Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Sagittarius (4) and Gemini (2)

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 9, 2019

Bilderesultat for gobekli tepe poles

Relatert bilde

Bilderesultat for gemini

Bilderesultat for isimud

Bilderesultat for janus

Janus

Odin –  the husband of the goddess Frigg

Óðr again leaves the grieving Freyja

Enki / Isimud – Saturn / Janus – Odin / Odr

Relatert bilde

Centaurus

Centaurus Constellation

Constellation Centaurus

Relatert bilde

Centaurus is a bright constellation in the southern sky. n Greek mythology, Centaurus represents a centaur; a creature that is half human, half horse (another constellation named after a centaur is one from the zodiac: Sagittarius).

While Centaurus now has a high southern latitude, at the dawn of civilization it was an equatorial constellation. Precession has been slowly shifting it southward for millennia, and it is now close to its maximal southern declination. Thousands of years from now Centaurus will, once again, be at lower latitudes and be visible worldwide.

Bilderesultat for Centaurus mythology

Sagittarius

In geometry, the sagitta (sometimes abbreviated as sag) of a circular arc is the distance from the center of the arc to the center of its base. Architects, engineers, and contractors use these equations to create “flattened” arcs that are used in curved walls, arched ceilings, bridges, and numerous other applications.

It is used extensively in architecture when calculating the arc necessary to span a certain height and distance and also in optics where it is used to find the depth of a spherical mirror or lens. The name comes directly from Latin sagitta, meaning an arrow.

The sagitta is the vertical line from the midpoint of the chord to the arc itself. It is a measure of the ‘height’ of the arc. The length of the chord, sagitta and radius of the arc are inter-related, and if you know any two you can calculate the third.

Relatert bilde

According to the Talmudists, the emblem of Nergal was a cockerel and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion. The word “Gallus” is also the Latin word for rooster. A play upon his name—separated into three elements as Ne-uru-gal (light of the great Ûru; lord of the great dwelling)—expresses his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon.

Bilderesultat for lahmu curls

Lahmu

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.

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”. Lahamu is sometimes seen as a serpent, and sometimes as a woman with a red sash and six curls on her head.

An Assyrian lamassu dated 721 BC

The lamassu (Cuneiform: an.kal; Sumerian: dlammař; Akkadian: lamassu; sometimes called a lamassus) is an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings. Lammasu represent the zodiacs, parent-stars or constellations.

In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity. A less frequently used name is shedu (Cuneiform: an.kal×bad; Sumerian: dalad; Akkadian, šēdu‬), which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu. 

Bilderesultat for tetramorph

A composition of the Four Living Creatures into one tetramorph. Matthew the man, Mark the lion, Luke the ox, and John the eagle

Assyrian sculpture typically placed prominent pairs of lamassu at entrances in palaces, facing the street and also internal courtyards. They were represented as “double-aspect” figures on corners, in high relief. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk, and in earlier versions have five legs, as is apparent when viewed obliquely.

The ancient Jewish people were influenced by the iconography of Assyrian culture. The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a fantastic being made up of aspects of a human being, a lion, an eagle and a bull. Later, in the early Christian period, the four Gospels were ascribed to each of these components. When it was depicted in art, this image was called the Tetramorph.

A 13th century Cluniac ivory carving of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the creatures of the tetramorph.

Relatert bilde

Letter resh – The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Rho (Ρ), Etruscan Etruscan EtruscanR-01.svg, Latin R, and Cyrillic Р.

Nr: 4 – 4 seasons – 4 elements in astrology – the Tetramorph

Relatert bilde

An excursus on the Egyptian word nTr

Life and death

According to Macrobius who cites Nigidius Figulus and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as Apollo or the sun and moon, whence Janus received sacrifices before all the others, because through him is apparent the way of access to the desired deity.

A similar solar interpretation has been offered by A. Audin, who interprets the god as the issue of a long process of development starting with the Sumerian culture from two solar pillars located on the eastern side of temples, each of them marking the direction of the rising sun at the dates of the two solstices. The southeastern corresponding to the Winter and the northeastern to the Summer solstice.

These two pillars would be at the origin of the theology of the divine twins, one of whom is mortal (related to the NE pillar, as confining with the region where the sun does not shine) and the other is immortal (related to the SE pillar and the region where the sun always shines). Later these iconographic models evolved in the Middle East and Egypt into a single column representing two torsos and finally a single body with two heads looking at opposite directions.

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe, Turkish for “Potbelly Hill”, is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell includes two phases of use believed to be of a social or ritual nature dating back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE.

During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected – the world’s oldest known megaliths. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock.

In the second phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the PPNB. Younger structures date to classical times.

The details of the structure’s function remain a mystery. It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. Schmidt believed that the site was a sanctuary where people from a wide region periodically congregated, not a settlement.

Gobekli Tepe’s hilltop site was not defensive or residential and the indications are that it was a sacred area and that the two pillars outside the entrance of some of the circles represented a gateway between secular and religious ground.

Three layers could be distinguished up to now at the site. The oldest Layer III (10th millenium BC) is characterized by monolithic T-shaped pillars weighing tons, which were positioned in circle-like structures. The pillars were interconnected by limestone walls and benches leaning at the inner side of the walls. In the centre of these enclosures there are always two bigger pillars, with a height of over 5 m. The circles measure 10-20 m.

Two huge central pillars are surrounded by a circle formed by – at current state of excavation – 11 pillars of similar T-shape. Most of these pillars are decorated with depictions of animals, foxes, birds (e.g. cranes, storks and ducks), and snakes being the most common species in this enclosure, accompanied by a wide range of figurations including the motives of boar, aurochs, gazelle, wild donkey and larger carnivores.

In particular these central pillars of Enclosure D allow demonstrating the anthropomorphic appearance of the T-shaped pillars. They might have been gods who had T-shapes instead of heads because it was forbidden to see their faces. The T-shaped stones around the circle may have been their companions.

Gobekli Tepe’s hilltop site was not defensive or residential and the indications are that it was a sacred area and that the two pillars outside the entrance of some of the circles represented a gateway between secular and religious ground.

According to Andrew Collins the central pillars of Enclosure D target Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation of Cygnus, also known as the celestial bird, or swan, and one of the brightest stars in the night sky and one corner of the Summer Triangle, as it extinguishes on the north-northwestern horizon.

Other structures at Göbekli Tepe were built perhaps with different considerations in mind. Enclosure B’s central pillars are unlikely to have targeted Deneb during the epoch in question.

The twin pillars marking the entrance to the apse in Enclosure A were orientated almost exactly northwest to southeast, while those in Enclosure F (a smaller, much later structure west of the main group) are aligned east-northeast or west-southwest, very close to the angle at which the sun rises on the summer solstice and sets on the winter solstice.

Lamassu

The lamassu (Cuneiform: an.kal; Sumerian: dlammař; Akkadian: lamassu; sometimes called a lamassus) is a celestial being from ancient Mesopotamian religion in art often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull, sometimes with the horns and the ears of a bull, or a lion and bird wings. The motif of a winged animal with a human head is common to the Near East, first recorded in Ebla around 3000 BC.

In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity. A less frequently used name is shedu (Cuneiform: an.kal×bad; Sumerian: dalad; Akkadian, šēdu‬), which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu.

They represent the zodiacs, parent-stars or constellations. They were household protective spirits of the common Babylonian people, becoming associated later as royal protectors, and were placed as sentinels at entrances. They are depicted as protective deities because they encompass all life within them. To protect houses, the lamassu were engraved in clay tablets, which were then buried under the door’s threshold.

In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, they are depicted as physical deities as well, which is where the lammasu iconography originates, these deities could be microcosms of their microcosmic zodiac, parent-star, or constellation.

They were often placed as a pair at the entrance of palaces. At the entrance of cities they were sculpted in colossal size and placed as a pair. One at each side of the door of the city, that generally had doors in the surrounding wall, each one looking towards one of the cardinal points.

Although lamassu had a different iconography and portrayal in the culture of Sumer, the terms “lamassu”, “alad”, and “shedu” evolved throughout the Assyro-Akkadian culture from the Sumerian culture to denote the Assyrian-winged-man-bull symbol and statues during the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Female lamassu were called “apsasû”.

Lumasi do not generally appear as large figures in the low-relief schemes running round palace rooms, where winged genie figures are common, but they sometimes appear within narrative reliefs, apparently protecting the Assyrians.

The colossal entranceway figures were often followed by a hero grasping a wriggling lion, also colossal in scale and in high relief. The first distinct lamassu motif appeared in Assyria during the reign of Tiglath-Pileser II as a symbol of power.

The motif of the Assyrian-winged-man-bull called Aladlammu and Lamassu interchangeably is not the lamassu or alad of Sumerian origin, which were depicted with different iconography. These monumental statues were called aladlammû or lamassu which meant “protective spirit”.

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

Laḫmu

Laḫmu (also called Lakhmu, Lache, Lumasi or Assyro-Akkadian Lammasu) is a deity from Akkadian mythology that represents the zodiac, parent stars, or constellations. It is the name of a protective and beneficent deity. Lahmu guarded the gates of the Abzu temple of Enki at Eridu.

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.

They are the first-born children of Tiamat and Abzu in Akkadian mythology. They are the parents of Anshar, which means “whole heaven”, and Kishar, which means “Whole Earth”, the sky father and earth mother, who were in turn parents of the first gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon. Among them, Anu, the god of heaven, lord of constellations, king of gods, spirits and demons.

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”. Lahamu is sometimes seen as a serpent, and sometimes as a woman with a red sash and six curls on her head.

Some scholars, such as William F. Albright, have speculated that the name of Bethlehem (“house of lehem”) originally referred to a Canaanite fertility deity cognate with Laḫmu and Laḫamu, rather than to the Canaanite word lehem, “bread”.

In Sumerian times Laḫmu may have meant “the muddy one”. It is suggested that the pair were represented by the silt of the sea-bed, but more accurately are known to be the representations of the zodiac, parent-stars, or constellations.

In Mesopotamian tradition, Nammu, the goddess of the primeval creative matter and the mother-goddess portrayed as having “given birth to the great gods,” was the mother of Enki, and as the watery creative force, was said to preexist Ea-Enki.

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

Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. In the later Babylonian epic Enûma Eliš, Abzu, the “begetter of the gods”, is inert and sleepy but finds his peace disturbed by the younger gods, so sets out to destroy them.

His grandson Enki, chosen to represent the younger gods, puts a spell on Abzu “casting him into a deep sleep”, thereby confining him deep underground. Enki subsequently sets up his home “in the depths of the Abzu.” Enki thus takes on all of the functions of the Abzu, including his fertilising powers as lord of the waters and lord of semen.

On the Adda Seal, Enki is depicted with two streams of water flowing into each of his shoulders: one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him are two trees, symbolizing the male and female aspects of nature. He is shown wearing a flounced skirt and a cone-shaped hat. An eagle descends from above to land upon his outstretched right arm. This portrayal reflects Enki’s role as the god of water, life, and replenishment.

Artemis / Apollo

Potnia Theron / Lord of Animals

In Hittite, the Sumerian form dlamma is used both as a name for the so-called “tutelary deity”, identified in certain later texts with Inara, and a title given to similar protective gods. Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis.

In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, and more.

Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals and chastity in the ancient Greek religion and myth. Artemis is the Moon and Apollo is the Sun.

Many depictions use a female version of the widespread ancient motif of the male Master of Animals, showing a central figure with a human form grasping two animals, one to each side. The oldest depiction has been discovered in Çatalhöyük. Potnia Theron (“The Mistress of the Animals”) is a term first used (once) by Homer and often used to describe female divinities associated with animals.

In ancient Roman religion, Feronia was a goddess associated with wildlife, fertility, health, and abundance. As the goddess who granted freedom to slaves or civil rights to the most humble part of society, she was especially honored among plebeians and freedmen. Varro identified Feronia with Libertas, the goddess who personified Liberty. According to Servius, Feronia was a tutelary goddess of freedmen (dea libertorum).

Proserpina or Proserpine is an ancient Roman goddess whose cult, myths and mysteries were combined from those of Libera, an early Roman goddess of wine, and the Greek Persephone and Demeter, goddesses of grain and agriculture. The originally Roman goddess Libera was daughter of the agricultural goddess Ceres and wife to Liber, god of wine and freedom.

In 204 BC, a new “greek-style” cult to Ceres and Proserpina as “Mother and Maiden” was imported from southern Italy, along with Greek priestesses to serve it, and was installed in Libera and Ceres’ temple on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

The new cult and its priesthood were actively promoted by Rome’s religious authorities as morally desirable for respectable Roman women, and may have partly subsumed the temple’s older, native cult to Ceres, Liber and Libera; but the new rites seem to have functioned alongside the old, rather than replaced them.

In early Roman religion, Libera was the female equivalent of Liber (freedom). She was originally an Italic goddess; at some time during Rome’s Regal or very early Republican eras, she was paired with Liber, also known as Liber Pater (The Free Father), Roman god of wine, male fertility, and a guardian of plebeian freedoms. She enters Roman history as part of a Triadic cult alongside Ceres and Liber, in a temple established on the Aventine Hill around 493 BCE.

The location and context of this early cult mark her association with Rome’s commoner-citizens, or plebs; she might have been offered cult on March 17 as part of Liber’s festival, Liberalia, or at some time during the seven days of Cerealia (mid- to late April); in the latter festival, she would have been subordinate to Ceres. Otherwise, her relationship to her Aventine cult partners is uncertain; she has no known native mythology.

Libera was officially identified with Proserpina in 205 BCE, when she acquired a Romanised form of the Greek mystery rites and their attendant mythology. In the late Republican era, Cicero described Liber and Libera as Ceres’ children. At around the same time, possibly in the context of popular or religious drama, Hyginus equated her with Greek Ariadne, as bride to Liber’s Greek equivalent, Dionysus.

The older and newer forms of her cult and rites, and their diverse associations, persisted well into the late Imperial era. St. Augustine (AD 354 – 430) observed that Libera is concerned with female fertility, as Liber is with male fertility.

Freyr (Old Norse: Lord), sometimes anglicized as Frey, is a widely attested god associated with sacral kingship, virility and prosperity, with sunshine and fair weather, and pictured as a phallic fertility god in Norse mythology. Freyr is said to “bestow peace and pleasure on mortals”.

In the Icelandic books the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Freyr is presented as one of the Vanir, the son of the sea god Njörðr, as well as the twin brother of the goddess Freyja (Old Norse for “(the) Lady”), a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death.

Numerous theories have been proposed for the etymology of Vanir. It is tempting to link the word with “Old Norse vinr, ‘friend’, and Latin Venus, ‘goddess of physical love.’” Hausos (Proto-Indo-European: *h₂éwsōs) is the reconstructed name for the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn.

The name *h₂ewsṓs is derived from a root *h₂wes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-.

The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).

Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *h₂ewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir.

The Dawn Goddess is hypothesised to have been one of the most important deities to the Proto-Indo-Europeans, due to the consistency of her characterisation as well as the relevance of Ushas in the Rig Veda. Her attributes have not only been mixed with those of solar goddesses in some later traditions, but have subsequently expanded and influenced female deities in other mythologies.

