept generally translated as “Heaven”, referring to the northern culmen and starry vault of the skies and its natural laws which regulate earthly phenomena and generate beings as their progenitors.

Ancestors are therefore regarded as the equivalent of Heaven within human society, and therefore as the means connecting back to Heaven which is the “utmost ancestral father” (zēngzǔfù). Chinese theology may be also called Tiānxué (“study of Heaven”), a term already in use in the 17th and 18th century.

Since the Shang (1600–1046 BCE) and Zhou dynasty 81046–256 BCE), the radical Chinese terms for the supreme God are Tiān and Shàngdì (the “Highest Deity”) or simply Dì (“Deity”). Another concept is Tàidì (the “Great Deity”). These names are combined in different ways in Chinese theological literature, often interchanged in the same paragraph if not in the same sentence.

One of the combinations is the name of God used at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which is the “Highest Deity the Heavenly King” (Huángtiān Shàngdì); others are “Great Deity the Heavenly King” (Tiānhuáng Dàdì) and “Supreme Deity of the Vast Heaven” (Hàotiān Shàngdì).

God is considered manifest in this world as the northern culmen and starry vault of the skies which regulate nature. As its see, the circumpolar stars (the Little and Big Dipper, or broader Ursa Minor and Ursa Major) are known, among various names, as Tiānmén (“Gate of Heaven”) and Tiānshū (“Pivot of Heaven”), or the “celestial clock” regulating the four seasons of time.

The Chinese supreme God is compared to the conception of the supreme God identified as the north celestial pole in other cultures, including the Mesopotamian An (“Heaven” itself), and Enlil and Enki/Marduk, the Vedic Indra and Mitra–Varuna, the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda, as well as the Dyeus of common Proto-Indo-European religion.

Throughout the Chinese theological literary tradition, the Dipper constellations, and especially the Big Dipper (Běidǒuxīng, “Northern Dipper”), also known as Great Chariot, within Ursa Major, are portrayed as the potent symbol of spirit, divinity, or of the activity of the supreme God regulating nature.

The Dipper is the Deity’s carriage. It revolves about the centre, visiting and regulating each of the four regions. It divides yin from yang, establishes the four seasons, equalises the five elemental phases, deploys the seasonal junctures and angular measures, and determines the various periodicities: all these are tied to the Dipper.

When the handle of the Dipper points to the east at dawn, it is spring to all the world. When the handle of the Dipper points to the south it is summer to all the world. When the handle of the Dipper points to the west, it is autumn to all the world. When the handle of the Dipper points to the north, it is winter to all the world. As the handle of the Dipper rotates above, so affairs are set below.

Dì is literally a title expressing dominance over the all-under-Heaven, that is all created things. It is etymologically and figuratively analogous to the concept of di as the base of a fruit, which falls and produces other fruits. This analogy is attested in the Shuowen Jiezi explaining “deity” as “what faces the base of a melon fruit”.

Tiān is usually translated as “Heaven”, but by graphical etymology it means “Great One” and scholars relate it to the same Dì through phonetic etymology and trace their common root, through their archaic forms respectively *Teeŋ and *Tees, to the symbols of the celestial pole and its spinning stars.

Other words, such as dǐng (“on top”, “apex”) would share the same etymology, all connected to a conceptualisation—according to the scholar John C. Didier—of the north celestial pole godhead as cosmic square (Dīng).

Zhou (2005) even connects Dì, through Old Chinese *Tees and by phonetic etymology, to the Proto-Indo-European Dyeus. Medhurst (1847) also shows affinities in the usage of “deity”, Chinese di, Greek theos and Latin deus, for incarnate powers resembling the supreme godhead.

There is distinguished two layers in the development of early Chinese theology, traditions derived respectively from the Shang and subsequent Zhou dynasties. The religion of the Shang was based on the worship of ancestors and god-kings, who survived as unseen divine forces after death. They were not transcendent entities, since the cosmos was “by itself so”, not created by a force outside of it but generated by internal rhythms and cosmic powers.

The royal ancestors were called dì, “deities”, and the utmost progenitor was Shangdi, identified as the dragon. Already in Shang theology, the multiplicity of gods of nature and ancestors were viewed as parts of Shangdi, and the four fāng (“directions” or “sides”) and their fēng (“winds”) as his cosmic will.

The Zhou dynasty, which overthrew the Shang, emphasised a more universal idea of Tian (“Heaven”). The Shang dynasty’s identification of Shangdi as their ancestor-god had asserted their claim to power by divine right; the Zhou transformed this claim into a legitimacy based on moral power, the Mandate of Heaven.