The Dawn Goddess was probably the original love and lust deity in Proto-Indo-European religion, an aspect maintained in nearly all reflexes but noticeably lost in later stages of Hellenic and Indu myth (Eos replaced by Aphrodite and Eros, Ushas replaced by Kamadeva). Notably, the Greek myth of Aphrodite cursing Eos with lust may be a representation of usurpation of the role as love goddess by the former.

In spite of the association of the dawn with life, counterintuitively the dawn was possibly also associated with aging and decay in Proto-Indo-European myth, probably under the assumption that each dawn brings human beings closer to death or alternatively that sun rays induce rot.

The Dawn Goddess was associated with weaving, a behaviour sometimes used as a metaphor for the generative properties of sunlight. This characteristic is normally seen in solar goddesses and it might indicate a large amount of syncretism between dawn and solar deities.

Nearly all reflexes are associated with reddish horses, perhaps due to syncretism with solar goddesses as well as the hypothesised relation with the Divine Twins. Poseidon represents the river spirit of the underworld and he appears as a horse as it often happens in northern-European folklore. He pursues the mare-Demeter and she bears one daughter who obviously originally had the form or the shape of a mare too.

The Dawn Goddess is thought to have been envisioned as the daughter of Dyeus. This is partially reflected in Vedic mythology, where Ushas is the daughter of Dyaus Pita, though in some other Indo-European derivations this is not the case. However, though nonetheless the epithet “daughter of heaven” remains in nearly all Indo-European mythologies.

She is also envisioned as the sister of the Divine Twins, with Ushas still maintaining this relation to the Ashvins. Although the “marriage drama” myth (in which one or both of the Divine Twins compete for the hand of a woman in marriage) is usually linked to the sun goddess rather than the dawn goddess, there is a possible degree of syncretism in this regard, particularly as the Baltic Aušrinė is in a similar marriage drama situation, albeit in relation to her father and her mother.

Due to the dawn heralding the sun and inducing the daily routine, the Dawn Goddess is associated with instilling the cosmic order. Ushas is the arouser of Ṛta, while the role of Aušrinė as the maid of the sun renders her a moral example in Lithuanian traditions and helped her syncretism with the Virgin Mary.

Pabilsag – Nininsinna

Pabilsag in Mesopotamian tradition was a tutelary god of the city of Isin. The consort of the goddess Nininsinna (Sumerian: Nin-sumun(ak) “lady of the wild cows”), he was identified with the lost city of Larak. He is represented in the constellation Sagittarius, commonly represented as a centaur pulling back a bow.

Pabilsag is reminiscent of modern depictions of the constellation Sagittarius, the half human and half horse, the learned healer whose higher intelligence forms a bridge between Earth and Heaven.

The Babylonians identified Sagittarius as the god Nergal, a strange centaur-like creature firing an arrow from a bow. It is generally depicted with wings, with two heads, one panther head and one human head, as well as a scorpion’s stinger raised above its more conventional horse’s tail.

In Greek mythology, Sagittarius is usually identified as a centaur: half human, half horse. However, perhaps due to the Greeks’ adoption of the Sumerian constellation, some confusion surrounds the identity of the archer.

As there are two centaurs in the sky, some identify Chiron with the other constellation, known as Centaurus. Or, as an alternative tradition holds, that Chiron devised the constellations Sagittarius and Centaurus to help guide the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.

A competing mythological tradition, as espoused by Eratosthenes, identified the Archer not as a centaur but as the satyr Crotus, son of Pan, who Greeks credited with the invention of archery. According to myth, Crotus often went hunting on horseback and lived among the Muses, who requested that Zeus place him in the sky, where he is seen demonstrating archery.

The text Pabilsag’s Journey to Nibru describes Pabilsag as journeying to Nippur and presenting the god Enlil with gifts. He was given the epithet of “the wild bull with multicoloured legs”.

The Sumerian name Pabilsag is composed of two elements – Pabil, meaning ‘elder paternal kinsman’ and Sag, meaning ‘chief, head’. The name may thus be translated as the ‘Forefather’ or ‘Chief Ancestor’.

According to the ancient Babylonian text, Pabilsag wedded Nininsina, who was the tutelary goddess of Gudea of Lagash, near a riverbank and gave birth to Damu as a result of the union.

In Sumerian mythology, Ninsun was originally called Gula until her name was later changed to Ninisina. Later, Gula became a Babylonian goddess. Other names include Rimat-Ninsun (from Akkadian rimātu “cattle”), the “August Cow”, the “Wild Cow of the Enclosure”, and “The Great Queen”.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius is the ninth astrological sign, which is associated with the constellation Sagittarius and spans 240–270th degrees of the zodiac. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between approximately November 23 and December 21. Its name is Latin for the archer, and its symbol is a stylized arrow.

Sagittarius lies between Scorpius and Ophiuchus to the west and Capricornus and Microscopium to the east. As of 2002, the Sun appears in the constellation Sagittarius from 18 December to 18 January. In tropical astrology, the Sun is considered to be in the sign Sagittarius from 22 November to 21 December, and in sidereal astrology, from 16 December to 14 January.

Along with Aries and Leo, Sagittarius is a part of the Fire Trigon as well as the last of the reproductive trinity. It also follows Gemini and Virgo as third of the mutable signs, which are the signs that feature changeable quality.

Also known as the Archer, Sagittarius is represented by the symbol of a bow and arrow. Sagittarius famously points its arrow at the heart of Scorpius, represented by the reddish star Antares, as the two constellations race around the sky.

The arrow of this constellation points towards the star Antares, the “heart of the scorpion”, and Sagittarius stands poised to attack should Scorpius ever attack the nearby Hercules, or to avenge Scorpius’s slaying of Orion.

The symbol of the zodiac sign is a Centaur armed with arrows following an old tradition coming from Ancient Greece and from other cultures of the past. As an archer, Sagittarius is said to never fail in hitting the mark and this depiction alludes to the power of prophecy, hence, the claim that seers and prophets are born in this sign.

The image of the sign says a lot about his features: He’s able to be extremely violent or wise, brave or mild. When Sagittarius is depicted as an archer, then he is classified as human, but when represented as a centaur, he is nonhuman (bestial). However, the classification of the astrological sign as a human or bestial does not carry practical consequences for interpretation.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way is at its densest near Sagittarius, as this is where the galactic center lies. As a result, Sagittarius contains many star clusters and nebulae. The center of the Milky Way lies in the westernmost part of Sagittarius.

Sagittarius A

Sagittarius A or Sgr A is a complex radio source at the center of the Milky Way. It is located in the constellation Sagittarius, and is hidden from view at optical wavelengths by large clouds of cosmic dust in the spiral arms of the Milky Way.

It consists of three components, the supernova remnant Sagittarius A East, the spiral structure Sagittarius A West, and a very bright compact radio source at the center of the spiral, Sagittarius A* (“Sagittarius A-star”). These three overlap: Sagittarius A East is the largest, West appears off-center within East, and A* is at the center of West.

Sagitta

Sagitta is a dim but distinctive constellation in the northern sky. Its name is Latin for “arrow”, and it should not be confused with the significantly larger constellation Sagittarius, the archer. Located to the north of the equator, Sagitta can be seen from every location on Earth except within the Antarctic circle.

The Greeks who may have originally identified this constellation called it Oistos. The Romans named it Sagitta. Sagitta’s shape is reminiscent of an arrow, and many cultures have interpreted it thus, among them the Persians, Hebrews, Greeks and Romans. The Arabs called it as-Sahm, a name that was transferred Sham and now refers to Alpha Sagittae only.

In ancient Greece, Sagitta was regarded as the weapon that Hercules used to kill the eagle (Aquila) of Jove that perpetually gnawed Prometheus’ liver. The Arrow is located beyond the north border of Aquila, the Eagle.

According to R.H. Allen, the Arrow could be the one shot by Hercules towards the adjacent Stymphalian birds (6th labor) who had claws, beaks and wings of iron, and who lived on human flesh in the marshes of Arcadia – Aquila the Eagle, Cygnus the Swan, and Lyra (the Vulture) – and still lying between them, whence the title Herculea (although Allen cites no reference to support this assertion). Eratosthenes claimed it as the arrow with which Apollo exterminated the Cyclopes.

Chiron

Some identify Sagittarius as the centaur Chiron (also Cheiron or Kheiron; Greek: “hand”), the son of Philyra and Cronus, who mentored Achilles, a Greek hero of the Trojan War, in archery and who was said to have changed himself into a horse to escape his jealous wife, Rhea, and tutor to Jason.

Chiron’s lineage was different from other centaurs, who were born from Ixion (“strong native”), the king of the Lapiths, the most ancient tribe of Thessaly, and a son of Ares, or Leonteus, or Antion and Perimele, or the notorious evildoer Phlegyas, whose name connotes “fiery”, and Nephele (“cloud”), which in the Olympian telling Zeus invented to look like Hera.

Ixion married Dia, a daughter of Deioneus (or Eioneus) and promised his father-in-law a valuable present. However, he did not pay the bride price, so Deioneus stole some of Ixion’s horses in retaliation. Ixion concealed his resentment and invited his father-in-law to a feast at Larissa. When Deioneus arrived, Ixion pushed him into a bed of burning coals and wood.

These circumstances are secondary to the fact of Ixion’s primordial act of murder; it could be accounted for quite differently: in the Greek Anthology (iii.12), among a collection of inscriptions from a temple in Cyzicus is an epigrammatic description of Ixion slaying Phorbas (“giving pasture”) and Polymelos, who had slain his mother, Megara, the “great one”.

Ixion went mad, defiled by his act; the neighboring princes were so offended by this act of treachery and violation of xenia that they refused to perform the rituals that would cleanse Ixion of his guilt. Thereafter, Ixion lived as an outlaw and was shunned. By killing his father-in-law, Ixion was reckoned the first man guilty of kin-slaying in Greek mythology. That alone would warrant him a terrible punishment.

However, Zeus had pity on Ixion and brought him to Olympus and introduced him at the table of the gods. Instead of being grateful, Ixion grew lustful for Hera, Zeus’s wife, a further violation of guest-host relations. Zeus found out about his intentions and made a cloud in the shape of Hera, which became known as Nephele (from nephos “cloud”) and tricked Ixion into coupling with it.

From the union of Ixion and the false-Hera cloud came Imbros or Centauros, the father of the race of mythological beasts known as the centaurs or Ixionidae, who mated with the Magnesian mares on Mount Pelion, Pindar told, engendering the race of Centaurs, who are called the Ixion from their descent.

Centaurus was a deformed child who hunched over and found no peace amongst other humans. The only place where Centaurus felt like he belonged was on the mountain of Pelion. Here, he roamed, lived, and mated with the Magnesian mares who resided there. This resulted in the birth of the centaur race. The centaurs are half-man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful.

Centaurus was the first person to group stars into constellations and taught others how to read them. One explanation of the constellation is that Centaurus put a picture of himself in the sky to guide his sailor friends the Argonauts.

Ixion was expelled from Olympus and blasted with a thunderbolt. Zeus ordered Hermes to bind Ixion to a winged fiery wheel that was always spinning. Therefore, Ixion is bound to a burning solar wheel for all eternity, at first spinning across the heavens, but in later myth transferred to Tartarus. Only when Orpheus played his lyre during his trip to the Underworld to rescue Eurydice did it stop for a while.

In Greek mythology, Chiron was held to be the superlative centaur amongst his brethren, as he was called as the “wisest and justest of all the centaurs” and notable throughout Greek mythology for his youth-nurturing nature. Throughout Greek mythology, there were many heroes who were trained by Chiron.

Chiron was known for his knowledge and skill with medicine, and thus was credited with the discovery of botany and pharmacy, the science of herbs and medicine. He was the son of the Titan Cronus and the Oceanid Philyra, and thus possible brother to Dolops and Aphrus, the ancestor and eponym of the Aphroi, i.e. the native Africans.

According to an archaic myth, Chiron was sired by the Titan Cronus when he had taken the form of a horse and impregnated the nymph Philyra, hence the half-human, half-equine shape of their offspring. In Greek mythology, Philyra or Phillyra (“linden-tree”) was one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus and Tethys.

This was said to have taken place on Mount Pelion. When she gave birth to her son, she was so disgusted by how he looked that she abandoned him out of shame and disgust at birth, and implored the gods to transform her into anything other than anthropomorphic as she could not bear the shame of having had such a monstrous child; the gods changed her into a linden tree.

Yet in some versions Philyra and Chariclo, the wife of Chiron, nursed the young Achilles; Chiron’s dwelling on Pelion where his disciples were reared was known as “Philyra’s cave”. Chiron was often referred to by the matronymic Philyrides or the like. Two other sons of Cronus and Philyra may have been Dolops and Aphrus, the ancestor and eponym of the Aphroi, i.e. the native Africans.

Chiron, effectively orphaned, was later found by the god Apollo, who decided to take him in as his son. Apollo taught to him the art of music, lyre, archery, medicine and prophecy. Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis, later approved of his decision and taught him more about archery and hunting. Chiron’s uniquely peaceful character, kindness and intelligence is attributed to Apollo and also to Artemis.

His personal skills tend to match those of his foster father Apollo, who taught the young centaur the art of medicine, herbs, music, archery, hunting, gymnastics and prophecy, and made him rise above his beastly nature.

Like satyrs, centaurs were notorious for being wild, lusty, overly indulgent drinkers and carousers, violent when intoxicated, and generally uncultured delinquents. Chiron, by contrast, was intelligent, civilized and kind, because he was not related directly to the other centaurs due to his parentage.

His nobility is further reflected in the story of his death, as Prometheus sacrificed his life, allowing mankind to obtain the use of fire. Chiron was the king of the centaurs and unlike his race he was intelligent and wise. So wise, in fact, that he tutored Heracles who became one of his great friends.

As the son of Cronus he was immortal, so it was left to Heracles to arrange a bargain with Zeus to exchange Chiron’s immortality for the life of Prometheus, who had been chained to a rock and left to die for his transgressions.

Chiron was pierced with an arrow belonging to Heracles that had been treated with the blood of the Hydra, or, in other versions, poison that Chiron had given to the hero when he had been under the honorable centaur’s tutelage.

This had taken place during the visit of Heracles to the cave of his dear friend Pholus on Mount Pelion in Thessaly during his fourth labour, defeating the Erymanthian Boar.

Pholus was a centaur and was having dinner with Heracles. While they were at supper, Heracles asked for some wine to accompany his meal. Pholus, who ate his food raw, was taken aback. He had been given a vessel of sacred wine by Dionysus sometime earlier, to be kept in trust by the centaurs until the right time for its opening.

At Heracles’ prompting, Pholus was forced to produce the vessel of sacred wine. The hero, gasping for wine, grabbed it from him and forced it open. Thereupon the vapors of the sacred wine wafted out of the cave and intoxicated the wild centaurs led by Nessus who had gathered outside.

The wine was the sacred wine of the centaurs. It was meant to only be drunk by the centaurs and only on special occasions. Pholus saw this and could not muster up the courage to tell his strong friend that he was not allowed to drink that wine. It was not long before the sacred scent reached the other centaurs.

The infuriated centaurs grabbed weapons and charged at Pholus’ house. They attacked with stones and fir trees the cave which was located in the neighbourhood of Malea. Heracles was forced to shoot many arrows (poisoned with the blood of the Hydra) to drive them back.

The coward Pholus fled almost immediately and left Heracles to fend for himself. Heracles killed several of the centaurs and soon enough of them were dead that the rest became afraid and tried to flee.

Upon shooting at the fleeing beasts, Heracles’ poison arrow grazed the knee of Chiron. Chiron was not involved in the fight but came out to try to stop it. During the assault, Chiron was hit in the thigh by one of the poisoned arrows.

After the centaurs had fled, Pholus emerged from the cave to observe the destruction. Being of a philosophical frame of mind, he pulled one of the arrows from the body of a dead centaur and wondered how such a little thing as an arrow could have caused so much death and destruction.

In that instant, he let slip the arrow from his hand and it dropped and hit him in the hoof, killing him instantly. This, however, is open to controversy, because Pholus shared the “civilized centaur” form with Chiron in some art images, and thus would have been immortal.

Ironically, Chiron, the master of the healing arts, could not heal himself and willingly gave up his immortality. For this reason, his half-brother Zeus took pity of him thus placed him among the stars in the sky to be honored. The Greeks identified him as the constellation Centaurus.

The immortal Chiron could not die from his wound and thus would be doomed to live in great pain forever. He cried to Zeus to give him relief and end his life. Zeus took pity on the centaur and let him die. To honor him, Zeus gave Chiron a place amongst the stars.

Centaurus

Constellation Centaurus the Centaur, sits south of constellation Virgo, between Argo Navis and constellation Lupus. Centaurus contains 10 named fixed stars. Centaurus is one of the largest constellations, spanning more than 60 degrees in length in the zodiac signs Libra and Scorpio.

Centaurus is a bright constellation in the southern sky. It is the ninth largest constellation, visible in the far southern sky in the months around March. While Centaurus now has a high southern latitude, at the dawn of civilization it was an equatorial constellation.

Precession has been slowly shifting it southward for millennia, and it is now close to its maximal southern declination. Thousands of years from now Centaurus will, once again, be at lower latitudes and be visible worldwide.

Visually, it is dominated by the bright stars α-Cen andβ-Cen, which form a pair of pointers to the Southern Cross, Crux, and may be used to distinguish it from the False Cross asterism in Carina and Vela. The brighter of these, α-Cen is not only the third brightest star in the sky but also the closest of all the stars visible to the unaided eye, lying at a distance of around 4.37 lightyears.

Although it appears as a single object to the unaided eye, it is actually a triple-star system. Through a telescope, it is easy to resolve into a pair of stars, of which HR 5459 is the brighter and HR 5460 the fainter. A third component of this system, Proxima Centauri, is the nearest known star to the Earth, but at 11th magnitude, it is very faint.

The Milky Way passes through the southern half of Centaurus, and so it is home to many bright open clusters. Its best known deep sky object is ω–Centauri (NGC 5139) which is the largest and brightest globular cluster in the sky, visible to the naked eye at mag 3.7.

The most popular meaning of the constellation is that it represents the form of Chiron. According to the Roman poet Ovid (Fasti v.379), the constellation honors the centaur Chiron, who was tutor to many of the earlier Greek heroes including Heracles (Hercules), Theseus, and Jason, the leader of the Argonauts.

In classical mythology, the centaurs were a race of beings who were half human and half horse. Centaurus is identified as one particularly wise centaur, Chiron, the son of Cronus, king of the Titans. He is commonly depicted holding an animal, the neighboring constellation Lupus, which he is about to sacrifice on the altar depicted in Ara.

In Greek mythology, Centaurus represents a centaur; a creature that is half human, half horse (another constellation named after a centaur is one from the zodiac: Sagittarius). The figure of Centaurus can be traced back to a Babylonian constellation known as the Bison-man (MUL.GUD.ALIM).

This being was depicted in two major forms: firstly, as a 4-legged bison with a human head, and secondly, as a being with a man’s head and torso attached to the rear legs and tail of a bull or bison. It has been closely associated with the Sun god Utu-Shamash from very early times.

The stars that make up this constellation were originally a part of the constellation Centaurus. They represented an animal that had been killed by the centaur. No particular animal was associated with it. The ancient Greeks knew it as Therium, a wild animal. The Romans called it Bestia, the beast. A later Latin translation of Ptolemy’s work finally identified it as a wolf.

The Greeks depicted the constellation as a centaur and gave it its current name. It was mentioned by Eudoxus in the 4th century BC and Aratus in the 3rd century BC. In the 2nd century AD, Claudius Ptolemy catalogued 37 stars in Centaurus, including Alpha Centauri.

Large as it is now, in earlier times it was even larger, as the constellation Lupus was treated as an asterism within Centaurus, portrayed in illustrations as an unspecified animal either in the centaur’s grasp or impaled on its spear.

The Southern Cross, which is now regarded as a separate constellation, was treated by the ancients as a mere asterism formed of the stars composing the centaur’s legs. Additionally, what is now the minor constellation Circinus was treated as undefined stars under the centaur’s front hooves.

According to the Roman poet Ovid (Fasti v.379), the constellation honors the centaur Chiron, who was tutor to many of the earlier Greek heroes including Heracles (Hercules), Theseus, and Jason, the leader of the Argonauts.

It is not to be confused with the more warlike centaur represented by the zodiacal constellation Sagittarius. The legend associated with Chiron says that he was accidentally poisoned with an arrow shot by Hercules, and was subsequently placed in the heavens.

The Scorpius–Centaurus Association

The Scorpius–Centaurus Association (sometimes called Sco–Cen or Sco OB2) is the nearest OB association to the Sun. This stellar association is composed of three subgroups (Upper Scorpius, Upper Centaurus–Lupus, and Lower Centaurus–Crux).

Many of the bright stars in the constellations Scorpius, Lupus, Centaurus, and Crux are members of the Sco–Cen association, including Antares (the most massive member of Upper Scorpius), and most of the stars in the Southern Cross.

Alpha Lupi (α Lupi, α Lup) is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Lupus. This star is a proper motion member of the Upper-Centaurus Lupus sub-group in the Scorpius-Centaurus OB association, the nearest such co-moving association of massive stars to the Sun.

The Crux 

Centaurus contains several very bright stars. Its alpha and beta stars are used as “pointer stars” to help observers find the constellation Crux, a constellation located in the southern sky in a bright portion of the Milky Way.

The two stars of Alpha and Beta Centauri are often referred to as the “Southern Pointers” or just “The Pointers”, allowing people to easily find the asterism of the Southern Cross or the constellation of Crux.

The Crux is among the most easily distinguished constellations, as all of its four main stars have an apparent visual magnitude brighter than +2.8, even though it is the smallest of all 88 modern constellations. Its name is Latin for cross, and it is dominated by a cross-shaped or kite-like asterism that is commonly known as the Southern Cross.

Predominating is the first-magnitude blue-white star of Alpha Crucis or Acrux, being the constellation’s brightest and most southerly member. Many of these brighter stars are members of the Scorpius–Centaurus Association, a large but loose group of hot blue-white stars that appear to share common origins and motion across the southern Milky Way.

Crux is bordered by the constellations Centaurus (which surrounds it on three sides) on the east, north and west, and Musca to the south. Crux is easily visible from the southern hemisphere at practically any time of year. It is also visible near the horizon from tropical latitudes of the northern hemisphere for a few hours every night during the northern winter and spring.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross is frequently used for navigation in much the same way that Polaris is used in the Northern Hemisphere. Alpha and Gamma (known as Acrux and Gacrux, respectively) are commonly used to mark south.

Tracing a line from Gacrux to Acrux leads to a point close to the Southern Celestial Pole. Alternatively, if a line is constructed perpendicularly between Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, the point where the above-mentioned line and this line intersect marks the Southern Celestial Pole. Another way to find south, strike line through Gacrux and Acrux, 4 1/2 times the distance between Gacrux and Acrux, directly below that point is south.

Very few bright stars of importance lie between Crux and the pole itself, although the constellation Musca is fairly easily recognised immediately beneath Crux. The stars within Crux were known to the Ancient Greeks, where Ptolemy regarded them as part of the constellation Centaurus. They were entirely visible as far north as Britain in the fourth millennium BC.

However, the precession of the equinoxes gradually lowered the stars below the European horizon, and they were eventually forgotten by the inhabitants of northern latitudes. By 400 AD, most of the stars in the constellation we now call Crux never rose above the horizon of Athens.

Kusarikku

The constellation of Kusarikku (“Bull-Man”), sometimes inscribed GUD.DUMU.dUTU, GUD.DUMU.AN.NA and sometimes phonetically ku-sa-rik-ku(m), synonymous with the Sumerian GU4/gud-alim and perhaps also alim, corresponds to part of Centaurus.

was an ancient Mesopotamian mythological demon shown in artistic representation from the earliest (late Uruk) times with the arms, torso and head of a human and the ears, horns and hindquarters bovine.

He is portrayed as walking upright and characterized as a door keeper to protect the inhabitants from malevolent intruders. He is one of the demons which represented mountains. He is pictured in late iconography holding a banduddû, “bucket”. On a stela of Meli-Šipak, the land grant to Ḫasardu kudurru, he is pictured carrying a spade.

In the Sumerian myth, Angim or “Ninurta’s return to Nippur”, the god “brought forth the Bison (gud-alim) from his battle dust” and “hung the Bison on the beam”. He is one of Tiāmat’s offspring vanquished by Marduk in the Epic of Creation, Enûma Eliš.

In the prologue of the Anzû Myth, Ninurta defeats the kusarikku “in the midst of the sea”. In an incantation against the evil eye of the Lamaštu, an incantation meant to soothe a crying child, kusarikku is portrayed as being negeltû, “roused”, and gullutu, “frightened”.

Along with Ugallu, Girtablullû, and others, he is one of the seven mythological apkallu or “sages” shown on neo-Assyrian palace reliefs, and with figurines – to guard against the influence of evil spirits. The constellation of kusarikku, or gud-alim, corresponds to part of Centaurus. He was associated with the god of justice, Šamaš, along with Girtablullû, the “Scorpion-Man”, and alim, the “Bison”.

There were three species of ungulates in Mesopotamia: the Aurochs, the Bison, and the Water buffalo, and it is not always certain as to which of these was represented in some of the earlier text references. There seems to have been a distinction between the Sumerian terms gud-alim, “bison-man”, and alim, “human-faced bison”.

Ugallu

Ugallu, the “Big Weather-Beast”, inscribed U4/UD.GAL-˹la˺, Akkadian: ūmu rabû, meaning “big day”, was a lion-headed storm-demon and has the feet of a bird who is featured on protective amulets and apotropaic yellow clay or tamarisk figurines of the first millennium BC but had its origins in the early second millennium.

The iconography changed over time, with the human feet morphing into an eagle’s talons and dressing him in a short skirt. He was one of the class of ud-demons (day-demons), personifying moments of divine intervention in human life.

Ugallu was one of the eleven mythical monsters created by Tiāmat in her conflict with the younger gods, on the reverse of the first tablet of the Epic of Creation, Enûma Eliš. The tale describes how Marduk captured and bound the creatures, rehabilitating them with work reconstructing the world from the corpses of his vanquished adversaries.

This transformed them into protective charms which would be used to adorn the doors of palaces, for example that of Ashurbanipal’s southwest palace at Nineveh, temples, such as the Esagil of the Marduk temple as described in the Agum-Kakrime Inscription, and private dwellings (the bedrooms of the vulnerable) to ward off evil and disease.

Sometimes in pairs of ugallū, the beneficial protective demon finds special purpose in adorning the outer gates of buildings. Ugallu first appears figuratively in the Old Babylonian period as a porter of the underworld, a servant of Nergal. In later times he is represented on amulets as frequently paired with the Sumerian demon Lulal, who was in many respects fairly similar in appearance.

He is portrayed clasping a dagger, and described thus: “a lion’s head and lion’s ears, it holds a … in its right hand and carries a mace (gišTUKUL) in its left, it is girded with a dagger, its name is ugallu.”

Ur(i)dimmu

Kusarikku appears in later iconography paired with Ur(i)dimmu, the reading is uncertain, meaning “Mad/howling Dog” or Langdon’s “Gruesome Hound”, Sumerian UR.IDIM and giš.pirig.gal = ur-gu-lu-ú = ur-idim-[mu] in the lexical series ḪAR.gud = imrû = ballu.

Ur(i)dimmu was an ancient Mesopotamian mythical creature in the form of a human headed dog-man or lion-man whose first appearance might be during the Kassite period, if the Agum-Kakrime Inscription proves to be a copy of a genuine period piece. He is pictured standing upright, wearing a horned tiara and holding a staff with an uskaru, or lunar crescent, at the tip.

The lexical series ḪAR-ra=ḫubullu describes him as a kalbu šegû, “rabid dog”, but due to the propensity for Sumerian culture to group canines and felines together (ur.maḫ, big dog = lion) and Akkadian to separate them (nēšu, labbu = lion), the issue remains unresolved although the prominent genitalia on the few extant representations argues for a canine interpretation.

His appearance was essentially the opposite, or complement of that of Ugallu, with a human head replacing that of an animal and an animal’s body replacing that of a human. He appears in later iconography paired with Kusarikku, “Bull-Man”, a similar anthropomorphic character, as attendants to the god Šamaš. He is carved as a guardian figure on a doorway in Aššur-bāni-apli’s north palace at Nineveh.

He appears as an intercessor with Marduk and Zarpanītu for the sick in rituals. He was especially revered in the Eanna in Uruk during the neo-Babylonian period where he seems to have taken on a cultic role, where the latest attestation was in the 29th year of Darius I.

As one of the eleven spawn of Tiamat in the Enûma Eliš vanquished by Marduk, he was displayed as a trophy on doorways to ward off evil and later became an apotropaic figurine buried in buildings for a similar purpose. He became identified as MUL- or dUR.IDIM with the constellation known by the Greeks as Wolf (Lupus), a constellation located in the deep Southern Sky.

Lupus

Lupus is a constellation located in the deep Southern Sky. Its name is Latin for wolf. It is often found in association with the sun god and another mythical being called the Bison-man, which is supposedly related to the Greek constellation of Centaurus, a bright constellation in the southern sky.

In ancient times, the constellation was considered an asterism within the neighboring constellation Centaurus, and was considered to have been an arbitrary animal, killed, or about to be killed, on behalf of, or for, Centaurus. An alternative visualization, attested by Eratosthenes, saw this constellation as a wineskin held by Centaurus.

It was not separated from Centaurus until Hipparchus of Bithynia named it Therion (meaning beast) in the 2nd century BC. No particular animal was associated with it until the Latin translation of Ptolemy’s work identified it with the wolf.