In Zhou theology, Tian had no singular earthly progeny, but bestowed divine favour on virtuous rulers. Zhou kings declared that their victory over the Shang was because they were virtuous and loved their people, while the Shang were tyrants and thus were deprived of power by Tian.

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

Similarly, each star has a distinct name, which likewise has varied over time and depending upon the asterism being constructed. The Western asterism is now known as the “Northern Dipper” or the “Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper”.

The dragon, associated to the constellation Draco winding the north ecliptic pole and slithering between the Little and Big Dipper (or Great Chariot), represents the “protean” primordial power, which embodies both yin and yang in unity, and therefore the awesome unlimited power (qi) of divinity. In Han-dynasty traditions, Draco is described as the spear of the supreme God.

The personification of the Big Dipper itself is also known as “Doumu” (“Mother of the Great Chariot / Big Dipper”), also known as Dǒumǔ Yuánjūn (“Lady Mother of the Chariot”), Dòulǎo Yuánjūn (“Lady Ancestress of the Chariot”) and Tàiyī Yuánjūn (“Lady of the Great One”) in Chinese folk religion and Taoism, and Marici in Buddhism.

Doumu is also named through the honorific Tiānhòu (“Queen of Heaven”), shared with other Chinese goddesses, especially Mazu or Ma-tsu, meaning “Maternal Ancestor” “Mother”, “Granny”, or “Grandmother”, who are perhaps conceived as her aspects. Other names of her are Dàomǔ (“Mother of the Way”) and Tiānmǔ (“Mother of Heaven”).

Dǒumǔ is the feminine aspect of the cosmic God of Heaven. The seven stars of the Big Dipper, in addition to two not visible to the naked eye, are conceived as her sons, the Jiǔhuángshén (“Nine God-Kings”), themselves regarded as the ninefold manifestation of Jiǔhuángdàdì (“Great Deity of the Nine Kings”) or Dòufù (“Father of the Great Chariot”), another name of the God of Heaven. She is therefore both wife and mother of the God of Heaven.

In Vajrayana traditions of Chinese Buddhism (Tangmi), Doumu was conflated with Bodhisattva Marici at least by the Tang dynasty. Marici too is described as the mother of the Way and the Dipper, at the centre of Brahma’s Heaven of primal energy. Marici’s chariot is dragged by seven pigs.

In certain Taoist accounts she is identified as the same as Jiutian Xuannü (“Mysterious Lady of the Nine Heavens”) and the ambiguous goddess of life and death Xiwangmu (“Queen Mother of the West”), representing the mother of the immortal “red infant” (chìzǐ) Dao enshrined at the centre of the human body.

This links her directly to the myths about the birth and initiation of Laozi[5] and the Yellow Emperor (whose mother Fubao became pregnant of him after she was aroused after she saw a lightning from, or turning around, the Big Dipper), as attested, among others, by Ge Hong (283-343).

The first historical information on Xiwangmu, known by various local names, a goddess in Chinese religion and mythology, also worshipped in neighbouring Asian countries, and attested from ancient times, can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the fifteenth century BC that record sacrifices to a “Western Mother”.

Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates organized Taoism, she is most often associated with Taoism. Commoners and poets of the era referred to her more simply as the “Queen Mother”, the “Divine Mother”, or simply “Nanny” (Amah).

She has numerous titles, one of the most popular being the Golden Mother of the Nacre Lake (also translated as “Mother-of-Pearl Lake” or “Jade Lake”). She is also known in contemporary sources as the Lady Queen Mother. In the Maternist current of Chinese salvationist religions she is the main deity and is called upon as the Eternal Venerable Mother.

Tang writers called her “Golden Mother the First Ruler”, the “Golden Mother of Tortoise Mountain”, “She of the Nine Numina and the Grand Marvel”, and the “Perfected Marvel of the Western Florescence and Ultimate Worthy of the Cavernous Darkness”.

From her name alone some of her most important characteristics are revealed: she is royal, female, and is associated with the west. The growing popularity of the Queen Mother of the West, as well as the beliefs that she was the dispenser of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss took place during the second century BC when the northern and western parts of China were able to be better known because of the opening of the Silk Road.

The first mentions of the Queen Mother date back to the oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang dynasty (1766 – 1122 BC). Originally, from the earliest known depictions of her in the Guideways of Mountains and Seas during the Zhou dynasty, she was a ferocious goddess with the teeth of a tiger, who sent pestilence down upon the world. After she was adopted into the Taoist pantheon, she was transformed into the goddess of life and immortality.


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