Most of the brightest stars in Lupus are massive members of the nearest OB association, Scorpius-Centaurus, which is the nearest OB association to the Sun. This stellar association is composed of three subgroups (Upper Scorpius, Upper Centaurus–Lupus, and Lower Centaurus–Crux).

The elements

Assyrian sculpture typically placed prominent pairs of lamassu at entrances in palaces, facing the street and also internal courtyards. They were represented as “double-aspect” figures on corners, in high relief. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk, and in earlier versions have five legs, as is apparent when viewed obliquely.

The ancient Jewish people were influenced by the iconography of Assyrian culture. The prophet Ezekiel wrote about a fantastic being made up of aspects of a human being, a lion, an eagle and a bull. Later, in the early Christian period, the four Gospels were ascribed to each of these components. When it was depicted in art, this image was called the Tetramorph.

Classical elements typically refer to the concepts in ancient Greece of earth, water, air, fire, and aether, which were proposed to explain the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances.

Ancient cultures in Babylonia, Japan, Tibet, and India had similar lists, sometimes referring in local languages to “air” as “wind” and the fifth element as “void”. The Chinese Wu Xing system lists Wood (mù), Fire (huǒ), Earth (tǔ), Metal (jīn), and Water (shuǐ), though these are described more as energies or transitions rather than as types of material.

These different cultures and even individual philosophers had widely varying explanations concerning their attributes and how they related to observable phenomena as well as cosmology. Sometimes these theories overlapped with mythology and were personified in deities.

Some of these interpretations included atomism (the idea of very small, indivisible portions of matter) but other interpretations considered the elements to be divisible into infinitely small pieces without changing their nature.

While the classification of the material world in ancient Indian, Hellenistic Egypt, and ancient Greece into Air, Earth, Fire and Water was more philosophical, during the Islamic Golden Age medieval middle eastern scientists used practical, experimental observation to classify materials.

In Europe, the Ancient Greek system of Aristotle evolved slightly into the medieval system, which for the first time in Europe became subject to experimental verification in the 1600s, during the Scientific Revolution.

Modern science does not support the classical elements as the material basis of the physical world. Atomic theory classifies atoms into more than a hundred chemical elements such as oxygen, iron, and mercury. These elements form chemical compounds and mixtures, and under different temperatures and pressures, these substances can adopt different states of matter.

The most commonly observed states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma share many attributes with the classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire, respectively, but these states are due to similar behavior of different types of atoms at similar energy levels, and not due to containing a certain type of atom or a certain type of substance.

The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Elements, Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, Five Processes, the Five Steps/Stages and the Five Planets of significant gravity: Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, Mars is the short form of “Wǔ zhǒng liúxíng zhī qì” or “the five types of chi dominating at different times”.

It is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs.

The “Five Phases” are Wood (mù), Fire (huǒ), Earth (tǔ), Metal (jīn), and Water (shuǐ). This order of presentation is known as the “mutual generation” (xiāngshēng) sequence. In the order of “mutual overcoming” (xiāngkè), they are Wood, Earth, Water, Fire, and Metal.

The system of five phases was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. After it came to maturity in the second or first century BCE during the Han dynasty, this device was employed in many fields of early Chinese thought.

It was included in seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy or Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, music, military strategy, and martial arts. The system is still used as a reference in some forms of complementary and alternative medicine and martial arts.

Classical Elements

Astrology and the Classical Elements

Five elements

Wu Xing

Papsukkal and Ishum

Janus: Isimu – Ninshubur – Hermes – Turms – Mercury – Lugus – Odin

The Akkadians associated the god Papsukkal with a lamassu and the god Ishum with shedu. Papsukkal was syncretized with Ninshubur, the messenger of the goddess Inanna. Much like Iris or Hermes in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods. Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury.

Ishum is a minor god in Akkadian mythology, the brother of Shamash and an attendant of Erra. He may have been a god of fire and, according to texts, led the gods in war as a herald but was nonetheless generally regarded as benevolent. He developed from the Sumerian figure of Endursaga, the herald god in the Sumerian mythology. He leads the pantheon, particularly in times of conflict.

The ancient Greeks had no equivalent to Janus, whom the Romans claimed as distinctively their own. However, Isimud (also Isinu; Usmû; Usumu) is a minor god, the messenger of the god Enki, in Sumerian mythology. In ancient Sumerian artwork, Isimud is easily identifiable because he is always depicted with two faces facing in opposite directions in a way that is similar to the ancient Roman god Janus.

Isimud plays a similar role to Ninshubur, Inanna’s sukkal. Ninshubur (also known as Ninshubar, Nincubura or Ninšubur) was the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology. Her name means “Queen of the East” in ancient Sumerian. Much like Iris or Hermes in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods.

Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics such as being the patron of commerce. In his earliest forms, he appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms; both gods share characteristics with the Greek god Hermes.

Turms was depicted with the same distinctive attributes as Hermes and Mercury: a caduceus, a petasos (often winged), and/or winged sandals. Turms is portrayed as a messenger of the gods, particularly Tinia (Jupiter), although he is also thought to be ‘at the service’ (ministerium) of other deities. Etruscan artwork often depicts Turms in his role as psychopomp, conducting the soul into the afterlife.

Mercury (Latin: Mercurius) is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon. He is the god of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travelers, boundaries, luck, trickery and thieves; he also serves as the guide of souls to the underworld.

He was considered the son of Maia, who was a daughter of the Titan Atlas, and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is possibly related to the Latin word merx (“merchandise”; cf. merchant, commerce, etc.), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages).

Another possible connection is the Proto-Indo-European root merĝ- for “boundary, border” (cf. Old English “mearc”, Old Norse “mark” and Latin “margō”) and Greek Arctūrus, as the “keeper of boundaries,” referring to his role as bridge between the upper and lower worlds.

He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.

Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini and is exalted in Virgo and/or Aquarius. In classical Roman mythology, Mercury is the messenger of the gods, noted for his speed and swiftness. In Chinese astrology Mercury represents Water, the fourth element, therefore symbolizing communication, intelligence, and elegance.

Mercury rules over Wednesday. In Romance languages, the word for Wednesday is often similar to Mercury (miercuri in Romanian, mercredi in French, miercoles in Spanish and mercoledì in Italian).

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.

Mercury, in particular, was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered; 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, a goddess of fertility and abundance, her attributes being those of plenty such as the cornucopia.

The cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae), also called the horn of plenty, was a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers or nuts. The cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance.

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.

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. In Germanic mythology, Odin (from Old Norse: Óðinn) is a widely revered god.

References to Odin appear in place names throughout regions historically inhabited by the ancient Germanic peoples, and the day of the week Wednesday bears his name in many Germanic languages, including English. Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini and is exalted in Virgo and/or Aquarius.

In Norse mythology, from which stems most surviving information about the god, 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 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.

Janus

Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings, who is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The gates of a building in Rome named after him (not a temple, as it is often called, but an open enclosure with gates at each end) were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often).

Numa in his regulation of the Roman calendar called the first month Januarius after Janus, according to tradition considered the highest divinity at the time. He was likely the most important god in the Roman archaic pantheon, and was often invoked together with Iuppiter (Jupiter).

Janus had no flamen or specialised priest (sacerdos) assigned to him, but the King of the Sacred Rites (rex sacrorum) himself carried out his ceremonies. Janus had an ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies throughout the year. As such, Janus was ritually invoked at the beginning of each ceremony, regardless of the main deity honored on any particular occasion.

Janus frequently symbolized change and transitions such as the progress of past to future, from one condition to another, from one vision to another, and young people’s growth to adulthood. He represented time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other.

Hence, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as at marriages, deaths and other beginnings. He represented the middle ground between barbarism and civilization, rural and urban space, youth and adulthood. Having jurisdiction over beginnings Janus had an intrinsic association with omens and auspices.

The function god of beginnings has been clearly expressed in numerous ancient sources, among them most notably Cicero, Ovid, and Varro. As a god of motion, Janus looks after passages, causes actions to start and presides over all beginnings. Since movement and change are interconnected, he has a double nature, symbolised in his two headed image.

He has under his tutelage the stepping in and out of the door of homes, the ianua, which took its name from him, and not vice versa. Similarly, his tutelage extends to the covered passages named iani and foremost to the gates of the city, including the cultic gate of the Argiletum, named Ianus Geminus or Porta Ianualis from which he protects Rome against the Sabines.

He presides over the concrete and abstract beginnings of the world, such as religion and the gods themselves, he too holds the access to Heaven and to other gods: this is the reason why men must invoke him first, regardless of the god they want to pray or placate. He is the initiator of human life, of new historical ages, and financial enterprises: according to myth he was the first to mint coins and the as, first coin of the liberal series, bears his effigy on one face.

He is also present at the Sororium Tigillum, where he guards the terminus of the ways into Rome from Latium. He has an altar, later a temple near the Porta Carmentalis, where the road leading to Veii ended, as well as being present on the Janiculum, a gateway from Rome out to Etruria.

The connection of the notions of beginning (principium), movementy, transition (eundo), and thence time has been clearly expressed by Cicero. In general, Janus is at the origin of time as the guardian of the gates of Heaven: Jupiter himself can move forth and back because of Janus’s working.

In one of his temples, probably that of Forum Holitorium, the hands of his statue were positioned to signify the number 355 (the number of days in a lunar year), later 365, symbolically expressing his mastership over time.

Portunus – Melicertes – Melqart – Quirinus – Romulus 

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys and exchange, and in his association with Portunus, a similar harbor and gateway god, he was concerned with travelling, trading and shipping.

Portunus was the ancient Roman god of keys, doors, livestock and ports. He may have originally protected the warehouses where grain was stored, but later became associated with ports, perhaps because of folk associations between porta “gate, door” and portus “harbor”, the “gateway” to the sea, or because of an expansion in the meaning of portus. Portunus later became conflated with the Greek Palaemon.

No satisfactory origin of the name Palaemon has been given. It has been suggested that it means the “wrestler” or “struggler” and is an epithet of Heracles, with whom Melqart is identified by interpretatio graeca and referred to as the Tyrian Herakles, but there does not appear to be any traditional connection between Heracles and Palaemon.

Melicertes being Phoenician, Palaemon also has been explained as the “burning lord” (Baal-haman), but there seems little in common between a god of the sea and a god of fire. The Romans identified Palaemon with Portunus (the harbour god), and some took the name Palaemon to mean “the honey eater”. The name is also said to mean “the wrestler”.

In Greek mythology, Melicertes (Ancient Greek: Melecertes, later called Palaemon) is the son of the Boeotian prince Athamas and Ino, daughter of Cadmus. Palaemon appears for the first time in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris, where he is already the “guardian of ships”. There seems considerable doubt whether or not the cult of Melicertes was of foreign, probably Phoenician, origin, and introduced by Phoenician navigators on the coasts and islands of the Aegean and Mediterranean.

For the Hellenes he is a native of Boeotia, where Phoenician influences were strong; at Tenedos he was propitiated by the sacrifice of children which seems to point to his identity with Melqart, the tutelary god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was often titled the “Lord of Tyre” (Ba‘al Ṣūr) and was considered to be the progenitor of the Tyrian royal family. As Tyrian trade and colonization expanded, Melqart became venerated in Phoenician and Punic cultures from Lebanon to Spain.

Melqart was written in the Phoenician abjad as mlqrt. The same name is also sometimes transcribed as Melkart, Melkarth, or Melgart. The name is a variant of mlk qrt and means “King of the City”. In Akkadian, his name was written Milqartu. To the Greeks and the Romans, he was identified with Hercules and, when necessary, distinguished as the Tyrian Hercules.

It was suggested by some writers that the Phoenician Melicertes son of Ino found in Greek mythology was in origin a reflection of Melqart. Though no classical source explicitly connects the two, Ino is the daughter of Cadmus of Tyre. Sanchuniathon makes Melqart under the name Malcarthos or Melcathros. the son of Hadad. who is normally identified with Zeus.

The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (10.24) speaks of the tombs of various gods, including “that of Heracles at Tyre, where he was burnt with fire.” Athenaeus summarizes a story by Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 355 BCE) telling how Heracles the son of Zeus by Asteria (= ‘Ashtart ?) was killed by Typhon in Libya.

Heracles’ companion Iolaus brought a quail to the dead god (presumably a roasted quail) and its delicious scent roused Heracles back to life. This purports to explain why the Phoenicians sacrifice quails to Heracles. It seems that Melqart had a companion similar to the Hellenic Iolaus, who was himself a native of the Tyrian colony of Thebes.

He initiated the ‘Awakening’ of Heracles, in the month of Peritios, corresponding to February, indicating this annual awakening was in no way a solstitial celebration. It would have coincided with the normal ending of the winter rains. The annual observation of the revival of Melqart’s “awakening” may identify Melqart as a life-death-rebirth deity.

The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was a native of Lepcis Magna in North Africa, an originally Phoenician city where worship of Melqart was widespread. He is known to have constructed in Rome a temple dedicated to “Liber and Hercules”, and it is assumed that the Emperor, seeking to honour the god of his native city, identified Melqart with the Roman god Liber.

Because of the scanty evidence scholars vary widely on what kind of a god Melqart was. William F. Albright in Archaeology and the Religion of Israel suggested Melqart was a god of the underworld partly because a god Malku who may be Melqart is sometimes equated with the Mesopotamian god Nergal, a god of the underworld, whose name also means ‘King of the City’.

Others take this to be coincidental, since what we know about Melqart from other sources does not suggest an underworld god and it is more natural to understand the city to be Tyre. It has been suggested that Melqart began as a sea god who was later given solar attributes or alternatively that he began as a solar god who later received the attributes of a sea god. In fact little is known of his cult.

Portunus’ festival, celebrated on August 17, the sixteenth day before the Kalends of September, was the Portunalia, a minor occasion in the Roman year. On this day, keys were thrown into a fire for good luck in a very solemn and lugubrious manner. His attribute was a key and his main temple in the city of Rome, the Temple of Portunus, was to be found in the Forum Boarium.

Portunus appears to be closely related to the god Janus, with whom he shares many characters, functions and the symbol of the key. He too was represented as a two headed being, with each head facing opposite directions, on coins and as figurehead of ships. He was considered to be “deus portuum portarumque praeses” (lit. God presiding over ports and gates.)

The relationship between the two gods is underlined by the fact that the date chosen for the dedication of the rebuilt temple of Janus in the Forum Holitorium by emperor Tiberius is the day of the Portunalia, August 17.

Linguist Giuliano Bonfante has speculated, on the grounds of his cult and of the meaning of his name, that Portunus should be a very archaic deity and might date back to an era when Latins lived in dwellings built on pilings. He argues that in Latin the words porta (door, gate) and portus (harbour, port) share their etymology from the same IE root meaning ford, wading point.

Portunus’ flamen, the flamen Portunalis, was one of the flamines minores and performed the ritual of oiling the spear (hasta) on the statue of god Quirinus, with an ointment especially prepared for this purpose and stored in a small vase (persillum).

In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus (Latin: Quirīnus) is an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris “spear”. In earlier Roman art, he was portrayed as a bearded man with religious and military clothing. However, he was almost never depicted in later Roman belief systems. He was also often associated with the myrtle.

Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning “wielder of the spear” (Quiris, in the Sabine language, cf. Janus Quirinus). Other suggested etymologies are: from the Sabine town Cures; from curia, i.e. he was the god of the Roman state as represented by the thirty curies, first proposed by Krestchmer. A. B. Cook explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.

Quirinus was most likely a Sabine god of war. The Sabines had a settlement near the eventual site of Rome, and erected an altar to Quirinus on the Collis Quirinalis Quirinal Hill, one of the Seven hills of Rome. When the Romans settled in the area, the cult of Quirinus became part of their early belief system. This occurred before the later influences from the classical Greek culture.

In Plutarch’s Life of Romulus, he writes that shortly after Rome’s founder had disappeared under what some considered suspicious circumstances, a Roman noble named Proculus Julius reported that Romulus had came to him while he was travelling. He claimed that the king had instructed him to tell his countrymen that he, Romulus was Quirinus. By the end of the first century BC, Quirinus would be considered to be the deified legendary king.

Historian Angelo Brelich has argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity which was split into a founder hero and a god when Roman religion became demythicised. To support this, he points to the association of both Romulus and Quirinus with the grain spelt, through the Fornacalia or Stultorum Feriae, according to Ovid’s Fasti.

The last day of the festival is called the Quirinalia and corresponds with the traditional day of Romulus’ death. On that day, the Romans would toast spelt as an offering to the goddess Fornax. In one version of the legend of Romulus’ death cited by Plutarch, he was killed and cut into pieces by the nobles and each of them took a part of his body home and buried it on their land.

Brelich claims that this pattern – a festival involving a staple crop, a god, and a tale of a slain founding hero whose body parts are buried in the soil – is a recognized archetype that arises when such a split takes place in a culture’s mythology. The possible presence of the flamen Quirinalis at the festival of Acca Larentia would corroborate this thesis, given the fact that Romulus is a stepson of hers, and one of the original twelve arval brethren (Fratres Arvales).

The association of Quirinus and Romulus is further supported by a connection with Vofionos, the third god in the triad of the Grabovian gods of Iguvium. Vofionos would be the equivalent of Liber or Teutates, in Latium and among the Celts respectively.

His early importance led to his inclusion in the first Capitoline Triad, along with Mars (then an agriculture god) and Jupiter. Over time, however, he became less significant, and he was absent from the later, more widely known triad (he and Mars had been replaced by Juno and Minerva). Varro mentions the Capitolium Vetus, an earlier cult site on the Quirinal, devoted to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, among whom Martial makes a distinction between the “old Jupiter” and the “new”.

Eventually, Romans began to favor personal and mystical cults over the official state belief system. These included those of Bacchus, Cybele, and Isis, leaving only his flamen to worship him. The Flamen Quirinalis who remained, however, was one of the patrician flamines maiores (“greater flamens”) who had oversight over the Pontifex Maximus.

Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Quirinal hill in Rome, originally named from the deified Romulus, was still associated with power – it was chosen as the seat of the royal house after the taking of Rome by the Savoia and later it became the residence of the Presidents of the Italian Republic.

Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia. His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

Haia – Nisaba

In ancient Mesopotamian religion, Haya was primarily a god of scribes, but also of stores and may have also been associated with grain and agriculture. He also served as a doorkeeper. In some texts, he is identified as the father of the goddess Ninlil.

In the god-list AN = dA-nu-um preserved on manuscripts of the first millennium he is mentioned together with dlugal-[ki-sá-a], a divinity associated with door-keepers. Already in the Ur III period Haya had received offerings together with offerings to the “gate”. This was presumably because of the location of one of his shrines.

At least from the Old Babylonian period on he is known as the spouse of the grain-goddess Nidaba/Nissaba, who is also the patroness of the scribal art. From the same period we have a Sumerian hymn composed in his honour, which celebrates him in these capacities.

Haya is also characterised, beyond being the spouse of Nidaba/Nissaba, as an “agrig”-official of the god Enlil. The god-list AN = Anu ša amēli (lines 97-98) designates him as “the Nissaba of wealth”, as opposed to his wife, who is the “Nissaba of Wisdom”.

There is also a divine name Haia(-)amma in a bilingual Hattic-Hittite text from Anatolia which is used as an equivalent for the Hattic grain-goddess Kait in an invocation to the Hittite grain-god Halki, although it is unclear whether this appellation can be related to dha-ià.

He was worshipped mostly during the Third Dynasty of Ur, when he had temples in the cities of Umma, Ur, and Kuara. In later times, he had a temple in the city of Assur and may have had one in Nineveh. A god named Haya was worshipped at Mari, but this may have been a different deity.

Haya is the husband of the goddess Nisaba (Sumerian: DNAGA; later DŠE.NAGA), also known by the epithet Nanibgal (Sumerian: DAN.NAGA; later DAN.ŠE.NAGA), the Sumerian goddess of writing, learning, and the harvest.

She was the daughter of Anu and Unas (personifications of Heaven and Earth), although, in certain cities like Lagash, she was represented as the daughter of Enlil and Ninlil, the divine couple who came to power with the blessing of Anu and Unas. In the best-known stories, however, Ninlil (also known as Sud) is Nisaba’s daughter and Enlil her son-in-law.

The god of wisdom, Enki, organized the world after creation and gave each deity a role in the world order. Nisaba was named the scribe of the gods, and Enki then built her a school of learning so that she could better serve those in need. She keeps records, chronicles events, and performs various other bookwork-related duties for the gods. She is also in charge of marking regional borders.

She is the chief scribe of Nanshe. In Sumerian mythology, Nanshe was the daughter of Enki (god of wisdom, magic and water) and Ninhursag (earth and mother goddess). Her functions as a goddess were varied. She was a goddess of social justice, prophecy, fertility and fishing. Like her father, she was heavily associated with water.

The Sumerians first invented writing c. 3500-3000 BCE as a means of long-distance communication in trade. With the rise of the cities in Mesopotamia and the increased need for certain resources each lacked, long-distance trade developed and with it the need to be able to communicate between regions. This early writing was known as cuneiform, impressions made with a sharp object in clay.

The earliest form of cuneiform was pictographs – symbols which represented objects – and served to aid in remembering such things as which parcels of grain had gone to which destination or the number of livestock sent to the temple.

These pictographs were impressed onto wet clay which was then dried, and these became official records of commerce. With pictographs, one could tell how many sheep, vats of beer, or sheafs of grain were involved in a transaction but not necessarily what that transaction meant.

In order to express concepts more complex than financial transactions or lists of items, a more elaborate writing system was required, and this was developed in the Sumerian city of Uruk c. 3200 BCE. Pictographs, though still in use, gave way to phonograms – symbols which represented sounds – and those sounds were the spoken language of the people of Sumer.

With phonograms, one could more easily convey precise meaning, and so, in the example of the two sheep and the temple of Inanna, one could now make clear whether the sheep were going to or coming from the temple, whether they were living or dead, and what role they played in the life of the temple.

Nisaba, formerly goddess of grain, became associated with writing as records were made regarding grain transactions. As the great lady who made the grain grow, she also oversaw the accounts of where it was distributed and how. Writing developed as trade grew until Nisaba was synonymous with the concept of writing and became known as “The Lady – in the place where she approaches there is writing”.

Cuneiform represented the spoken language of the Sumerians, but the form lent itself to other languages as well and was used by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and many others throughout the Near East.

Nisaba became the goddess of literacy and patroness of the craft of writing. Scribal school tablets often end with the phrase, ‘Praise be to Nisaba!’ and Meador notes how “a young student wrote on one ancient tablet, ‘I am the creation of Nisaba'”.

When she had been goddess of grains, she was represented in cuneiform as a grain stalk, which meant she was the grain itself. Each early pictogram represented the thing itself, not concepts about an object or person, and so when the stalk of grain appears in early cuneiform the writer is saying Nisaba is present in that grain.

In the same way, when she became goddess of writing, she was the written word; she was language; she was literacy; she was communication, learning; she was the writer and the written word.

As with many Sumerian deities, Nisaba’s exact place in the pantheon and her heritage appears somewhat ambiguous. She is the daughter of An and Urash. From Sumerian texts, the language used to describe Urash is very similar to the language used to describe Ninhursag.

Therefore, the two goddess may be one and the same. Nisaba is the sister of Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh. If Urash and Ninhursag are the same goddess, then Nisaba is also the half sister of Nanshe and (in some versions) Ninurta.

Although Nisaba was worshiped at shrines and sanctuaries, no actual temple dedicated to her has yet been identified. She was honored at the temples of other gods such as those of Nabu and Ninlil, and these may have earlier been Nisaba’s, which were later repurposed. Inscriptions make clear that her temple at Eresh was known as Esagin, ‘House of Lapis Lazuli,’ which was a center of worship for over 1,000 years.

Her worship eventually seems to have consisted primarily of the act of writing; in composing a written work, an author was honoring the goddess with the gifts she had given. She became synonymous with wisdom and learning and was invoked regularly by scribes, scholars, priests, astronomers, and mathematicians for inspiration and guidance in their work.

The Amorite king Hammurabi rose to power after his father, Sin-Muballit, was forced to abdicate in his favor. Once Hammurabi held the throne of Babylon, he steadily lay his plans for conquest and then acted on them, successfully defeating his enemies and creating an empire.

He thanked his gods for these victories by elevating them in status at the expense of others, naturally, but Hammurabi’s gods were predominantly male, and their prominence led to the loss of status of female deities throughout Mesopotamia; as well as a corresponding decline in the status and rights of women.

Nabu, as Marduk’s son, took Nisaba’s place as the patron of writing and scribes, and she was relegated to a second-class role as his wife and consort. In this capacity, she kept the records and library of the gods but was no longer invoked for inspiration in creativity; this was now Nabu’s role.

Cylinder seals from the Early Dynastic Period seem to depict her associated with construction, particularly of monuments and temples, which – along with her literary association – would link her to the Egyptian goddess Seshat, the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. Seshat also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.

Thoth, the reckoner of time and god of writing who was also venerated as a god of wisdom was closely identified with Seshat, with whom he shared some overlapping functions. At times she was identified as his daughter, and at other times as his wife.

Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counselor and persuader, and his association with learning and measurement led him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who was said to be his daughter, or variably his wife.

Thoth’s qualities also led to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined as Hermes Trismegistus, also leading to the Greeks’ naming Thoth’s cult centre as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.

It is, however, more widely accepted that Thoth was a record keeper and the scribe of the gods, not a divine messenger. Anubis (or Hermanubis), the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, was viewed as the messenger of the gods, as he travelled in and out of the Underworld and presented himself to the gods and to humans.

Anubis is usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists have identified Anubis’s sacred animal as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf. In the Ptolemaic period (350–30 BC), when Egypt became a Hellenistic kingdom ruled by Greek pharaohs, Anubis was merged with the Greek god Hermes, becoming Hermanubis. The two gods were considered similar because they both guided souls to the afterlife.

Geminus – Quadrifrons

Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions as Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons, in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons, or the four-faced. The Janus quadrifrons, although having a different meaning, seems to be connected to the same theological complex, as its image purports an ability to rule over every direction, element and time of the year. It did not give rise to a new epithet though.

Geminus is the first epithet in Macrobius’s list. Although the etymology of the word is unclear, it is certainly related to his most typical character, that of having two faces or heads. The proof are the numerous equivalent expressions.

The origin of this epithet might be either concrete, referring directly to the image of the god reproduced on coins and supposed to have been introduced by king Numa in the sanctuary at the lowest point of the Argiletum, or to a feature of the Ianus of the Porta Belli, the double gate ritually opened at the beginning of wars, or abstract, deriving metaphorically from the liminal, intermediary functions of the god themselves: both in time and space passages connected two different spheres, realms or worlds.

The Janus quadrifrons or quadriformis, brought according to tradition from Falerii in 241 BC and installed by Domitian in the Forum Transitorium, although having a different meaning, seems to be connected to the same theological complex, as its image purports an ability to rule over every direction, element and time of the year. It did not give rise to a new epithet though.

It has long been believed that Janus was present among the theonyms on the outer rim of the Piacenza Liver in case 3 under the name of Ani. This fact created a problem as the god of beginnings looked to be located in a situation other than the initial, i.e. the first case. After the new readings proposed by A. Maggiani, in case 3 one should read Tins: the difficulty has thus dissolved. Ani has thence been eliminated from Etruscan theology as this was his only attestation.

Tinia (also Tin, Tinh, Tins or Tina) was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. He was the husband of Thalna or Uni and the father of Hercle.

Tinia was part of the powerful “trinity” that included Menrva and Uni, and had temples in every city of Etruria. Tinia was sometimes represented as seated and with a beard or sometimes standing and beardless. In terms of symbolism, Tinia has the thunderbolt and the rod of power, and is generally accompanied by the eagle and sometimes has a wreath of ivy round his head, in addition to the other insignia of Jove.

Some of Tinia’s possible epithets are detailed on the Piacenza Liver, a bronze model of a liver used for haruspicy. These inscriptions have been transcribed as Tin Cilens, Tin Θuf and Tinś Θne. There have been a number of suggestions as to their meaning, but the Etruscan language is poorly understood and there is no scholarly consensus for the translation.

Uni was the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology. She formed a triad with her husband Tinia and daughter Menrva. Uni appears in the Etruscan text on the Pyrgi Tablets as the translation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte.

Livy states (Book V, Ab Urbe Condita) that Juno was an Etruscan goddess of the Veientes, who was adopted ceremonially into the Roman pantheon when Veii was sacked in 396 BC. This seems to refer to Uni. She also appears on the Liver of Piacenza. In the Etruscan tradition, it is Uni who grants access to immortality to the demigod Hercle (Greek Heracles, Latin Hercules) by offering her breast milk to him.

Maggiani remarks that this earlier identification was in contradiction with the testimony ascribed to Varro by Johannes Lydus that Janus was named Caelum among the Etruscans. Caelus or Coelus was a primal god of the sky in Roman myth and theology, iconography, and literature (compare caelum, the Latin word for “sky” or “the heavens”, hence English “celestial”).

The deity’s name usually appears in masculine grammatical form when he is conceived of as a male generative force, but the neuter form Caelum is also found as a divine personification. Caelus begins to appear regularly in Augustan art and in connection with the cult of Mithras during the Imperial era.

Vitruvius includes him among celestial gods whose temple-buildings (aedes) should be built open to the sky. As a sky god, he became identified with Jupiter, as indicated by an inscription that reads Optimus Maximus Caelus Aeternus Iup<pi>ter.

According to Cicero and Hyginus, Caelus was the son of Aether and Dies (“Day” or “Daylight”). Caelus and Dies were in this tradition the parents of Mercury. With Trivia, Caelus was the father of the distinctively Roman god Janus, as well as of Saturn and Ops. Caelus was also the father of one of the three forms of Jupiter, the other two fathers being Aether and Saturn.

On the other hand, as expected Janus is present in region I of Martianus Capella’s division of Heaven and in region XVI, the last one, are to be found the Ianitores terrestres (along with Nocturnus), perhaps to be identified in Forculus, Limentinus and Cardea, deities strictly related to Janus as his auxiliaries (or perhaps even no more than concrete subdivisions of his functions) as the meaning of their names implies:

Forculus is the god of the forca, a iugum, low passage, Limentinus the guardian of the limes, boundary, Cardea the goddess of hinges, here of the gates separating Earth and Heaven. The problem posed by the qualifying adjective terrestres earthly, can be addressed in two different ways. One hypothesis is that Martianus’s depiction implies a descent from Heaven onto Earth.

However Martianus’s depiction does not look to be confined to a division Heaven-Earth as it includes the Underworld and other obscure regions or remote recesses of Heaven. Thence one may argue that the articulation Ianus-Ianitores could be interpreted as connected to the theologem of the Gates of Heaven (the Synplegades) which open on the Heaven on one side and on Earth or the Underworld on the other.

From other archaeological documents though it has become clear that the Etruscans had another god iconographically corresponding to Janus: Culśanś, of which there is a bronze statuette from Cortona (now at Cortona Museum). While Janus is a bearded adult Culśans may be an unbearded youth, making his identification with Hermes look possible. His name too is connected with the Etruscan word for doors and gates.

According to Capdeville he may also be found on the outer rim of the Piacenza Liver on case 14 in the compound form CULALP, i.e., “of Culśanś and of Alpan(u)” on the authority of Pfiffig, but perhaps here it is the female goddess Culśu, the guardian of the door of the Underworld. Although the location is not strictly identical there is some approximation in his situations on the Liver and in Martianus’ system.

A. Audin connects the figure of Janus to Culśanś and Turms (Etruscan rendering of Hermes, the Greek god mediator between the different worlds, brought by the Etruscan from the Aegean Sea), considering these last two Etruscan deities as one. This interpretation would then identify Janus with Greek god Hermes. Etruscan medals from Volterra too show the double headed god and the Janus Quadrifrons from Falerii may have an Etruscan origin.

Salii

The rites concerning Janus were numerous. Owing to the versatile and far reaching character of his basic function marking all beginnings and transitions, his presence was ubiquitous and fragmented.

Apart from the rites solemnizing the beginning of the new year and of every month, there were the special times of the year which marked the beginning and closing of the military season, in March and October respectively. These included the rite of the arma movēre on 1 March and that of the arma condĕre at the end of the month performed by the Salii, and the Tigillum Sororium on 1 October.

Janus Quirinus was closely associated with the anniversaries of the dedications of the temples of Mars on 1 June (a date that corresponded with the festival of Carna, a deity associated with Janus: see below) and of that of Quirinus on 29 June (which was the last day of the month in the pre-Julian calendar).

The rites of the Salii marked the springtime beginning of the war season in March and its closing in October. The structure of the patrician sodalitas, made up by the two groups of the Salii Palatini, who were consecrated to Mars and whose institution was traditionally ascribed to Numa (with headquarter on the Palatine).

The Salii Collini or Agonales, consecrated to Quirinus and whose foundation was ascribed to Tullus Hostilius, (with headquarter on the Quirinal) reflects in its division the dialectic symbolic role they played in the rites of the opening and closing of the military season. So does the legend of their foundation itself.

The peace-loving king Numa instituted the Salii of Mars Gradivus, foreseeing the future wars of the Romans while the warmonger king Tullus, in a battle during a longstanding war with the Sabines, swore to found a second group of Salii should he obtain victory.

The paradox of the pacifist king serving Mars and passage to war and of the warmonger king serving Quirinus to achieve peace under the expected conditions highlights the dialectic nature of the cooperation between the two gods, inherent to their own function. Because of the working of the talismans of the sovereign god they guaranteed alternatively force and victory, fecundity and plenty.

It is noteworthy that the two groups of Salii did not split their competences so that one group only opened the way to war and the other to peace: they worked together both at the opening and the conclusion of the military season, marking the passage of power from one god to the other. Thus the Salii enacted the dialectic nature present in the warring and peaceful aspect of the Roman people, particularly the iuvenes.

This dialectic was reflected materially by the location of the temple of Mars outside the pomerium and of the temple of Quirinus inside it. The annual dialectic rhythm of the rites of the Salii of March and October was also further reflected within the rites of each month and spatially by their repeated crossing of the pomerial line.

The rites of March started on the first with the ceremony of the ancilia movere, developed through the month on the 14th with Equirria in the Campus Martius (and the rite of Mamurius Veturius marking the expulsion of the old year), the 17th with the Agonium Martiale, the 19th with the Quinquatrus in the Comitium (which correspond symmetrically with the Armilustrium of 19 October), on the 23rd with the Tubilustrium and they terminated at the end of the month with the rite of the ancilia condere.

Only after this month-long set of rites was accomplished was it fas to undertake military campaigns. While Janus sometimes is named belliger and sometimes pacificus in accord with his general function of beginner, he is mentioned as Janus Quirinus in relation to the closing of the rites of March at the end of the month together with Pax, Salus and Concordia: This feature is a reflection of the aspect of Janus Quirinus which stresses the quirinal function of bringing peace back and the hope of soldiers for a victorious return.

As the rites of the Salii mimic the passage from peace to war and back to peace by moving between the two poles of Mars and Quirinus in the monthly cycle of March, so they do in the ceremonies of October, the Equus October (“October Horse”) taking place on the Campus Martius the Armilustrium, purification of the arms, on the Aventine, and the Tubilustrium on the 23rd.

Other correspondences may be found in the dates of the founding of the temples of Mars on 1 June and of that of Quirinus on 29 June, in the pre-Julian calendar the last day of the month, implying that the opening of the month belonged to Mars and the closing to Quirinus. The reciprocity of the two gods’ situations is subsumed under the role of opener and closer played by Janus as Ovid states: “Why are you hidden in peace, and open when the arms have been moved?”

Another analogous correspondence may be found in the festival of the Quirinalia of February, last month of the ancient calendar of Numa. The rite of the opening and closure of the Janus Quirinus would thus reflect the idea of the reintegretation of the miles into civil society, i.e. the community of the quirites, by playing a lustral role similar to the Tigillum Sororium and the porta triumphalis located at the south of the Campus Martius. In Augustan ideology this symbolic meaning was strongly emphasised.

Gemini

Geminus (twin, double, paired, or one who is a twin) is the first epithet of Janus in Macrobius’s list. Although the etymology of the word is unclear, it is certainly related to his most typical character, that of having two faces or heads. The proof are the numerous equivalent expressions.

The origin of this epithet might be either concrete. It can be referring directly to the image of the god, to a feature of the Ianus of the Porta Belli, the double gate ritually opened at the beginning of wars, or abstract, deriving metaphorically from the liminal, intermediary functions of the god.

Gemini (Latin for “twins”) is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between May 21 and June 21.

The divine twins are a mytheme of Proto-Indo-European religion. One recurring element in the divine twin theme is that, while identical, one is divine and the other is human.

Gemini is dominated by Castor and Pollux, two bright stars that appear relatively very closely together forming an o shape, encouraging the mythological link between the constellation and twinship.

Gemini is represented by the twins Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri, who were granted shared half-immortality after the death of the mortal brother, Castor. Pollux was the son of Zeus, who seduced Leda, while Castor was the son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta and Leda’s husband.

Castor and Pollux were also mythologically associated with St. Elmo’s fire in their role as the protectors of sailors. When Castor died, because he was mortal, Pollux begged his father Zeus to give Castor immortality, and he did, by uniting them together in the heavens.

The twin above and to the right (as seen from the Northern Hemisphere) is Castor, whose brightest star is α Gem; it is a second-magnitude star and represents Castor’s head. The twin below and to the left is Pollux, whose brightest star is β Gem (more commonly called Pollux); it is of the first magnitude and represents Pollux’s head.

Furthermore, the other stars can be visualized as two parallel lines descending from the two main stars, making it look like two figures. H. A. Rey has suggested an alternative to the traditional visualization that connected the stars of Gemini to show twins holding hands.

In Greek mythology, the symbol of the twins is based on the Dioscuri, one mortal (Castor) and one immortal (Polydeuces; also known as Pollux) that were granted shared half-immortality after the death of the mortal brother.

Castor and Polydeuces, collectively known as the Dioscuri, was the children of Leda, an Aetolian princess who became a Spartan queen. Her myth gave rise to the popular motif in Renaissance and later art of Leda and the Swan.

Leda was the daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius, and wife of king Tyndareus of Sparta. She was the mother of Helen of Troy, Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux, also spelled “Kastor and Polydeuces”). Leda also had other daughters by Tyndareus: Timandra, Phoebe, and Philonoe.

Leda was admired by Zeus. As a swan, Zeus fell into her arms for protection from a pursuing eagle. Their consummation, on the same night as Leda lay with her husband Tyndareus, resulted in two eggs from which hatched Helen (later known as the beautiful “Helen of Troy”), Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux (also known as the Dioscuri).

Which children are the progeny of Tyndareus the mortal king, and which are of Zeus and thus half-immortal, is not consistent among accounts, nor is which child hatched from which egg. The split is almost always half mortal, half divine, although the pairings do not always reflect the children’s heritage pairings.

Pollux was the son of Zeus, who seduced Leda, while Castor was the son of Tyndareus, king of Sparta and Leda’s husband. Castor and Pollux are sometimes both mortal, sometimes both divine. One consistent point is that if only one of them is immortal, it is Pollux. It is also always stated that Helen is the daughter of Zeus.

Another account of the myth states that Nemesis was the mother of Helen, and was also impregnated by Zeus in the guise of a swan. A shepherd found the egg and gave it to Leda, who carefully kept it in a chest until the egg hatched. When the egg hatched, Leda adopted Helen as her daughter. Zeus also commemorated the birth of Helen by creating the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, in the sky.

Castor and Pollux were also mythologically associated with St. Elmo’s fire in their role as the protectors of sailors. When Castor died, because he was mortal, Pollux begged his father Zeus to give Castor immortality, and he did, by uniting them together in the heavens.

In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.

Nergal

Nergal is a son of Enlil and Ninlil, along with Nanna (the moon) and Ninurta. Enmesarra, or Enmešarra, in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld god of the law. Described as a Sun god, protector of flocks and vegetation, and therefore he has been equated with Nergal. On the other hand, he has been described as an ancestor of Enlil, and it has been claimed that Enlil slew him.

Nergal has epithets such as the “raging king,” the “furious one,” and the like. A play upon his name – separated into three elements as Ne-uru-gal (light of the great Ûru; lord of the great dwelling) – expresses his position at the head of the nether-world pantheon. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”. The name Meslamtaeda/Meslamtaea indeed is found as early as the list of gods from Fara while the name Nergal only begins to appear in the Akkadian period.

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

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

Hymns and votive and other inscriptions of Babylonian and Assyrian rulers frequently invoke him, but we do not learn of many temples to him outside of Cuthah. Local associations with his original seat—Kutha—and the conception formed of him as a god of the dead acted in making him feared rather than actively worshipped.

The Assyrian king Sennacherib speaks of one at Tarbisu to the north of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, but significantly, although Nebuchadnezzar II (606–586 BC), the great temple-builder of the neo-Babylonian monarchy, alludes to his operations at Meslam in Cuthah, he makes no mention of a sanctuary to Nergal in Babylon.

A certain confusion exists in cuneiform literature between Ninurta and Nergal. The worship of Nergal does not appear to have spread as widely as that of Ninurta, but in the late Babylonian and early Persian period, syncretism seems to have fused the two divinities, which were invoked together as if they were identical.

Nergal – Meslamtaea

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

A lamassu (Cuneiform: an.kal) is an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings. In some writings, it is portrayed to represent a female deity.

A less frequently used name is shedu (Cuneiform: an.kal×bad‬), which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu. Lammasu represent the zodiacs, parent-stars or constellations.

Laḫmu (also called Lakhmu, Lache, Lumasi or Assyro-Akkadian Lammasu) and his sister Laḫamu is deities from Mesopotamian mythology that represents the zodiac, parent stars, or constellations.

They are protective and beneficent deities, the first-born children of Abzu and Tiamat. They are the parents of Anshar and Kishar, the sky father and earth mother, who birthed the gods of the Mesopotamian Pantheon.

Nergal’s chief temple at Cuthah bore the name Meslam, from which the god receives the designation of Meslamtaeda or Meslamtaea, “the one that rises up from Meslam”.

Gemini is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini. Under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between about May 21 and June 21. Its name is Latin for “twins,” and it is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology. In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL).

The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.

Nergal – Apollo

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

He has also been called “the king of sunset”. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person.

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

Nergal – Mars

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

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System after Mercury. Mars can easily be seen from Earth with the naked eye, as can its reddish coloring. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.94, which is surpassed only by Jupiter, Venus, the Moon, and the Sun.

In English, Mars carries a name of the Roman god of war, and is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because the reddish iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance that is distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye.

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars (Latin: Mārs, [maːrs]) was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him (Latin Martius), and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace, and was a father (pater) of the Roman people. In the mythic genealogy and founding myths of Rome, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus with Rhea Silvia.

His love affair with Venus symbolically reconciled the two different traditions of Rome’s founding; Venus was the divine mother of the hero Aeneas, celebrated as the Trojan refugee who “founded” Rome several generations before Romulus laid out the city walls.

The consort of Mars was Nerio or Neriene, “Valor.” She represents the vital force (vis), power (potentia) and majesty (maiestas) of Mars. Her name was regarded as Sabine in origin and is equivalent to Latin virtus, “manly virtue” (from vir, “man”). In the later Roman Empire, Neriene came to be identified with Minerva.

Nerio probably originates as a divine personification of Mars’ power, as such abstractions in Latin are generally feminine. Her name appears with that of Mars in an archaic prayer invoking a series of abstract qualities, each paired with the name of a deity.

The influence of Greek mythology and its anthropomorphic gods may have caused Roman writers to treat these pairs as “marriages.” A source from late antiquity says that Mars and Neriene were celebrated together at a festival held on March 23.

The spear of Mars

The spear is the instrument of Mars in the same way that Jupiter wields the lightning bolt, Neptune the trident, and Saturn the scythe or sickle. A relic or fetish called the spear of Mars was kept in a sacrarium at the Regia, the former residence of the Kings of Rome.

The spear was said to move, tremble or vibrate at impending war or other danger to the state, as was reported to occur before the assassination of Julius Caesar. When Mars is pictured as a peace-bringer, his spear is wreathed with laurel or other vegetation, as on the Ara Pacis or a coin of Aemilianus.

The Mars symbol is a depiction of a circle with an arrow emerging from it, pointing at an angle to the upper right. As astrological symbol it represents the planet Mars and hence iron in alchemy.

In zoology and botany, it is used to represent the male sex (alongside the astrological symbol for Venus representing the female sex), following a convention introduced by Linnaeus in the 1750s.

Mars – Tyr

In Germanic mythology, Týr (Old Norse), Tíw (Old English), and Ziu (Old High German) is a god. Stemming from the Proto-Germanic deity *Tīwaz and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European deity *Dyeus, little information about the god survives beyond Old Norse sources.

Due to the etymology of the god’s name and the shadowy presence of the god in the extant Germanic corpus, some scholars propose that Týr may have once held a more central place among the deities of early Germanic mythology.

Interpretatio romana, in which Romans interpret other gods as forms of their own, generally renders the god as Mars, the ancient Roman war god, and it is through that lens that most Latin references to the god occur.

For example, the god may be referenced as Mars Thingsus (Latin ‘Mars of the Thing’) on 3rd century Latin inscription, reflecting a strong association with the Germanic thing, a legislative body among the ancient Germanic peoples still in use among some of its modern descendants.

Mannus, according to the Roman writer Tacitus, was a figure in the creation myths of the Germanic tribes. The names Mannus and Tuisto/Tuisco seem to have some relation to Proto-Germanic Mannaz, “man” and Tiwaz, “Tyr, the god”.

Týr is the namesake of the Tiwaz rune, a letter of the runic alphabet corresponding to the Latin letter T. By way of the process of interpretatio germanica, the deity is the namesake of Tuesday (‘Týr’s day’) in Germanic languages, including English.

Letter T

Tau (uppercase Τ, lowercase τ; Greek: ταυ [taf]) is the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet. In the system of Greek numerals it has a value of 300. Taw, tav, or taf is the twenty-second and last letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Tāw X.

In ancient times, tau was used as a symbol for life or resurrection, whereas the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, theta, was considered the symbol of death. In Biblical times, the taw was put on men to distinguish those who lamented sin, although newer versions of the Bible have replaced the ancient term taw with mark (Ezekiel 9:4) or signature (Job 31:35).

The symbolism of the cross was connected not only to the letter chi but also to tau, the equivalent of the last letter in the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets, and which was originally cruciform in shape.

The tau cross is a T-shaped cross all three ends of which are sometimes expanded. It is so called because shaped like the Greek letter tau, which in its upper-case form has the same appearance as Latin and English T.

An essay written around 160 AD, attributed to Lucian, a mock legal prosecution called The Consonants at Law – Sigma vs. Tau, in the Court of the Seven Vowels, contains a reference to the cross attribution. Sigma petitions the court to sentence Tau to death by crucifixion, saying:

“Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up structures on which men are crucified.

Stauros (cross) the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape — that shape which he gave to the gibbet named stauros after him by men”.

Cuthah

Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali (Sumerian: dGÌR-UNUG-GAL) is a deity that was worshipped throughout ancient Mesopotamia with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah (Sumerian: Gudua) with the main seat of his worship at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Other names for him are Erra and Irra.

According to the Tanakh, Cuthah was one of the five Syrian and Mesopotamian cities from which Sargon II, King of Assyria, brought settlers to take the places of the exiled Israelites (2 Kings 17:24-30).

II Kings relates that these settlers were attacked by lions, and interpreting this to mean that their worship was not acceptable to the deity of the land, they asked Sargon to send someone to teach them, which he did.

The result was a mixture of religions and peoples, the latter being known as “Cuthim” in Hebrew and as “Samaritans” to the Greeks. Kutha is also the name of the capital of the Sumerian underworld, Irkalla.

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (DEREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology. 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. “Lady of the Great Earth”. In Sumerian myths, Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.

A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome. A connection has been made between the episode of the castration of Attis and the ritual mutilation of the Galli.

The first Galli arrived in Rome when the Senate officially adopted Cybele as a state goddess in 204 BC. Roman citizens were prohibited from becoming Galli, which meant that all the Galli were orientals or slaves. However, under Claudius, this ban was lifted.

In Rome, the head of the galli was known as the archigallus, at least from the period of Claudius on. A number of archaeological finds depict the archigallus wearing luxurious and extravagant costumes.

The archigallus was always a Roman citizen chosen by the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, whose term of service lasted for life. Along with the institution of the archigallus came the Phrygianum sanctuary as well as the rite of the taurobolium as it pertains to the Magna Mater, two aspects of the Magna Mater’s cultus that the archigallus held dominion over.

The Galli castrated themselves during an ecstatic celebration called the Dies sanguinis, or “Day of Blood”, which took place on March 24. At the same time they put on women’s costume, mostly yellow in colour, and a sort of turban, together with pendants and ear-rings.

They also wore their hair long, and bleached, and wore heavy make-up. They wandered around with followers, begging for charity, in return for which they were prepared to tell fortunes. On the day of mourning for Attis they ran around wildly and disheveled. They performed dances to the music of pipes and tambourines, and, in an ecstasy, flogged themselves until they bled.

In the 4th century, some currents of extreme asceticism in Christianity advocated self-castration. This practice was attacked as a return to the religious excesses of the galli by Basil of Ancyra. John Chrysostom in 390 attacked self-castrating Christians of being Manichaean heretics. Augustine likewise phrased his opposition to self-castration as an attack on the galli. By extension, Luther would later use the same comparison in his attack on clerical celibacy.

Stephanus Byzantinus said that the name came from King Gallus. Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD) says that the name is derived from the Gallus river in Phrygia. The name may be linked to the Gauls (Celtic tribes) of Galatia in Anatolia, who were known as Galli by the Romans. The word “Gallus” is also the Latin word for rooster.

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

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

Originally a specialist in singing lamentations, gala appear in temple records dating back from the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. According to an old Babylonian text, Enki created the gala specifically to sing “heart-soothing laments” for the goddess Inanna. Cuniform references indicate the gendered character of the role.

Lamentation and wailing originally may have been female professions, so that men who entered the role adopted its forms. Their hymns were sung in a Sumerian dialect known as eme-sal, normally used to render the speech of female gods, and some gala took female names.

Two varieties (dialects or sociolects) of Sumerian are recorded. The standard variety is called eme-ĝir. The other recorded variety is called eme-sal (EME.SAL, possibly “fine tongue” or “high-pitched voice”), though often translated as “women’s language”. The root sal can have several meanings. Eme-sal is used exclusively by female characters in some literary texts.

In addition, it is dominant in certain genres of cult songs. The special features of eme-sal are mostly phonological (e.g. m is often used instead of ĝ as in me vs standard ĝe26, “I”), but words different from the standard language are also used (e.g. ga-ša-an vs standard nin, “lady”).

Homosexual proclivities are clearly implied by the Sumerian proverb that reads, “When the gala wiped off his anus [he said], ‘I must not arouse that which belongs to my mistress [i.e., Inanna]’ “. In fact, the word gala was written using the sign sequence UŠ.KU, the first sign having also the reading giš3 (“penis”), and the second one dur2 (“anus”), so perhaps there is some pun involved.

Moreover, gala is homophonous with gal-la “vulva”. However, in spite of all their references of their effeminate character (especially in the Sumerian proverbs), many administrative texts mention gala priests who had children, wives, and large families. On the other hand, some gala priests were actually women.

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

Fundamental to understanding the meaning and the function of the myth and ritual related to Attis in Rome is his relationship with the Galli. The role of prototype of the mythical castration of Attis for the institution of the “priesthood” of the Galli has almost always been emphasised, even if to different degrees.

In Sumerian and Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) mythology, the Gallus (also called gallu demons or gallas [Akkadian: gallû]) were great demons/devils of the underworld. Gallu demons hauled unfortunate victims off to the underworld. They were one of seven devils (or “the offspring of hell”) of Babylonian theology that could be appeased by the sacrifice of a lamb at their altars.

Inanna (or Ishtar) was freed by gallu demons sent by Enki while she was on a journey to the underworld. An especially fierce gallu demon, the monstrous Asag, was slain by Ninurta using the enchanted mace Sharur.

Tuisto (Twin / Twice / To – Twist)

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.

Tacitus relates that “ancient songs” of the Germanic peoples celebrated Tuisto as “a god, born of the earth”. 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, in the interior, and the remaining parts of the geographical region of Germania, respectively. The names Mannus and Tuisto/Tuisco seem to have some relation to Proto-Germanic Mannaz, “man” and Tiwaz, “Tyr, the god”.

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.

However, there is 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.

There seems to be 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.

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.

Dyeus

Dyēus or Dyēus Phter (Proto-Indo-European: *dyḗws, also *Dyḗus Ph2tḗr or Dyēus Pətḗr, alternatively spelled dyēws) is believed to have been the chief deity in Proto-Indo-European mythology. 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 Proto-Indo-European society.

Dīs Pater was a Roman god of the underworld. Dis was originally associated with fertile agricultural land and mineral wealth, and since those minerals came from underground, he was later equated with the chthonic deities Pluto (Hades) and Orcus.

The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Pluto was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife, and are invoked together in religious inscriptions. Hades, by contrast, had few temples and religious practices associated with him, and he is portrayed as the dark and violent abductor of Persephone.

In De Natura Deorum, Cicero derives the name of Dīs Pater from the Latin dives (“wealth, riches”), suggesting a meaning of “father of riches” (Pater is “father” in Latin), directly corresponding to the name Pluto, Pluto simply being how Plouton (“the rich one”) in Greek is spelled is Latin. Alternatively, he may be a secondary reflex of the same god as Jupiter (Proto-Indo-European Dyeus Ph₂ter or “Zeus-Pater”).

Tyr

In Germanic mythology, Týr (Old Norse), Tíw (Old English), and Ziu (Old High German) is a god. Stemming from the Proto-Germanic deity *Tīwaz and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European deity *Dyeus, little information about the god survives beyond Old Norse sources.

Due to the etymology of the god’s name and the shadowy presence of the god in the extant Germanic corpus, some scholars propose that Týr may have once held a more central place among the deities of early Germanic mythology.

Týr is the namesake of the Tiwaz rune, a letter of the runic alphabet corresponding to the Latin letter T. By way of the process of interpretatio germanica, the deity is the namesake of Tuesday (‘Týr’s day’) in Germanic languages, including English.

Interpretatio romana, in which Romans interpret other gods as forms of their own, generally renders the god as Mars, the ancient Roman war god, and it is through that lens that most Latin references to the god occur.

For example, the god may be referenced as Mars Thingsus (Latin ‘Mars of the Thing’) on 3rd century Latin inscription, reflecting a strong association with the Germanic thing, a legislative body among the ancient Germanic peoples still in use among some of its modern descendants.

In Norse mythology, from which most narratives about gods among the Germanic peoples stem, Týr sacrifices his arm to the monstrous wolf Fenrir, who bites off his limb while the gods bind the animal. Týr is foretold to be consumed by the similarly monstrous dog Garmr during the events of Ragnarök. In Old Norse sources, Týr is alternately described as the son of the jötunn Hymir (in Hymiskviða) or of the god Odin (in Skáldskaparmál).

The Old Norse theonym Týr has cognates including Old English tíw and tíʒ, and Old High German Ziu. A cognate form appears in Gothic to represent the T rune. Like Latin Jupiter and Greek Zeus, Proto-Germanic *Tīwaz ultimately stems from the Proto-Indo-European theonym *Dyeus. Outside of its application as a theonym, the Old Norse common noun týr means ‘(a) god’ (plural tívar). In turn, the theonym Týr may be understood to mean “the god”.

Dingir / An

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.

Dingir (𒀭, usually transliterated DIĜIR, Sumerian pronunciation: [tiŋiɾ]) 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/. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again only an.

Adapa was a Mesopotamian mythical figure who unknowingly refused the gift of immortality. The story, commonly known as “Adapa and the South Wind”, is known from fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna in Egypt (around 14th century BC) and from finds from the Library of Ashurbanipal, Assyria (around 7th century BC).

Adapa was an important figure in Mesopotamian religion. His name would be used to invoke power in exorcism rituals. He also became an archetype for a wise ruler. In that context, his name would be invoked to evoke favorable comparisons. Some scholars conflate Adapa and the Apkallu known as Uanna. There is some evidence for that connection, but the name “adapa” may have also been used as an epithet, meaning “wise”.

Adapa was a mortal man, a sage or priest of temple of Enki in the city of Eridu. He had been given the gift of great wisdom by the god Enki, but not eternal life. While carrying out his duties, he was fishing the Persian Gulf. The sea became rough by the strong wind, and his boat was capsized. Angry, Adapa “broke the wings of the south wind” preventing it from blowing for seven days.

The god Anu called Adapa to account for his action, but the god Ea aided him by instructing Adapa to gain the sympathy of Tammuz and Gishzida[b], who guard the gates of heaven and not to eat or drink there, as such food might kill him. When offered garments and oil, he should put on the clothes on and anoint himself.

Adapa puts on mourning garments, and when he meets Tammuz and Gishzida, he claims to be in mourning because they have disappeared from the land. Adapa is then offered the “food of life” and “water of life” but will not eat or drink. Then garments and oil are offered, and he does what he had been told. He is brought before Anu, who asks why he will not eat or drink. Adapa replies that Enki told him not to.

Anu laughs at Enki’s actions, and passes judgment on Adapa by asking rhetorically, “What ill has he [Adapa] brought on mankind?” He adds that men will suffer disease as a consequence, which Ninkarrak (Nintinugga), a Babylonian goddess of healing, the consort of Ninurta, may ally. Adapa is then sent back down to earth.

Yama

Yama or Yamarāja, called Yima in the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, is Hinduism one of the lokapala (“Guardian of the Directions”) and represents the south cardinal direction. Yama’s name can be interpreted to mean “twin”, and in some myths he is paired with a twin sister Yami.

Yama is a god of death and the underworld, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In Buddhism, Yama is a dharmapala, a wrathful god or the Enlightened Protector of Buddhism that is considered worldly, said to judge the dead and preside over the Narakas (“Hell” or “Purgatory”) and the cycle of rebirth.

In Puranas, Yama is described as having four arms, complexion of storm cloud with wrathful expression, surrounded by garland of flames, protruding fangs, dressed in red, yellow or blue garments, holding noose and mace or sword, and riding a water-buffalo.

He wields a noose with which he seizes the lives of people who are about to die. In Hinduism, Yama is the lord of death. In the Rigveda, he is mentioned as the one who helped humankind find a place to dwell, and gave every individual the power to tread any path to which he or she wants.

Yama is associated with various roles in Hinduism that are not always consistent throughout the stories. Sometimes, he is the lord of justice and is associated with Dharma, such as in the Brahma Purana; in other Puranas, Yama has no association with Dharma at all.

According to the Vishnu Purana, Yama is the son of sun-god Surya and Sandhya, the daughter of Vishvakarma. He also has the brother Shraddhadeva Manu, the current Manu and the progenitor of the current humanity (manvantara). Shraddhadeva is the son of Vivasvana, also known as Surya, a Sanskrit word that means the Sun, and is therefore also known as Vaivasvata Manu. He is also called Satyavrata (always truthful).

Shraddhadeva was the king of the Dravida Kingdom during the epoch of the Matsya Purana before the Pralaya (after Rama), the great flood. Forewarned about the flood by the matsya avatara of Vishnu, he saved humanity by building a boat that carried his family and the saptarishi to safety. The narrative is similar to other flood myths like the Gilgamesh flood myth and the Genesis flood narrative.

Yama is also the step brother of Shani, refering to the planet Saturn, one of the nine heavenly objects known as Navagraha in Hindu astrology. Shani is also a male deity in the Puranas, whose iconography consists of a handsome figure carrying a sword or danda (sceptre), and sitting on a crow. He is a god of Justice in hindu mythology and he give the benefits for all depends upon there deeds (karma).

The consort of Shani is goddess Manda, also known as Dhamini. The second consort of Shani and mother of Gulikan. She is a Gandharva daughter and princess. She is the goddess of Kalā, meaning performing art in Sanskrit. Her Nrtya/Dance can attract anyone in the whole Brahman (Universe).

Dharma

In Vedic tradition, Yama was considered to be the first mortal who died and espied the way to the celestial abodes; thus, as a result, he became the ruler of the departed, and is called “Lord of the Pitrs”. He is otherwise also called as “Dharmaraja”.

In different texts, Yama can be referred to as the god of justice, as the deity Dharma, or a completely different figure altogether. In Hindu Puranic scriptures, those who assist him in his work are Kala (time), Jara (old age), Vyadhi (disease), Krodha (anger) and Asuya (jealousy).

Dharma is a key concept with multiple meanings in Indian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and others. There is no single-word translation for dharma in Western languages. The antonym of dharma is adharma (“that which is not in accord with the Dharma”). Connotations of adharma include unnaturalness, wrongness, evil, immorality, wickedness, and vice.

Adharma is derived from combining “a” with “dharma”, which literally implies “not-dharma”. It means immoral, sinful, wrong, wicked, unjust, unbalanced, or unnatural, chaos, disorder and non-harmonious.

However, adharma isn’t the binary opposite of Dharma or absolutely unethical in Indian philosophy. Rather it is a complex functional subjective term just like dharma, with shades of meaning, that depends on circumstances, purpose and context.

In Hinduism, dharma signifies behaviours that are considered to be in accord with Ṛta, the order that makes life and universe possible, and includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and “right way of living”. In Buddhism, dharma means “cosmic law and order”, and is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha.

In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for “phenomena”. Dharma in Jainism refers to the teachings of tirthankara (Jina) and the body of doctrine pertaining to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. For Sikhs, the word dharm means the path of righteousness and proper religious practice.

Kalaratri

Wife of Yama was the goddess Dhumorna, also known as Kalaratri, and his son was Katila. Kalaratri (sometimes spelled Kaalratri), the seventh of the nine forms of the Goddess Durga, known as the Navadurga. Kalaratri is widely regarded as one of the many destructive forms of the Mother Goddess, which include Kali, Mahakali, Bhadrakali, Bhairavi, Mrityu, Rudrani, Chamunda, Chandi and Durga.

It is not uncommon to find the names, Kali and Kalaratri being used interchangeably, although these two deities are argued to be separate entities by some. Kali is first mentioned in Hinduism as a distinct goddess around 3000 BC. Chronologically then, Kaalratri (described textually in the Mahabharata, dated 3137 BC – 3067 BC) predates but most likely, informs, present representations of Kali.

Kaalratri is traditionally worshipped during the nine nights of Navratri celebrations. The seventh day of Navratri pooja (Hindu prayer ritual) in particular is dedicated to her and she is considered the fiercest form of the Mother Goddess, her appearance itself invoking fear. This form of Goddess is believed to be the destroyer of all demon entities, ghosts, spirits and negative energies, who flee upon knowing of her arrival.

The Saudhikagama, an ancient Tantric text referenced in the Silpa Prakasha, describes Goddess Kalaratri as being the goddess that rules the night portion of every day and night. She is also associated with the crown chakra (also known as the sahasrara chakra), thereby giving the invoker, siddhis and niddhis (particularly, knowledge, power and wealth).

Kaalratri is also known as Shubankari, meaning auspicious/doing good in Sanskrit, due to the belief that she always provides auspicious results to her devotees. Hence, it is believed that she makes her devotees fearless.

Raudri

The Goddess Dhumorna/ Kaalatri was also known as Raudri, a name that share it’s etymology with Rudra, a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind or storm and the hunt. One translation of the name Rudra is “the roarer”. In the Rigveda, Rudra has been praised as the “mightiest of the mighty”. Nergal has epithets such as the “raging king”, the “furious one”, and the like.

Rudra is the personification of ‘terror’. Depending up on the poetic situation, Rudra can be meant as the most severe roarer/howler (could be a hurricane or tempest) or the most frightening one. The Shri Rudram hymn from the Yajurveda is dedicated to Rudra, and is important in the Saivism sect. In it Rudra is referred as God of Gods.

The Hindu god Shiva shares several features with the Rudra: the theonym Shiva originated as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva (“kind”) being used euphemistically of Rudra, who also carries the epithet Aghora, Abhayankar (“extremely calm [sic] non terrifying”).

Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), and the name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.

A Rigvedic verse rukh draavayathi, iti rudraha where rukh means “sorrow/misery”, draavayathi means “drive out/eliminate” and iti means “that which” (or “the one who”) implies that Rudra is the eliminator of evil and usherer of peace.

An alternative etymology suggested by Prof. Pischel derives Rudra as the “red one”, the “brilliant one” from a lost root rud-, “red” or “ruddy”, or alternatively (according to Grassman) “shining”.

In the Skanda Purana, a Hindu religious text, Mars is known as the deity Mangala and was born from the sweat of Shiva. The planet is called Angaraka in Sanskrit, after the celibate god of war who possesses the signs of Aries and Scorpio, and teaches the occult sciences.

Stella Kramrisch notes a different etymology connected with the adjectival form raudra, which means “wild”, i.e. of rude (untamed) nature, and translates the name Rudra as “the wild one” or “the fierce god”.

R. K. Sharma follows this alternate etymology and translates the name as “the terrible” in his glossary for the Shiva Sahasranama. However, the adjective shivam in the sense of “propitious” or “kind” is applied to the name Rudra.

Rudra is called “the archer” (Sanskrit: Śarva) and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra. This name appears in the Shiva Sahasranama, and R. K. Sharma notes that it is used as a name of Shiva often in later languages.

The word is derived from the Sanskrit root śarv- which means “to injure” or “to kill” and Sharma uses that general sense in his interpretive translation of the name Śarva as “One who can kill the forces of darkness”.

The names Dhanvin (“bowman”) and Bāṇahasta (“archer”, literally “Armed with a hand-full of arrows”) also refer to archery. In other contexts the word rudra can simply mean “the number eleven”.

The word rudraksha (Sanskrit: rudrākşa = rudra and akşa “eye”), or “eye of Rudra”, is used as a name both for the berry of the Rudraksha tree, and a name for a string of the prayer beads made from those seeds.

Jamshid

Jamshid (Persian: Jamshīd; Middle- and New Persian: Jam; Avestan: Yima), is a mythological figure of Greater Iranian culture and tradition. In tradition and folklore, Jamshid is described as the fourth and greatest king of the epigraphically unattested Pishdadian Dynasty (before the Kayanian dynasty).

This role is already alluded to in Zoroastrian scripture, where the figure appears as Avestan language Yima(-Kshaeta) “(radiant) Yima,” and from which the name ‘Jamshid’ is derived.

The name Jamshid is originally a compound of two parts, Jam and shid, corresponding to the Avestan names Yima and Xšaēta, derived from the proto-Iranian *Yamah Xšaitah. Yamah and the related Sanskrit Yama are interpreted as “the twin,” perhaps reflecting an Indo-Iranian belief in a primordial Yama and Yami pair.

There are also a few functional parallels between Avestan Yima and Sanskrit Yama, for instance, Yima was the son of Vivaŋhat, who in turn corresponds to the Vedic Vivasvat, “he who shines out”, a divinity of the Sun. Both Yamas in Iranian and Indian myth guard Hell with the help of two four-eyed dogs.

Xšaitah meant “bright, shining” or “radiant” and is probably cognate with the Sanskrit word “Shrestha”. By regular sound changes (initial xš → š (sh); ai → ē; t → d between vowels; and dropping of the final syllable) xšaitah became Persian shēd or shid.

In the Western Iranian languages such as Persian, the vowel /ē/ is pronounced as /i/. Consequently, Jamshēd (as it is still pronounced in Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan) is now pronounced Jamshid in Iran. The suffix -shid is the same as that found in other names such as khorshid (“the Sun” from Avestan hvarə-xšaēta “radiant Sun”).

Sarama

In Hindu mythology, Sarama is a mythological being referred to as the female dog of the gods, or Deva-shuni “divine bitch” or “bitch of the gods”. Sarama is described as the mother of all dogs, in particular of the two four-eyed brindle dogs of the god Yama.

She first appears in one of Hinduism’s earliest texts, the Rig Veda, in which she helps the god-king Indra to recover divine cows stolen by the Panis, a class of demons. The epic Mahabharata, and some Puranas, also make brief reference to Sarama.

Early Rig-Vedic works do not depict Sarama as canine, but later Vedic mythologies and interpretations usually do. She is described as the mother of all dogs, in particular of the two four-eyed brindle dogs of the god Yama, and dogs are given the matronymic Sarameya (“offspring of Sarama”). One scripture further describes Sarama as the mother of all wild animals.

Potnia Theron

Potnia Theron (“The Mistress of the Animals”) is a term first used (once) by Homer and often used to describe female divinities associated with animals. The word Potnia, meaning mistress or lady, was a Mycenaean Greek word inherited by Classical Greek, with the same meaning, cognate to Sanskrit patnī.

Many depictions use a female version of the widespread ancient motif of the male Master of Animals, showing a central figure with a human form grasping two animals, one to each side. The oldest depiction has been discovered in Çatalhöyük. It is very widespread in the art of the Ancient Near East and Egypt.

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis.

Artemis, in the ancient Greek religion and myth, is the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals and chastity. Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the patron and protector of young girls, and was believed to bring disease upon women and relieve them of it. Artemis was worship as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery along with Eileithyia.

The Greek god shown as “Master of Animals” is usually Apollo, the god of hunting. The national divinity of the Greeks, Apollo has been variously recognized as a god of music, truth and prophecy, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, and more. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin sister, the chaste huntress Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals and chastity in the ancient Greek religion and myth. Artemis is the Moon and Apollo is the Sun.

Shiva has the epithet Pashupati meaning the “Lord of cattle”, and these figures may derive from a Proto-Indo-European deity or archetype. It has been connected to the famous Pashupati seal from the Indus Valley Civilization (2500-1500 BC), showing a figure seated in a yoga-like posture, with a horned headress (or horns), and surrounded by animals.

According to Macrobius who cites Nigidius Figulus and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as Apollo or the sun and moon, whence Janus received sacrifices before all the others, because through him is apparent the way of access to the desired deity.

Indra

Sarama is often associated with Indra, a Vedic deity in Hinduism, a guardian deity in Buddhism, and the king of the highest heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism. In the Vedas, Indra is the king of Svarga (Heaven) and the Devas. He is the god of the heavens, lightning, thunder, storms, rains and river flows.

Indra is the most referred to deity in the Rigveda. He is celebrated for his powers, and the one who kills the great symbolic evil (malevolent type of Asura) named Vritra who obstructs human prosperity and happiness. Indra destroys Vritra and his “deceiving forces”, and thereby brings rains and the sunshine as the friend of mankind.

Indra rules over the much sought Devas realm of rebirth within the Samsara doctrine of Buddhist traditions. However, like the Hindu texts, Indra also is a subject of ridicule and reduced to a figurehead status in Buddhist texts, shown as a god that suffers rebirth and redeath. In the Jainism traditions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, Indra is the king of gods and a part of Jain rebirth cosmology.

In post-Vedic texts, Indra is depicted as an intoxicated hedonistic god, his importance declines, and he evolves into a minor deity in comparison to others in the Hindu pantheon, such as Shiva, Vishnu, or Devi. In Hindu texts, Indra is some times known as an aspect (avatar) of Shiva.

Indra is of ancient but unclear origin. Aspects of Indra as a deity are cognate to other Indo-European gods; they are either thunder gods such as Thor, Perun, and Zeus who share parts of his heroic mythologies, act as king of gods, and all are linked to “rain and thunder”.

The similarities between Indra of Hindu mythologies and of Thor of Nordic and Germanic mythologies are significant. Both Indra and Thor are storm gods, with powers over lightning and thunder, both carry hammer or equivalent, for both the weapon returns to their hand after they hurl it.

Both are associated with bulls in the earliest layer of respective texts, both use thunder as a battle-cry, both are heroic leaders, both protectors of mankind, both are described with legends about “milking the cloud-cows”, both are benevolent giants, gods of strength, of life, of marriage and the healing gods, both are worshipped in respective texts on mountains and in forests.

Michael Janda suggests that Indra has origins in the Indo-European *trigw-welumos [or rather *trigw-t-welumos] “smasher of the enclosure” (of Vritra, Vala) and diye-snūtyos “impeller of streams” (the liberated rivers, corresponding to Vedic apam ajas “agitator of the waters”). Brave and heroic Innara or Inra, which sounds like Indra, is mentioned among the gods of the Mitanni, a Hurrian-speaking people of Hittite region.

Indra as a deity had a presence in northeastern Asia minor, as evidenced by the inscriptions on the Boghaz-köi clay tablets dated to about 1400 BCE. This tablet mentions a treaty, but its significance is in four names it includes reverentially as Mi-it-ra, U-ru-w-na, In-da-ra and Na-sa-at-ti-ia.

These are respectively, Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya-Asvin of the Vedic pantheon as revered deities, and these are also found in Avestan pantheon but with Indra and Naonhaitya as demons. This at least suggests that Indra and his fellow deities were in vogue in South Asia and Asia minor by about mid 2nd-millennium BCE.

Indra is praised as the highest god of the Rigveda – a Hindu scripture dated to have been composed sometime between 1700 and 1100 BCE, thus making him one of the most celebrated Vedic deities. He is also mentioned in ancient Indo-Iranian literature, but with a major inconsistency when contrasted with the Vedas.

In the Vedic literature, Indra is a heroic god. In the Avestan (ancient, pre-Islamic Iranian) texts Indra – or accurately Andra – is a gigantic demon who opposes truth. In the Vedic texts, Indra kills the archenemy and demon Vritra who threatens mankind. In the Avestan texts, Vritra is not found.

Indra is called vrtrahan- (literally, “slayer of Vritra demon”) in the Vedas, which corresponds to Verethragna of the Zoroastrian noun verethragna-. According to David Anthony, the Old Indic religion probably emerged among Indo-European immigrants in the contact zone between the Zeravshan River (present-day Uzbekistan) and (present-day) Iran.

It was “a syncretic mixture of old Central Asian and new Indo-European elements”, which borrowed “distinctive religious beliefs and practices” from the Bactria–Margiana Culture. At least 383 non-Indo-European words were found in this culture, including the god Indra and the ritual drink Soma.

Verethragna is an Avestan language neuter noun literally meaning “smiting of resistance” 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 of old”.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: